Oregon AD breaks silence on investigation

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With Pac-12 Media Days just around the corner, reporters will have plenty of opportunities to ask Oregon coach Chip Kelly a question or 10 about the ongoing NCAA investigation surrounding the program’s ties to Willie Lyles and his Houston-based recruiting company, Complete Scouting Services.

Kelly, on the other hand, will get to channel his inner Gene Chizik and say a lot without really saying anything.

But Kelly won’t be the first UO representative to break silence on the matter when he does take the podium. Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens preemptively sent an e-mail to important UO “constituents” informing them that the program is “still in the midst of an extensive review of the circumstances surrounding the use of outside recruiting services” and is taking the investigation “very seriously.”

Specifically, Mullens sent the e-mail to trustees of the University of Oregon Foundation, members of the UO alumni association board of directors and high-roller donors.

Below are some snippets from the e-mail, courtesy of the Eugene Register-Guard:

“The University of Oregon football program, from Coach Chip Kelly through the entire organization, has tremendous respect for the NCAA’s important role in monitoring collegiate athletics and, to this end, continues to fully cooperate with the NCAA’s ongoing review.

“The University of Oregon is committed to holding itself and the individuals associated with the University accountable to the highest standards.

“As part of the University’s commitment to accountability, we want to reiterate that the institution takes this matter very seriously and remains dedicated to an open and transparent approach with the NCAA.”

Additionally…

“The firm [Bond, Schoeneck & King] has been charged with making an independent assessment of the football program’s use of outside recruiting services. In addition, they have been asked to provide the University with recommendations for areas of improvement within the football program and athletics department in order to meet best practices.

“We look forward to making the recommendations public at the conclusion of the process. The University, our Head Coach and the entire Athletic Department are fully committed to ensuring our program is following best practices.”

Oregon has come under scrutiny since March when a story broke that the Ducks paid Lyles $25,000 for his services. Recruiting services are legal within NCAA rules, but according to documents, UO received a “2011 National Package” that was, in essence, completely and utterly useless.

(Writer’s note: I previously stated it was a “2010 National Package”; it was a “2010 National Evaluation”)

An invoice from Lyles to UO also stated that game and highlight footage was part of the package, although the university has yet to release any video.

Other invoices obtained by the Oregonian also show that fellow Pac-12 member Cal received what was described as a “2010 National Package” from Lyles for $5,000, although details of the contents of that package have yet to be released.

Oregon stands by its initial assertion that their business relationship with Lyles is completely within the confines of NCAA bylaws. However, Lyles came out swinging in an interview at the very beginning of this month claiming that Oregon “paid for… my access and influence with recruits”, rather than Lyles’ ability as a scouting professional.

The NCAA could possibly determine that to be a violation of its bylaws.

In March, Kelly claimed that he had cut ties with Lyles, which phone records — and brief moment of “clarification” — indicate to be nothing short of a full-blown lie.

So, what will Kelly say when he’s finally asked about the investigation next week? If he’s learned anything, probably nothing.

Report: Alabama RB B.J. Emmons, CB Aaron Robinson leaving program

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The Alabama Crimson Tide may not be hurting on the depth chart as a result, but two players are leaving the program in search of other opportunities. Running back B.J. Emmons and cornerback Aaron Robinson are both leaving Tuscaloosa, according to a report from AL.com.

As the news was breaking, multiple reports say Emmons has enrolled at Hutchinson Community College. Emmons missed some games last season due to a foot injury, but he is expected to be back to 100 percent health this fall. Of course, at Alabama, the running back position is stacked and difficult to get much playing time to begin with. Robinson was also expected to be a backup for Alabama this fall after working with the second team unit in the spring.

Emmons was Alabama’s fifth-leading rusher in 2016 with 173 yards and a touchdown in seven games. Robinson appeared in 13 games and recorded five total tackles as a freshman.

Both Emmons and Robinson will be eligible to play for another FBS program starting in 2018 after sitting out the 2017 season, due to NCAA transfer rules. They are eligible to play at a lower division school this fall, whether it is an FCS or lower program or a junior college. The junior college route appears to be the path Emmons is taking by enrolling at a community college.

