Denials flowing from ‘pathetic… pure garbage’ HBO report

34 Comments

As expected, the fallout from Wednesday night’s HBO special on big-time college athletics — football in particular — has commenced in earnest, with very swift and extremely vehement denials coming from the “stars” of the Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel program.

In particular, current Auburn head coach Gene Chizik took aim at the cable network for airing one side of a story in which four Auburn players — Stanley McCloverTroy ReddickChaz Ramsey and Raven Gray — levied accusations that they were paid cash by alumni/boosters in exchange for their signatures on a Letter of Intent to attend Auburn or for their on-field performances.  Or both.  Chizik, who said he was never contacted by HBO for their story, was Auburn’s defensive coordinator from 2002-2004, the same time frame as two of the players featured in the piece.

Saying “I don’t have my head in the sand”, Chizik blasted HBO for their one-sided approach to the issues raised in the expose’.

“It’s sad to me, it’s very sad to me, that HBO is going to go ahead and air something that, really admittedly, they’ve got no proof on anything,” Chizik said.

“What’s disturbing to me is that they interviewed other former Auburn football players who had exactly the opposite to say but somehow or another that failed to make the air, unless I missed that section. So I’ve got other former players that are calling me who are still playing and who are great players who had absolutely no knowledge of any of that stuff. So it saddens me that somebody is going to air a show with basically one side being known.

I think that’s pathetic. And I think it’s pure garbage.

Lee Ziemba, who started more than 50 games with the Tigers from 2007-2010, blasted the “bum” players via Twitter Tuesday as well.  While his message was somewhat softened yesterday, he still questioned both the accusers and their accusations.

“These guys obviously have some kind of beef with Auburn,” Ziemba told the Opelika-Auburn News on Wednesday. “I played here four years, was recruited by the same folks they were and never saw a dime out of any of it.

“I played in the same games, walked out of the same locker room and never got one of those ‘money handshakes.’ If any of that had been going on, I would have known about it.”

While the denials from Auburn are to be expected, it remains to be seen what type of NCAA fallout these allegations may trigger.  Ahead of the show yesterday evening, the SEC released a statement saying they are “aware of some of the information to be aired” and that their “staff will pursue the allegations in a timely manner.”  In their own statement, Auburn acknowledged that they have “contacted both the NCAA and Southeastern Conference as soon as these allegations surfaced”, as well as “engaging outside counsel to investigate this matter and will spare no resources to find the truth.”

The NCAA’s statute of limitations is four years — not five as we’d previously written — and two of the ex-Auburn players fall outside of that window.  However, the other two are within that time frame, which would allow the NCAA to commence digging.  There are, though, exceptions to that four-year time frame that could allow the NCAA to go as far back as they want or need to.

NCAA Bylaw 32.6.3 outlines a four-year statute of limitations on violations, but there are exceptions. Two could apply in this case. They involve: “Allegations … to indicate a pattern of willful violations on the part of the institution or individual involved, which began before but continued into the four-year period. Allegations that indicate a blatant disregard for the NCAA’s fundamental recruiting, extra-benefit, academic or ethical-conduct regulations.”

A Florida attorney who specializes in NCAA enforcement cases told AuburnVersus.com that he would be surprised if, based on the allegations, the NCAA didn’t go back further than the normal four-year statute of limitations would dictate.

“If the enforcement staff can determine there’s a pattern of willful intent to violate the rules, they then go beyond that statute of limitations,” said Michael Buckner, an attorney from Pompano Beach, Fla., that specializes in NCAA enforcement cases. “It doesn’t happen often. But I would be surprised if the enforcement staff did not at least look into those allegations, even if they did occur beyond the four-year statute of limitations.”

Given the whole Cam Newton imbroglio, which begat a deeper NCAA look into Auburn’s recruiting practices, there’s little doubt that the NCAA will dig into these latest allegations and turn over any rock related to the Auburn football program.  The thing is, how much credence should be given to this quartet of players, one of whom had filed a lawsuit against his former school?

We’re far from qualified to give an answer to that question; we’ll let those on the enforcement staff more versed in these matters to decide the veracity of the claims.  However, one former Auburn player very concisely summed up where our feelings on this entire mess may be headed.

“There’s just a lot of guys that have dealt with things as far as how their career went, and a lot of that is reflected in how they felt they got treated by Auburn,” T.J. Jackson, a former teammate of McClover and Reddick, told the Opelika-Auburn News on Tuesday night. “Not being ugly to those guys, but if you were going to pay some people, there were probably a lot of people (on those teams) that should have been paid before those guys.”

Regardless of where the truth actually lies, there’s no doubt that we have yet to hear the last of this situation.  The question then becomes: will the current Auburn Four be the lone wolves crying financial foul play, or will “people that should have been paid before those guys” surface as well?

Stay tuned and strap in, I guess, as this off-field game is, unfortunately, far from over.

