Slive defends NCAA’s decision on Cam Newton

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(Didn’t see that one coming, didja?)

We’re just a couple of hours away from the SEC title game, and the focus is still more on what’s going on off the field regarding one of the participants than what may transpire between the two teams on it.

The NCAA’s decision to allow Cam Newton to remain eligible despite evidence that the Auburn quarterback’s father initiated and encouraged a pay-for-play scheme has caused a tremendous amount of backlash against both the NCAA and the SEC.  The NCAA’s investigation into the situation revealed that neither Newton nor Auburn were aware of the solicitation on the part of the father based on the evidence at their disposal, and therefore are not subject to punishment at this time.  Those claims of ignorance appears to have really struck the match on the firestorm, with cries of “slippery slopes” and “plunge into lawlessness” entering the college football lexicon.

Predictably, the SEC’s commissioner has come out and defended the decision that’s allowing Newton to play in not only the league’s title game, but presumably the BcS title game as well if the Tigers can knock off South Carolina this afternoon/evening.  Speaking to the Associated Press, Slive stated that what is equitable for and fair to the student-athlete is Job One of the NCAA’s reinstatement committee, and that a message shouting down an inexplicable loophole in the system shouldn’t be sent at the expense of a student-athlete when the evidence available suggests he was Sgt. Schultz.

“The long-term issue is that we do not want this conduct that his father engaged in, this reprehensible conduct,” Slive said. “But we should not be in the business of sending messages on the back of a student-athlete on the facts that I just outlined.

“What we need to do is to look at the NCAA legislation, which is not clear enough in any way to deal with an issue like this, and strengthen it and clarify it.”

Part of the outcry against the decision is based on the SEC’s own bylaws, which seem to state that the mere act of solicitation — whether the player has knowledge of it or not — should result in the player facing some type of repercussion.  Not so, says a conference official, based on their interpretation of the rule.

“The facts in this case, as we understand them, are that the student-athlete’s father, without knowledge of the student-athlete, solicited improper payments (which were rejected) from an institution the young man did not attend, and that the institution where the young man is enrolled was not involved,” SEC spokesman Charles Bloom told the AP.

With all of the noise surrounding this issue, it’s taken on the appearance that this is some monumental bylaw mountain that needs to be climbed over the next couple of months.  In reality, it’s not.  It’s actually quite simple: close the freaking loophole.

Everyone involved readily admits that the potential for a major problem exists, with the NCAA’s decision seemingly opening the door for anyone associated with a student-athlete to stick out his hand and ask for impermissible benefits with no fear of recrimination as long as the student-athlete claims ignorance.  There’s simply no need for extensive and exhaustive meetings, conference calls, committees, sub-committees, bales of post-it notes, referendums or any of that other crap.  See loophole, close loophole.

The toothpaste can’t be crammed back in the tube on the Newton situation, not with the evidence available and the rules as they are being interpreted at this time.  They can get a whole new tube, though, and ensure they don’t squirt it all over themselves and create a similar mess in the future.

Doak Walker Award watch list highlighted by 2016 semifinalists Barkley and Pettway

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A watch list of the top running backs in the nation has been released by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum on Thursday. The Doak Walker Award watch list is full of great players, including 2016 Doak Walker Award semifinalists Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Kamryn Pettway (Auburn).

Among those included on this year’s initial Doak Walker Award watch list (more players can be added at any time) are LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, LJ Scott of Michigan State, Mike Weber of Ohio State, and Bo Scarbrough of Alabama, Washington’s Myles Gaskin, and Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin.

D’Onta Foreman of Texas beat out both Barkley and Pettway last season for the award. The Doak Walker Award has been presented to the nation’s top running back annually since 1990. Among the winners over the years have included Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush, and Montee Ball.

To be included on this watch list, the university athletic department must submit a nomination.

2017 Doak Walker Award Watch List

Josh Adams, Notre Dame
Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Jamauri Bogan, Western Michigan
D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa
Nick Chubb, Georgia
Jordan Chunn, Troy
Justin Crawford, West Virginia
Damarea Crockett, Missouri
Rico Dowdle, South Carolina
D’Andre Ferby, WKU
Kendrick Foster, Illinois
Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
Myles Gaskin, Washington
James Gilbert, Ball State
Derrius Guice, LSU
Damien Harris, Alabama
Kyle Hicks, TCU
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Jon Hilliman, Boston College
Justin Jackson, Northwestern
Chris James, Wisconsin
Ty Johnson, Maryland
Ronald Jones II, USC
Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
Phillip Lindsay, Colorado
Tonny Lindsey Jr., Utah State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Sony Michel, Georgia
Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech
David Montgomery, Iowa State
Jamal Morrow, Washington State
Ryan Nall, Oregon State
Jacques Patrick, Florida State
Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
Demario Richard, Arizona State
Diocemy Saint Juste, Hawaii
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
Jordan Scarlett, Florida
LJ Scott, Michigan State
Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin
Armand Shyne, Utah
Justin Silmon, Kansas State
Ito Smith, Southern Miss
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Terry Swanson, Toledo
Shaq Vann, Eastern Michigan
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Mark Walton, Miami
Warren Wand, Arkansas State
Tre Watson, California
Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
Mike Weber, Ohio State
Braeden West, SMU
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas
Aeris Williams, Mississippi State
Shaun Wilson, Duke
Marquis Young, Massachusetts

Florida’s Marcell Harris out for 2017 with torn Achilles

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The 2017 season has already ended for Florida’s Marcell Harris. Florida announced today Harris has suffered a torn Achilles tendon during a team activity on Wednesday.

“As a coach this is one of the hardest things you are faced with,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said in a released statement. “Here is a kid who has made great personal growth during his time here and has really matured both on and off the field. It is tough to see a player invest so much in himself and his teammates and have this happen, but I do know that we will support him every step of the way as he works through this injury.”

Harris was Florida’s leading tackler in 2016, so his loss is clearly a tough blow to the Gators defense this fall. The fifth-year senior will now see his college football playing career come to an end, unless the NCAA issues a medical waiver to gain a sixth year of eligibility. That may not end up coming in to play, as Harris can take the time to recover from this injury and begin training for the NFL Draft next spring.

Harris recorded a team-leading 73 tackles for Florida in 2016, with 43 solo tackles. Harris picked off two passes and recovered a fumble for Florida in 2016. That fumble recovery also resulted in a touchdown off a fumbled punt against Florida State.

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.