Fifth member of Jim McElwain’s first recruiting class at Florida to transfer

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Florida’s secondary continues to face some depth concerns ahead of the 2017 season. The depth chart lost Chris Williamson, multiple reports confirmed today, who is opting to transfer to a new school.

The former four-star defensive back was recently guided through a position change to pad the depth at the safety position this spring. Williamson has spent the past two seasons in Gainesville and has appeared in 14 games with one start. He came to Florida as part of the first recruiting class signed by Gators head coach Jim McElwain in 2015, and he is now the fifth player from that class to transfer, according to Inside the Gators.

From Inside the Gators;

Williamson is the fifth player from Jim McElwain’s inaugural recruiting class at Florida in 2015 to transfer from the program, joining running back Jordan Cronkrite (USF), offensive lineman Brandon Sandifer, tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe (USC) and tight end/linebacker Camrin Knight (Georgia State).

The news of Williamson’s intent to transfer comes on the same day Florida revealed it will be without safety Marcell Harris for the 2017 season. Harris suffered a torn Achilles tendon that will force the fifth-year senior to miss the entire 2017 season.

Williamson will have to sit out the 2017 college football season if he transfers to another FBS program, according to NCAA transfer rules. He will be eligible to play immediately this fall if he transfers to a program at the FCS level or below.

Report: Joe Flacco’s brother no longer part of the Western Michigan program

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P.J. Fleck may not be the only person leaving Western Michigan this year. It appears as though quarterback Tom Flacco could also be out.

As reported by Andy Pepper of WWMT-TV, via Twitter, Flacco has left the football program for what is now undisclosed reasons. The school has not announced or confirmed this development, but Hustle Belt has noted Flacco’s name is nowhere to be found on the team’s roster on the school’s official website.

Where Flacco goes next is anybody’s guess at this point. If he does end up transferring to another program, he will do so with two years of eligibility to use after sitting out the 2017 season. He would be eligible to play immediately this fall if he ends up at a lower division football program.

Flacco is the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback and former Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco. Maybe Tom is following in his brother’s footsteps. Joe Flacco started his collegiate career at Pittsburgh. After backing up Tyler Palko in 2004, Flacco opted to transfer to Delaware, where he helped get the Blue Hens to a national championship game, where they lost to the same Appalachian State that upset Michigan in 2007.

Lane Kiffin stands by decision and process of hiring Kendal Briles

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When Lane Kiffin made the decision to bring Kendal Briles to FAU as an assistant, plenty of eyebrows were raised. Considering the fallout from Baylor and the connection Briles had to it, it was a controversial staff decision, to say the least. Kiffin explained at Conference USA media day FAU’s compliance office took care of conducting a thorough vetting process to make sure the hiring of Briles would not come back to haunt them.

They really handled that,” Kiffin said, per 247 Sports. “That was more from an athletic director standpoint to handling all that stuff, talking to him and talking to people there and going through it. Then they felt sure. I was more from a football standpoint, saying, ‘Hey, I this is the guy I want to hire.’ Then they did the rest and said, ‘Hey, we feel comfortable about this.’”

This is not the first time Kiffin has had to address the hiring of the controversial assistant football coach. the new head coach of the FAU Owls though remained focused on what Briles brings to the table from a football standpoint and not what kind of baggage comes with it. A month after Briles had been hired, a report connected Briles to contributing to the disturbing culture that took over the Baylor football program under his father, Art Briles. The same report said a lawsuit alleged 52 rapes by football players in the Baylor football program.

“At the time it was not as magnified as the stuff is now,” Kiffin explained, referring to the timeline of events from hiring Briles to the release of the report. “It really wasn’t like it is now. These articles and stuff weren’t out there at the time. So there wasn’t a shock factor like now would be.”

The shock factor may have been elevated, but simply hiring anyone from the Baylor football program coming off the scandal it experienced alone was controversial enough. That it was Kiffin who made the call brought even more notoriety to the hiring.