Smalls was so Coveted, Notre Dame, 2 Others Cited for Recruiting Missteps

The schools made impermissible contact with the now University of Washington linebacker.
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Sav'ell Smalls was such a desirable college football recruit, Notre Dame was singled out on Thursday among schools that committed infractions in pursuing the outside linebacker from Seattle, joining Texas A&M and Florida.

Each has been penalized by the NCAA for its actions — in what amounted to wrist slaps — involving the 6-foot-4, 245-pound defender who now plays for the University of Washington.

Smalls, who listed none of these schools among his final six, has no culpability in what took place. Coming out of Kennedy Catholic and Garfield high schools, he was considered the West Coast's No. 1 recruit for the class of 2020 and was pursued by major programs nationwide.

Notre Dame, cited for transgressions involving more than one recruit, received probation and a fine, lost recruiting visits and was ordered not to recruit any other players at Smalls' high school at the time, Garfield, through 2022, among other stipulations.

Todd Lyght, a former cornerback and assistant coach who is no longer with the Fighting Irish program, met with Smalls when he was a junior before the allowable July 1 timeframe and they exchanged 10 impermissible texts.

"Any violation of NCAA rules is unacceptable and Notre Dame takes full responsibility for its actions in this regard," Fighting Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. "While we made clear to the NCAA our view that the agreed-upon penalties exceeded the nature of the infractions, we accept the final outcome of the case. In addition, the assistant coach involved is no longer employed by the university."

Smalls, when it came time to pick a college, chose the Huskies over Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and Washington State. None of the schools committing recruiting infractions made his final cut.

In December, Florida was singled out by the NCAA for committing similar infractions regarding Smalls, and Texas A&M was identified earlier in the year.

Gators coach Dan Mullen was cited for arranging for impermissible contact with the linebacker in Seattle prior to January 2019, and the program received minor punishment similar to that meted out to Notre Dame.

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, according to The Athletic, committed a similar offense in meeting too soon with Smalls. 

Smalls played in all four of Washington's games and started one as a true freshman at outside linebacker during the recently completed pandemic season.

He was a 5-star recruit who could have gone anywhere in the country, as the following tweet by Brandon Huffman demonstrated.

In January 2019 at Garfield, Smalls hosted talent scouts from Clemson, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UCLA and USC. 

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