Nuclear Explosion

Is a Miami death penalty the NCAA’s only option?

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Roughly 16 years after SMU was hit with the infamous “death penalty” that crippled their football program for nearly a quarter of a century, then-Florida president John Lombardi said that the NCAA would do anything it could going forward to avoid sentencing another school to a similar fate.

“SMU taught the committee that the death penalty is too much like the nuclear bomb,” Lombardi said in 2002. “It’s like what happened after we dropped the [atomic] bomb in World War II. The results were so catastrophic that now we’ll do anything to avoid dropping another one.”

A decade later, thanks to an explosive exposé by Yahoo! sports, the nuclear option appears to be back on the table, and it could force the NCAA to play the football version of Harry Truman once again.

The level of malfeasance alleged in the investigative piece by convicted felon Nevin Shapiro is truly staggering and is only rivaled in recent times by the infamous SMU scandal, when the Mustangs were Pony Express’d back to the football dark ages in the mid-eighties.  Shapiro, who once had a players lounge named in his honor at the Coral Gables school, alleges he gave impermissible benefits that by his estimation totaled in the millions and millions of dollars to more than five dozen Hurricane football players — including a dozen current ones — over an eight-year period beginning in 2001.

Cash, prostitutes, jewelry, clothing, electronics, yachts, mansions, strip club junkets and, in one instance, an abortion.  You name it, Shapiro alleges he provided it for many, many a Hurricane player.

Perhaps most damning is the Yahoo! report claims four former football assistants as well as three football support staff members had direct knowledge of or participated in the violating of multiple NCAA rules, including sending high school recruits to Shapiro’s multi-million dollar mansion or accompanying Shapiro and recruits to strip clubs.  Shapiro’s physical confrontation with UM’s head of compliance in the press box of a 2007 game wrought a background check by the university, which revealed he was the co-owner of a sports representation agency.  Still, the university did nothing.

Juxtapose those Miami allegations against the SMU case two-and-a-half-decades ago and, more recently, USC.

Already banned from bowl games in 1985 and 1986 as well as any television appearances for the latter year due to recruiting violations committed by boosters and at least one assistant, SMU was found in 1986 by the NCAA to have created a slush fund — which paid football players upwards of $700 a month — that was controlled by a booster and sanctioned by officials from the athletic department all the way through the school’s Board of Governors.  For that, the NCAA canceled the Mustangs 1987 season — the school canceled the 1988 season as well due to lack of players — banned the school from bowl games and television appearances through the 1989 season, as well as stripping them of nearly 60 football scholarships over a four-year period.

At first blush, the situation in Miami appears to be the work of a lone rogue booster who inexplicably flew underneath the school’s radar — allegedly — for eight years.  SMU’s case was an organized, systematic pay-for-play scandal involving multiple layers of individuals both inside the athletic department and out, even bleeding into the political arena.

Is that enough of a difference to keep the NCAA from pressing the nuclear button and leveling The U football program?

If it’s looked at through a prism of blacks and whites, the allegations leveled against Miami are the worst to hit major college football since SMU in the mid-eighties and would appear to deserve something that approaches the same level of sanctions.  As the NCAA has shown since slapping near-historic sanctions on USC, though, the NCAA seems to work with varying shades of gray that only they can see.  And comprehend.

To illustrate that very point, the Trojans were stripped of 30 scholarships over a three-year period and banned from appearing in bowl games for two after the NCAA found one player — Reggie Bush — and/or his family had received in the neighborhood of $300,000 from two would-be sports marketers/felons while he was a running back at the school.  One USC assistant — not four as alleged in the Yahoo! Miami piece, or multiple members of the institution as found in the SMU case — and one two-minute phone conversation led to the sanctions that have set the Trojans football program back at least a couple of years if not more.

After handing the Trojans some of the stiffest sanctions since SMU was obliterated from the football map, Paul Dee, chair of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, said the following when it comes to a school’s responsibility for dealing with outside influences on student-athletes:

“The real issue here is if you have high‑profile players, your enforcement staff has to monitor those students at a higher level. It’s extraordinarily important that the people that are likely to be receiving these kinds of interactions from people outside the institution are also those same people who are going to provide a reward somewhere down the road. So high‑profile players demand high‑profile compliance.”

Dee was the athletic director at the University of Miami during the time Shapiro was allegedly lavishing his student-athletes with gifts, cash and services.

Regardless of whether it’s too much like the nuclear bomb, and the catastrophic results Lombardi referred to be damned, the NCAA needs to drop another one on the Miami football program if they have any real desire to truly change the culture as they’ve openly professed in recent months.  What would that entail when it comes to the ‘Canes?  Miami’s situation — if the allegations are proven, it should be noted — would seem to fall somewhere between SMU and USC, but leaning decidedly toward the former side in terms of severity.

Leaning enough to warrant sanctions similar to what SMU received?  Certainly this trumps Bush’s financial masterpiece, setting the bar for sanctions to come in somewhere well above what USC received.  If that involves something close to the death penalty, so be it; at some point, there have to be significant repercussions for programs that don’t demand high-profile compliance for high-profile players.

One way or the other, though, the NCAA needs to take their hands out from under their backsides and show that what they’re spewing publicly aren’t merely words lacking any kind of meaningful action behind them.  One SMU is too many.  Two of them calls for a significant change to the structure of collegiate athletics.

