Gee: ‘flurry of activity… a lot of additional facts’ led to Tressel’s resignation

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During a March 8th press conference acknowledging that Jim Tressel had committed major NCAA violations, Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee uttered his embarrassing “I just hope he doesn’t dismiss me!” blast in reference to his then-head football coach.

On May 30, Tressel resigned, reportedly under pressure from the powers-that-be at the university.  So, what exactly transpired during those 83 days that caused one of the most respected head coaches to — perhaps forcibly — step down in disgrace?

In arguably his most extensive and in-depth comments since Tressel’s resignation, Gee spoke to reporters, as Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes,  in a hallway at the Ohio Statehouse after testifying before a committee regarding a constitutional commission bill.

“We had the facts as we had them in our first news conference,” Gee said. “Those were arrived at very shortly after I had gotten back from China. We’d done the things we had to do and I got off an airplane and was immediately confronted with the issue.

“But the decision made at the time was based on what we knew, number one, and number two, was based upon what was an incredible body of work as the football coach and as a university citizen.

“We have a process at the university in which we do not immediately make decisions. We try to be deliberate and that was the process. Two months later, I think there were a lot of additional facts, and I think there was also the reality that we were facing serious issues. And the coach realized that and made what I think is the best decision on behalf of the university, which was to resign.”

Gee went on to add that “there was an accumulation of issues which were very troubling to the university.”  Oh boy, were there ever.  In the time between the initial March press conference and Tressel’s late May resignation, the following “accumulation of issues” and additional public black eyes for the program transpired to create an untenable situation for both the coach and the school:

— March 11: It was revealed by attorney Chris Cicero, the former OSU football player who first contacted Tressel in April of 2010 via email regarding potential NCAA violations committed by current players, revealed that Terrelle Pryor and DeVier Posey were the two players he knew of that had potentially received impermissible benefits.

— March 25: A report surfaced that Tressel forwarded the emails he had received from Cicero to Jeanette, Pa., businessman Ted Sarniak.  Sarniak has been Pryor’s mentor for the past several years and served as the point man in the quarterback’s recruitment.  The Columbus Dispatch wrote at the time that Tressel “shared the information with someone he thought could help his star quarterback even though he said he didn’t tell his bosses.”

— Late March/early April: Former OSU provost and current Oregon State president/NCAA Executive Committee chairman Ed Ray verbally hammered Tressel on at least two different occasions, saying that “it’s a good thing I’m not on the Infractions Committee” because he considers himself to be “a hanging judge“.

— April 18: OSU graduate and golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, in an attempt to defend Tressel, ripped into the school’s administration.

“I’ll promise you that Tressel wasn’t the only one who knew what happened, I’m going to bet you the university, I’m going to bet you (president E. Gordon) Gee and I’m going to bet you (athletics director) Gene (Smith) and everybody else knew, and Tressel probably took the hit for it. Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong, I don’t know. …

“I can’t imagine the rest of the university didn’t know what was going on. Jim, who is a terrific guy, maybe he decided to take it on his own shoulders. I don’t know. That could well be. I’m not privy to that. I just like him a lot.”

— April 25: Ohio State receives its official notice of allegations from the NCAA, which stated in part that “Jim Tressel, head football coach, failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics and violated ethical-conduct legislation.”

— April 26: Former Ohio State players Kirk Herbstreit, Robert Smith and Chris Spielman — all part of the ESPN broadcasting umbrella — refused to bite their tongues when it came to their alma mater or its then-coach.

— May 7: Prompted by a Columbus Dispatch investigation that began in 2007, 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.

–May 26: Former OSU wide receiver Ray Small said in an interview with the school’s student newspaper that he, along with several other unnamed football players, sold OSU memorabilia such as Big Ten title rings as well as receiving special deals on the purchase of vehicles due to their status as athletes at the school.

— May 30: On the same day that Tressel resigned, it was reported that both the NCAA and Ohio State were already in the midst of conducting independent investigations into cars driven by Pryor over the past few years.

— May 30: On the same day Tressel resigned, Sports Illustrated released an explosive and damning expose’ into Tressel’s time at both Ohio State and Youngstown State, although the article itself has come under fire on several fronts since it was published.  The school was made aware of the content of the article on the Friday before Tressel resigned, leading some to speculate that the accusations contained in the piece played at least a minor role in the timing of the resignation.

So, yeah, Gee was correct; there was “an accumulation of issues which were very troubling to the university.”  But, we can even admit that, even as we feel he’s an insufferable buffoon when it comes to football, Gee made an excellent point about the university as a whole.

“This is a national black eye, there’s no doubt about it,” Gee said. “The university itself has not been damaged. Our fundraising is up, our student applications are up, but now we need to make our case on the national stage that it’s a great university and when we stumble we take appropriate action to make sure we correct (those issues).

“But just remember, our university is doing very well. I live in the world of the university, which is a magnificent university doing very well. And I live in the world of football, in which we have problems we are addressing.”

Certainly the situation swirling around the football program doesn’t help the university’s image on a certain level, but it can do nothing to change the fact that it’s a hell of an academic and research institution.  Some things are indeed more important than football, and what the majority of the students are in Columbus for is just that.

Regardless of how many black eyes the football program accumulates.

Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis potentially out for spring

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Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was optimistic about wide receiver Kyle Davis returning to the team at some point this spring, but the tune has changed regarding his future. Malzahn is now saying Davis may be out for the remainder of Auburn’s spring practices due to personal reasons.

