By: Emmett Iheagwara*

In 2016, Donnie Tyndall, former head coach at Southern Miss and Tennessee, received a 10-year show-cause penalty from the NCAA.[1] The set period for the show-cause order runs from April 8, 2016, through April 7, 2026.[2] Even if Tyndall becomes employed after that period, he will have to sit out the first half of the first season that he is employed by any NCAA university.[3] The former head coach received the penalty for various incidents of academic fraud, arranging payments to players, and covering up the payments, all of which occurred at Southern Miss.[4] The NCAA Level I violations at Southern Miss were publicly revealed in 2015 and Tyndall was dismissed soon after from his head coaching duties at Tennessee.[5]

After being hit with the 10-year show cause penalty in April 2016, Tyndall decided to seek a reversal of the penalty and even considered taking the case to court if the appeal wasn’t granted.[6] Tyndall spoke with USA Today’s Dan Wolken and argued that the 10-year order was too harsh and that he should have a received a “coach control penalty and a nine-game suspension,” similar to what Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and SMU’s Larry Brown received for NCAA violations that occurred during their tenures.[7]

Fast forward to 2017: the NCAA appeals committee decided in February to uphold the Tyndall show-cause order.[8] Don Jackson, Tyndall’s attorney, described the appeals committee’s decision as to be expected, even though he strongly believed that there were “multiple justifications for overturning the decision.”[9] Even though the NCAA upheld the penalty, Tyndall has already secured another coaching gig.[10] Presently, he works as an assistant coach in the NBA Development League for the Raptors 905 under head coach and former NBA superstar, Jerry Stackhouse.[11]

Tyndall’s 10-year show-cause penalty is one of the harshest penalties given to a NCAA coach; however, Tyndall was very much able to immediately find work as a coach on the NBA level.[12] Bruce Pearl, current head coach at Auburn, was hired with still five months left to serve out his show-cause penalty.[13] He received a three-year show-cause penalty, which expired on August 23, 2014 for lying to the NCAA about an impermissible visit by Aaron Craft, a highly recruited prospect at the time, to Pearl’s home.[14] Kelvin Sampson, former head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners and the Indiana Hoosiers, received a five-year show-cause penalty for being found guilty of making impermissible cell phone calls to recruits.[15] However, just like Pearl and Tyndall, Sampson was able to parlay his connections within the coaching community into assistant coach positions with two different NBA teams.[16] Sampson even said “he was never worried that the scandal and its fallout would brand him a certain way.”[17]

For more than 60 years, the NCAA has traditionally used the show-cause penalty to punish “rule-breakers” by branding them with a “scarlet letter,” but it appears the reality of the show-cause penalty may be ineffective, as coaches perceive it to be a minor penalty that really can’t diminish their reputation.[18] The NCAA upholding Tyndall’s 10-year show cause order is definitely strict, but as previous examples have shown in the past, Tyndall may still have an opportunity to work as a NCAA head basketball coach, because most universities will make their decision to hire based on a proven track record, which Tyndall has achieved. Therefore, in upholding Tyndall’s order, the NCAA has once again flexed their muscles as a warning, but still may not have influenced coaches’ behavior, especially coaches with winning backgrounds and networks that can provide other NCAA gigs.

*Staff Writer, Villanova University Sports Law Society Blog; J.D. Candidate, May 2018, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.

[1] NCAA Gives Donnie Tyndall 10-Year Show Cause Penalty, Sports Illustrated (Apr. 8, 2016),

[2] David Brandt, Donnie Tyndall’s 10-Year Show Cause Penalty Upheld, Attorney Says, USA TODAY Sports (Feb. 1, 2017),

[3] See id.

[4] Emily James, Former Southern Mississippi Men’s Basketball Coach Acted Unethically, NCAA (Apr. 8, 2016),

[5] Matt Norlander, Dirty Details Behind The Huge NCAA Violations Of Former So. Miss Coach, CBS Sports (Apr. 8, 2016),

[6] Donnie Tyndall Appeals NCAA’s 10-Year Show-Cause Penalty, ESPN (Jun. 29, 2016),

[7] Dan Wolken, How Donnie Tyndall’s NCAA Case May Be Warning To All Head Coaches, USA TODAY Sports (Sept. 7, 2016),

[8] See Brandt, supra note 2.

[9] See id.

[10] See id.

[11] Ex-Tennessee Coach Tyndall Working As Assistant In D-League, USA TODAY Sports (Nov. 4, 2016),

[12] See James, supra note 4.

[13] Nicole Auerbach, The Perception And Reality Of NCAA Show-Cause Penalties, USA TODAY Sports (May 27, 2014),

[14] Andy Katz, Three-Year Show-Cause For Bruce Pearl, ESPN (Aug. 25, 2011),

[15] See Auerbach, supra note 13.

[16] See id.

[17] Id.

[18] See id.


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