Florida announced just before kickoff against Florida Atlantic last week that sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd had been ruled ineligible by the university, and on Thursday afternoon, the NCAA released a statement that Floyd has been suspended for two games.
The NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff ruled today that Floyd must sit out two games and “arrange a repayment” of about $2,700 to charity before he is eligible to compete, according to the NCAA statement.
Floyd will miss Florida’s game Saturday at 7 p.m. against UAB, but would be eligible to return thereafter upon completion of the NCAA’s requirements.
His suspension came as a shock to many Florida fans, who fully expected Floyd to be a disruptive force and a sure-fire starter on the offensive line.
“The toughest day that I have had as a head football coach at Florida was the day that I had to tell Sharrif that he could not play in our game vs. FAU last week,” head coach Will Muschamp said in a statement. “I took away part of his family.”
Floyd sat out on the sidelines dressed in his No. 73 jersey and orange shorts and watched as his team cruised to a convincing 41-3 win over Florida Atlantic in Muschamp’s first game as head coach.
“He had tears in his eyes and said ‘What have I done wrong?’” Muschamp said. “I told him he did nothing wrong. It wasn’t any easier to tell him today that he would be missing Saturday’s game.”
After playing all of the 2011 season, Floyd brought the issue to Florida’s compliance department in February.
“It is important to note that Sharrif brought this matter to our attention and we reported the facts to the NCAA this past February,” Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a statement. “We were comfortable with the information we provided, yet the NCAA staff interpreted that there were violations. In accordance with NCAA rules, we declared him ineligible for the season opener and requested restoration of his eligibility. Sharrif has been extremely forthcoming throughout the process and the NCAA has commented on his honesty and openness.”
According to the NCAA release, Floyd received “$2,500 in cash over several months from an individual not associated with the university.”
The NCAA statement also said that “mitigating circumstances” in Floyd’s case allowed the suspension to be reduced from four games to two.
Floyd’s “personal hardship” was cited by the release as something that led to the improper benefits provided him and a reason for the reduction of the suspension.
“Sharrif grew up in an environment where he didn’t have the things most of us take for granted – food, shelter and clothing,” Foley said. “In the absence of parents, there were kind people, in no way affiliated with the University of Florida, who were not boosters or sports agents, that helped him along the way to provide those things that he would otherwise not have had. This is not an issue about his recruitment to the University of Florida or any other University.”
Floyd used the money he received, which was deemed an impermissible benefit for a prospective NCAA student athlete, to pay for transportation and lodging for unofficial visits to several institutions. The University of Florida was not one of those schools, according to the NCAA statement.
Muschamp said he was “angered, disgusted and extremely disappointed” Floyd will miss two games as a result of the NCAA ruling.
“In my opinion Sharrif is getting lumped into what is bad about college athletics,” Muschamp said in the statement. “As we indicated in the statement Saturday night his issue was not related to sports agents, University of Florida boosters or his recruitment to Florida or anywhere else.
“Sharrif is what is good about college athletics – his life is about survival, struggle, disappointment and adversity. I have recruited kids that did not know where they would sleep that night or what they would eat. Growing up, Sharrif was one these kids. Sharrif’s life is also about triumph, honesty, integrity, determination, perseverance and character. The NCAA stated that he received preferential treatment; there is nothing preferential about his life.
“He grew up with only his great grandmother and still sends her Pell Grant money so she can pay her bills. How many kids do you know that would do that? I know one – Sharrif Floyd.
“I want to make it clear that this issue is not about sports agents, Florida boosters or his recruitment to Florida or anywhere else. The issue is about his survival and the only reason the NCAA, the SEC and the University of Florida were aware of these issues is because Sharrif brought them to our attention last February. He came forward because, as I said before, he is honest and because of his integrity.
“I have two sons at home- if they end up like Sharrif I will consider myself a successful father.”
After registering 23 tackles and eight tackles for a loss in 2010, Floyd entered the 2011 season as a projected starter at defensive end. He will be eligible to play against Tennessee on Sept. 17 if he meets the NCAA’s conditions for reinstatement.
“Sharrif Floyd is an outstanding young man and we are very proud that he represents our program,” Foley said. “We are all disappointed that he had to deal with this situation, but he will move forward and be stronger for this.”