BELTON — The football program that produced so many shining moments for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor cast a cloud over the school on Monday, when the university released information it self-reported to the NCAA regarding two “major violations” pertaining to extra benefits received by two football players.

UMHB did not release details about the benefits or the names of the players, citing the pending NCAA investigation, which could be followed by harsh penalties from the governing body of college sports.

A school statement said the infractions do not involve sexual misconduct, academic fraud or financial aid.

“The violations are, by NCAA rule definition, major infractions,” the statement said. “Based on its investigation, the university believes there was no intention to violate or circumvent the rules.”

The Crusaders advanced to the NCAA Division III national championship game each of the last two years, winning the title in 2016. Regardless of the absence of intent, all of the program’s success will now come under scrutiny by the NCAA.

Pete Fredenburg — who was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame on April 7 and has guided the Crusaders to a 210-39 record, 16 playoff appearances and 15 American Southwest Conference titles as the only head coach in the program’s 20-year history — was suspended by the university for three months without pay and for the first three games of the 2018 season. Defensive coordinator Larry Harmon will direct the team in Fredenburg’s absence.

“I’ve spent my entire career as a football coach investing in kids,” Fredenburg said in the statement. “In this instance, I unintentionally broke an NCAA rule. I regret this and I accept responsibility.”

Phone messages left for Fredenburg were not immediately returned.

Athletic director Randy Mann had nothing more to add when reached by phone.

“Our university has released its statement, and we will not comment further until the NCAA finalizes its review,” Mann said.

According to the statement, the school also identified possible secondary violations outside the football program that will be reviewed by the NCAA.

“UMHB is committed to upholding both the spirit and letter of NCAA rules, and we will use this as a learning opportunity,” UMHB President Randy O’Rear said in the statement. “The university will continue its tradition of excellence and hold itself to the highest standards of compliance and integrity.”

The school’s statement said “the benefits were not provided with an intention to obtain either a recruiting advantage or competitive advantage.”

Whether the NCAA takes that into account won’t be known until it releases its findings in the coming months.

Penalties levied against the football program by the NCAA could range from a lenient slap on the wrist and a probationary period all the way up to the forfeiture of wins for all games in which the two unnamed players participated.

If either player participated during the last two seasons, the worst-case penalty could result in the NCAA opting to vacate the 2016 national championship.

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