Frank Kush, winningest coach in Arizona State history, dies at age 88

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The most famous head coach in the history of Arizona State athletics has passed.

The university confirmed Thursday that the legendary Frank Kush died earlier in the day of unknown causes.  He was 88 years old.

After finishing his collegiate playing career at Michigan State and a stint in the Army, Kush’s first job in coaching was as the line coach for the Sun Devils in 1955.  When Dan Devine left to become the head coach at Missouri in December of 1957, Kush was promoted to head coach.

Kush spent the next 21½ years as the head coach at ASU, leading the Sun Devils to a 176-54-1 mark that included seven Western Athletic Conference championships.  The wins are the most in the football program’s history; in fact, he’s the only coach in the school’s history who has accumulated more than 60 wins during his time in Tempe.

From 1969-73, Kush’s ASU squads won five straight WAC titles.  They lost just six games total in that span against 51 wins.  In 1975, they went a 12-0, capping off the second perfect season under Kush with a win over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.

In part because of Kush’s on-field success with the Sun Devils, ASU began play in the then-Pac-12 conference in 1978.

Kush’s tenure at the school ended in controversy, however, as he was fired in the middle of the 1979 season after a player accused the coach of mental and physical abuse in a September lawsuit.  The coach was ultimately fired because the university accused him of hindering the investigation into the allegations.

Suspended Oklahoma DB Will Sunderland now facing felony burglary charge

Getty Images
1 Comment

Will Sunderland‘s legal issues just got a whole lot more serious.

Earlier this month, an arrest warrant was issued for Sunderland after he allegedly sold stolen property to an Oklahoma City business in mid-March.  At the time, it was believed that the Oklahoma defensive back did not steal the items in question, which included a Playstation 4, controllers and games.

Wednesday, however, Sunderland was charged with felony burglary.  According to both the Norman Transcript and  The Oklahoman, this most recent charge is likely related to Sunderland allegedly stealing electronics from the dorm room of a pair of OU baseball players — that he then sold, leading to the original misdemeanor charge.

The latter newspaper went on to report that there may be video evidence of the incident.

According to the affidavit submitted by OUPD, Sunderland was seen on recorded video using a OneCard Swipe to enter Headington Hall, and his identity was later confirmed by the OneCard Swipe log. Video then shows Sunderland entering the third floor and walking down the hall that also leads to his room. Then, according to the affidavit, Sunderland appears to be walking toward the elevator lobby but is not seen again on the security footage until eight minutes later when he returns to view with a large unidentified object.

Cameras show Sunderland repeating similar actions for about 36 minutes before he is seen carrying a large red bag into an elevator alone. Once outside, cameras show Sunderland placing the red bag in the trunk of a vehicle parked outside Headington Hall. He then returned to Headington Hall with an unidentified male, and 31 minutes later, they exited carrying two white trash bags.

While Sunderland has turned himself in on the misdemeanor charge, he hasn’t as of yet on the felony.

After the misdemeanor charge, Sunderland was indefinitely suspended. What the felony charge does to his status with the football program moving forward remains to be seen.

Last season as a sophomore, Sunderland played in eight games.  This season, Sunderland was expected to stake his claim to one of the starting safety jobs.

‘As of now,’ Alabama transfer Shawn Jennings commits to South Alabama

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It appears that a former Alabama football player will remain in the Yellowhammer State to continue his collegiate playing career.  Probably.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Shawn Jennings had decided to transfer from Alabama.  On his personal Twitter account Wednesday, Jennings revealed that he has committed to playing football for the Sun Belt Conference’s South Alabama.

The linebacker also added a curious “[a]s of now” qualifier, indicating that, at the very least, the commitment could be described as soft at best.

If Jennings ends up on Joey Jones‘ USA team, or any other FBS program for that matter, he’d have to sit out the 2017 season.

A three-star member of the Tide’s 2016 recruiting class, Jennings was rated as the No. 21 player at any position in the state of Alabama.  As a true freshman, he took a redshirt.

Jennings’ older brother, redshirt sophomore Anfernee Jennings, is in line to start at outside linebacker for ‘Bama this season.

Camrin Knight transferring from Florida to Georgia State

Florida athletics
Leave a comment

For the second time this week, one Sun Belt Conference program has apparently landed a Power Five transfer.

Per a report from 247Sports.com, Camrin Knight has decided to transfer out of the Florida football program. The Gainesville Sun subsequently confirmed the initial report.

The recruiting website also reported that Knight will be transferring to Georgia State. Earlier this week, it was also reported that South Carolina’s Pete Leota would be transferring to GSU as well.

Barring something unexpected, Knight will be forced to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA bylaws.

A three-star 2015 recruit, Knight played in eight games as a true freshman tight end. His playing time was cut exactly in half last season, and he moved to linebacker this past spring.