O-H! UH-OH! Buckeyes to probe car sales to players and relatives

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Well, here we go again.

Even as The Ohio State University is in the midst of a major quagmire created by the lies and cover-up of its head coach, now they may have yet another issue to deal with.  And one that the NCAA may very well have a significant interest in.

Prompted by a Columbus Dispatch investigation that began in 2007, the OSU’s associate athletic director and head of compliance told the paper that the school will take a look into the sale of at least 50 used vehicles to student-athletes — mainly football players — and their relatives.  According to the Dispatch‘s report, the probe will center on two Columbus dealerships — Jack Maxton Chevrolet and Auto Direct — and whether or not the players and/or their relatives were given deals not offered to the general public.  While the two dealerships are not connected and have different owners, Aaron Kniffin was a salesman at both businesses; the Dispatch describes Kniffin as the common thread in two dozen transactions.

Kniffin, if you recall, was the salesman whose name was connected to a previous investigation of vehicles being driven by quarterback Terrelle Pryor.  OSU cleared Pryor of any wrongdoing in that case.

And, at least for now, the OSU compliance official sees the same ending in this latest case.

“We’ll take a step back, we’ll take a look at the transactions and the values, and we’ll make some determinations in consultation with the (Big Ten) conference office and go from there,” Doug Archie told the paper.

“I have nothing to believe a violation has occurred.”

The report, which again can be viewed by clicking HERE, is very detailed and extensive but well worth the time it takes to pour over, but here are a few of the highlights — or lowlights, depending on the amount of scarlet & gray clothing littering your closet.

— Jack Maxton owner Jeff Mauk and Auto Direct owner Jason Goss were interviewed by Archie Friday and both individuals denied giving special treatment to players or their relatives.  The Dispatch reports that Goss and Kniffin attended seven football games — including the 2007 national championship and 2009 Fiesta Bowl — as guests of players who were members of the football team at the time.  Goss denied that he was a guest of any player to whom he sold a vehicle.

— For the biggest red flag from the entire potential situation unearthed by the Dispatch, we’ll allow the paper to spell it out here:

Public records show that in 2009, a 2-year-old Chrysler 300 with less than 20,000 miles was titled to then-sophomore linebacker Thaddeus Gibson. Documents show the purchase price as $0.

Mauk could not explain it. “I don’t give cars for free,” he said. Gibson said he was unaware the title on his car showed zero as the sales price. “I paid for the car, and I’m still paying for it,” he said, declining to answer further questions.

— Former running back Maurice Wells‘ mother, who lived in Maryland at the time, bought a vehicle from Kniffin while he was an employee of the Chevrolet dealership.  That transaction is one of the four dozen or so under investigation.

— The mother and brother of star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for receiving impermissible benefits in an unrelated case, also purchased vehicles from Kniffin.  The transactions involving the relatives of Pryor and Wells are three of the eight involving individuals related to current or former Buckeyes student-athletes.  Archie told the paper he was aware of all the transactions involving players being looked into by the Dispatch — the owners of the dealerships stated they routinely call Archie whenever an OSU athlete is going to purchase a vehicle from them — but he was not aware of the purchases made by the relatives of players.

— On so many players buying vehicles from one or two dealerships, Archie told the Dispatch that “[i]t’s something from a compliance perspective that I would rather not have.”  Two former NCAA investigators who requested anonymity told the paper that there’s cause for concern as they’ve never heard of so many athletes buying cars from the same salesman.

— Speaking of said salesman, Kniffin, who currently sells vehicles in another state, owes more than $130,000 to the IRS and his $570,000 Delaware County (Oh.) home is in foreclosure.

— If you take the the first “n” out of Kniffin, what are you left with?*

In and of itself, this latest situation casts Ohio State in a very negative light, at least in the short-term and until it’s proven one way or the other.  Add it on to the previous issues, however, and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the current state of the flagship football program of the state of Ohio.

At some point, the university is going to be forced to take a step back and take a hard look at not only head coach Jim Tressel, but Tressel’s boss, athletic director Gene Smith, as well.  Then again, if some of them did that, they’d have to worry about the coach dismissing them.  Right, Mr. Gee?

(*that was my point, not the Dispatch’s.  And it was a joke.  Lighten up people.)

Report: Oklahoma State adding Bob Stitt as offensive analyst

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Bob Stitt, who has become a bit of a cult hero in the college football coaching world over the last few years, is moving on up. Oklahoma State will reportedly add Stitt as an offensive analyst, according to a report from Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter.

Stitt was fired by Montana after this past season after missing the FCS playoffs for a second consecutive season and a second-round exit in his first season with the program in 2015. Stitt had become a rising star in the lower levels of college football after reshaping the offensive strategies with Colorado Mines in Division 2. The Nebraska native has coached a Harlon Hill Trophy winner (Division 2’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy) and has coached Colorado Mines to three conference championships. Stitt gained notoriety after being given credit for his offensive strategies by West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.

