Given the way LSU’s fall camp went, the sight of an athletic director appearing on the practice field could’ve meant a sign of more off-the-field noise to come.
Instead Joe Alleva arrived at LSU practice Thursday afternoon as the bearer of good, unexpected news.
Cornerback Kristian Fulton has been reinstated by the NCAA effective immediately, Orgeron announced at his post-practice press conference. The surprise development was so fresh that apparently not even Fulton knew yet when Orgeron shared the news.
“We just got word from the NCAA that Kristian Fulton has been reinstated by the NCAA effective immediately,” Orgeron said. “I want to thank Joe Alleva and Compliance for working so hard. I want to thank Kristian and his family for all the work they’ve done and for leaving Kristian here to practice every day like he was a starter. He never blinked.
“I’m so proud of the young man and I know our team is going to be elated. This is the ultimate story of competing.”
Fulton’s surprising reinstatement is the latest twist in a legal saga that stretches back more than a year. He was initially suspended two full years for tampering with a drug test that he eventually went on to pass.
Don Jackson, an attorney hired by the Fulton family, managed to get the case re-opened an argued an appeal on the defensive back’s behalf earlier this month, but the NCAA upheld its original verdict.
Apparently Alleva and LSU filed a separate appeal for clarification on the decision once the initial hearing ended in an unfavorable verdict. Alleva said on ESPN 104.5 in Baton Rouge that LSU effectively went over the NCAA Drug Council’s head and argued that Fulton actually violated a rule that carried a one-year suspension, not two.
“We filed another appeal,” Alleva told Jacob Hester during a radio spot. “We had a conference call appeal with the people on the drug committee that penalized him, and they felt that he had tampered with the drug test, which he admits he did try to substitute. Upon further review, we studied the infractions and what they said, and it didn’t line up with a two-year penalty. We felt like they had interpreted it wrong, so we appealed it to another committee and they agreed with us. We kind of went over their head a little bit.”
Orgeron wasn’t prepared to say how Fulton fits into LSU’s 2018 secondary now that he’s eligible, but he did share that the former five-star recruit had been working with the second-team defense since his initial appeal was denied.
“We’ll have to talk about that,” Orgeron said. “I just found out walking out here, so obviously we’ll have to have a meeting on that and talk about it. Obviously it’s something that will affect some of the things that we do. We’ll make some adjustments. We didn’t know if he’d be here or now, but obviously now he’ll be a factor.”
The only thing left standing between Fulton and playing time is a drug test, according to Jackson.
Orgeron has been effusively complementary of the way Fulton had conducted himself throughout the process. He’s practiced with the team throughout his suspension and never missed a class or workout session, according to comments from Orgeron and Alleva.
Still, the coach didn’t in his wildest dreams think there was a chance the NCAA would effectively change its mind after the deflating nature of the denial earlier this month.
“Elated,” Orgeron said of his reaction to the news. “I didn’t even tell him yet, and I know the team is going to be elated. I just found that out and I’m happy for the young man. I’m happy for our team because they saw a young man who came to work everyday and he never blinked, and neither did his family.”
Did Orgeron have any idea this was coming?
“Very (surprised). I was not expecting that,” the coach responded. “I didn’t know what would happen. I heard it may happen, but I was focused on short yardage and goalline.”
Orgeron was correct in how his team would receive the news of Fulton’s reinstatement. Many took to Twitter to express their elation, which we’ve collected below:
K Baby Free?????
— Greedy Williams ™️ (@G_Will29) August 23, 2018
— Jonathan Giles (@_JGiles) August 23, 2018