And a sweeping change to the hypocrisy that Dee’s involvement on both sides fully displays.

Nick Chubb’s dad says he doesn’t think UGA RB will play vs. Vols

OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 24:  Nick Chubb #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs the ball and is pursued by the defense of the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Oxford, Mississippi.  The Rebels defeated the Bulldogs 45-14.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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Unfortunately, it appears the dreaded high-ankle sprain has bitten one of the most snake-bitten running backs in the country.

In Georgia’s Week 4 loss to Ole Miss, Nick Chubb sustained an ankle injury in the second quarter and couldn’t return.  Kirby Smart has held his cards close to his vest this week when to came to Chubb’s availability for the Week 5 game against Tennessee, even as most, if not all of the signs pointed to the running back being sidelined for the key SEC East matchup.

Friday, Chubb’s father all but ended the mystery over his son’s availability, while simultaneously indicating that a Week 6 return should be in the cards — provided it’s not the usual lingering high-ankle sprain.

“I don’t think he’s going to play,” Henry Chubb told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s got that high-ankle sprain. He twisted it trying to make a cut against Ole Miss. He’s in good spirits and all. He understands it. The doctor said he’d need a couple weeks, so he’ll probably play next week.”

Chubb returned from a devastating knee injury that knocked him out for more than half of the 2015 season, rushing for career regular-season high of 222 yards in the 2016 opener in his first game back.  In his three games since the opener, however, Chubb has run for just 200 yards total.

Still, his 422 yards are far and away tops on the Bulldogs.  With Chubb out for at least this weekend, the running-game load will fall to Brian Herrien (184 yards) and Sony Michel (106).

Women’s advocacy group to fly anti-Trump banners over Big House, four other college stadiums

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - SEPTEMBER 30:  Donald Trump tours the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on September 30, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A post-debate poll shows Trump's rival Hillary Clinton with a seven point lead in Michigan.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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The 2016 presidential election could be coming to a college football stadium near you.

According to the Kansas City Star, a women’s advocacy group, UltraViolet Action, will fly airplanes over five stadiums this Saturday to protest what the group describes as “Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s ‘long record of misogyny.'”  The five stadiums are Michigan Stadium, Ohio Stadium, Kinnick Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field and Wallace Wade Stadium.

The most high-profile of the five games will be in the Big House, with No. 4 Michigan playing host to No. 8 Wisconsin.

The planes that the group have commissioned to do the flyovers will tow behind them banners that read “Trump Says Women R Pigs. Disagree? Vote.”  The stadiums selected reside in the so-called swing states of Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

The Star writes that “UltraViolet describes itself as a ‘powerful and rapidly growing community of people from all walks of life mobilized to fight sexism and expand women’s rights, from politics and government to media and pop culture.'”

Wisconsin confirms starting LB Vince Biegel ‘out several weeks’

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 17:  Vince Biegel #47 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates after making a tackle in the second quarter against the Georgia State Panthers at Camp Randall Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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Unfortunately, the news when it comes to Vince Biegel could actually be a little bit worse than what was originally feared.

Yesterday, the Wisconsin linebacker’s father revealed that his son would be out as long as a month after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted into his foot.  In a press release, UW confirmed that Biegel did indeed undergo surgery Thursday night, and put the timeline at an ambiguous “several weeks” for a return.

The decision to undergo a medical procedure on what’s been a lingering issue was made after the player met with UW team physicians Wednesday and Thursday.

“I really hate any time a player has to miss time due to an injury, especially a senior like Vince,” head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “Vince has such a passion for football and loves playing the game. This team is very important to him and he is very important to our team. What you appreciate is that you know he will do everything in his power to get back on the field as soon as possible.”

At the bare minimum, Biegel will miss the next four games, a stretch that includes matchups with No. 4 Michigan, No. 2 Ohio State, Iowa and No. 15 Nebraska.

Biegel had started 29 games in a row for the Badgers.  At least initially, Biegel will be replaced in the starting lineup by redshirt freshman Zack Baun.

‘Scuffle’ led to broken nose, two starting Houston LBs missing game

SAN MARCOS, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Tom Herman of the Houston Cougars walks the sidelines as his team plays the Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium on September 24, 2016 in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Shortly before the start of what would become Houston’s win over UConn Thursday night, UH announced that a pair of starting linebackers, Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), were among the four who would be sidelined for the AAC contest.  And now we know that, when it came to those two, the head injury and coaches’ decision were intertwined.

In his postgame press conference following the win, head coach Tom Herman acknowledged that there had been what he described as a “scuffle” between Bowser and Adams on Wednesday.  The former suffered a broken bone in his face in the “freak accident,” resulting in both starters being sidelined last night.

“[Wednesday], during our weekly tradition of ‘Family Fridays,’ where we go out on the field and play some silly games just to loosen the thing up, dodge ball, whiffle ball, two-hand touch football, the two got over-competitive and things briefly got out of hand during one of the games and resulted in a scuffle between Tyus and Matt, two brothers,” Herman said. “Our culture is one of love and the two are very close, remain very close and definitely consider [each other] brothers.

“They’re both very remorseful for what happened in yesterday’s incident.”

Bowser is expected to be out of the lineup “for a few weeks.”  Herman said Adams, the Cougars’ third-leading tackler heading into the game, will be allowed to play against Navy in Week 6.