Gene Smith, Jim Tressel

Tressel still has supporters, including his boss

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There are many people — yes, looking at you Mike Bianchi, Beano Cook — who have been very open with their feelings that they don’t think Jim Tressel will last as Ohio State’s head coach beyond the 2011 season.  Some, including Buckeyes legend Chris Spielman, question whether or not the beleaguered/embattled coach will be on the sidelines at all in 2011.

Given the track record his attorney hopes will help see him through the troubled NCAA waters he’s currently traversing, however, Tressel is not without his supporters both inside and outside the football program.

Most importantly and above all else, Tressel still appears to have the backing of OSU athletic director Gene Smith.

Oh, definitely, no question,” Smith said when asked at the Big Ten meetings in Chicago if he still supported his football coach. “I haven’t changed, I haven’t changed. But I’m not talking about the case beyond that.”

Smith’s not alone.  While his opinion doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne was effusive in his praise of Tressel.

“I know Jim quite well and I knew him back in Youngstown [State, where Tressel coached before OSU],” Nebraska athletics director Tom Osborne said during a recent visit to Cedar Rapids. “My impressions of Jim are No. 1, he’s a very sound football man. He’s very good and knows what he’s doing.

“He’s a very principled man, which has got to be very painful to have your integrity called into question when, basically, that’s the way you’ve lived your life. So, what all happened, why he did what he did, I don’t know. But I do know I would trust the guy.

“I don’t think he’s someone who’d deliberately cheat or try to buy a player. He would never do that. I hope he does [survive the current turmoil], because I think the sport will be diminished without him.”

Not to pick nits with the classy Osborne, Tressel’s not accused of deliberately cheating or trying to buy a player, unless you consider covering up violations committed by a handful of his players to be the former.

Be that as it may, and as noted by Marc Morehouse in his solid “Tressel = Elephant in the room” piece for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, some of those in attendance would prefer to let others speak on Ohio State’s “situation”.

“You need to talk to Ohio State about that,” Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez said. “I’m not going there. I’m not going there.”

Even as some won’t go there, Tressel still has his supporters.  For that, the coach is grateful.

“Coaches are great, they understand all of the challenges everyone has, just as you peers understand yours,” Tressel said during brief remarks to the media.

As for Tressel’s future, the coach will begin parallel preparations over the next couple of months — one for getting his team prepared for a 2011 season in which he will be suspended for the first five games, another for his legal team to prepare his defense in front of the NCAA Aug. 12.

As has previously been reported, Tressel has retained the services of Gene Marsh to represent him when he appears before the NCAA.  Marsh was a member of the NCAA’s infractions committee for nine years, including two as its chairman, before specializing in compliance issues as an attorney for the Alabama law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White.

As he continues to make the interview rounds in support of his newest client in a talk with the Columbus Dispatch, Marsh chastised the media for, unlike his contemporaries in the Big Ten, piling on the poor coach.

“This case has had no small amount of incredible piling on by media who otherwise – their sole credential is blankety-blank dot-com,” Marsh said. “All is fair in love and war, and people are free to write what they want. But it’s almost as if some people think if they write one more article, it will be the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

That’s not the way it plays out in the room, Marsh said.

“This is a serious matter with serious people involved,” Marsh said. “They are not going to get all jazzed up or get their head turned by some dot-com writer somewhere.”

Of course, Marsh is absolutely correct.  The NCAA is not going to get all jazzed up over the media pile-driving Tressel’s battered and bleeding coaching body.  What they might get all jazzed up about, though, is… oh, I don’t know… the head coach of a Div. 1-A football program lying to them and covering up violations.  S0mething along those lines, in that neighborhood.

Instead of worrying about how the media’s playing their own version of the blame-and-sanction game, Marsh needs to be concerned about his client’s future, one that may or may not include a show-cause.

And regardless of how much public support he gets from his contemporaries.

Amidst medical mystery, Georgia’s Trenton Thompson withdraws from spring semester classes

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 19: Anthony Jennings #11 of the Lousiana-Lafayette Rajin' Cajuns is pursued by Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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While the details are very hazy at the moment, a member of the Georgia football team has apparently suffered a health scare recently that calls into question his short-term future with the football program.

First reported by WSB-TV, defensive end Trent Thompson suffered an unspecified medical emergency very early Thursday morning and was rushed to an Athens hospital. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Thompson was released from the hospital Thursday morning, his mother confirmed to the television station. No specifics have been released publicly, although the Journal-Constitution, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, is reporting that no drugs or alcohol were involved. It’s also believed that the issue isn’t related to football.

