Northwestern Football Practice at Wrigley Field

Illini-N’western Wrigley game to feature one usable end zone

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Seriously.  One — and only one — end zone will be used.

For those who were/are unaware, Illinois and Northwestern will play this weekend at the home of the Chicago Cubs, historic Wrigley Field.  And, as you can tell by the photo at the right — as well as other photos of the same end zone — it took a good deal of cramming to get a football field to fit inside the ivy-covered confines.

Of course, along with said cramming came concerns over player safety.  Specifically, players running/being ran headfirst into the outfield wall that sits just a couple of feet outside the east end zone.

As a result of the safety issues, the Big Ten has announced some major changes to Saturday’s game.  And have officially made a mockery of the game and turned it into one akin to something we all used to play in the backyard.  Or out in the street.  In traffic.

According to a press release issued by the conference, the following rule changes were determined to be the best of all options and will be in effect for this game only based on the unique layout of the field:

1)    All offensive plays will head toward the West end zone, including all extra points and all overtime possessions.
2)    All kickoffs will be kicked toward the East end zone.
3)    After every change of possession, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head toward the West end zone.
4)    As a result of a coin toss held by the conference office Friday morning, Illinois will occupy the West team bench in the first half and Northwestern will occupy the West team bench in the second half and for all overtime periods.

Other rules under consideration include the fire hydrant at the corner of Elm & Main is out of bounds; each school will be responsible for bringing extra footballs because if one goes into Old Man Johnson’s garden you cannot go after it because he’ll tell your parents you trampled his tomato plants whether you did or not; all kickoffs will be thrown; five-Mississippi pass rushes on first and second down; if any player’s mom hollers for him during the course of the game, he will be permitted to re-enter the game after he’s finished cleaning his room; and oncoming traffic has the right of way and play will stop, except on fourth down when you’re on your own.

This game has been in the works for over a year and a half, but the league claims they didn’t realize they had a “situation” with the configuration of the playing field until the playing field was configured right in front of them.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance,” said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany in a statement. “Both Illinois and Northwestern did significant due diligence over the past 18 months, but after seeing the actual layout of the field, all parties felt that it was appropriate to adjust the rules to further enhance the safety of our student-athletes. Wrigley Field is one of the most historic venues in the country, and playing the Illinois-Northwestern game at this facility will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for student-athletes, coaches and fans.”

Suffice to say, and short of finding an alternative way of shoehorning a football field into this particular baseball park, this might be the last time in a long, long, long time you’ll see a football game contested at Wrigley.  Hell, it’ll take a solid 4-5 years before the Big Ten is able to get the last little bit of egg wiped off their face after this debacle, so a next game at that place will likely be the last thing on their minds.

FCS LB Ray Lewis III, son of ‘Canes legend, charged with sexual assault

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Coastal Carolina athletics
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A former member of the Miami Hurricanes football program — and the son of a U legend — is facing some rather significant allegations at his current football home.

WMBF-TV in Conway, SC, is reporting that an arrest warrant was issued for Coastal Carolina cornerback Ray Lewis III in connection to claims that he had sexually assaulted two women.  The FCS player turned himself into authorities earlier Friday and was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The alleged incidents that led to the charges occurred in January.  From the television station’s report:

On Saturday, January 23, Conway Police officer responded to a local hospital, where the victims told police they were sexually assaulted at an apartment in the 2200 block of Technology Drive, according to a news release from the police department. Detectives were called to the hospital to take over the investigation.

Medical reports, victim statements, witness statements, and lab statements were presented to the solicitor’s office, and warrants were obtained for 20-year-old Ray Lewis III.

The arrest warrant alleges that Lewis did engage in sexual battery with an 18-year-old female with the knowledge that the victim was incapacitated and/or physically helpless from the use of drugs and/or alcohol.

Ray Lewis IIIThe 20-year-old Lewis, the son of UM Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, spent two seasons at his father’s alma mater without ever playing a down before transferring to Coastal Carolina in January of 2015.  In 2015 as a redshirt sophomore, the younger Lewis played in 12 games for the Chanticleers.

Suffice to say, he has been indefinitely suspended from the football team.

Coastal Carolina, incidentally, will be making the move from the FCS to the FBS level for the 2017 season.  It was announced in September of last year that the Chanticleers will join the Sun Belt Conference for football beginning that season.

