LSU self-imposes bowl ban for current season amid NCAA probe

The Associated Press
LSU head coach Ed Orgeron leads his team on the field before the game against Alabama in Baton Rouge, La., last Saturday.

BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU is self-imposing a one-year ban on postseason play for this season as part an effort to cooperate with an NCAA probe into rules violations.

“LSU leadership made this decision after careful deliberation and review of the NCAA rules violations that have been discovered in the university’s cooperative investigation with the NCAA” and Independent Accountability Resolution Process, the athletic department said in a statement. “This decision reflects LSU’s commitment to compliance with NCAA regulations and maintenance of institutional control.”

Much of the NCAA's investigation of LSU's football program pre-dates the promotion Ed Orgeron to head coach during the 2016 season and hiring of current athletic director Scott Woodward in 2019.

“I respect the university’s decision to proactively address NCAA issues from the past,” Orgeron said. “I share the disappointment of our student-athletes who will not be able to compete this season in a bowl game. I am especially proud of our players’ dedication to the program during these unprecedented times in our country.”

Some of the more serious allegations involved LSU booster John Paul Funes, who is a former chief executive for a Baton Rouge hospital foundation. He has been accused of paying a player's father $180,000 for a “no-show job” between 2012 and 2017.

The bowl ban comes in addition to sanctions LSU already has self-imposed, including a reduction of four scholarships in each of the next two seasons. LSU also has banned NFL and former Tigers receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from formally participating in an LSU functions for for two years. Beckham was recorded on video handing out cash to LSU football players during on-field celebrations immediately after a 42-25 victory over Clemson in last season's national championship game in the Superdome.

“We regret the impact that this decision has on our current student-athletes, but we make it in the best interest of the football program and university,” the athletic department statement said. "LSU will continue to cooperate with the NCAA and IARP throughout the enforcement process.”

Also Wednesday, LSU freshman tight Arik Gilbert, who entered this week leading all active Tigers in receiving, has decided to opt out for the remainder of the season.

Orgeron announced Gilbert's decision on Wednesday and the coach could not say for certain whether Gilbert intended to return next season or transfer elsewhere.

“Do I think we have a chance at getting him back next season? Yeah,” Orgeron said. “Is there a chance of him transferring? I don’t know that. He hasn’t told me he’s transferring, but obviously we’re going to re-recruit him and obviously we wish him the best."

Orgeron said the 6-foot-5, 249-pound Gilbert told him he was opting out because "his body was hurting and he had some things he had to take care of.”

Under NCAA rules adopted during the coronavirus pandemic, players may opt out this season without adversely affecting their scholarships.

Gilbert had 35 catches for 368 yards and two touchdowns. He had been second in receiving at LSU behind Terrace Marshall Jr. until Marshall decided to opt out before last weekend's 55-17 loss to Alabama.

Gilbert is from Marietta, Georgia, and was the Gatorade Male Athlete of the Year for 2019-20 — a distinction that made him arguably the highest-profile member of LSU's previous recruiting class.

Now he's the ninth LSU player to opt out in 2020, following receivers Marshall and Ja'Marr Chase; cornerback Kary Vincent; defensive ends TK McLendon and Travez Moore; and defensive tackles Siaki “Apu” Ika, Tyler Shelvin and Nelson Jenkins.

LSU (3-5), which has gone from winning a national title last season to being one loss away from having its first losing season since 1999, has two regular season games remaining. The Tigers travel to No. 6 Florida this Saturday and close the season at home Dec. 19 against Mississippi.