Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher says he’ll welcome any NCAA investigation

Aug 23, 2018
Curtis Compton
Jimbo Fisher will debut as Texas A&M coach against Northwestern State next week. His program has been accused of practice abuse and improper payments. CURTIS COMPTON/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher promised Thursday he’d give the NCAA what it needs if it decides to investigate allegations made against the Aggies by a former player.

“We take them very seriously,” Fisher said. “We’re open to all inquiries. We’ll open records of everything we have. We feel very confident in things we’ve done.”

A&M is a week away from its season opener against Northwestern State, which will be Fisher’s coaching debut wearing maroon. But allegations of practice abuse and improper payments made by former linebacker Santino Marchiol have dampened things.

Marchiol is a redshirt freshman who transferred to Arizona this summer. The Wildcats are now coached by Kevin Sumlin, who was fired by A&M last November. Marchiol turned in a statement to Arizona’s compliance office seeking a waiver from the NCAA that would allow him to be eligible immediately. The NCAA, thanks to a new rule tweak, will allow this if a player can show “documented mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete.”

Marchiol claims assistant coach Bradley Dale Peveto gave him $700 cash total for two separate weekends of hosting recruits for unofficial visits. Marchiol also said Aggies coaches watched and participated in summer practices for more than the eight hours the NCAA allows per week.

And he said that A&M’s team trainer forced him to practice with a Grade II ankle sprain. Marchiol had ankle surgery in 2017, and his long recovery kept him from playing last season.

Marchiol, a four-star prospect when he played for the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida, has hired attorney Thomas Mars to help him with the waiver. Mars represented former Mississippi coach Houston Nutt in a successful defamation lawsuit against the school. He also represented players, including quarterback Shea Patterson, who sought a transfer months after the school was placed on probation. They all were granted immediate eligibility.

“We’ll address those (allegations) as they come,” Fisher said. “We have records, and we’ll cooperate in any way, shape or form. … We feel very confident in our program and how we’ve done things.”

In an average opening week, talk usually would center on a newly released depth chart. The biggest surprise Thursday was the “or” distinction that separated quarterbacks Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond.

“Somebody will have to start off the game,” Fisher said, “but right now, I feel comfortable with both guys.”

Fisher bragged on them both, noting that Mond had completed 80 percent of his passes during A&M’s most recent practice.

Both quarterbacks were available to talk to reporters Thursday and gave perfunctory answers befitting a player tasked with representing his team. Both started games last season. Starkel, after missing half the season because of a broken ankle, set the school bowl record when he passed for 499 yards against Wake Forest.

“I’m going to go out there and compete like it’s not my job,” Starkel said. “I think we’ve both had our ups and downs. We’re both confident we can win games with this team.”

Aggies shut out: The All-SEC preseason team was announced Thursday — with a dearth of Aggies on the first team. Tailback Trayveon Williams earned a spot on the second team, as did kicker Daniel LaCamera. Defensive end Landis Durham was a third-teamer, along with offensive lineman Erik McCoy and punter Braden Mann.