Tar Heel trio banished from Chapel Hill

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The fallout from the NCAA’s investigation continues this morning as three members of the North Carolina football program are now ex-members, including a player who’s been at the heart of the probe into shady agent dealings.

According to releases issued by the school, defensive tackle Marvin Austin has been dismissed from the program, while wide receiver Greg Little and defensive lineman Robert Quinn have been ruled permanently ineligible.

Austin, the release read, was dismissed for violations of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules.  Austin, whose postings on a social media site regarding a trip to an agent’s party in South Beach led to the NCAA’s initial interest, had been suspended since Sept. for violating unspecified team rules.  His case was not submitted to the NCAA for reinstatement consideration.

Little was found by the NCAA to have received $4,952 in impermissible benefits, Quinn $5.642.  Even more damning to the duo was the fact that they lied to NCAA investigators.  From the release:

Little accepted diamond earrings, as well as travel accommodations for the Bahamas, Washington DC and two trips to Miami, among other benefits. Quinn accepted two black diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings and travel accommodations for a trip to Miami, among other benefits.

Based upon information gathered by the institution and the NCAA Agent, Gambling and Amateurism staff during its joint investigation, unethical conduct charges were found against both student-athletes for providing false and misleading information. According to the facts submitted by the university, each student-athlete was not truthful during three separate interviews with university and NCAA enforcement staff members. Further, Little and Quinn only provided more accurate information when presented with evidence that was contrary to their assertions. 

When reaching permanent ineligibility for each of the student-athletes, the staff noted the cases included multiple occasions where the student-athletes accepted benefits that were clearly against NCAA rules. The staff also noted that the student-athletes provided false information despite multiple opportunities to correct their assertions.

Athletic director Dick Baddour released a statement through the school addressing the latest development in an investigation that has tarnished the previously squeaky-clean image of UNC athletics.

“It’s a sad day when three young men are no longer able to represent their school based on actions they have taken and decisions they have made contrary to NCAA rules,” Baddour said. “Unfortunately, they made serious mistakes in judgment in accepting extra benefits and then not being truthful with our staff and NCAA representatives. Now they must forfeit the privilege of playing again for the Tar Heels. Although they are responsible for their actions, they are part of our university and our program and we will support them as they move into the next phases of their lives. I know they love to play the game, but I hope they will learn from their mistakes and lead productive and responsible careers.

“As an institution, we must learn from these mistakes and work with the NCAA and others who love the game of football to repair the environment in which they occurred. College football is a wonderful game, but we need to closely examine and address the agent-related problems. The University of North Carolina pledges to do all it can to do that.

“I hate that these issues have hurt the University of North Carolina and our fans. We have so much to be proud of as a University. We will learn from this and we will become a better program as a result.”

The clarification of the trio’s status leaves eight current Tar Heels whose eligibility is still up in the air.  Running back Shaun Draughn was cleared after missing one game, while defensive back Deunta Williams returned to the field Saturday after serving a four-game suspension for receiving impermissible benefits.  Fellow DB Kendric Burney will miss one more game as he finishes a six-game suspension.

On Saturday, UNC announced that fullback Devon Ramsay was being held out of the Clemson game due to information gathered last week as part of the on-going NCAA investigation into possible agent extra benefits and academic misconduct. If Ramsay is indeed to found to be ineligible, UNC’s first two wins of the season could be vacated because they used a player who was not eligible.

No. 4 Washington crushes No. 8 Colorado for Pac-12 title and all but secures a playoff berth

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 02:  Myles Gaskin #9 of the Washington Huskies runs with the ball against the Colorado Buffaloes during the Pac-12 Championship game at Levi's Stadium on December 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Ticket punched? It looks that way out West.

No. 4 Washington stated their case for the College Football Playoff in impressive fashion on Friday night by blowing out No. 8 Colorado 41-10 to capture the program’s Pac-12 championship since 2000.

The Huskies struggled to move the ball against the stingy Buffs defense for most of the first half but broke things open with 24 consecutive points in the third quarter. That run was fueled in part by back-to-back interceptions from the defense to start the half, which clamped down on the South Division champions like they were the Colorado of old.

Quarterback Jake Browning had one of his worst outings of the season despite having the stage he needed to possibly get invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. The signal-caller finished just 9-of-24 for 118 yards but did throw two touchdowns on the night, one of which was a remarkable escape job from a sack before finding wideout John Ross for a 19 yard score.

Washington didn’t need their passing game with as effectively as they ran the ball however. Myles Gaskin picked up 159 yards on the night while backup Lavon Coleman added another 101 on the ground in addition to finding the end zone.

Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau was knocked out of the game with a lower leg injury in the first half but emerged from the locker room to start the third quarter. He promptly struggled upon his return, throwing an interception off a receiver’s hands that was returned for a score and tossing another on the next series. He finished the game with as many passes completed to the Buffs as he did to the Huskies.

