NCAA probe into UNC football program 'sounding very serious'

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With the start of North Carolina’s 2010 regular season a mere 50 days away, head coach Butch Davis and athletic director Dick Baddour may have a bigger concern than the Tar Heels’ offense once again dragging down a stellar defense.

As you have no doubt heard by now, the NCAA has launched an investigation into UNC’s football program.  Specifically, the organization is looking into football players’ relationships with agents and whether any illicit benefits changed hands.

A tweet from SI.com‘s Stewart Mandel sounds ominous enough in and of itself — The UNC/agent situation sounding very serious. I’m told NCAA has spent months compiling evidence. — but, when coupled with a “report” from a certified agent, it portends a very USC-like situation going on in Chapel Hill.  Only on a much larger scale.

Agent Darren Heitner has posted an intriguing — or, if you’re a Tar Heels fan, chilling — piece on the SportsAgentBlog website and, citing unnamed sources, has made some damning claims as to the scope of those alleged to be involved in wrongdoing and the extent of illegal benefits that may have been received by current UNC players.

So when Joe Schad tells the world that there is a serious NCAA investigation taking place at UNC, sports agents who may be affected should begin to contact their attorneys. Schad notes that Defensive tackle Marvin Austin was a football player who was interviewed. I have a source who tells me that Austin was only 1 of 13 players who have been interviewed – this is far reaching. And it does not only extend to a number of players. The same source tells me that there are a lot of agents that may have dirty hands, including both NFLPA Certified Advisors and marketing agents. Some are being examined more than others.

It is apparently beyond just in-person meetings, rent payments, and travel expenses. We are potentially talking about all expenses paid trips to South Beach, exorbitant amounts of money dropped on accessories, and perhaps even a Bentley or two.

Obviously, the investigation is in its infancy, and literally nothing has been proven thus far.

However, if even some of the allegations are remotely close to being the truth, the sheer scope of what’s being alleged would put the USC/Reggie Bush scandal to shame.

And, given the near-historic sanctions levied on the Trojans’ football program, that’s not the type of characterization anyone associated with the heretofore squeaky-clean UNC athletic department wants to hear.

(Tip O’ the Hat: SI.com’s Andy Staples)

Judge denies Jerry Sandusky’s request for new trial

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Not surprisingly, a sexual predator who preyed on young boys is staying where he belongs.

Wednesday morning, a judge in Pennsylvania denied Jerry Sandusky’s request for a new trial.  As part of his request, the convicted felon and former Penn State assistant coach had argued that grand jury leaks negatively affected his defense as well as claiming he had incompetent counsel in his first trial.

Sandusky’s new attorneys now have 30 days to file an appeal of Jefferson County President Judge John Foradora’s decision.

Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 child-sex-abuse charges in June of 2012 and is currently serving a sentence of at least 30 years.  Given the fact that he was 66-years-old at the time of his sentencing, it’s effectively a life sentence.

Some of the crimes for which Sandusky was convicted occurred in a Penn State football building and led to what most considered a cover-up of the predator’s actions by myriad university officials.  Sandusky’s arrest resulted in the dismissals of legendary head coach Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley and president Graham Spanier.  Both Curley and Spanier served jail time in connection to the scandal, the former for child endangerment and the latter endangering the welfare of children.

The scandal also led to historic sanctions levied on the Nittany Lions football program by the NCAA, the bulk of which were ultimately rolled back.

In June of 2015, it was reported that Penn State had paid a total of $93.3 million to 32 victims of the Paterno right-hand man.  Additionally, financial statements from the university showed an additional $33.2 million in payments related to claims connected to Sandusky’s crimes.

Pitt kicker explains decision to kneel during National Anthem

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Outside of a handful of upsets that muddled the chase for the four playoff spots, one of the larger storylines coming out of Week 7 was one player’s decision prior to his team’s game Saturday.

Ian Troost, a white walk-on kicker at Pitt, decided to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem ahead of the North Carolina State game.  Following the loss, head coach Pat Narduzzi and (most) of his teammates expressed their support of the junior’s decision to kneel.

The kicker wasn’t made available to the media afterward to explain his reasoning behind the decision, but, in a phone conversation with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tuesday, Troost shed light on why he’s following the same path first plowed by Colin Kaepernick last year.  From the Post-Gazette:

It’s not just like ‘Oh, all of a sudden this is happening’ or all of a sudden this is a result of one recent thing; it’s a result of the culmination of things over the past hundreds of years and legislation that has been passed. My original reasons were Colin’s original reasons – to raise awareness of systematic oppression and racial injustice in the United States that we often see through police brutality or the excessive use of force.