“Kyle Davis is still taking care of some personal business,” Malzahn said, according to SEC Country. “I’m not for sure if he’s going to be back before the end of the spring. He will be back for the fall, just taking a little bit longer than we initially thought.”

It was just a few weeks ago Malzahn said Davis was going to be out for the start of spring practices, which are now close to half over. For now, the plan is simply to have him return over the summer in preparation for the fall.

In the meantime, Malzahn confirmed John Franklin III is working primarily as a wide receiver, which had previously been suspected to be the case.

Penn State announces three captains for 2017 season

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With Penn State just about to get started with spring football practices, head coach James Franklin wasted no time in naming his captains for the 2017 season. Quarterback Trace McSorley, linebacker Jason Cabinda, and safety Nick Scott have been voted captains by their peers on the team.

“These three young men have been leaders in our program, on and off the field,” Franklin said in a released statement. “They live our four core values and act with the program’s best interest in mind. Our team is in good hands with these guys!”

McSorley took over the offense as Penn State’s starting quarterback in 2016. A bit of a mystery to most entering the season after being the backup to Christian Hackenberg, McSorley ended his 2016 season with a Big Ten-leading 3,614 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes with eight interceptions and played a key role in guiding Penn State to a late run to a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. He enters the 2017 season as one of the top quarterbacks returning to the Big Ten, along with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett.

Cabinda, an All-Big Ten third team player in 2016, was Penn State’s third-leading tackler last season with 81 tackles. He accumulated that many tackles despite missing five games due to injury. He is slated to be the leader in the middle of the Penn State defense with a starting role already locked down and will look to help guide some younger linebackers stepping into key roles in the defense this upcoming season, such as Manny Bowen and Koa Farmer.

Scott has been a special teams leader for Penn State and is expected to continue to lead the special teams effort once again this season.

New Arkansas house bill will allow some concealed guns at football games

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill regarding a person’s ability to carry a concealed handgun into various buildings at a public university or college into state law. However, House Bill 1249 will not allow all legal gun owners to carry a gun to a football game in the state of Arkansas.

Football games will be considered a “sensitive area,” which require enhanced training in order to be allowed to carry a gun into a football stadium. The law supposedly trumps any provisions already in place to prevent guns from being allowed on the premises.

“The enhanced level of training is very important, and I am convinced the public will be more safe,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This bill, in my view, reflects the view of the general assembly.”

The bill has received praise from Arkansas Republican state representative Charlie Collins and the NRA.

While the bill has now become an act in the state, it will not go into effect until January 2018, so guns will still not be allowed in football games where Arkansas, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, or Central Arkansas during the 2017 season.

The news of the new Arkansas state law comes on the same day the SEC has just unveiled a new clear bag policy for football games in the 2017 season. How the SEC handles this latest state law within its footprint remains to be seen (as well as the Sun Belt Conference). The bigger question will be where the SEC stands on this law considered the law is designed to overrule any stadium policies. The way the law is written, the SEC may not be able to do much to stand in the way, but the conference has those clear bag policies hammered down, rest assured.

Kentucky hands Mark Stoops a two-year contract extension

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After guiding Kentucky through its best season in nearly a decade, Mark Stoops has been rewarded.

Kentucky announced Wednesday afternoon that Stoops’ contract has been extended by two years.  The head coach’s previous deal had been set to run through June 30, 2020; the extension pushes that date out to June 30, 2020.

Stoops will earn $3.5 million in 2017, with the new contract calling for annual $250,000 raises.  In the last year of the contract extension, and barring any additional tweaking, Stoops could earn $4.75 million.

Additionally, if the Wildcats win at least seven games but no more than nine in a season, the contract automatically extends by one year.  If the team wins 10-plus games, it extends by two years. “Stoops will continue to receive $250,000 for each win beginning with the seventh win of each season and $50,000 per semester in which the team grade-point average is 2.75 or higher,” the release stated.

Participation in an SEC-affiliated bowl will net Stoops a $100,000 bonus, provided the Wildcats win at least six games that season.  There’s also a $50,000 bonus for earning a spot in a non-SEC bowl game, with the same six-win threshold.  Last season, UK qualified for a bowl game for the first time under Stoops and the first time under anyone since 2010.

“The last four years have been a grind for Mark and his staff, but he has never wavered in his commitment to building Kentucky football into a consistent winner,” a statement from athletic director Mitch Barnhart began. “While the work isn’t close to finished, we believe Mark is the coach to take us there. We are thankful to Mark and Chantel for all they have done to this point and we look forward to our program’s bright future under his leadership.”

The Wildcats’ 7-6 record last season was the program’s best since hitting the same mark in the last season under Rich Brooks in 2009.  The first three seasons with Stoops in control, UK posted a 12-24 mark.

In SEC play, they are just 8-24 since 2013, although they were 4-4 in conference play this past season.  The Wildcats have finished seventh (2013), sixth (2014), tied-fourth (2015) and tied-second (2016) in league play with Stoops as head coach.

“I want to thank Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and the Board of Trustees for their continued support,” Stoops said. “When we came here, doing a rebuild in a challenging situation, I said that full support from everyone involved was imperative and we have always received that. We needed great commitment, we’ve had great commitment and we’re continuing to get great commitment.”

If Stoops is fired by UK, he’s entitled to receive 75 percent of the remaining guaranteed compensation on the contract.  If Stoops leaves of his own accord, he’d owe the university $1 million regardless of how many years are left on the deal.