Report accuses Cam Newton of academic cheating while at Florida

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Well, it’s all but official now.  Someone is in the midst of a massive behind-the-scenes tear-down project of what Cam Newton’s built over the first ten games of the 2010 season.

Fresh on the heels of a report alleging a six-figure payment was being sought for his services before landing at Auburn, there’s yet another report that casts the Heisman frontrunner in a negative light.

According to Thayer Evans of FOX Sports.com, and citing an unnamed source, there were three different instances of academic cheating by Newton while at the University of Florida.  That, not the laptop incident or Tim Tebow deciding to stick around for his senior season, led Newton to leave the Gainesville school early in December of 2009 and make his way to a Texas junior college.

Newton was arrested for the theft of a laptop from a Florida student’s dorm room in November 2008. He again violated the university’s honor code by putting his name on another student’s paper and turning it in, according to the source. Newton was caught after the instructor asked the real author of the paper why he had not turned in his work, the source said.

According to the source, after the student said he had turned in a paper, he and the instructor went through all the submissions and discovered that Newton had put his name on the paper in question.

Newton subsequently turned in a second paper to the instructor, but it was later found to have been purchased off the Internet, according to the source. The source said Newton was to appear for a hearing in front of Florida’s Student Conduct Committee during the spring semester of 2009, but instead transferred to Blinn College.

Evans, who was one of several national writers to come out recently with a “Don’t vote for Cam for the Heisman” platform, also reports that Newton wasn’t even enrolled at UF when he decided to transfer.  Newton’s father didn’t exactly help his son’s case in this latest imbroglio.

“I wasn’t there,” the elder Newton said. “I cannot confirm or deny. At a time like this, I’m taking a defensive posture.”

Unlike the rumors and speculation surrounding his recruitment, which is still under investigation by the NCAA, the accusations of academic cheating will have no impact on his eligibility at Auburn.

What it does, however, is bring up a couple of questions that need to be asked but will be almost impossible to answer.  Why is this coming out now, nearly a full year after Newton decided to attend Auburn and ten games into a season that could end with a national title for the Tigers?  Perhaps more importantly, who is responsible for it?

It was rumored that Urban Meyer was the impetus behind the first set of allegations coming to light.  These latest accusations seem to point squarely at someone in Gainesville pulling the strings of the media on one whale of a payback/screw job.

Based on emails from a couple of media types this morning, the latest speculation being churned out by the rumor mill, and again this is merely the underbelly of the college football world speculating here, is that Meyer and/or someone associated with the Florida program is pushing this issue in an attempt to get Newton declared ineligible before the SEC title game.  Why?  The Gators have a play-in game with South Carolina this weekend that would give them the SEC East title, while Auburn would represent the West with a win over Alabama.  Obviously, a Newton-less Tigers team would be a much easier path for the Gators to an SEC title and the subsequent automatic BcS berth that would come with it.

Again, this is all just speculation and this is a rumor mill, but…

Move over, Phillip Fulmer.  You may have some competition for the inaugural class of the SEC Snitch Hall of Fame.

UPDATED 11:06 a.m. ET: Meyer has emphatically denied being involved in the Newton situation. “It’s a ridiculous claim and simply not true,” Meyer said late this morning.

Report: Art Briles to interview for Houston job

HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 17: Head coach Art Briles of the Houston Cougars looks on during the game with the Marshall Thundering Herd at Robertson Stadium November 17, 2007 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 35-28. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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At some point, scandal-stained Art Briles will be back at the FBS level as a head coach. It could happen, though, sooner than most everyone expected.

According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Briles is one of at least five candidates to fill the vacancy at Houston.  Briles’ first job as an FBS head coach came at UH in 2003.  In five seasons, Briles guided the Cougars to a 34-28 record during the time, a job that paved the way for him to take over at Baylor in 2008 and put that program on the national map.

Briles was fired earlier this year in the wake of the sexual assault scandal that rocked both the football program and university.  UH regents chair Tim Fertitta confirmed this past week that the door hasn’t been shut on a Briles return, even as some “clarity” when it comes to his controversial ouster in Waco is needed.

