Michigan v Ohio State

Terrelle Pryor cleared in probe of loaner cars

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You just can’t make this stuff up.  Well, you could, but it would be so unbelievable it wouldn’t be worth the effort.

Terrelle Pryor was one of five Ohio State players suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for receiving impermissible benefits.  As it turns out, that case wasn’t the only off-field issue facing the quarterback.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, Pryor was pulled over for traffic violations three times in the past three years.  In each case, Pryor was driving a vehicle registered in the name of a car salesman or a car dealership where the salesman worked.

Ohio State, which was aware of only two of the incidents, told the Dispatch that they investigated the loaner vehicles and the compliance department determined that nothing untoward had occurred.  As for the other traffic stop that they weren’t aware of, the school said they will investigate that one to ensure that no NCAA bylaws were broken.

Reportedly, all three times Pryor was pulled over in the loaner vehicles, his vehicle was in the shop for repairs or he was simply out for a test drive.  One of the incidents occurred in October of 2008 and involved a 2004 GMC Denali.  The other two occurred within a week of each other this past March when Pryor was driving a 2009 Dodge.  The former vehicle was registered in the name of Aaron Kniffin, while the latter was registered to Auto Direct of Columbus.  Kniffin was employed by that dealership at the time Pryor was pulled over driving the Dodge.

Ohio State knew about Pryor’s use of the car while he had the engine in his own car replaced this past spring and was assured that every customer receives a loaner when extended repairs like that are necessary, Archie said.

Pryor told The Dispatch last night that he borrowed cars from the dealership only when his own was in for repairs and that he spoke with Kniffin only in those instances. As for the SUV he borrowed in 2008, Pryor said, “I wanted advice from some of my family and friends I trusted to see if it would be a good vehicle for me to maybe buy.”

Test driving or borrowing a car is not in itself a violation of NCAA rules. However, use of a car because of an athlete’s status could be considered an improper benefit.

Ohio State became aware of the possibility of NCAA violations when they received an anonymous letter this past July, which stated that members of the football program were trading autographs in exchange for the use of cars.  Of course, part of the probe that ended with the five-game suspensions involved the players receiving tattoos from a Columbus tattoo parlor in exchange for autographs and/or memorabilia.

About two dozen autographed jerseys hang inside Auto Direct’s office, including those from Pryor, running back Daniel Herron and receiver DeVier Posey. A number of autographs have been scribbled on the walls.

Pryor said he doesn’t remember the circumstances of him signing his jersey, but “I sign a lot of stuff for Buckeye fans – I don’t like to turn down fans. But I don’t do it to get any favors or discounts.

Pryor announced earlier this week that he would be returning for his senior season despite the suspension that will knock him out for nearly half the regular season.  Based on the reports coming out of Columbus involving Pryor, we’re not certain whether we should be offering our congratulations or condolences on that development.

Nebraska won a bidding war with Arkansas to hire Bob Diaco

PROVO, UT - OCTOBER 2: Head coach Bob Diaco of the Connecticut Huskies watches his team practice before they play the Brigham Young Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium on October 2, 2015 in Provo Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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Nebraska and Arkansas have met just once on the field, in the 1965 Cotton Bowl. But the Huskers and Hogs have now met twice in the only college athletics competition more cutthroat than the actual games — hiring coaches.

Arkansas famously held off Nebraska for Houston Nutt‘s services in 2004 (before you scoff, Nutt led the Hogs to the 2006 SEC West title, and Nebraska wound up hiring Bill Callahan) and now the Cornhuskers have returned the favor.

Nebraska hired Bob Diaco as its defensive coordinator this week, nabbing the former Connecticut head coach and Notre Dame defensive coordinator after he’d finished an interview with Arkansas. Sean Callahan of Husker Online explains from here:

Head coach Mike Riley said they stopped Diaco’s plane in the air on his way back from Arkansas and got him to fly to Lincoln last Thursday from Chicago. Riley said from there, they weren’t letting Diaco leave Lincoln until he accepted the job.

