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.

Nebraska fans set new school record for spring attendance in Scott Frost debut

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Nebraska has generally been one of the traditional heavy hitters when it comes to the not-at-all-important stat of spring game attendance, but never before have so many Huskers fans crammed into Memorial Stadium to see their beloved team play the spring game.

Nebraska is reporting a spring game crowd of 86,818 in Lincoln this afternoon, easily making them the new leader in the nation for spring game attendance this season (other contenders Alabama and Penn State are also in action today, so we’ll see if Nebraska hangs on to this lead). The massive crowd on-hand to witness the spring debut of new head coach Scott Frost also catapulted Nebraska into the top 10 leaderboard for all-time spring game attendance figures. Nebraska’s 86,818 fans is good for the eighth-most fans for a spring game, and Nebraska’s only appearance on the top 10 list.

It’s worth a quick reminder that these are paying fans as well, and the weather isn’t fantastic, although it is far better than a number of spring games have seen this season.

Florida State previously had the highest-attended spring game going into this weekend, but the crowd of 60,934 stood very little chance of staying ahead of some of the schools in action on Saturday, including the combination of Nebraska, Alabama, Penn State, and Georgia.

Wisconsin QB announces intent to transfer

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Wisconsin’s quarterback position looks to be pretty solid heading into the 2018 season with Alex Hornibrook back to lead the offense, but the depth at the position will get a little more shallow with a pending departure. Karé Lyles is set on leaving Madison by way of a transfer, according to a message posted to his Twitter account Friday night.

“Thank you UW for the memories, but it’s time to focus on a new chapter and a new beginning,” Lyles said in his message on Twitter. “The best is yet to come! Just a kid with a dream, and I didn’t come this far just to come this far.”

Lyles would have been floating on the depth chart at Wisconsin this season behind locked-in starter Hornibrook, with Jack Coan rising to be the top backup option ahead of Lyles for the Badgers. Wisconsin has some other younger in-experienced quarterbacks on the roster as well to fill some of the space on the depth chart in the fall.

Lyles, a redshirt sophomore in the fall, will have to sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules. He will be eligible to play again in 2019 with two years of eligibility to use at another FBS program. If he transfers to a lower division school, then Lyles would be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Helmet sticker to Bucky’s 5th Quarter.

Four-star 2015 signee second Aggie to leave Texas A&M this week

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With a new head coach in town, it’s far from surprising to see somewhat of a personnel exodus in the spring.  In that vein, Jimbo Fisher‘s first-year Texas A&M roster is the latest FBS football program to see such attrition.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday night, offensive lineman Koda Martin announced that he would be transferring from A&M to Syracuse.  On the same social media website a day later, teammate Kemah Siverand announced that he too will be leaving College Station as a transfer.

Unlike Martin, Siverand (pictured, left) did not reveal his next college football home in the tweet.

As Siverand will be leaving the Aggies as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately at another FBS school in 2018 if that’s the tack he takes.

Siverand was a four-star member of A&M’s 2015 recruiting class.  After beginning his collegiate career as a wide receiver, the Cypress, Tex., native moved to defensive back between the 2016 and 2017 seasons.  He caught two passes for 16 yards in two games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, then was credited with six tackles in 12 games last season.

Iowa LB Aaron Mends to miss extended time with injury

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Talk about a hard-luck story.

After never starting a game at Iowa, Aaron Mends (pictured, blocking punt) had earned a starting job at outside linebacker during practice this spring.  With football being the cruel mistress that it can be at times, the Hawkeyes announced Friday night that Mends “will miss an extended period of time due to injury.” The program offered no details as to the specific nature of the injury, although it’s believed to involve the knee.

According to the school’s release, the fifth-year senior suffered the injury during the final week of Iowa’s spring drills.

Mends was a three-star member of the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class.  He was the highest-rated linebacker in Iowa’s class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Mends has played in 38 games the past three seasons.  A baker’s dozen of those appearances came during the 2017 season.