Paul Dee

Another day, another diatribe aimed at Paul Dee

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Rightly so, Paul Dee has been skewered by both the media and fans — and in one case a conference commissioner — in the days since Yahoo! blew the lid off alleged rampant corruption involving current and former members of the Miami football and basketball programs.

Dee was the athletic director during most of Nevin Shapiro’s eight-year run of booster benevolence that began in late 2001/early 2002 and could end with program-shaking sanctions.  Dee was also the chair of the NCAA Committee on Infractions that slapped severe sanctions on USC because of allegations so serious it forced Dee to chastise the university with his infamous “high-profile players demand high-profile compliance.”

As it turns out, USC wasn’t the only institution on the receiving end of one of Dee’s sanctimonious sermons served from his bully pulpit.

Long Beach State president F. King Alexander found himself, along with other university officials, in front of a Dee-led COI hearing in 2007 to answer allegations of irregularities in their basketball program.  The president recalled the hearing to the Long Beach Press-Telegram recently, saying that his group was the subject of, as the paper writes it, a “lecture… in a most condescending manner” from Dee.

“Dee told us, `You have to put in place the kind of institutional control we have at Miami‘,” Alexander said, a thought the Press-Telegram notes was relayed with irritation.

The Dee anecdote was just one of many from a diatribe by Alexander on the current state of the NCAA.  Hell, even Nebraska wasn’t safe from the president’s pointed words, all of which come back to just two: nauseating hypocrisy.

“And one of the other members of the NCAA Infractions Committee in that hearing was from Nebraska. On that same day, six Nebraska athletes were arrested for illegally selling sporting apparel,” Alexander continued.

“The hypocrisy of the NCAA makes me sick. To allow institutions like Miami and Nebraska to chair and oversee its infractions committee is like putting foxes in charge of the henhouse.”

Interestingly, Alexander also has somewhat of a connection to the current Miami mess.

“You must understand that in 2005 when I was president at Murray State, I fired our football coach, Joe Pannunzio, because of numerous incidents that occurred in our program under him that were quite bad,” Alexander said. “Well, Pannunzio immediately was hired by Miami, and he’s one of the coaches who’s been prominently mentioned by Shapiro in the current scandal. He’s now the head of football operations at Alabama.”

Pannunzio was named in the damning Yahoo! report as someone who, while an assistant coach at Miami, “had a close relationship with Shapiro and facilitated the booster having improper contact with recruits.”  Shapiro refused to speak on or off the record regarding the Pannunzio allegations uncovered by Yahoo!.

Another former Miami assistant, Jeff Stoutland, is also on Nick Saban‘s Alabama staff, serving as the Tide’s offensive line coach after being hired in January.

Saban addressed Thursday the two new members of the program allegedly involved in the South Beach scandal, and said the two were thoroughly vetted prior to their hirings.

“I know what goes on in this program and I know that we do things correctly,” Saban said. “We do have people in this organization, who worked there (at Miami). Before those people were ever hired here we do an NCAA check to make sure they pass all compliance criteria and that they don’t have any red flags relative to compliance history.

“We certainly did that in both of these cases. Now, if any of these people had any wrongdoing, I’m sure the NCAA will investigate it in due time and, if they did anything wrong, I’m sure they will get the appropriate punishment, which we would do if we had any internal problems in our organization. But we’re going to continue and control and manage what we do in our organization and do it correctly, and that’s basically all we can be concerned about.”

Getting back to the broader issue of NCAA hypocrisy when it comes to enforcement and the individuals involved with levying sanctions, the bigger question becomes how to clean up the rightly-held perception of that part of collegiate athletics.  What seems to be the only option also happens to be the best: the NCAA needs to hire independent arbitrators to replace the current members of the COI — who, like Dee, are employed by individual institutions as their full-time jobs — and allow them to independently conduct the hearings that determine sanctions.

Simply put, a Paul Dee-led NCAA COI slamming sanctions on an institution like USC simply cannot happen again, especially when one of the member’s own athletic house was allegedly in disarray at the time.  The NCAA is rolling in enough hypocrisy because of that case and the subsequent fallout at Miami to last a lifetime, and it needs to ensure that’s never again an issue.

(Tip O’ the Cap for the Alexander link to Jon Solomon)

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.