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Memo to NCAA: it’s beyond time to address the ESPN/Texas relationship

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In  January of this year, ESPN and the University of Texas announced the official creation of what would come to be called the Longhorn Network, an endeavor that would initially entitle UT to an estimated $300 million over 20 years from the WWL.

For that money, ESPN would also provide a reported $400 million in production value in exchange for content that ranged from one or two UT football games a year to basketball to Olympic sports to “non-athletic fare like musical performances, plays, and documentaries by faculty members and students” to high school football games in the state of Texas to… wait… what?  Televising potential football recruits on a television network dedicated to a single university?  Yeah, some individuals who would be impacted by that development took issue with the prep aspect of things.

“I can’t speak for the NCAA, but I would imagine the governing body will look into the use of a collegiate television network airing games of prospective student-athletes,” Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne said a week after UT made their announcement. “I understand networks such as FSN and ESPN airing high school sports, but whether or not employees under contract with a university that may have additional contact would seem to be an issue.”

Unbelievably, this high school issue as it relates to the Longhorn Network is still in play, and even more unbelievably a vice president of programming from ESPN has found the gall/balls to trumpet the high school aspect of the arrangement with the University of Texas in an on-air, on-the-record interview with an Austin radio station.  SportsByBrooks.com — follow him @SPORTSbyBROOKS if you’re into the Twitter thing — has a partial transcript of ESPN Programming VP Dave Brown‘s interview on KZNX-FM conducted last month.  And, to say the least, the hubris of the high-ranking WWL official is astounding:

“We’re going to follow the great [high school] players in the state. Obviously a kid like [unsigned Texas verbal commit] Jonathan Gray. I know people [Longhorn Network subscribers] are going to want to see Jonathan Gray, I can’t wait to see Jonathan Gray.

“Feedback from our audience is they just want to see Jonathan Gray run whether it’s 45-0 or not, they want to see more Jonathan Gray. So we’re going to do our best to accommodate them [Longhorn Network subscribers] and follow the kids who are being recruited by a lot of the Division I schools. Certainly some of the kids Texas has recruited and is recruiting and everyone else the Big 12 is recruiting.

“One other thing, you may see us, I know there’s a kid [unsigned Texas verbal commit] Connor Brewer from Chapparal high school in Arizona. We may try to get on one or two of their games as well so people [Longhorn Network subscribers] can see an incoming quarterback that’ll be part of the scene in Austin.

In summation, a VP of the company that’s involved in a business relationship with a university is openly proclaiming the virtues of top recruits who have yet to sign Letters of Intent and how good they would look on the network and OMG I can’t wait to see Jonathan Gray LOL  smh.

The fact that the high school football talk has gone on unfettered for the better part of six months with nary a public response/rebuke from the NCAA is unimaginable.  The fact that ESPN is very publicly braying about high school prospects is unconscionable — but not nearly as unconscionable as the NCAA allowing this discussion half a year after it should’ve been shutdown to continue on.  And even as the director of UT athletics brazenly espouses “a first-class way, in the light of day, and we will do it the right way” tack of dealing with the Longhorn Network televising high school football games.

And, if the NCAA decides to continue sitting on its hands when it comes to the UT/ESPN/high school football relationship?  The Association needs to never again bring sanctions against any Div. 1-A football program for “recruiting violations”.  Simply put, if televising potential in-state — and specifically targeted out-of-state — recruits on your own television network is not a violation, how could The Association ever again look any school in the eyes in the future and accuse them of doing something illicit in gaining an advantage in recruiting?

This is an interesting precipice on which the NCAA is currently standing.  One way or the other, and for better or worse, their next move will be fascinating to watch.

BC suspends Troy Flutie following drunk-driving arrest

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Troy Flutie #16 of the Boston College Eagles makes a pass during the first quarter against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Alumni Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, one member of the Boston College football team is being sent off on a forced sabbatical.

Monday, BC announced that Troy Flutie has been indefinitely suspended from the program.  The move came a few hours after his arrest on alcohol-related charges was made public.

