Auburn on receiving end of White House invite

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After winning the national title following the 2009 season, the Alabama football team got to do what all the really cool athletes get to do these days — take a trip to the White House and be on the receiving end of a back-slapping photo-op with the President.

One year later, it’s their in-state rival’s turn to be so honored.

According to al.com, the Auburn Tigers will visit the White House and meet with President Obama later this month.  The official announcement is expected to come later today.

“On Friday, April 29, at 10:00 a.m. ET, President Obama will welcome Auburn University’s football team to the White House to honor the team’s 2010 BCS National Championship,” a White House staffer told the paper via email Thursday.

In addition to the meet & greet with the leader of the free world, head coach Gene Chizik and his players will take part in a youth football clinic on the White House lawn.

What will be perhaps most interesting to see — aside from Finebaum callers comparing the decibel level of the President’s “War Eagle!” to his “Roll Tide!” — is whether players such as Cam Newton and Nick Fairley will be able attend.  The first round of the NFL draft is the night of April 28; Newton is expected to go within the first five picks, if not No. 1 overall, while Fairley will likely be selected at some point during the top 10 picks.

While the NFL’s labor “issue” does not allow clubs to have contact with its players during the lockout — charitable causes notwithstanding — PFT’s grand poobah Mike Florio informs us that draft picks are permitted to go to the team facility for a post-draft press conference.  For players taken in the first round, especially as high up in the draft Newton and Fairley are expected to be taken, those pressers normally would take place the day after the selections were made; in this case, that’s the same day of the White House ceremony, although we can’t imagine an NFL club would be unwilling to tweak their plans in order to allow Newton and Fairley to join their ex-teammates for what will likely be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Then again, we couldn’t imagine owners and players being dumb enough to tag-team the golden goose and beat it half to death, but yet here we are today.

Anyway, and for those interested in this kind of stuff, it cost Alabama in the neighborhood of $85,000 for their D.C. junket last year; Auburn’s total will likely come in somewhere north of that figure.

With that, let the whining about wasted money — and the President having more important things on his plate than meeting with a bunch of football players and coaches — commence in three… two… one…

Third ex-Vandy football player sentenced to 15 years for rape

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A third former Vanderbilt football player will spend a sizable portion of his adult life behind bars.

In June of this year, Brandon Banks was found guilty on one count each of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery related to a 2013 gang rape of an unconscious woman. Friday, Banks was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In July of last year, one of Banks’ former teammates, Cory Batey, was sentenced to 15 years after being found guilty of aggravated rape. Four months later, another former Vandy football player, Brandon Vandenburg, was sentenced to 17 years after being found guilty of the same charge as Batey. The judge gave Vandenburg a longer sentence than Batey because the former was the leader in the attack and betrayed the woman’s trust.

Banks, Vandenburg, Batey and another ex-Vandy football player, Jaborian ‘Tip’ McKenziewere initially charged Aug. 9, 2013, with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery each after a police investigation determined that the four had raped an unconscious woman.

On June 28 of 2013, Vanderbilt announced that four unnamed players had been indefinitely suspended amid reports that the players were connected to an alleged sex crimes case.  The next day, Vandy officials further clarified the players’ statuses, releasing a statement announcing the dismissals of the four.  That release further added that none of the four will be permitted to return to campus without permission from the office of student conduct and academic integrity.

McKenzie has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.  He has agreed to testify against his former teammates in exchange for what he hopes is a lighter sentence.

Georgia Tech dismisses leading rusher Dedrick Mills

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I believe this one would qualify as a significant development.

In a very brief press release, Georgia Tech announced Friday afternoon that Dedrick Mills has been dismissed by Paul Johnson from the football team.  The only reason given was an unspecified violation of Tech athletics department rules.

The head coach is expected to meet with the media following practice later on this afternoon.

Regardless of the specific reason for the dismissal, Mills’ departure serves as yet another blow for the run-heavy Yellow Jackets.

Last season, Mills’ 771 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns led all Tech ball carriers.  169 of those yards came in the bowl win over Kentucky.  Mills put up all of those numbers as a true freshman despite being suspended on two different occasions for a total of three games.

Mills’ dismissal is the second huge blow to their 2017 running game as Marcus Marshall, who was second on the team last season with 624 yards, announced in late November that he would be transferring from Tech.  Less than a month later, he moved on to James Madison.

With those twin departures, Clinton Lynch‘s 415 yards last season makes him the team’s leading returning rusher.

LOOK: Notre Dame unveils alternate uniforms honoring Knute Rockne’s legacy

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As you may know, I’m hardly a fan of the alternate uniform craze.  These, though, I can very easily get behind.

Notre Dame on Friday released images of new uniforms the Fighting Irish will wear for their Nov. 18 game against Navy.  From helmet to shoes, the new duds will serve as a head-to-toe tribute to the legendary Knute Rockne.

The players will all have the name “ROCKNE” emblazoned on the backs of their jerseys, while the helmets replicate the leather ones of Rockne’s era.  The cleats also will pay homage to the era in which Rockne, also a former player at the school, coached the Fighting Irish to five national championships from 1918-1930.  In those 13 seasons, the Irish lost just 12 games under Rockne.

Additionally, the sleeves will be adorned with the words from one of Rockne’s most famous speeches.



Penn State OKs James Franklin’s new deal, reportedly worth nearly $6 million annually

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James Franklin is now in some very heady financial company.

Friday morning, Penn State’s Board of Trustees Committee on Compensation, as expected, unanimously approved an amended contract for their head football coach.  While no details were released — that’s expected to happen later today — it’s believed the amended deal will extend through the 2023 season.  Franklin’s old contract ran through 2019.

Additionally, Bruce Feldman of SI.com is reporting that the new six-year deal will average $5.8 million annually.  What Franklin’s compensation for 2017 and beyond will, again, be divulged later on today.

The average of $5.8 million a year would make him the fourth-highest-paid coach in college football, behind only Alabama’s Nick Saban and a pair of fellow Big Ten coaches — Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.

Set to enter his fourth season with the Nittany Lions, Franklin has an overall record of 25-15 at the school.  After a pair of 7-6 seasons to begin his tenure, 2016 was a breakout one for the program as they went 11-3 and won the Big Ten championship for the first time since 2008.

Expectations are extremely high coming off that breakout season as the Nittany Lions are ranked sixth in the preseason coaches’ poll.