South Carolina’s Byrd receives four-game suspension from NCAA

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With Damiere Byrd unexpectedly sidelined for South Carolina’s opener due to an NCAA compliance issue, head coach Steve Spurrier said he hoped to “get it cleared up before next week.”

Spurrier got his wish as Byrd’s status has indeed been cleared up.  It’s doubtful, though, the resolution was what he was hoping for.

First reported by 247Sports.com, and subsequently confirmed by the school, the wide receiver will be forced to serve a suspension that totals four games.  In addition to the opener against East Carolina, Byrd will miss the the next three games against Georgia, Navy and Vanderbilt.

Byrd, a freshman, was found to have received impermissible benefits prior to signing with the Gamecocks.  The school stated in the release that Byrd will have to repay benefits as a condition of becoming eligible to compete again, although the amount was not disclosed.

“While we respect the process, we are very disappointed for Damiere,” said Athletics Director Eric Hyman in a statement. “Damiere is an outstanding individual and has been upfront with us as to what occurred during the recruiting process. He had no idea that being part of the Student Athlete Mentoring (SAM) Foundation would in any way affect his college eligibility. We continue to support him and will carefully consider appealing this decision

Byrd’s father is Adrian Byrd, who is listed as the director of the New Jersey chapter of S.A.M., a Delaware-based organization whose stated goal is to “provide supplementary support to high school student-athletes in both their academic and athletic endeavors.”  That same organization is connected to Sharrif Floyd, the Florida defensive lineman who the NCAA ruled Thursday would have to sit two games and repay $2,700 after it was found he had received impermissible benefits prior to his enrollment at UF.

It should also be noted that S.A.M.’s treasurer, Kevin Lahn, is a graduate of South Carolina and a football season-ticket holder.  As explained to us by Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post, in order to become a USC season-ticket holder, you must first be a member of the booster club.  Technically, that makes Lahn a USC booster.

Coming out of Sicklerville, NJ, Byrd was a four-star member of South Carolina’s 2011 recruiting class.

UPDATED 3:19 p.m. ET: The NCAA announced that Byrd will be forced to repay $2,700 as a condition of his reinstatement, the same amount as Floyd.  So, why was Byrd suspended for four games and Floyd just two for what appears to be the same “crime”?  The NCAA noted in its release on Floyd that the player was in line for a four-game suspension, but, “[b]ased on the mitigating circumstances in the case” — with those being Floyd’s “personal hardship that led to the impermissible benefits being provided to the student-athlete by someone other than a legal guardian or family member” — the “withholding condition” was cut in half to two.

Chip Kelly reportedly turned down Tennessee offer, turned away Nebraska interest

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It really is looking like a two-school race for Chip Kelly‘s services.

On the heels of a weekend meeting with Florida officials in New Hampshire, Kelly also reportedly sat down with a contingent from UCLA this week regarding their head coach opening.  It’s been widely thought that, in the coming days — especially if the Gators have anything to say about it — Kelly would decide between UF and UO and likely not entertain interest from other programs.

In that vein, and citing a person with knowledge of the situation, George Schroeder of USA Today is reporting that Kelly recently turned down an offer from one SEC school and rebuffed the advances from a Big Ten program.

Kelly turned down a recent offer from Tennessee, the person said. He is also believed to have turned away interest from Nebraska.

While two schools are seemingly in the mix at the moment, Schroeder is also reporting that Arizona State, should it come open, would also be of interest to the former Oregon head coach.  Th earliest ASU would shed themselves of Todd Graham would be Saturday night as they square off with rival Arizona that afternoon.

Regardless of where Kelly lands, the current ESPN analyst is set to get paid as it’s believed that the offers he has received are in the neighborhood of $6 million annually.  As Schroeder and other media outlets have pointed out, though, there could be a sticking point with one of the two schools that have Kelly as its top target as UCLA’s apparel provider is Under Armour.  Kelly still maintains a close relationship with Phil Knight, the founder of Nike and whose company is Under Armour’s biggest rival.