In the wake of those reports as well as others that indicated he had a run-in with Athens police immediately prior to the hospitalization, UGA released the following statement, which reveals that Thompson will be withdrawing from classes this semester because of the unspecified medical issues:

Based upon recent events, Trenton Thompson’s family has authorized UGAAA to release the following information. Trenton has been dealing with a significant medical issue which required emergency hospitalization and extended hospital stay. Trenton was recently discharged from the hospital and remains under close medical care. With respect to last night’s incident, the physical appearance and behavior described in the UGA PD report is solely related to an adverse reaction to medications prescribed specifically for his medical condition. The adverse reaction required emergency transport to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released. Toxicology tests performed at the hospital were negative for OxyContin. We cannot release any further information at this time due to federal privacy laws. Due to the medical issues, Trenton is withdrawing from classes this semester, and his family requests privacy during this time.

As a sophomore last season, Thompson started seven of the 13 games in which he played. His 9.5 tackles for loss led the Bulldogs, while his five sacks were tied for the team lead and the 56 tackles with which he was credited were tops among linemen.

Capping off that breakout season, he was named MVP of UGA’s Liberty Bowl win over TCU.

Iowa State DB Mike Johnson suspended amid domestic violence arrest

AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 19: Wide receiver Keke Coutee #20 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders blocks defensive back Mike Johnson #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones as he rushed for yards in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Iowa State has suspended defensive back Mike Johnson after he was arrested Thursday on the accusation that he choked his girlfriend.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, Johnson and his girlfriend were fighting over social media posts and music playing over each other’s phones when each tried to reach for the other’s device. That escalated to the point where Johnson allegedly had both hands around the woman’s throat, to the point where told police she “saw stars” and had trouble breathing.

She also had, according to police, bite marks on her right cheek, on her neck and behind her left ear, a swollen upper lip and had what appeared to be dried blood on her. Johnson also said he was bitten during the altercation.

“We are aware of Mike Johnson’s arrest and allegations associated with his arrest,” head coach Matt Campbell told the paper in a statement. “Our program has zero tolerance for domestic violence. Mike has been suspended from all team activities, including practice, under the student-athlete code of conduct policy as we gather more information. His long-term status with the team will be determined once we gain more facts.”

Johnson posted 44 tackles, three pass breakups and 1.5 tackles for loss in 12 games last season.

Report: Former Pitt RB James Conner given clean bill of health

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James Conner will head to next week’s Combine with a clean bill of health, according to a report Thursday from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“Pitt RB James Conner, who missed most of 2015 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, received a clean scan today, a week prior to combine, per source,” Schefter tweeted.

Conner led the ACC in rushing in 2014, rushing for 1,765 yards and 5.92 yards per carry with 26 touchdowns in 2014, before a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis caused him to miss all but one game of the 2015 campaign. (And in that one game, Conner still rushed for nearly 10 yards per carry and two touchdowns.)

He battled back to return to the field in 2016, again leading the Panthers with 216 carries for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns while finishing third on the club with 21 grabs for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

Conner will compete at the Combine for draft positioning with fellow running backs Leonard FournetteDalvin Cook and D'Onta Foreman, among others.

Willie Taggart no longer speaking with Oregon beat reporter

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head Coach Willie Taggart walks the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on September 28, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Oregon strength coach Irele Oderinde is now back at work after serving a 1-month, unpaid suspension resulting from three players being hospitalized after Oderinde’s first supervised workout with the Ducks, but the story is not over in Eugene.

According to Oregon’s student paper The Daily Emerald, Taggart is no longer speaking with the reporter who broke the story, The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

“When you’re not fair and honest, then to me that’s personal,” Taggart told the paper. “When you do something that’s negative and it’s going to be personal, then I won’t have shit to do with you.”

Greif, for his part, stands by the story and says the paper will not issue a retraction, as Taggart requested:

“Though the description of the workouts is understandably subjective, ultimately what has never been in doubt is that three UO players were hospitalized after the first week of offseason workouts and received treatment for several days,” Greif said in an email to the Emerald.

Complicating matters for Taggart is that the university commissioned faculty athletics rep Tim Gleason, a journalism professor, to review the report. In speaking with players, coaches, trainers and AD Rob Mullens, Gleason found the report not to be inaccurate.

“It’s not an unfair characterization; it’s just that the way it gets interpreted is regrettable,” Gleason said. “In the shorthand of journalism, it resulted in an impression that may not have been completely accurate.”

Also contradicting Taggart are members of his own staff, who said off-the-record that the workouts were “military-style.” Greif quoted them anonymously when inserting that phrase into the piece:

Players this week were required to finish the same workouts, which were described by multiple sources as akin to military basic training, with one said to include up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up-downs.

It’s not clear where the story goes from here, except that Taggart made clear twice in his interview with the Emerald he has no plans to answer questions from Greif in the future.