Over the past four years of my college career, I have constantly been having these conversations and learning,” he said. “I’ve never been in that situation. I’ve never been stereotyped for the color of my skin. I’ve never been oppressed. I’ve never had to worry about walking down the street at 2 a.m. with a hood on or when I get pulled over by a police officer keeping my hands in sight at all times. I’ve never had to worry about that and I never will have to.

Trost made certain to state that his protest is not meant as a sign of disrespect for the military — a grandfather served in the Air Force while a close friend is at West Point, he noted — and it’s not an indictment of the vast majority of those in law enforcement.

“I do not in any way have anything against law enforcement,” Troost said. “They keep everyone in this country, myself included, safe 99.9 percent of the time. They risk their lives for us and I truly do appreciate that.

“But there are some that need to be brought to justice for ways they’ve acted on the job, while they have the badge on. That’s the main issue.”

Not all of Troost’s teammates were 100-percent behind the kicker, most notablyAvonte Maddox.

“Is really taking that knee going to prove anything?” senior cornerback said last Saturday. “That’s a statement for 30 seconds. You want to take action.

“If you really want to get out and do something, we want to go out in the real world and do things to make actual change, not 30 seconds of fame making a statement out there. Is that really going to help us?”

The newspaper writes that “Troost didn’t see Maddox’s words as a critique, viewing them instead as a teammate holding him accountable.”

Troost says he plans to continue kneeling during games he dresses for this season.  He’s also working with Pitt officials to create what’s described as a diversity inclusion workshop for Pitt athletes

Starting USC DT Josh Fatu in concussion protocol after car wreck

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This is one you don’t see very often.

USC’s Josh Fatu was involved in a multi-car accident and is currently in concussion protocol because of a head injury he received in the incident, head coach Clay Helton confirmed Tuesday.  The coach added that the accident in which Fatu sustained the injury was not the defensive tackle’s fault.

Fatu has not been ruled out for Saturday’s game against USC, and is officially listed as day-to-day for the annual rivalry clash.

Heading into Week 8, Fatu had started every game along the defensive line this season for the Trojans.  His seven tackles for loss are currently second on the Trojans behind Christian Rector‘s eight, while his five sacks are behind just Rector’s 6.5.

If Fatu is unable to go against the Irish, Brandon Pili will likely take over as the starter.

Given Scott-Frost-Nebraska chatter, UCF announces funding initiative

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If a Power Five program truly wants a Group of Five head coach, there’s little the latter can do.  That, though, isn’t stopping UCF from at least trying to stave off the inevitable.

Mike Riley could very well be on the hot seat at Nebraska, leading to speculation, especially with a new athletic director, that he could be three-and-done in Lincoln.  While some chatter on any potential replacement has involved a pirate, a favorite son has significant support amongst the fan base if a change is made.

Not only is Scott Frost a former Nebraska quarterback, but, as the head coach at UCF, he has the Knights ranked 20th nationally with a 5-0 start.  And that’s coming off a six-win first season for Frost with a program that was winless the year before he arrived.

The pedigree as both a player and young head coach would make him a natural fit at a place like Nebraska, which explains why Frost’s current employer announced Tuesday an initiative to “secure commitments of over $1.5 million annually for the next five years” for the football program.  Specifically, any money raised would largely be used to enhance coaching salaries, both for the head coach and his assistants.

Called the UCF Football Excellence Fund, the program is “pursuing gift commitments ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 annually to further enhance the program’s operating resources.”  Frost himself has already committed his own money to the fund.

“I’m very excited about the success we’ve had in our time here and I’m committed to helping this program continue growing,” Frost said. “I’m happy to be part of the UCF Football Excellence Fund. We need more resources to keep taking this program where we want it to go. I’m hopeful my support will be a catalyst for others to jump on board and take part.”

According to the USA Today‘s salary database, Frost’s $1.7 million salary in 2016 was sixth among AAC head coaches, although the top two, Houston’s Tom Herman and Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville, are no longer with those programs.  With built-in raises, Frost will likely make in the neighborhood of $2 million for this season.

That said, we go back to what was written as the opening sentence: If a Power Five program truly wants a Group of Five head coach, there’s little the latter can do — even if it’s not the 42-year-old Frost’s alma mater that comes calling.