Sunny Golloway, the successful college baseball coach at Oral Roberts University and the University of Oklahoma who was fired at Auburn University for what was said to be 11 NCAA violations, has been cleared by the NCAA of any major infractions, The Franchise has learned.
A letter dated January 30 addressed “To whom it may concern” from the NCAA’s Director of the Committee on Infractions, Shepard Cooper, says the committee “has no record of Sunny Golloway having past involvement in any Level I/Level II/major NCAA infractions.”
Golloway, a Stillwater native who has relocated his family to Blanchard, told The Franchise he was cleared by the NCAA four months ago, but was not allowed to go public with his exoneration before now.
Cooper did not respond to an interview request Wednesday, and officials at Auburn could not be reached for comment.
Golloway, 55, has 743 coaching victories and 15 NCAA Tournament appearances. He was fired by Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs in September 2015 after just two seasons on The Plains.
Jacobs used the alleged NCAA violations to fire Golloway “for cause,” which let Auburn out of the remainder of Golloway’s existing contract ($650,000 a year) and a $1 million buyout. Golloway and his attorney, in an 86-page lawsuit, claim he simply “got sideways” with entrenched personnel who then schemed to get him fired.
Jacobs levied the following allegations: that Golloway knew or should have known that players were practicing before being cleared by the medical staff and by the compliance department; that Golloway authorized the deletion of a video of a student-athlete working out prior to receiving medical clearance; that Golloway observed a summer camp session that did not adhere to NCAA rules; that Golloway failed to immediately remove summer camp participants from the field after a lightning strike; that Golloway misled Auburn administrators about failing to report NCAA violations; that Golloway knew or should have known that a volunteer was performing coaching duties; that Golloway failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance and didn’t adequately monitor his staff; and that Golloway disregarded instructions to keep the school’s investigation confidential.
Golloway held a press conference two months later to deny all allegations of NCAA infractions and in May 2016 filed a federal civil lawsuit against Auburn’s board of trustees, Jacobs and four other Auburn athletic department employees to recover damages. Golloway and his legal team call the accusations “outrageous” and “trumped up” and allege wrongful termination, breach of contract, defamation, fraud and tortious interference, and seek compensatory and punitive damages.
Golloway told The Franchise he sold his 200-acre ranch in Alabama and has been without work for the last 16 months because no colleges would hire him with the NCAA infractions hanging over him.
He said he won’t speak for the NCAA, but said he was told by an insider that the association likely has been slow to publicly clear him because the Committee on Infractions may be still investigating other issues at Auburn.
“Seems like a pretty simple thing that should have happened four months ago,” Golloway said.
Golloway and his legal team have been pushing the NCAA to clear his name so he can go back to work, he said.
“Right now, all of my peers, everyone in college baseball right now thinks that we, my staff and I, committed violations,” Golloway said. “When I do talk to someone like I did today … I was congratulating him for taking a job, and his reply to me was, ‘Thanks Sunny; keep your head up.’ So his thought, I’m sure, and everyone else’s thought, was that that there were violations. And there weren’t.
“I know that it’s very unfair, but people don’t. It’s been a long road. At this point, we’ve been cleared by the NCAA, and now I want to coach college baseball. I miss the relationships, I miss the kids, I miss mentoring the kids and helping them accomplish their goals. I miss watching guys dogpile.”
Some athletic directors or university administrations may be hesitant to hire a coach with pending litigation, but Golloway said his lawsuit against the personnel at Auburn will “work itself out” and as of now he sees no reason to withdraw.
“I would have never left my position (at Oklahoma, where he was at the end of a contract that paid him $380,000 annually) had I not felt I had a very solid contract (at Auburn),” Golloway said. “And to not violate any NCAA rules, and to not lie about any tapes or accusations that were made, and to not have the contract honored is wrong. I mean, right is right and wrong is wrong, and that’s just wrong. I think that will be righted in a manner of time, but that shouldn’t impair the ability to move on.”
At ORU from 1996-2003, Golloway’s teams were 335-156, won six Mid-Continent Conference titles and went to six NCAA regionals. From 2005-2013, the Sooners under Golloway were 346-181-1 and went to eight NCAA regionals, two super regionals and made one College World Series trip. In Golloway’s two years at Auburn, the Tigers were 62-50 and went to an NCAA regional in 2015 for just the second time in 10 years.
Golloway said he’s just ready to get back in the dugout.
“You don’t just fall on 800 wins, and you don’t just fall on jobs at Oral Roberts, the University of Oklahoma or Auburn University — they don’t just hand out those jobs because you’re lucky,” he said. “You’ve evidently been doing something right.
“A lot of people have asked me what I’m looking for, but I haven’t really drawn it up. I’m gonna lean on faith and hopefully that match will be found.”
Golloway said he recently spoke to a handful of friends who are college head coaches, and “they were very surprised to hear about the NCAA letter that basically says there are no infractions, because they had heard otherwise,” he said.
“That (news) travels slow, and I needed the process to be sped up somehow. So that’s what I’m hoping. They say bad news travels on the Internet and good news travels by Pony Express. I just want the fact that we have no NCAA infractions, that we’ve been cleared by the NCAA, I want that to travel through the Internet. I want to be given a fair opportunity to continue doing what I’ve done for 28 years, and that is to coach college baseball.
“The most important thing right now is to make sure everyone understands I have no NCAA infractions, I have no allegations. I don’t have a record of any wrongdoing with the NCAA, so I want to pursue my coaching career.
“I’ve got a lot more coaching in me.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.