Mike Slive

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.

Washington State coach Mike Leach fires a shot at the SEC

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 19: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Washington State coach Mike Leach is known across the country as one of college football’s most interesting characters, rambling on from time-to-time about everything from pirates to the history of Geronimo. The latest subject the quirky head coach has turned his sights on? The big ol’ SEC.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger spoke to Leach recently as part of a profile on new Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo, and let’s just say the Air Raid guru of the Palouse didn’t hold back when discussing the state of offenses in the league widely considered to be the best in the sport.

“I’ve got bad news for all these levels people,” Leach said. “Your level isn’t special, your conference isn’t special. All this different level this, different level that. That’s crazy.

 

“This is a great time to be in the SEC, everybody’s got the same offense: run right, run left, play action. And they tease themselves  and say we threw it four more times a game this year than we did last year.”

Leach, who coached in the league at Kentucky, also added some other, more colorful language to describe his impression of the SEC and the offenses teams run. While he did play at Auburn with the Cougars a few years ago, he clearly hasn’t kept up with the way things are trending down south as even pro-style stalwarts like Alabama and Arkansas are using more and more tempo and spread principles on a weekly basis.

Either way, let’s hope the Washington State athletic director is already making calls to schedule an SEC opponent in the coming years. If nothing else, any future appearance by Leach on the Paul Finebaum Show should be must-see entertainment.

Willie Taggart completes Oregon coaching staff with familiar face from USF

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 26: South Florida Bulls head coach Willie Taggart during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images)
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It probably took a little longer than most to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, but Willie Taggart has completed his coaching staff at Oregon and the latest addition is a familiar face.

The school announced Thursday afternoon that Raymond Woodie would be taking over as the Ducks’ new special teams coordinator, having previously spent the past four seasons at USF with Taggart and three more before that together at Western Kentucky.

Woodie most recently served as the Bulls’ defensive coordinator this past season but has been a linebackers coach dating back to 2012. He is regarded by many to be a quality recruiter with good ties to the state of Florida in particular and has also coached the defensive line. While his title makes him responsible for the third phase of the game for Oregon, he figures to also help out new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt in some fashion as well.

The announcement is a bit of positive news for Taggart and the Ducks this week after a considerable bit of bad press for the program stemming from the revelation that multiple Oregon players wound up in the hospital following offseason workouts. New strength coach Irele Oderinde (who also came over from USF) was eventually suspended for one month without pay by the school as a result..

Despite Auburn interest, Texas A&M OC Noel Mazzone staying put in College Station

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 14:  The Texas A&M Aggies offense huddles against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on October 14, 2006 in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M won 25-19. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Gus Malzahn’s quest to find a new offensive coordinator has zigged and zagged in the past few days since the surprising departure of Rhett Lashlee to UConn. One place it will not be going however, is to a fellow SEC West school.

Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle reports that despite some interest in Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Aggies’ coach is staying put in College Station.

Mazzone arrived at A&M prior to this past season from UCLA and found early success with the Aggies and transfer quarterback Trevor Knight before a late slide in 2016. Travis Haney of 247Sports reported earlier Thursday that he could be considered the leader in the search to replace Lashlee, but it appears that will not be the case.

The longtime coaching veteran’s name being linked to Auburn isn’t too surprising considering he was the OC there from 1999-2001 but Mazzone’s hefty salary and likely high buyout figure provided some big obstacles if he wanted to reunite with the school.

Instead, it’s on to the next one for Malzahn and company.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan coaches ride go-karts with five-star recruit in Georgia

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 17:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts during the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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National Signing Day is just around the corner and that means a flurry of in-home visits by coaches across the country trying to lock up the next class of impact players for their program.

We’ve seen plenty of unique attempts by coaches to impress prospects over the years as a result, from often used cookie cakes to sleepovers and limo rides. When it comes to this subject though, few have been as creative as Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. This week, he certainly cemented that reputation.

According to the Detroit News, Harbaugh and several Wolverines coaches took an in-home visit with five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon out of Leesburg, Georgia and went bowling with the recruit’s family before finally racing go-karts together.

And even better, there’s video via ESPN:

Solomon is also strongly considering Alabama and Georgia in addition to Michigan, but something says neither Nick Saban or Kirby Smart will be heading to the race track with the big defensive tackle on their visit. You have to love recruiting either way.