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.

Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway officially ruled out of Iron Bowl

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The 2017 season has officially turned into, essentially, a lost one for Kamryn Pettway.

Tuesday, head coach Gus Malzahn, by way of al.com, confirmed that Pettway will not play in the Iron Bowl against Alabama this Saturday because of a shoulder injury.  Late last month, Malzahn said he expected the running back to miss an extended period of time.

Suspended for the opener, Pettway returned but missed games in Week 4 and 6 because of an unrelated injury.  In the October 21 win over Arkansas, Pettway suffered what was ultimately diagnosed as a fractured scapula, the injury that has sidelined him ever since.

It’s unclear at this point in time if Pettway will be available for the SEC championship game, if the Tigers beat the top-ranked Crimson Tide, or a bowl game.

In limited action, Pettway has rushed for 305 yards and six touchdowns.  The latter total is still second on the Tigers, the former third.  Last season, Pettway led the Tigers with 1,224 yards.  The number was good for fourth amongst SEC running backs in 2016.

The Tigers; running game has remained in good hands despite Pettway’s absence as Kerryon Johnson‘s 1,172 yards leads all SEC backs.  Johnson’s 16 rushing touchdowns are also tied for seventh nationally.

Kansas players who refused to shake Baker Mayfield’s hand won’t be captains this week

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I’m thinking, with this development, we can put crotch-gate to bed.

Three Kansas players serving as captains for the Week 12 Oklahoma game, Joe Dineen, Daniel Wise and Dorance Armstrong, for whatever reason refused to shake the hand of Baker Mayfield during their pregame meeting at midfield.  That set the tone for a chippy game that the OU quarterback took to another level by throwing a crotch grab at the KU bench that was caught on camera and led to the Heisman Trophy front-runner being suspended for the start of this weekend’s game.

Mayfield was also stripped of his captaincy, a move that left him near tears as this will be his final game in Norman.  While it may not mean as much to them, the Jayhawks trio responsible for the snubbing can certainly sympathize.

“That’s not how this game should be played,” a contrite Dineen told ESPN.com‘s Jake Trotter. “It won’t happen from me or from this program again.”

“First of all, that was absolutely unacceptable. I’ve had a conversation with [OU head coach] Lincoln Riley, and I’ve apologized on behalf of myself and our team,” KU head coach David Beaty said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “I want to also apologize to really our stakeholders, our Jayhawk fans, Jayhawks currently and all of the ones before us, because it means more to be a Jayhawk. That was a situation where we needed to make a better decision there. …

“It’s unfortunate, and I apologize to the Big 12 and really to college football, because it’s something that was absolutely unacceptable.”

Thorpe Award semifinalist Jeremy McDuffie to miss rest of Duke’s season

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Duke will be forced to navigate its way through the rest of the year, however long that is, without one of its top players on the defensive side of the ball.

The football program announced Tuesday that Jeremy McDuffie suffered an injury to his right knee in this past Saturday’s win over Georgia Tech.  The junior safety will undergo surgery next Monday to repair unspecified damaged ligaments and miss what’s left of the Blue Devils’ season.

At 5-6, Duke needs to beat Wake Forest this Saturday to become bowl-eligible.  The Blue Devils missed out on a bowl game last season after going to four straight for the first time in the program’s history.

After playing in 24 games the previous two seasons, including two starts, McDuffie had started all 11 games in 2017.  His three interceptions are tied for second on the Blue Devils, while his eight quarterback hits are tied for tops on the team.

Earlier this season, McDuffie was named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive back.

FCS player who punched coach charged with felony assault

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Normally in-game violence doesn’t result in off-field legal ramifications, but this is (rightly) one of the rare exceptions.

Earlier this month, Tennessee State defensive end Latrelle Lee was not only dismissed from the FCS program but expelled from the university after he punched Tigers strength & conditioning coach T.J. Greenstone twice in the head on the sideline during a game.  Greenstone serves as TSU’s “get-back” coach for players, charged with keeping them from creeping toward the field of play and, in the process, keeping the team from drawing a flag.

The unprovoked assault was caught on video and quickly went viral.

As a result of that incident, Lee, who had been a criminal justice major prior to his expulsion, has been arrested on one count of felony assault, The Tennessean is reporting.  Lee was subsequently released Monday night after a $7,500 bond was posted, and has an initial court date scheduled for Dec. 8; he had been scheduled to graduate Dec. 9.

According to the arrest affidavit, “[t]he victim has subsequently been having medical difficulties as a result [of] the altercation.”

“We, of course, do not condone any act of violence within our department and are very disturbed by the action of one of our students,” a statement from athletic director Teresa Phillips released shortly after the Nov. 11 incident began. “We are committed to supporting the coach who was personally affected and our concern now is with him.”

Thus far, there has been no public comment from the football program or the university on this latest development, nor have they updated the status of the coach who was the victim of the assault.