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A Utah football coach tampered with two transfer portal targets, NCAA says

Head coach DeLane Fitzgerald was given a one-game suspension and other recruiting penalties.

(Courtesy of Southern Utah Athletics) Southern Utah Thunderbirds football coach DeLane Fitzgerald gives instructions during the team's annual spring game.

The NCAA has cracked down on Southern Utah University for tampering with potential transfers.

Head coach DeLane Fitzgerald committed two transfer portal violations and will now be suspended for a game, the NCAA announced Wednesday. That goes along with one year of probation, a $5,000 fine and several recruiting penalties over the next two years.

Fitzgerald was caught reaching out to two recruits directly before they were in the transfer portal.

He called one recruit for 17 minutes on the phone sometime after Jan. 1, 2023, the NCAA said. The recruit ended up entering the portal and committing to SUU.

Fitzgerald texted another player for game tape, but the recruit said he would not be entering the portal, per the NCAA.

The NCAA said Fitzgerald, “violated head coach responsibility rules” and the university “failed to monitor its football program.” It also said SUU did not teach coaches the transfer portal rules well enough or have “sufficient processes in place to certify that no impermissible contact occurred before student-athletes entering the transfer portal.”

SUU went 6-5 last year in the FCS. At the start of the season, it went to Provo and lost 41-16 to BYU. But it held the Cougars to 46 yards rushing. Fitzgerald took over the Thunderbirds in 2022 and is going into his third season.

Along with the fine and the suspension, SUU will not be allowed to talk to recruits for two weeks during a 2024 live recruiting window (it already served one of those weeks). And there will be a show-cause order for Fitzgerald for two years.

Tampering in the transfer portal is rumored to be common across college football. Coaches have complained about other, much larger, programs reaching out to players before they are in the portal.