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.

Iowa OL Sean Welsh opens up about depression battle in op-ed essay

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Iowa offensive lineman Sean Welsh has gone public about his ongoing battle with depression.

In a first person essay posted to Iowa’s official website, Welsh (No. 79, center) says symptoms emerged during his redshirt freshman season. He noticed himself eating less and spending more time isolated from other people, and felt his enthusiasm for school and football evaporate. He played through the depression, but felt his play suffer as the season progressed.

Football, the driving force for many years of my life, went from a source of purpose to a source of apathy. I started to feel a myriad of negative emotions: sadness, anxiety, dread and anger. They hit me like a bombardment from the moment I woke up to when I went back to bed.

It was every dimension of terrible. And I kept wondering what was wrong.

My family and I both needed some answers so I went to a therapist where we talked about identity and why I played football. It was like pulling teeth. Up to then, I felt that inner motives or emotions weren’t something to be shared – they showed your weaknesses. Plus, I didn’t have time for this stuff in the fall. I had a full class load and football on top of it. So I swept my depression under the rug and promised to revisit it after the season.  Which worked…for a while.

Welsh wrote that his symptoms peaked in the spring of 2015, when classes and tests slipped from his mind and, at one point, he spent three straight days holed up in his room. That experienced forced him to leave the team and return home for therapy. Welsh returned to the team that summer and remained in Iowa City to help the Hawkeyes to a 12-0 regular season, a Big Ten West championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl. He wrote that he opened up with his story to the rest of the team and feels enthusiastic for the upcoming 2017 campaign.

Welsh says he opened up to the public to help people understand that a high status in life or a long list of accomplishments doesn’t shield anyone from depression.

First off, depression doesn’t discriminate. You can have everything working in your favor – a strong upbringing, a loving family, a promising future – and depression can turn it upside down.

It can make your successes feel unimportant and your problems seem monumental. It made me feel empty, like I had nothing.

But it also galvanized me. It gave me a perspective that I never would have gained without it. Depression also taught me pure, visceral humility and that I need to be honest with myself and others about how I feel.  Without the support of my family, Coach Ferentz and his staff, my teammates and my friends – I’m not sure I would’ve gotten off the mat.

Read the full essay here.

Baylor DB Travon Blanchard arrested on family violence charges

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As Matt Rhule was winning Big 12 media days on Tuesday, one of his players was generating an all-too-familiar headline.

Bears defensive back Travon Blanchard was arrested Tuesday night on family violence charges. He was released later Tuesday night on $6,000 bond.

Blanchard was arrested in Waco, but the warrant for his arrest originated out of Fort Bend County, near Houston. Blanchard’s attorney Michelle Tuegel made a statement late Tuesday evening, saying, “we look forward to representing Travon and bringing out the truth in court.”

Blanchard was suspended from the program before Tuesday’s arrest, and Rhule said Tuesday (before news of the arrest broke) that his status remain unchanged.

“Travon Blanchard was suspended from all team activities immediately after learning of allegations made against him in February,” Baylor said in a statement. “That status has not changed and he has had no involvement with the program since that time. The university is aware of the arrest made today in connection with the previous allegations against Blanchard and will monitor the developments of this charge for any additional decision regarding his affiliation as a student-athlete.”

Blanchard appeared in 11 games last season, registering 73 tackles and nine TFLs.

Tommy Tuberville to join ESPN roster of college football analysts

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Tommy Tuberville is not going to be Alabama’s next governor, he’s not going to be mayor of Lubbock, and he’s not going to coach again — at least not in 2017. Absent of something to do, Tuberville has found himself a new job.

ESPN announced Wednesday Tuberville has joined its roster of college football analysts. He’ll work as a color commentator on Saturday games on ESPN or ABC. Which crew he’ll work on remains to be determined.

“Tommy has been a staple in college football for many years, having experienced nearly every situation as a head coach” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said in a statement. “We want him to bring that experience to our telecast, informing fans on the dynamics of a head coach’s thought process, not only in a given moment but leading up to and following that moment.”

Tuberville, 62, is out of coaching for the second time in his career after he stepped down at Cincinnati following a 4-8 campaign. He went 29-22 from 2013-16 at Cincinnati, 20-17 from 2010-12 at Texas Tech, 85-40 from 1999-08 at Auburn, and 25-20 from 1995-98 at Ole Miss.

ESPN released the following video to announce Tuberville’s hiring.

North Dakota State AD thinks Big Ten is rethinking stance against FCS opponents

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Remember not so long ago when the Big Ten decided that games against FCS opponents would no longer be permitted? That was nice while it lasted.

As reported by The Forum, North Dakota State athletics director Matt Larsen says he is optimistic a change in scheduling philosophy out of the Big Ten will reopen some doors for the Bison and other FCS programs moving forward.

“We sure hope so,” Larsen said. “Again, the best part for us is with the Big Ten, it’s the most geographical favorable footprint and they are the teams we would most prefer to play. There are a lot of Land Grant institutions and it gives our fan base more ability to travel.”

Larsen explains the Big Ten is considering amending its scheduling policy to accommodate Big Ten teams that must play five road games in the nine-game Big Ten schedule. Big Ten members who have four home games per season in conference play would, in theory, be allowed to schedule one FCS opponent to fill a scheduling vacancy.

Two summers ago, the Big Ten announced a change to its scheduling policy with the intent of making the conference’s overall schedule more attractive and competitive as the College Football Playoff was supposedly focusing on strength of schedule. In addition to expanding to a nine-game conference schedule, the Big Ten required members to schedule one game against another power conference opponent (which has already seen exemptions made for some) and no more games against FCS opponents would be allowed. Consider it a power play move by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany to make for a more valuable television product and maybe a challenge to other conferences to do the same.

Of course, while other power conferences like the ACC and SEC have drafted some scheduling requirements to include one power conference opponent, every other power conference has left the door open to scheduling FCS opponents. Maybe Delany’s bluff was recognized around the country.

With a limited number of non-conference games to schedule and schedules being booked years in advance, filling out a 12-game schedule has come with some problems as conferences have expanded in numbers and some have expanded in the conference schedule. That leaves some schools and conferences in a bind because schools from Conference USA and the MAC can only play so many power conference opponents in their limited non-conference slots.

The Big Ten has not formally addressed this potential change in scheduling philosophy at this time, but keep an eye on it as the Big Ten kicks off its media days.