BELTON – Mary Hardin-Baylor is no longer a two-time football national champion.
On Thursday, the NCAA Division III Committee on Infractions released its public report detailing the investigation of UMHB’s self-reported violations that occurred during the 2016 and ’17 football seasons.
In addition to UMHB’s self-imposed penalties that included a three-month and three-game suspension without pay for head coach Pete Fredenburg — who served his ban in 2018 after the school self-reported in the spring of that year — the NCAA committee ruled that UMHB must vacate its records for 2016 and 2017, including the Crusaders’ 10-7 victory over Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the 2016 national championship game.
“We respectfully disagree with the committee’s added penalty. We requested that the committee reconsider its decision, but it declined to remove the added penalty,” Dr. Randy O’Rear, the school’s president, said during a news conference Thursday afternoon. “We made a mistake and we are holding ourselves accountable. We accept every other element of the committee’s decision. But in light of the circumstances surrounding this case and as a matter of principle for all of the student-athletes who had no part in the infractions, we intend to appeal the added penalty.”
According to the committee’s report and information provided by the university, Fredenburg loaned one of his personal cars — a 2006 Subaru — to a player for approximately 18 months. Former players and others around the football program have said the player in question is Samoa native and former All-American defensive end Ajay Fanene, although neither the NCAA nor the school would confirm it.
“Of particular concern to the (Committee on Infractions) is the fact that a football staff member questioned the head coach about providing a car to the student-athlete, but the head coach dismissed the staff member’s concern and took no action to ascertain the permissibility of his actions,” the committee said in its report.
Fredenburg, who guided UMHB to last year’s national title and is the only coach in the 22-year history of the Crusaders’ football program, became emotional during Thursday’s news conference after admitting that he’s “well-trained” in regard to NCAA rules.
“The rules regarding impermissible benefits have some complexities, especially if the same benefits may be available to others outside of athletics. In this case, I misinterpreted the rule and misapplied it in this situation. I did not ask anyone else even after I was questioned by a staff member. I made a serious mistake. I feel terrible about it,” he said while fighting back tears. “I’ve learned from it and want to move forward.”
The football program was the only one implicated by the committee, whose report said that two football staff members provided impermissible transportation to a football prospect, and that the head coach later provided his car for use to the same player for about 18 months and to another player for a short period. The school reported that the second player had the car for less than an hour.
O’Rear said he found out about the vehicle and the players involved after it was reported to him by the university’s faculty athletics representative, and the school used that information to begin its process of self-reporting in April 2018.
The Crusaders went 15-0 in 2016 and 14-1 the following year after falling to Mount Union in the 2017 national championship game. They will have to vacate the results of all games in which the ineligible student-athlete competed, and UMHB confirmed the ineligible player participated in the 2016 title game.
“There’s so many kids and people involved in building this program, and it breaks my heart that I caused this problem,” Fredenburg said while getting choked up again. “I made a mistake, a bad mistake, and I hold myself responsible.
“I have a passion to help youngsters, and he desperately needed some help. I felt like I was OK with the interpretation of the rules. I had an old car that was in my driveway, and I loaned it to him.”
As part of the school’s self-imposed sanctions, Fredenburg and his staff will undergo enhanced NCAA compliance training, and the football program is in the midst of a two-year probationary period. Neither the NCAA nor the school placed any restrictions on postseason eligibility or recruiting going forward.
The Crusaders (4-0, 3-0 American Southwest Conference) are currently ranked No. 1 in the country heading into Saturday afternoon’s home game against East Texas Baptist University.
“We have to really focus on ETBU, and my coaches are working really hard. I hate that this could be a distraction, but we’re going to work very hard to keep it from being one,” Fredenburg said. “These players have a job to do, and they’re coming together as a team. I want them to achieve the success and the goals they have in mind.”