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Texas A&M could be in NCAA trouble amid an Arizona transfer’s eligibility fight

In his quest to get eligible at Arizona, former Aggies linebacker Santino Marchiol alleges potential NCAA violations at A&M.

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Wyoming v Texas A&M

Update: On Aug. 27, Kevin Sumlin announced that Santino Marichol was dismissed from the team. The decision reportedly came after a video that surfaced of Marichol allegedly making racist remarks while describing his teammates.

Around the beginning of August, four-star Texas A&M linebacker Santino Marchiol transferred to Arizona. A rising redshirt freshman who’d spent one year in College Station, Marchiol decided to follow Kevin Sumlin, the head coach who recruited him, to Tucson. The Aggies had fired Sumlin at the end of the 2017 season.

NCAA rules say that most players in Marchiol’s shoes need to sit out a season before they’re eligible to play in games. Because Marchiol already redshirted one season and the NCAA requires players to play their four on-field seasons within a five-calendar year period, Marchiol would be slated to lose a year of eligibility for good if he had to sit out 2018.

Marchiol asked the NCAA for a waiver to grant him immediate eligibility. It seems, based on this report from USA Today’s Dan Wolken, that Marchiol’s application to the NCAA has created potential problems for the school he just left.

In the spring of 2018, the NCAA passed a rule that allows players immediate eligibility if their previous schools have committed NCAA crimes.

Specifically, the NCAA now may grant immediate eligibility if “the transfer is due to documented mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety, and well-being of the student-athlete.”

“Documented mitigating circumstances” is pretty broad, but the NCAA passed the rule specifically to deal with a bunch of Ole Miss players who left that school in the wake of the NCAA’s years-long investigation of (and ensuing sanctions on) the Rebels.

A handful of outgoing Ole Miss undergrad transfers were granted immediate eligibility at new schools. Several of them reportedly argued that when they were recruits, they were misled about the seriousness of the NCAA investigation into the program they’d later join.

And that’s where Marchiol’s waiver application gets tricky for Texas A&M.

Because, in making his case for why he should be allowed to play right away for Arizona, Marchiol has alleged a few things that would be problematic for the Aggies.

These are some of the things Marchiol and his lawyer told Wolken the linebacker had seen in the months since A&M fired Sumlin and replaced him with Jimbo Fisher:

  • An assistant coach giving Marchiol cash to host recruits on visits that were supposed to be “unofficial” — i.e., not paid for by the school.
  • Coaches showing up at supposedly “voluntary” June practices and fudging NCAA limits on what they were allowed to do at those sessions.
  • A&M’s training staff mishandling an ankle injury that kept Marchiol off the field in 2017, by having him continue practicing when he didn’t think he should (and then taking X-rays after).

Marchiol goes into more detail on all of those allegations, including offering names of coaches and recruits involved. He says linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto gave him money on two separate weekends to use on visiting recruits, including one four-star linebacker who’s since committed to A&M. The NCAA would consider anything like that, if true, to be a violation of its cornerstone policies against athletes getting paid.

The NCAA hasn’t said anything. A&M said it’s taking Marchiol’s charges “seriously.”

“Texas A&M athletics takes these allegations seriously, and we are reviewing the situation with the NCAA and the SEC Office,” the Aggies said in a statement to Wolken.

An NCAA spokeswoman didn’t comment in the report, citing the organization’s usual policy not to talk on the record about active or potential cases (or non-cases).

Marchiol’s waiver application could pit two programs against each other, while he tries to get on the field quickly.

His request for immediate eligibility could hinge on the NCAA deciding that A&M acted in a way that affected his health, safety, or wellbeing. And if the NCAA comes to the opinion that A&M did, then investigators could decide to look more closely at Fisher’s program.

Marchiol, for his part, would like to not lose a year of eligibility.

His lawyer, Thomas Mars, told Wolken: “Santino doesn’t want to go through this process, and he doesn’t like it one bit. He just wants to play football.”

It’s unclear whether the NCAA and his old school will come together to let him.