A former Texas A&M linebacker has alleged that Jimbo Fisher's staff committed multiple NCAA violations early in its first offseason there.
Arizona linebacker Santino Marchiol, who spent his first collegiate season at Texas A&M in 2017 before recently leaving the program, told USA Today that he was given hundreds of dollars in cash by assistant coaches to host recruits on unofficial visits; the staff conducted offseason workouts that were longer than NCAA rules allow; and the training staff mishandled his own ankle injury.
Marchiol, who signed with Texas A&M under Kevin Sumlin's staff in January 2017, alleged that current Texas A&M linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto on two occasions gave him hundreds of dollars in cash to entertain recruits who were on unofficial visits. He told USA Today that Peveto pulled him into a bathroom following the Aggies' spring football game on April 14 and gave him $300. He also said that Peveto gave him $400 on a separate occasion.
NCAA rules dictate that a school cannot pay for any of a recruit's expenses on an unofficial visit, except for providing up to three free tickets to a home athletics event. NCAA rules allow student hosts $40 to entertain recruits who are on official visits.
Marchiol's allegations were written in a statement that is part of his attempt to be cleared to play for Arizona and Sumlin this year, rather than sit out the customary season after transferring. Under new transfer legislation passed in June by the NCAA, a player may get a waiver for 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."
In regard to offseason workouts, Marchiol said that A&M coaches required players to conduct conditioning drills as early as 5:30 a.m., which is prohibited by NCAA rules. (Bylaw 188.8.131.52.6.1 states that "required athletically related activities" aren't allowed between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.)
Marchiol also alleged that summer workouts, which are limited to eight hours per week by NCAA rules, went longer than allowed. He told USA Today that conditioning workouts that were scheduled for less than two hours sometimes lasted up to three.
Marchiol said that defensive coordinator Mike Elko told players they had to be at voluntary summer workouts.
"We're going to have a lot of meetings and practices that aren't technically required, but you guys have to be here because you're way behind. We need to win," Marchiol told USA Today, referencing what Elko allegedly said.
In June, Marchiol said he suffered an ankle injury and that he was told by trainer Dan Jacobi to take four ibuprofen and continue practicing. Marchiol said he did and ran 100-yard sprints until he could no longer feel his ankle. He continued to practice the rest of the week, and his leg continued to swell and began bruising.
Marchiol also alleged that the staff used vulgar and demeaning language when criticizing players.
In a statement provided to ESPN, the school said, "Texas A&M Athletics takes these allegations seriously, and we are reviewing the situation with the NCAA and the SEC Office."
Speaking after Tuesday's practice in College Station, Texas, Fisher told local media he hadn't read the USA Today story and would comment only on players currently on the Aggies.
Asked if he believes his staff has done things the right way since arriving in College Station, Fisher added: "Yes, sir. I believe in everything that we're doing. We're trying to build our team the way we need to build it and [have] a lot of toughness in the game and understand it and coach the kids and do the best we can with them."
These allegations came only a day after Texas A&M made news by rolling out a host of changes to its Title IX policies related to how it deals with sexual assault complaints. The school came under fire this summer after multiple current and former students took to social media to express frustration with how the school handled their cases. Texas A&M in response included many of those students in an extensive internal and external review process to come up with the Title IX policies that were unveiled Monday, promising to deliver tougher sanctions to those found responsible for sexual assault.
On Tuesday, Marchiol's allegations brought scrutiny to the football program.
Fisher came to Texas A&M in December 2017 after signing a 10-year, $75 million contract that was fully guaranteed. The 2018 season has been one of the most anticipated in Texas A&M history because the Aggies were able to hire a coach who has won a national championship, something the football program hasn't achieved since 1939.
Now Fisher's first year might kick off with a cloud of uncertainty, given his former linebacker's accusations.