While that dynamic is thought of as a sticking point, it’s not believed to be a deal breaker.

Reports: Paul Haynes out as head coach at Kent State

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And another one bites the dust.  Reportedly.

FootballScoop.com was the first to report Wednesday morning that Paul Haynes has been let go as the head football coach at Kent State.  The Associated Press subsequently confirmed the initial report, noting that the Golden Flash players were informed of the move earlier today.

The not-yet-official move to part ways with Haynes is far from surprising as the former Ohio State and Arkansas assistant is just 14-45 during his five seasons at the school.  For perspective, the Golden Flashes won 11 games in 2011, the year before Haynes’ arrival.

With Haynes’ ouster, there are now eight FBS head coach openings, with KSU joining Florida, Georgia Southern, Ole Miss, Oregon State, South Alabama, Tennessee, UCLA and UTEP.

Minnesota, P.J. Fleck reach agreement on contract extension

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Not even through his first full season as head coach, and P.J. Fleck has already been rewarded for his work.

Minnesota announced Wednesday morning that it has reached an agreement on a contract extension with Fleck into 2023.  The 36-year-old head coach originally signed a five-year contract with the school, making this a two-year extension.

A December meeting of the school’s Board of Regents will rubber stamp the extension and make it official.

“It’s an honor to coach at the University of Minnesota and in the Big Ten,” said Fleck in a statement. “[athletic director] Mark Coyle and I share the same goal of building a championship culture and team at Minnesota. It’s a goal that we are working on daily together and one that we will achieve. I am proud of how hard our young men have worked to improve this season on living a holistic life. They have taken great strides in bettering themselves athletically, academically, socially and spiritually. I look forward to leading them and watching them grow on and off the field as we continue to move this program forward.”

In his first season at Minnesota after coming to the Big Ten program from Western Michigan, Fleck has the Gophers at 5-6.  Fleck took over a team that won nine games in 2016, and, if they fail to beat fifth-ranked Wisconsin Saturday, would have their fewest wins in a season since going 3-9 in Jerry Kill‘s first year in 2011.

On the flip side, his five wins are the first for a first-year Gophers coach since Murray Warmath won seven games in 1954.  Additionally, he became the first coach to win his Gophers debut since John Gutekunst did the same back in 1986.

“When we hired Coach Fleck, I talked about his authentic energy and passion, and his dedication to building a unique team culture. This year, I have seen our students connect with his energy and embrace that culture,” Coyle said in his statement. “From the commitment and hard work of our current students, to building a nationally-ranked recruiting class that will be among the best in program history, I have seen the foundation of what Coach Fleck is building, and I’m looking forward to supporting him for years to come.”

Status of TCU’s top two QBs up in the air for Baylor game

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For a game with significant implications on a couple of levels, this is a little more than mildly intriguing, at least at this point in the week.

If TCU handles one-win Baylor Friday, the Horned Frogs will play Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game next Saturday. If they don’t, they could allow Iowa State to sneak into the title-game side door.

With that much on the line, Gary Patterson seemingly confirmed Tuesday that both his top two quarterbacks, Kenny Hill and Shawn Robinson, are questionable for the Week 13 home game vs. the Bears with unspecified injuries.

The day before, though, Patterson had labeled Hill as “closer to probable” with what’s believed to be a concussion.  Then again, in the days leading up to the Texas Tech game, Patterson had Hill listed as “between probable and questionable” as well.

Hill started the first 10 games of the season, but was injured in the Week 11 loss to Oklahoma and was ultimately ruled out prior to the Tech game. Robinson then started his first career game in Week 12, but was injured in the win over the Red Raiders as well.

If neither is able to go, Grayson Muehlstein would get the nod. The redshirt sophomore, who has yet to attempt a pass in his career, would become the second Horned Frogs in as many weeks to make his first career start at the collegiate level.