Junior Colleges

PRCC stands behind hiring of David Saunders despite severe NCAA penalties

(The New Orleans Advocate) Pearl River Community College head football coach David Saunders, pictured here at Louisiana-Lafayette, was handed severe penalties by the NCAA on Tuesday.
(The New Orleans Advocate) Pearl River Community College head football coach David Saunders, pictured here at Louisiana-Lafayette, was handed severe penalties by the NCAA on Tuesday.

Pearl River Community College head football coach David Saunders was dealt severe penalties Tuesday by the NCAA for his conduct as a member of the staff at Louisiana-Lafayette.

The NCAA handed Saunders an eight-year show-cause order due to serious NCAA rules violations, including arranging fraudulent college entrance exam scores for five prospects.

The NCAA announced its punishment on Tuesday, saying that Saunders denied his involvement in the infractions and failed to cooperate in its investigation.

An eight-year show-cause means that Saunders will have to appear before the NCAA committee on infractions if he seeks employment at an NCAA member school before Jan. 11, 2024.

ULL, which had already self-imposed penalties, was also handed two years of probation, a $5,000 fine and additional recruiting restrictions.

PRCC hired Saunders as its head coach in December after the resignation of William Jones on Oct. 30.

PRCC spokesman Chuck Abadie said Tuesday that the school stands behind its hiring of Saunders as head coach.

"We're aware of the situation," he said. "We feel like we made a great hire and he will be a great leader for our football program."

Abadie said that PRCC was aware of Saunders' conduct at ULL when he was chosen to be the program's next head coach.

Saunders served as PRCC's secondary and special teams coach in 2015.

At the time of his hiring as head coach, PRCC president William Lewis spoke glowingly of Saunders in a statement.

"In the search for a new head football coach, it was the ultimate goal of the selection committee to identify a person who could not only lead our student athletes on the football field, but, more importantly, show great passion for their success in the classroom and in life," he said the Dec. 10 press release.

Saunders, who also worked at Ole Miss from 2006-10, joined the ULL staff in 2011 and was fired in October 2014.

The NCAA says that Saunders developed a relationship with an administrator for a college entrance exam test site, who then arranged for five prospects to receive fraudulent exam scores.

Each of the prospects were directed by Saunders to take the exam at a rural Mississippi high school.

That testing site is Wayne County High School, according to The New Orleans Advocate.

In the five prospects' previous exams, four did not meet NCAA standards for initial eligibility. After taking the exams at the testing site chosen by Saunders, each of the prospects received much better scores.

The NCAA also alleges that Saunders provided a total of $6,800 to a football player over the course of two semesters. The student-athlete was given the money while he was both a prospect and a player on the ULL roster.

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