After hitting a curb with a vehicle very early Saturday morning, Flutie was ultimately arrested and charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of liquor, possession of an open container of liquor while driving and being a person younger than 21 in possession of liquor.  He was also issued a citation for a marked lanes violation.

The school said that the quarterback/wide receiver faces “additional university sanctions pending the outcome of the court proceedings” as well.

Flutie began his BC career as a quarterback and, after redshirting as a true freshman, played in eight games in 2015. He completed 24-of-49 passes for three touchdowns and an interception during his limited action.  Because of injuries at the position, Flutie was one of four Eagles quarterbacks to attempt at least 42 passes last season.

This spring, Flutie,the son of former BC wide receiver Darren Flutie and nephew of 1984 Heisman winner Doug Flutie, was moved to wide receiver.

Social media post indicates ex-Miami FB Walter Tucker’s headed to FIU

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 01:  Walter Tucker #44 of the Miami Hurricanes takes the field during a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels  at Sun Life Stadium on November 1, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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While Walter Tucker has left Miami, it doesn’t appear he’l be leaving the state of Florida.

On social media over the weekend, Walter Tucker, by way of Matt Porter of Palm Beach Post, has indicated that he will continue his collegiate playing career at FIU. That football program has not announced one way or the other the fullback’s connection to the football program.

In his Instagram post, Tucker, in addition to revealing his father has cancer, posted a photo of himself superimposed over FIU’s football stadium as well as the hashtags “#FIUNATION,” “#PANTHERNATION.” and “#PANTHERPRIDE.”

 

It’s unclear if Tucker would be eligible to play immediately in 2016 with the Panthers.

Tucker played in 32 games the past three seasons, mainly on special teams. He carried the ball three times for eight yards in 2015, and caught one pass for eight yards the year before.

In February, new Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt announced that Tucker had decided to transfer from The U.

Utah DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu transferring, reportedly visiting Nebraska over the weekend

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A couple of months before the start of summer camp, Nebraska is in the market for some interior line help.

According to a report from HuskerOnline.com, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu visited Lincoln over the weekend as he continues his search for a new football home. Tu’ikolovatu had decided very recently to transfer out of the Utah football program.

Tu’ikolovatu would provide immediate help to the ‘Huskers as he would be coming in as a graduate transfer.

Last season with the Utes, Tu’ikolovatu played in all 13 games, starting two of those contests. His four fumble recoveries were tied for the lead in the Pac-12 and second nationally.

Pitt RB James Conner tweets his ‘body is clean of cancer’

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 20: Tailback James Conner #24 of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers runs with the ball against the University of Iowa Hawkeyes during a college football game at Heinz Field on September 20, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Hawkeyes defeated the Pitt Panthers 24-20. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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How about some excellent news for a change?

Late Monday afternoon, Pittsburgh running back James Conner tweeted out the words he’s been waiting months to say: “Just got the call that my body is clean of cancer!!!”  The news comes five months after Conner revealed that he had been diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his neck and chest.

It also comes less than two weeks after the back completed his chemotherapy treatments.

The treatment hadn’t kept Conner completely away from the Panthers, however, as the running back was seen on video working out with teammates last month while he has been doing some individuals drills since the start of spring practice this month.  He’s also gotten the “celebrity treatment” during his battle as the back threw out the first pitch at a Pittsburgh Pirates game and made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said earlier this offseason that he expects Conner to play in 2016.

As a sophomore, Conner was named the ACC’s Player of the Year in 2014.  He was fully expected to leave for the NFL following the 2015 season before the combination of a season-ending knee injury suffered in September and the cancer diagnosis prompted a return to Pitt.

UPDATED 7:47 p.m. ET:  Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi released a statement addressing Conner’s positive medical update.

Over the past six months, James Conner fought cancer the same way he plays football: relentlessly and without surrender. He has inspired and touched so many people in how he has handled this challenge. James is an incredibly special person, and I’m not even thinking about his football ability when I say that. Everyone at Pitt feels blessed to know him and we are tremendously thankful for the wonderful news he received today.