LSU Self-imposes Bowl Ban in Latest Sanction Following NCAA Investigation

LSU has self-imposed a one-year ban on bowl games in the latest addition to a growing list of sanctions that follow the NCAA's investigation into improper payments made to Tigers players.

In a statement released on Wednesday night, LSU said the ban would be effective from this season, adding that it regretted the impact this would have on players.

"LSU leadership made this decision after careful deliberation and review of the NCAA rules violations that have been discovered in the university's cooperative investigation with the NCAA and the Independent Accountability Resolution Process," it said.

"This decision reflects LSU's commitment to compliance with NCAA regulations and maintenance of institutional control. We regret the impact that this decision has on our current student-athletes, but we make it in the best interest of the football program and university."

The LSU Tigers program was charged with a Level III violation of the NCAA's code of conduct after Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. handed $2,000 in cash to four LSU players on the field after the Tigers defeated Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 13.

Junior wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Jontre Kirklin were among the players who received the bills from Beckham—a former Tigers star—as seen in a now deleted video that surfaced on Twitter.

An LSU athletic official initially told The Advocate the money was fake, but Beckham's stunt was investigated after real banknotes were found on the field during the postgame celebration.

The NCAA's investigation into the football program is just one aspect of a wide-ranging inquiry into some of the school's athletic programs, which began three years ago.

In August, in a document published by ESPN, Jonathan Duncan, the NCAA vice president of enforcement, indicated that "impermissible payments" were made to players on LSU football and basketball programs.

Among several allegations, the document indicated that John Paul Funes, one of LSU's football program boosters and the former CEO of a hospital foundation, had provided "funds to families of current and former student-athletes" and offered "internships to football student-athletes."

Funes was sentenced to 33 months in a federal prison in October, after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $500,000 from the hospital foundation and using part of the sum as payment for the parents of two former LSU players.

In a statement on Wednesday, Tigers coach Ed Orgeron praised the school's decision but acknowledged it would come as a blow to the players.

"I respect the university's decision to proactively address NCAA issues from the past," he said. "I share the disappointment of our student-athletes who will not be able to compete this season in a bowl game.

"I am especially proud of our players' dedication to the program during these unprecedented times in our country. Their pride in LSU will be the driving force as we continue to build a championship program."

After going 15-0 last season en route to the national title, LSU is 3-5 this season and, with two games left on its schedule, the best-case scenario is a 5-5 finish.

Even with a .500 record, however, the Tigers could have played in a bowl game this season as the NCAA waived bowl eligibility requirements to tackle the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

LSU lost 14 players to the NFL draft in April, with Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the first overall pick.

Linebackers K'Lavon Chaisson and Patrick Queen, wide receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire were also selected in the first round. The exodus was compounded by passing game coordinator Joe Brady joining the Carolina Panthers as offensive coordinator, while defensive coordinator Dave Aranda took over at Baylor as head coach.

The Tigers have also missed star wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin, who were among the players opting out of the season.

LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron
Ed Orgeron, head coach of the LSU Tigers, during a time out in the second half of the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks on November 21. He has welcomed the university's self-imposed ban on bowl games. Wesley Hitt/Getty