Stitt being let go by Montana came as a bit of a surprise after just three seasons with the program. Offensively speaking, Oklahoma State rarely needs any assistance in moving the football and scoring, but Mike Gundy is wise to bring in a mind like Stitt to add to the expanding of the offensive schemes in Stillwater.

As an offensive analyst, Stitt will be prevented from doing any on-field coaching and instead will focus on prepping the game plan and breaking down film. However, having Stitt on the staff in some capacity leaves a door open for a future position on the 10-man coaching staff should a position open at some point.

Jeff Banks looks to make Alabama’s special teams a strength

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If there is any crack in Alabama’s championship foundation, it may be on special teams. Looking to patch things up with the special teams, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has brought on new special teams coordinator Jeff Banks. The former Texas A&M special teams coordinator was officially announced as Alabama’s new special teams coach on Thursday.

“We are pleased to be able to add a coach the caliber of Jeff Banks to our staff as special teams coordinator,” Saban said in a released statement. “Jeff is well-respected across the country for his knowledge of the game and his ability to recruit. He is a great teacher and someone who will help our football team be successful.”

Banks comes to Alabama after five years at Texas A&M under former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who was recently hired by Arizona. Special teams was one of the more consistently reliable aspects of the Aggies program under his watch, so Alabama hopes that can carry over to Tuscaloosa.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join Coach Saban’s staff at The University of Alabama and work with such a talented group of student-athletes,” Banks said. “Coach Saban has built an unbelievable program that has a long tradition of success. I’m really excited to get out on the road recruiting, and I look forward to doing my part to help continue the success this program has enjoyed.”

Alabama ranked 90th in the nation last season in field goal percentage and 50th in the nation in punting average. Obviously, this has not hurt Alabama’s chances of competing for and winning national titles over the course of Saban’s time at Alabama, but it is somewhat remarkable just how many times special teams seems to make things just a little more difficult for the Crimson Tide. I suppose something has to at some point, right? In the recent College Football Playoff national championship, Alabama had to beat Georgia in overtime after a last-second field goal attempt at the end of the fourth quarter was missed.

The rich just keep getting richer at Alabama.

Temple prepares for next step in quest for new on-campus football stadium

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With time running out on the current lease at Lincoln Financial Field appearing on the horizon, Temple University continues to move forward with exploring their plans for a potential multipurpose facility that could be used to host Temple football on Temple’s campus. The school is now preparing to take the next step forward with the idea by presenting the plans to the City Planning Commission with the hope of being given the approval to continue pushing toward breaking ground on a new facility on Temple’s campus.

“We have said from the start that our first priority has been to engage with our neighbors and local leaders to determine the potential for, and impact of, this facility,” Temple president Richard Englert said in a released statement. “After more than two years of these discussions, and in light of the project’s tremendous value for Temple and North Philadelphia, I have concluded that the time is right to take this step.”

One of the biggest concerns about any on-campus football stadium is the reaction from the neighboring community that has been reluctant to embrace a football stadium being dropped right in the neighborhood.

Englert said in a released statement the university “will continue our conversations with neighbors to address concerns over the impact of the project.”

The football stadium would, in theory, be able to serve multiple purposes in addition to football and will be designed with surrounding economic opportunities in mind. Space for retail locations will be a part of the master plans to help inject some revenue into the surrounding area, and educational facilities will be included in the plans as well.

In all, the plan is currently estimated to cost roughly $130 million. Temple recently negotiated a short-term extension on their lease to use Lincoln Financial Field through 2019. If Temple is given the approval to move forward with their stadium plan, they could theoretically be able to play a true home game on their campus beginning in 2020.

Chuckie Keeton returns to Utah State as offensive assistant coach

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One of Utah State’s all-time best players is back with the program. Chuckie Keeton is joining the Utah State coaching staff, although his exact title has not yet been officially confirmed.

What role Keeton will take on remains to be officially announced, although the speculation is he will be an offensive assistant coach who will work with the Utah State quarterbacks. This will be Keeton’s second coaching job since his playing days came to a close. Keeton got started at Oregon State under former Utah State and Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen. Keeton joined the Oregon State coaching staff in 2016. With changes in the Oregon State program with a coaching change this offseason, now was as good a time as any for Keeton to return to Utah State, where he became one of the top players from a non-power conference program to become a bit of a household name.

Keeton shared his reaction to returning to his alma mater on Twitter.

Keeton holds a number of Utah State records including career records for completion percentage and pass efficiency and season records for most touchdown passes, passing yards, total offensive yards, and completion percentage. Utah State finished the 2017 season ranked 69th in the nation in passing offense and ended the year with 17 passing touchdowns to 13 interceptions.

Keeton’s college career was sidetracked by injuries far too often, but it will be good to see Keeton back with the Utah State program as he continues his coaching career.