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.

Georgia football’s account remains on Twitter suspended list

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Even as he now resides in South Florida, it appears Mark Richt has lost control of Georgia football’s Twitter account.

Shortly before Saturday’s second spring game under Kirby Smart, UGA’s Twitter account for the football program was suspended.  That marked the sixth time since January 17 of 2017 in which the account was suspended, and that suspension remains in effect as of this posting.

While there has been no official word from the university or athletic department on the latest suspension, it appears that it is related to, once again, a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice.  Essentially, UGA is accused of using copyrighted music in their tweets, which has led to their five previous suspensions.

Along with the most recent suspension as well as the first in January of last year, UGA’s account was suspended June 20, 2017; July 27, 2017; August 14, 2017; and February 7, 2018.  The last one came during National Signing Day, with USA Today noting at that time that “[t]he DMCA suspends accounts after three violations within a certain period.”

Western Kentucky QB Steven Duncan arrested for DUI

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Western Kentucky quarterback Steven Duncan was arrested Sunday morning on a charge of driving under the influence.

The WKU Herald reports that Duncan was booked at 2:43 on Sunday morning and, in addition to DUI, was charged with failure to produce insurance and failure to illuminate his headlights. “We are aware of the situation and currently gathering more information,” the program told the Herald. “We take this matter very seriously as a football program.”

Duncan is a redshirt sophomore from Charleston, S.C. He completed 2-of-2 passes for two yards as a redshirt freshman in 2017, and is in open competition with fifth-year senior Drew EcklesDavis Shanley and Graydon Kulick to replace the graduated Mike White as starting quarterback. White threw for 4,177 yards with 26 touchdowns against eight interceptions in head coach Mike Sanford‘s first season.

WKU concluded its spring on Saturday with a 92-play scrimmage.

“Spring game, beautiful day, great to have the fan base out here, it was a fun game,” Sanford said. “Obviously, it wasn’t a traditional spring game, tackle, playing with two true teams, but the work we wanted to get out of it we absolutely got out of it. We got 92 plays in the scrimmage. We wanted to make sure every single person on our roster got a rep today and that was good to see. Overall, I’m pleased with what I saw.”

Former Notre Dame player Kona Schwenke dies at 25

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Former Notre Dame defensive lineman Kona Schwenke died at his Laie, Hawai’i, home on Sunday, the program confirmed on Monday. He was 25.

Cause of death was not known as of press time.

Hailing from the same hometown as Manti Te’o, Schwenke was a 3-star member of Notre Dame’s 2010 class and appeared in 31 games with nine starts over the following four seasons. He collected 30 career tackles, helped the Irish post an undefeated regular season with an appearance in the BCS National Championship as a junior and won the Irish’s Next Man In Award as a senior.

He was signed to the rosters of the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks but did not appear in a game before concluding his football career in 2016.

“We will tell the stories of how things were different with you. I love you my brother. Thank you for everything over the years,” fellow Hawaiian and former Notre Dame player Robby Toma wrote in an Instagram post on Sunday. “I am grateful for the time we got to spend with you on earth. My heart hurts, but I know the memories we have will last a lifetime. Look over us, my USO. My prayers are with my Schwenke Family. #RIPuso”

Funeral arrangements were not available as of press time.

Ohio State RB Antonio Williams transferring to UNC

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Ohio State running back Antonio Williams is moving a bit closer to home to continue playing his college football. The North Carolina native reportedly will transfer to the University of North Carolina to play for the Tar Heels. Williams announced his transfer news via Twitter.

“Though being at Ohio State provided me with the right path to reach those goals, the timing for me to be at OSU wasn’t the most ideal,” Williams said in a statement on Twitter. “With that being said, following the end of this semester, I will be transferring to the University of North Carolina.”

Williams appeared in 12 games for the Buckeyes last season, carrying the football 57 times for 290 yards and three touchdowns in a backup role. Ohio State’s running game was led by freshman breakout star J.K. Dobbins and sophomore Mike Weber. Both are back this fall to continue carrying the ball for Ohio State, which would have left Williams sitting no higher than third on the team’s depth chart.

Before attending Ohio State, Williams previously committed to UNC during his recruiting cycle. He switched his commitment status to Wisconsin before making one final switch to Ohio State.

Williams will have two years of eligibility after sitting out the 2018 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Williams will likely burn his unused redshirt season this fall to retain two years of eligibility at UNC.