NCAA probe into Gamecocks football officially commences

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The NCAA has been poking around South Carolina and several members of its football program for the past couple of months.  As of Thursday, the governing body of athletics will be doing some official poking from here on out.

According to a release issued by the school, the Gamecocks today received an official “Notice of Inquiry” from the NCAA, advising that “the NCAA has begun an investigation into the institution’s football program.”

Head coach Steve Spurrier said little about the notice from the NCAA, preferring to concentrate on on-field efforts instead of off-field issues.

“I’m concerned about trying to do whatever I can to help our team beat Georgia,” Spurrier said in quotes released by the school. “That’s what I’m concerned about and that’s all our players are concerned about right now.”

The school’s president uttered more words than his football coach, but said just as little.

“I assure our fans and community that we will do what is right for the university. Winning and playing by the rules go hand in hand. And playing by the rules is the only way to win. We will continue to cooperate with the NCAA investigation as we have in the past regarding possible rules violations,” Dr. Harris Pastides, USC president, said in a statement. “While we are working in full cooperation with the NCAA, our expectations have always been that our student-athletes and staff maintain highest NCAA standards.”

The NCAA has interviewed several players over the past two months, starting with tight end Weslye Saunders‘ relationship with an agent or their associates and at least a couple of trips taken this past offseason.  That then expanded to include a look into players’ living arrangements — financial and otherwise — at a local hotel.

Three players who missed last week’s opener because of the various off-field issues — Saunders, cornerback Chris Culliver and offensive tackle JarrielKing for Saturday’s contest — have yet to be cleared to play in the SEC opener for both the Gamecocks and Bulldogs.

Starting LB C.J. Johnson reveals surgery on social media, Ole Miss confirms

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Ole Miss will be without a starting piece of its defensive puzzle for an extended period of time, both the player and the school revealed Tuesday.

With rumors swirling about his condition, C.J. Johnson confirmed on his personal Twitter account late this morning that he will be undergoing surgery at some point in the not-too-distant future.  The linebacker sustained an injury to his left knee in last Saturday’s loss to Florida and did not return to the contest.

Subsequent to that posting, Ole Miss confirmed that Johnson underwent surgery earlier in the day to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.  The procedure and rehab will sideline Johnson for a period of 4-6 weeks.

At the low-end of the prognosis, Johnson would miss the next four games — New Mexico State, Memphis, Texas A&M, Auburn — and return for the Nov. 7 game against Arkansas.  The high-end would have him sidelined until the regular-season finale against Mississippi State.

Johnson had started all five games at middle linebacker for the Rebels.  He started 26 games at defensive end the past three years before moving to linebacker.

Butch Jones labels rumor of ‘physical altercation’ with Vols player ‘absolutely ridiculous’

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Head coach Butch Jones of the Tennessee Volunteers yells at Marquez North #8 during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Already in the crosshairs for his 2-3 team’s late-game failures, Butch Jones now finds himself under increasing scrutiny for something that allegedly happened a couple of months ago.

The website, which features such respected journalists Tony Barnhart and Mike Huguenin among others, reported earlier today that the Tennessee head coach was involved in what was described as a “physical altercation” with senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder during summer camp this past August.  The source close to the program added that practice film that day captured the alleged incident, although it’s unclear if that tapes still exists.

From the site’s report:

The incident occurred during fall camp, about the time that news started to come out about a few offensive linemen who were considering stepping away from the program. Crowder walked off the practice field one day and missed a day or two of practice, and Brett Kendrick and Dylan Wiesman were said to be contemplating their futures. Sources say the players’ actions stemmed from an incident between Jones and Crowder.

The website also made a Freedom of Information request seeking any correspondence between the university and the Crowder family be turned over, but writes that UT “administrators said any sort of letter or correspondence that may or may not have happened was covered under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.”

Monday, Jones labeled what began as message-board speculation that he had struck one of his Vols players as “absolutely ridiculous.” The Knoxville News Sentinel contacted Crowder’s father, with the paper writing that “he had no comment and did not want to give validation to message boards.”

At least publicly, the university has yet to address the allegations.  Jones will get yet another chance to address the speculation with the media in the very near future.