The money didn’t hurt. Nebraska handed Diaco a 2-year contract worth $1.7 million in total, making him the highest-paid assistant in program history.

Report: Auburn offensive coordinator search getting thorny

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 08:  Head coach Gus Malzahn of the Auburn Tigers reacts during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 8, 2014 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Auburn does not have an offensive coordinator yet, which is odd. The Tigers have an explosive offense with a lot of returning parts. They have Jarrett Stidham coming in to play quarterback. They have a boatload of money. And they have a boatload of money.

According to a report from James Crepea of AL.com, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and “people with influence over the program” can’t agree on who should replace Rhett Lashlee.

Malzahn is said to prefer Florida Atlantic offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and NC State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz. Lindsey and Drinkwitz worked for Malzahn previously, and Malzahn has built a working relationship with the Briles family — Stidham and running back Kam Martin transferred from Waco to Auburn, and Art Briles visited a Tigers practice this season.

But Auburn donors, Crepea writes, have nixed those choices, saying Briles is too inexperienced and Lindsey and Drinkwitz are too close to Malzahn.

Instead, donors preferred Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone (who has already been crossed off the list) or Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich (ditto). Mark Helfrich does not seem like a viable option at this time.

With less than two weeks until National Signing Day, the urgency to bring someone to the South Plains only grows stronger.

Forza Blu? Michigan reportedly planning spring practice in Italy

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines directs a drill during warm ups prior to playing the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on October 29, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Undeterred by recent NCAA legislation, Jim Harbaugh is reportedly going international.

As noted by the Detroit Free Press, a post on Rivals affiliate TheWolverine.com reports that Michigan is planning to spend the final week of football spring practice in Rome, Italy. The team would not only practice several times on Italian soil, but would allow the team to visit the sights in the area and even leave players in Europe to study abroad for a semester.

The move would no doubt ruffle even more feathers in the football and NCAA communities after Harbaugh famously took the Wolverines to the IMG Academy down in Florida for spring practice last March. That prompted recent legislation that was passed at the NCAA convention in Nashville this week — a Harbaugh Rule if you will — that prohibited off-campus practice during a vacation period outside of a playing season.

While it would seem that would rule out trips away from Ann Arbor for spring football practices, it appears the Michigan athletic department is going to push forward by exploiting a slight loophole in the language of the rule. While vacation periods may be off limits like spring break, it appears the Wolverines would be looking to leave town at the end of April, which would be after the semester ends  and does not fall into any scheduled vacation time.

We’ll see if anything becomes of this report and if Michigan indeed announces such an unprecedented trip. While foreign tours are common in sports like basketball at the NCAA levels, it really hasn’t happened in football aside from occasional games overseas so it will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend, or is just another case of Harbaugh being Harbaugh.

Wisconsin extends head coach Paul Chryst’s contract through 2022

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 2: Corey Clement #6 of the Wisconsin Badgers points toward head coach Paul Chryst  as the two celebrate following the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. Wisconsin defeated Western Michigan 24-16. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
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Winning a New Year’s Six bowl and outperforming nearly every preseason expectation typically results in a nice boost to a head coach’s bank account and that is the case at Wisconsin this year.

The Badgers announced on Friday that the school’s athletic board had extended head football coach Paul Chryst another year, running through January 31, 2022. Additional contract terms such as a potential raise or incentives were not announced, meaning this was likely just tacking another year onto the former Wisconsin quarterback’s original deal in Madison.

The move isn’t new for the program, which pulled the same extension almost to the day a year ago after Chryst led the Badgers to a 10-3 year in 2015 that was capped off with a Holiday Bowl victory over USC. The coach one-upped that performance in 2016, winning the Big Ten West title and getting selected for the Cotton Bowl, which the team won over previously undefeated Western Michigan.

Chryst’s original contract he signed two years ago was for a term of five seasons through 2020. He originally made around $2.3 million a year but should be hitting the $2.5 million mark heading into 2017 with various increases incorporated.