A Travone Valentine return to LSU in 2016 now a possibility

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 10:  Mike VI, mascot of the Louisiana State University Tigers, during pregame warmups before the game against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Back in January, Travonte Valentine was hoping Les Miles would give him another shot at a playing career at LSU. Specifically, Valentine was hoping that he’d get another shot at being a Tiger in 2017.

Not only does it appear Miles is ready to welcome the defensive lineman back, but that welcome could come a year earlier than expected. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Currently enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Valentine was expected to become a 2017 prospect, but NCAA rules may allow him to suit up for LSU in 2016, according to numerous sources with knowledge of Valentine’s academic situation.

Valentine and other sources have confirmed that LSU has checked with its compliance department about what it would take for him to enroll this fall. Valentine, who is currently in good academic standing, has to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, while completing the required number of course hours to qualify. The Tigers are taking a conservative approach to the situation, given the history between both parties, but multiple sources said the program is open to the idea if Valentine maintains his current course, and compliance decides that the transfer would meet NCAA guidelines.

Should Valentine ultimately return to Baton Rouge, it’d be the continuation of a lengthy — and bumpy — odyssey.

After signing with the Tigers in February of 2014, Valentine dealt with NCAA Clearinghouse issues — the player said another SEC program was the root cause — that forced him to miss the start of summer camp his true freshman season. While he was ultimately cleared to practice, he was not permitted to play in any games because of the lingering academic issues.

Then in April of last year, head coach Les Miles confirmed that Valentine had been suspended, with the specific reason being, again, academics.  At the time of his departure from the program, it was reported that Valentine, in addition to the academic issues, had failed multiple drug tests.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class, Valentine was rated as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Florida. He had been expected to be an immediate contributor to LSU’s line rotation.

Nick Saban labels Alabama assistant’s departure as a ‘resignation’

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 15:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on during pregame warmups prior to facing the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 15, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Despite surprisingly seeing just one player selected in the first round of the NFL draft, there might not have been a happier football program than the one at Alabama.  Thanks to the controversy swirling around Laremy Tunsil and his social media misadventures, the fact that a report surfacing shortly before the draft that had a Tide assistant leaving amidst potential NCAA issues had flown almost completely under the radar.

According to the report, defensive line coach Bo Davis was expected to resign or be fired after the school opened an inquiry into possible recruiting violations.  In the first public comments from the school, Davis’ departure is being labeled as a resignation.

“Bo Davis has submitted his letter of resignation,” a statement attributed to head coach Nick Saban began. “We appreciate all the contributions he made to the program and wish him and his family the very best in the future.”

The specific nature of the alleged violations are unknown.  The NCAA, though, has reportedly made multiple inquiries into the situation and the Tide is currently in the midst of investigating the allegations against the coach.

Davis first worked for Saban with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins before moving on to Tuscaloosa as part of Saban’s first Tide staff.  He left for five years before returning to the Tide in 2014.

Not only is Davis considered one of the best line coaches in the country, he’s also a premier recruiter in a program overflowing with such personnel.

The current thought process is that Tosh Lupoi, a Tide football staffer not unfamiliar with NCAA allegations himself, could slide into Davis’ role.  Lupoi had previously served as the line coach at Cal and Washington before moving on to ‘Bama in 2014.

For Atlanta satellite camp, Georgia to partner with… Michigan?

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 15:  (EDITORS NOTE: This image has been converted to black and white and uses filters) A view of a cat and a dog cuddling during the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 2013 in Cannes, France.  (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
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For those who think the Trump and Clinton supporters can’t find some common ground (they can’t), take note.

In “The Great Satellite Camp Debate of 2016,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh took exception to some of the comments made by his counterpart at Georgia, Kirby Smart, saying “he is barking up the wrong tree” with the implication there is “any intent on our part to break rules.”  Thursday, the NCAA put that issue to rest (for now) by rescinding a ban on satellite camps that had caused the Smart/Harbaugh sniping in the first place.

Just a few hours after the ban was lifted, it was announced that Smart’s coaching staff would be one of two featured at an Atlanta-area camp.  The other?  Lucifer, grab your skates.

While many will be stunned at this “dog dates cat” development, it’s not that shocking.

“That whole thing got so overblown,” Smart, per DawgNation.com, said at an event in Dallas a week ago. “Because he and I, he and staff members from his staff had communicated. That’s a big deal to the media, big deal to you guys. But in the coaching profession we’re a bit more light-hearted about it.”