Gene Smith

Ohio State strips itself of five scholarships; facing failure to monitor charge

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After appearing in front of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions to answer allegations concerning players receiving impermissible benefits and Jim Tressel‘s cover-up, Ohio State uncovered further violations involving a booster paying players cash at a charity event as well as overpaying them for a job he provided.

The school announced Thursday that their joint investigation with the NCAA into the latest violations is complete and they have issued their response to a supplemental Notice of Allegations from the NCAA.  That supplemental notice contains two allegations not covered in the original NOA:

The first was related to the “extra benefits” violations discovered through a joint investigation with the NCAA and publicly announced by the university Sept. 1 and Oct. 3 involving Robert DiGeronimo, who at the time was a representative of the institution’s athletics interests (also known as a “booster”).  In February 2011, he arranged for cash payments of $200 each to four current or former student-athletes at an annual charity event for a nonprofit organization of which DiGeronimo was a board member. Additionally, the student-athletes attended the event without written approval from the athletics director or his designee. Further, DiGeronimo arranged for five student-athletes to be overcompensated by a total of $1,605 while they were employed by businesses owned and operated by the DiGeronimo family.

The second allegation asserts that the institution took insufficient action to monitor DiGeronimo, resulting in a “failure to monitor” allegation, primarily due to DiGeronimo’s overpayment to student-athlete employees and cash payments at the Cornerstone of Hope charitable event. This allegation only concerns a booster and does not relate to any of the issues discussed at the Aug. 12 Committee on Infractions hearing.

The “failure to monitor” charge is one step below the dreaded “lack of institutional control”, but serious in its own right and could lead to stiff sanctions for the football program.  One month ago, OSU president E. Gordon Gee remarked that the situation at the school does not represent “a systematic failure of compliance” and that they are “the poster child for compliance.”

Athletic director Gene Smith expressed deep regret that he didn’t “ensure the degree of monitoring our institution deserves and demands.”

“Over the past three months, our athletics department staff has continued to work cooperatively with the NCAA to conclude our inquiry into the remaining items related to our football program,” Smith said in a statement. “Throughout the entire process since we discovered possible infractions, the athletics department has consistently worked with the NCAA to investigate any allegation, take responsibility, self-report its findings to the NCAA in a transparent manner, and take necessary remediation steps. That is what we have done on this last open issue, and we accept that we should have done more to oversee Mr. DiGeronimo’s activities.

“We look forward to working with the staff and the Committee on Infractions to reach a timely resolution of the case. On a personal note, I deeply regret that I did not ensure the degree of monitoring our institution deserves and demands.”

As a result of these latest allegations, the Buckeyes have self-imposed a reduction in scholarships by a total of five over the next three years, commencing in 2012.  The NCAA can either agree with those sanctions or add to them.

OSU said in its release it “is hopeful that the Committee on Infractions will review these materials and render its final decision in the near future.”  The original timeline for a response from the NCAA was anywhere from 8-12 weeks from the mid-August hearing.  Obviously, the latest investigation pushed back that time frame.

Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett officially withdraws from school

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.

After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.

“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”

Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.

Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez wants changes to Big Ten scheduling

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Acting head coach Barry Alvarez of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on from the bench before the start of the Outback Bowl against the Auburn Tigers on January 1, 2015 during  at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Wisconsin has been one of the pleasant surprises to begin the 2016 season but a lot of folks are not counting on the Badgers to remain in the top 10 of the polls after one of the most brutal schedules in the month of October you can find.

Having already played (and beat) defending conference champion Michigan State last week, Wisconsin travels to No. 4 Michigan, has a bye week, then hosts No. 2 Ohio State. They’re not done after that though, traveling to Iowa and then hosting No. 15 Nebraska in a stretch that should determine the West division champion before the month is up.

Longtime head coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez is well aware of what awaits his team and is no fan of such an unbalanced schedule.

“I remember when that schedule came out (in 2013) and I thought, ‘How the hell did you kick out something looking like that?” Alvarez told CBSSports.com. “I think you could take a look at the general strength of some programs and split them up. Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State have been good for a long time. Penn State Nittany Lions normally is in that group. Just make sure someone doesn’t get all three year in a year. That’s hard to do. That’s something the ADs are going to have to talk about some day.”

The Big Ten recently moved to a nine game conference slate which means an additional crossover game between divisions. Wisconsin has been the beneficiary of some weaker schedules in the past (Rutgers/Maryland in 2014/15) but seem to be the poster child this year for drawing all of the major powers from the East division.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany cautioned against reading too much into the Badgers’ schedule in 2016 and wants to see how the current format works out — but didn’t rule out any future changes.

“If I was an AD, I would probably be saying the same thing (as Alvarez),” Delany said. “If I was a football coach, I know I would.”

The conference has released the league schedule through 2019 but you can bet the next set of Big Ten games will likely break up some of the more historically successful programs a little more when it comes to division crossover games. Until then though, ‘On Wisconsin’ will have to be more than the school motto in October for Alvarez and his Badgers.

Pick problems lead Bowling Green to make a change at QB

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 3:  James Knapke #3 of the Bowling Green Falcons is sacked by Nick Bosa #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the fourth quarter on September 3, 2016 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Bowling Green 77-10. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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In 118 pass attempts this season, James Knapke has tossed nine interceptions, the most of any FBS quarterback through Week 4.  Entering Week 5, Bowling Green isn’t planning on allowing the senior quarterback to add to that total.

In a brief statement Thursday morning, BGSU head coach Mike Jinks announced that redshirt freshman James Morgan will start at quarterback Saturday against Eastern Michigan.  Morgan replaced Knapke in the loss to Memphis last week after the starter tossed three interceptions.

Morgan himself hasn’t been averse to turnovers, however, as he has thrown three in 46 attempts.

After Matt Johnson went down with a season-ending injury in the 2014 opener, Knapke took over as the starter and threw for 3,173 yards, 15 and 12 interceptions.  A healthy Johnson (shut it, 12-year-olds) reclaimed his job in 2015, but Knapke took over again in 2016 as Johnson’s eligibility expired.

Not only are Knapke’s interceptions the most in the country, but his pass efficiency rating of 88.4 is the worst of the 121 FBS quarterbacks listed on the NCAA.com stats page.

Wisconsin loses kicker Rafael Gaglianone to season-ending surgery

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03:  Rafael Gaglianone #27 of the Wisconsin Badgers makes a field goal during the first half against the LSU Tigers at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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As far as kickers go, this is a rather significant development.

Last week, Wisconsin’s Rafael Gaglianone did not make the trip to East Lansing for the Michigan State game because of a back issue.  Not only will the placekicker miss this Saturday’s game against No. 4 Michigan, he will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2016 season after undergoing back surgery.

According to the school, Gaglianone’s condition improved Sunday but subsequently worsened.  It was then decided that the junior would undergo the medical procedure.

A similar back injury, the school said, led Gaglianone to miss spring practice last year.

“You’re disappointed for Rafael because of all the work he’s put in and how well he was playing,” head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “From a football perspective, I’ve appreciated the way the other guys in that unit have responded this week.”

This season, Gaglianone has connected on seven of eight field goal attempts and all 10 extra points.  Included in that total was what turned out to be the game-winning field goal in the opener against LSU at Lambeau Field.

Including this season, Gaglianone, who will be eligible for a medical hardship waiver, has been good on 44-57 field goals in his career and all but two of his 111 point afters.

With Gaglianone sidelined, the Badgers will turn to Andrew Endicott.  The senior, who hadn’t previously attempted a field goal or extra point at the collegiate level, made 1-1 of the former and 3-4 of the latter in replacing Gaglianone against MSU.