“There’s a lot of administrator and ex-administrators and board of regents from Baylor that say that Art Briles was a scapegoat at Baylor,” Fertitta told the Houston Chronicle. “I’ve had calls from ex-chairman of the board of regents there, current big booster there, lawyers that represent Baylor. I have not had one negative call about Art Briles. But there still seems to be a clarity issue. …

“I would love for Art Briles to be on our super-short list. But until, or if, or when we can ever get full clarity, I can’t see us going there.”

For the record, UH’s president is Renu Khator, the second woman to ever hold that title at the university.  She also holds the dual title of UH System chancellor, the first woman to do so.

It had previously been reported that Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will interview for the UH job as well.  Per McMurphy, that interview will take place Sunday, after the SEC championship game this afternoon.

Additionally, former LSU head coach Les Miles and UH’s offensive and defensive coordinators, Major Applewhite and Todd Orlando, respectively, are candidates and will interview.  On Miles, Fertitta publicly stated that the coach “has some interest in us” and confirmed that the interest was being reciprocated.

Passenger jet flyover prior to Bedlam will honor ex-Sooner killed in airport shooting

CHICAGO - APRIL 05:  A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-3H4 passenger jet prepares to land at Midway Airport on April 5, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Southwest Airlines said it finished inspecting its grounded 737-300 series planes and of the nearly 80 planes five of them have cracks in the aluminum skin. The inspections come after Southwest Flight 812 had to make an emergency landing when a piece of its fuselage skin was torn while on its way from Phoenix to Sacramento. The discovery prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing to require emergency inspections on a portion of the 737 fleet manufactured during the 1980s and 1990s for the same fatigue cracks in the fuselage like the ones on the Southwest jets.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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I’ve always loved flyovers prior to football games or NASCAR races. The plans for Bedlam Saturday, though, will be felt in the heart of those in attendance as much as it will in their ears.

In mid-November, Mike Winchester, a former Oklahoma punter on the Sooners’ 1985 national championship team and an employee at Southwest Airlines, was shot and killed at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. Winchester’s son, James Winchester, was a longsnapper for the Sooners and currently plays for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. The elder Winchester also had two daughters who were Sooner student-athletes.

Prior to Saturday’s rivalry game with Oklahoma State, both OU on the ground and Winchester’s employer in the air will honor the memory of the one-time Sooner.

From OU’s press release:

The University of Oklahoma Athletics Department and Southwest Airlines have announced that, weather conditions permitting, a special commercial airliner flyover will take place before Saturday’s Bedlam game in Norman to honor a former OU football player whose life was cut short two weeks ago.

Winchester, whose son James also played football at OU (lettered 2009-11) and is a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, and whose daughters Carolyn (2006-09) and Rebecca (2010-13) competed on the OU women’s basketball and rowing teams, respectively, is also survived by his wife Julie, daughters Emilyne and Kate, and son John. Emilyne will graduate from OU later this month. They will be joined by 13 additional family members on the field for a pregame moment of silence, the national anthem and flyover by a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 passenger jet.

Very well done by all involved. You should all be proud.

Surprise! Big Ten commish OK with teams that aren’t league champs making playoffs

Jim Delany
Associated Press
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I don’t have a lot of regard for that team.

That was Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany in May of 2012 when asked about a non-division winner, let alone a team that didn’t win its conference, qualifying for what at the time was a hypothetical college football playoff.  That comment also came five months after Alabama, a non-division winner, won the second-to-last BCS title ever handed out.

Four years later, Delany’s tune has changed, in part because Ohio State is sitting in the orchestra pit as the No. 2 seed with a virtual lock on one of the four playoff berths — and are also sitting at home Championship Weekend while Penn State represents their division in the conference championship.  To his credit, Delany says the team he didn’t “have a lot of regard for” four years should make the playoff even with a loss to Florida in the SEC title game this afternoon as well.