To add injury to insult to Colorado and put a slight damper on their Cinderella season, the performance from Levi’s Stadium probably cost the Buffs a shot at the Rose Bowl. The selection committee could still keep them above red-hot USC in the rankings but based on the result in the title game, it seems likely that the Trojans will be smelling the roses in 2017.

Washington’s postseason destination won’t be known until Sunday either but they can rest easy after that outing in knowing they will all but assuredly go to either the Peach Bowl semifinal or stay closer to home for the Fiesta Bowl semifinal in the playoffs.

That will be a celebration for another day however, as all Chris Petersen and the Huskies could do on Friday was hoist a conference title and savor being champions of the Pac-12.

Colorado QB Sefo Liufau hurt as Washington takes halftime lead in Pac-12 title game

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 02:  Jake Browning #3 of the Washington Huskies runs with the ball against the Colorado Buffaloes during the Pac-12 Championship game at Levi's Stadium on December 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Colorado’s unlikely road to the Pac-12 title may have gotten a little bit harder on Friday night.

Buffaloes starting quarterback Sefo Liufau suffered a lower leg injury midway through the first quarter and missed most of the half as the unlikely South Division champions trailed Washington 14-7 in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Liufau eventually headed to the locker room before the whistle at the end of the second quarter but it’s possible he will return to the game.

Backup Steven Montez did lead the team down on a scoring drive shortly afterward (capped off by a Phillip Lindsay touchdown run) but was under pressure on nearly every snap by the Huskies’ pass rush.

His counterpart similarly didn’t have much luck against Colorado’s stingy defense either. Washington signal-caller Jake Browning finished the half just 4-of-12 for 38 yards but the Huskies didn’t bat much of an eye by doing what they wanted on ground — rushing for 148 yards behind the tough running of both Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman.

It should make for a fantastic second half from the Bay Area as both teams harbor hopes of making it into the College Football Playoff after capturing a Pac-12 title.

Row The Boat! Western Michigan captures MAC title over Ohio and states Group of Five case

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02: Trevor Sweeney #25 of the Western Michigan Broncos celebrates causing a first half fumble on a kick return with teammate Leo Ekwoge #33 while playing the Ohio Bobcats during the MAC Championship on December 2, 2016 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Still perfect. Still rowing.

Western Michigan completed a dream undefeated regular season on Friday night and captured the school’s first MAC Championship since 1988 with a 29-23 win over Ohio.

The Broncos led from wire-to-wire on Friday night but struggled to complete drives with touchdowns against a stingy Bobcats defense on a night where they needed all the style points they could get. WMU is the College Football Playoff’s highest ranked Group of Five team but are in a neck-and-neck battle with Navy for a bid to the Cotton Bowl this season.

Even if the final margin wasn’t what head coach P.J. Fleck wanted, he nevertheless was excited at the way his team played defensively in holding Ohio to just 213 yards on the night. The normally prolific offense had their moments too, with quarterback Zach Terrell finishing with 301 yards, two scores and two interceptions.

One of those touchdown passes from Terrell went to wide receiver Corey Davis, who continued to press his case that he’s a first-round pick in the spring. The pass-catcher scored the team’s first touchdown back in the second quarter on a 70-yard scamper and the all-time leader in FBS receiving yardage finished his MAC career with 155 yards on nine catches.

The Bobcats tried to use their normal formula of running the ball and playing defense to control the clock but failed to do much of the former. The team finished with just 37 yards on the ground (and 251 overall) but did manage to make things interesting with three second half touchdowns and a late drive that could have taken the lead but instead ended with a game-sealing interception.

That wasn’t exactly the kind of high-flying #MACtion game the conference record 45,615 fans at Ford Field were looking for, with many of them sporting WMU colors as the school looks ahead to Sunday and whether or not they’re headed to a New Year’s Six Bowl at the end of the month.

On Friday night however, they just had to soak in the remarkable run the Broncos are on and row that boat all the way to a championship.

Report: Les Miles not in the mix in Purdue head coaching search

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers look on during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Tiger Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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One of the bigger storylines of this offseason is the annual coaching carousel and where former LSU head coach Les Miles will land.

The longtime coach has stated he wants to coach again in 2017, and has plenty of credentials — over 100 wins, SEC and national championships — but where he will find a fit is one of the bigger mysteries.

A lot of folks have noted that he could be in the running for the Purdue job (Miles is a Big Ten man at heart) but it appears that will not be the case. According to Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, a source told him to cross Miles’s name off of Purdue’s list.

There are not a ton of big openings at the moment so with the Boilermakers reportedly off the table, it might be a long offseason for the former LSU coach. Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm and Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck have been the two biggest names mentioned with the Purdue search but it appears unlikely any movement happens before this weekend.

Thamel also mentions Miles could be in the mix at Houston, which would be fascinating given his years at Oklahoma State and over a decade spent a few hours East in Baton Rouge. Either way, it looks like the carousel has a few more spins left in it this month.