SEC Championship Football

Denials flowing from ‘pathetic… pure garbage’ HBO report

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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.

Hawaii hires Jacob Yoro as safeties coach

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach Nick Rolovich of the Hawaii Warriors walks the sidelines during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Kevin Lempa‘s new destination hasn’t yet been announced — he interviewed for a Michigan analyst job earlier this month — but Hawaii’s defensive coordinator has already been replace.

Legi Suiaunoa was promoted to defensive coordinator a week and a half ago, and on Monday the Warriors announced Honolulu native Jacob Yoro as safeties coach.

“Jake is a guy that I was interested in even before I got the job here at Hawai’i,” head coach Nick Rolovich (pictured) said in a statement. “I always thought he’d be a good fit with our philosophy. He’s well respected on the West Coast, not only for his knowledge but also for the noise he’s made on the recruiting side of the game. I have great appreciation for grinders like Jake.  We hope he adds to the trust of coaches and players in local recruiting. Local or not, though, Jake is a good ball coach.”

Yoro played at powerhouse Saint Louis High School before playing at Montana from 1998-01, then returned to the islands to coach in the Hawaii high school ranks. He left in 2009 to serve as linebackers coach at Montana Western, spent five seasons at Pacific University in Oregon and then coached the past two seasons as defensive backs coach at Cal Poly.

The Hawaii job represents Yoro’s first foray into FBS football.

“I’m excited and thankful for the opportunity to join the UH football family.  Coach Rolo and the rest of the staff have done a tremendous job of creating a culture that fosters greatness both on and off the field,” Yoro said.

He’ll have his work cut out for him immediately. Hawaii finished Rolovich’s first season ranked 118th nationally in pass efficiency defense, allowing 62.6 percent completions for 8.1 yards per attempt with 29 touchdowns against 11 interceptions in 14 games.

Alabama settles offensive staff by making two hires official

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 10:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on from the sidelines during the game against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The waters in Tuscaloosa are finally calm after Hurricane Lane’s departure.

As reported over the weekend, Alabama has officially named Brian Daboll its offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and announced former director of football operations Joe Pannunzio as its tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.

Daboll kickstarted his career as a graduate assistant under Nick Saban at Michigan State and arrives after serving the past two seasons as the New England Patriots’ tight ends coach. Pannunzio turned four years as Saban’s DFO into two years as the Philadelphia Eagles’ director of personnel operations.

“I am honored to have the chance to return to the college game and work for Coach Saban at Alabama,” Daboll said. “He basically gave me my start in coaching as a graduate assistant at Michigan State in the late 1990s and has always been a very important influence on my coaching career. It is a tremendous opportunity to work at an institution such as Alabama with its rich tradition and history of sustained success, and I’m very excited to get started.”

“I am excited to have the chance to return to The University of Alabama and once again work for Coach Saban,” Pannunzio said. “I have always loved working with the special teams and tight ends and the chance to do it for the best coach and the best program in college football is a very special opportunity. My family and I love Tuscaloosa, and I can’t wait to get back out on the field coaching.”

Daboll fills the hole left by Steve Sarkisian, who filled the hole left by Lane Kiffin. Pannunzio fills the vacancy created when wide receivers coach Billy Napier left to become the offensive coordinator at Arizona State. Alabama also lost offensive line coach Mario Cristobal to a co-offensive coordinator role at Oregon.

With the dual hirings, co-offensive coordinator Mike Locksley will coach wide receivers, Burton Burns will focus solely on running backs and Brent Key will oversee the entire offensive line.

Sam Darnold becoming runaway favorite to win 2017 Heisman Trophy

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 23: New starting quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the USC Trojans looks to pass in the first quarter against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium on September 23, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The 2017 college football season is a long way off, but that hasn’t stopped people from betting on who will win the 2017 Heisman Trophy.

Bovada released an updated odds sheet on Monday, and USC quarterback Sam Darnold has stepped away as the clear favorite to win the honor.

2016 winner Lamar Jackson and 2016 finalist Baker Mayfield are tied for second at 13/2 odds, followed by Alabama running back Bo Scarborough and Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Darnold finished the ’16 campaign ranked ninth nationally in passing efficiency, hitting 67.2 percent of his throws for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns against nine interceptions in 13 appearances (10 starts). He closed the year with a scintillating Rose Bowl performance, hitting 33-of-53 throws for 453 yards with five touchdowns against one interception in a 52-49 overtime win over Penn State.

One historical bullet point Darnold will have in his favor is that the clearest path to winning a Heisman comes from playing at a school with former Heisman winners. USC’s six previous winners trails only Notre Dame and Ohio State — the Trojans are tied if you count Reggie Bush‘s 2005 win — including Carson Palmer in 2002 and Matt Leinart in ’04.

North Carolina, Appalachian State announce 3-game series

CHAPEL HILL, NC - SEPTEMBER 19: General view of the game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Illinois Fighting Illini at Kenan Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Appalachian State hosted Miami last year and recently announced a 4-game series with East Carolina, but Monday’s announcement tops both of them combined…. probably.

The Mountaineers announced Monday a 3-game series with North Carolina, which calls for the Tar Heels’ first-ever visit to Boone among the set.

North Carolina will host Appalachian State on Sept. 21, 2019 and Sept. 9, 2023, with the Heels heading to the mountains for the sandwich game on Sept. 3, 2022. The 2022 visit marks the third ACC team to visit Appalachian State in a 7-year span, and just the second of the Big Four in-state schools to visit Boone; the Mountaineers host Wake Forest on Sept. 23 of this coming season to mark the first of such games.

“This series is the next addition in bringing Power 5 programs to Kidd Brewer Stadium,” App State AD Doug Gillin said in a statement. “With a record crowd for Miami last year, Wake Forest this season, and North Carolina in 2022 we are continuously looking for opportunities to bring great opponents to The Rock.  Our goal is to continue to bring Power 5 opponents, when available, and quality Group of 5 opponents to Boone, which benefits our students, student-athletes, university and community.  I truly enjoyed working with the UNC administration in constructing a series that is a win-win. Playing regional and in-state opponents makes a lot of sense for us.  We will see an increase in tickets sales both home and away, reduced travel costs and less missed class time for our students. Over the next eight seasons we will be playing the series with UNC, in addition to a four-game series with ECU, and home-and-home series with Wake Forest, Charlotte, and Marshall.”

Appalachian State has played the Big Four 29 times previously, all in their respective homes: 22 trips to Winston-Salem, six to Raleigh and one to Chapel Hill, a 56-6 Heels win in 1940.