“I myself think Alabama has done enough whether they have a conference champion behind their resume or not. I think Ohio State has done enough. I think the committee has suggested that in their earlier years,” Delany said, by way of al.com, on ESPN‘s College GameDay show. “So what we have right now, I think, is two spots, and three, four, five teams fighting for those spots. Conference champion is relevant, but also, who you played, who you beat, who you played in the non-conference.”

Of course, Delany stumping for Ohio State is far from a surprise.  The fact that he’s seemingly dismissing Penn State and Wisconsin, the two teams that will play for his conference’s championship on the field tonight in Indianapolis, likely won’t sit well with those particular fan bases regardless of his reasons.

That said, Delany likely sees the reality that, thanks in large part to Washington’s win Friday night, his league has only one shot at a playoff berth for the third straight year, and that shot is sitting on its collective couches in Columbus this weekend.

There’s a new reality when it comes to college football’s postseason, and Delany seemingly understands that he has no choice but to embrace it — even as he was so strident against his current stance just a few years ago.

I lost that election four years ago. I argued for the four best conference champions. That was not the decision. We lost that election. That election was four years ago. We have to understand that elections happen, certain ideas are adopted and we’re at a different place now. It’s four best teams. And conference championships are there to help sort that cluster out, as well as head-to-head as well as strength of schedule.

“I was the campaign manager four years ago, for the four best conference champions. We lost that election. What we decided on was the four best teams, which I’m fine with. Obviously, this year is unique in some respects. We have the two divisional champions here today playing for the [Big Ten] conference championship, and they should be respected for that. The committee has another role, and that’s to pick the four best teams in the country.

Ouch, Nittany Lions.  That’ll leave a mark, Badgers.

In the end, though, he’s right.  Ohio State and Alabama are two of the four best teams in the country, regardless of whether they have “conference champions” attached to their names.  And that’s the job of the committee — find the four best teams in college football and put them in the playoffs.

Provisional plans in place in case Navy, ahem, wreaks bowl havoc

ANNAPOLIS, MD - NOVEMBER 14: Sean Reaver #99 of the Navy Midshipmen and teammates run onto the field holding U.S. flags before playing against the Southern Methodist Mustangs at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland. The Navy Midshipmen won, 55-14. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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As un-American as it is, there are numerous individuals associated with the bowl process, including bowl officials and affected schools, who will be rooting for Navy to lose later on today.

Why? Because if the service academy beats Temple in the AAC championship game, it was initially thought, a portion of the bowl process could be paralyzed as Navy would be in line for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bid but still has its annual rivalry game with Army to play next weekend. A handful of bids would likely be delayed for another seven days, potentially putting some teams in a predicament where they would have as little as a 72-hour turnaround from learning where they will play in the postseason to actually playing in the game.

However, Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reports, a provisional plan has been hatched that would allow 37 of the 40 bowl bids to be announced Sunday as planned regardless of what happens in the AAC title game this afternoon. The plan is based on four teams in particular winning this weekend, with one of the four, Washington, taking care of business Friday night by beating Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game.

The other teams that need to win? No. 3 Clemson (in ACC title game vs. Virginia Tech), 5-6 Louisiana-Lafayette (at 4-7 Louisiana-Monroe) and 5-6 South Alabama (vs. 3-8 New Mexico State). If those three teams win, McMurphy reports, this is what would transpire when it comes to the remaining three bowl games that wouldn’t be able to offer bids this weekend:

Navy is the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion
Navy goes to the Cotton Bowl, Western Michigan plays North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and Army plays a Big 12 team, most likely Baylor, in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Western Michigan is the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion
Western Michigan goes to the Cotton Bowl, Army plays North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and Navy plays a Big 12 team, most likely Baylor, in the Armed Forces Bowl.

That said, it’s still possible this tentative plan could be blown to smithereens and the postseason hurled into temporary chaos.

However, bowl officials stressed that those scenarios get blown up if more than three 5-7 teams are needed to fill bowls or there are major upsets in the Power 5 championship games.

“If so,” a source said, “then we’ll have to reshuffle the cards again.

The Group of Six bid, the Cotton Bowl, will come down to either No. 19 Navy or No. 17 Western Michigan, which remained unbeaten with a win in the MAC championship game Friday night.