Gamecocks to appear before NCAA’s COI this weekend

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Two months after self-imposing sanctions for a handful of significant NCAA violations, South Carolina will take the next step this weekend toward learning whether The Association will accept those penalties.  Or bring a bigger punitive hammer.

As has previously been reported, South Carolina will appear before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions this Friday and Saturday to answer questions concerning last September’s Notice of Allegations.  According to the Charleston Post & Courier, an 11-person-strong contingent will represent USC at the hearing this weekend, including head coach Steve Spurrier, assistant coach G.A. Mangus, athletic director Eric Hyman and president Dr. Harris Pastides.

An NCAA investigation that began in the summer of 2010 ultimately found that football players and other student-athletes had received in the neighborhood of $55,000 in impermissible benefits, with $47,000 of that figure stemming from off-campus housing at an area hotel.  The other $8,000 stems from “Kevin Lahn and Steve Gordon, representatives of the institution’s athletics interests, [making] impermissible recruiting contacts with and [providing] impermissible recruiting inducements to prospective student-athletes and [providing] extra benefits to student-athletes.

The housing allegations, the first listed in the NOA, are from May 2009 through Oct. 2010, while the recruiting issues, the second listed in the NOA, allegedly occurred from the spring of 2009 through February of 2011.

The third major violation alleged in the NOA is a failure to monitor both the housing and recruiting issues.

In December of last year, USC self-imposed sanctions that included a loss of six scholarships over the course of three years; a reduction of official recruiting visits to 30 for the 2012-13 year; and an $18,500 fine for allowing four ineligible football players to compete during the 2009-10 football season.

The committee can either deem those sanctions sufficient, or impose further sanctions on the program (see: State University, the Ohio).  A final decision from the COI likely won’t come down until mid-April at the earliest.

Mother’s health — and playing time — triggered Byron Cowart’s Aurbun departure

Associated Press
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Initially, there was no known reason for one of the top recruits in the Class of 2015 left his original college football home. Not long after, the window of insight was cracked a bit.

Tuesday, Byron Cowart was granted a release from his Auburn scholarship, one day after requesting it from the football program. In an interview with al.com, the defensive lineman revealed that his mother in Florida is going through an unspecified health situation and, as an only child, he wanted to be closer to her to help her through it.

Additionally, he acknowledged that, yes, his playing time, or lack thereof, played a role in his decision to leave The Plains.

“I’m happy with my decision and I know that this ain’t it for me,” Cowart told the website. “My main reason was my mother’s health is more important. Me being an only child, got to get back to home to her. Plus I already wasn’t playing enough and contributing to the team.”

In a separate interview with 247Sports.com, Cowart also acknowledged that he has twice previously considered leaving the Tigers, the last coming this past summer.

Cowart also indicated that, very soon, he will be starting up classes nearer his home in Seffner, Fla., presumably at a junior or community college. After that, he’ll decide where to continue his collegiate playing career at the FBS level.

“I’ll see what options I have and what the NCAA allows me to do,” the junior lineman told al.com. “This isn’t over for me and this definitely is not the end of my college career. … I can guarantee you football is not over for me. I still love the game, I love everything about football.”

A consensus five-star signee, Cowart was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014 while 247Sports.com had Florida product as the No. 3 player overall on its composite board. In 26 career games, Cowart was credited with 15 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He was one of four Tigers arrested for marijuana possession in May of last year.

This past spring, Cowart was moved from end to tackle in an attempt to jumpstart his career. In three games at his new position this season, he had three tackles and half a tackle for loss in three games.

Div. II football player Robert Grays dies from neck injury sustained in game

Midwestern State athletics
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There’s horribly sad news to note today as Midwestern State University football player Robert Grays passed away Tuesday, the Division II school in Texas confirmed Wednesday morning.

Grays sustained a serious neck injury attempting to make a tackle during this past Saturday’s game against Texas A&M-Kingsville.  After initially being taken to a local hospital in Wichita Falls, he was life-flighted to a hospital in Houston, where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

“Robert touched many lives while attending the university, but perhaps he will be remembered best for his smile,” a statement from university president Suzanne Shipley said, in part. “He was an inspiration on and off the field to those around him, and he will be remembered with love and affection by his friends, classmates, coaches, and teammates.”

Grays was listed as a 5-8, 160-pound sophomore cornerback on the Mustangs’ official roster.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Grays’ way-too-soon passing.

Wisconsin fans push two Provo bars to record-breaking financial weekend

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In a stunning development, it turns out that Wisconsinites (gasp!) like their beer.

Of course, it’s neither stunning nor a development that the state of Wisconsin tends to imbibe more than most others, as survey after survey after survey has suggested. This past weekend, a pair of Provo bars — in fact, the only two bar bars in the entire Mormon-heavy city — bore witness to the alcohol monolith that is the state in general and its college football fans in particular.

The Wisconsin Badgers invaded Provo Saturday for its Week 3 matchup with the BYU Cougars. With its fans in tow, it seemed as if the whole of the college football world was just daring Badger Nation to drink the city dry, a challenge from which they didn’t back down.

The damage? Both bars reported that they had their best financial weekends ever, thanks in very large part to the thirst of Badger Fan.

“Financially, it‘s the biggest day I’ve ever had here,” ABG’s Libation Emporium owner Gary Whitling told the Salt Lake Tribune, stating that he did triple the amount of business he would’ve normally done. For those curious, Wisconsinites mostly quenched their collective thirsts with Bud Light and Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey.

Despite the copious amount of imbibing, there were few if any incidents involving the out-of-towners, which serves s a significant testament to the fan base.

“It was a wonderful thing,” Whitling said. “The people from Wisconsin are fabulous. They‘re the nicest, funnest people we’ve ever had here.”

Shane Buechele taking majority of first-team reps at QB for Texas

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As expected, there will be no channeling of Lou Gehrig and Wally Pipp in Austin.  Probably.

Shane Buechele suffered an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder in Texas’ season-opening loss to Maryland. Ever since, Tom Herman has stated very firmly that Buechele would return to his starting job when healthy.

After watching Buechele take what the Austin American-Statesman‘s estimated to be 60 percent of the snaps with the first-team offense in practice Tuesday, the first-year UT head coach pronounced that there’s “[n]o Wally Pipp for the moment.”

Sam Ehlinger, who started both games since Buechele’s injury, took the rest of the snaps with the starting offense.

“Thought both of them looked good,” Herman said according to the American-Statesman. “I asked Shane towards the end of practice and he said, ‘Coach I feel good.’ So we’ll continue to monitor his progress. Last week, he was a bit sore each day after throwing. But with a couple of days off here, hopefully we can get that soreness out.”

Herman stopped short of naming Buechele the starter in their next game, against Iowa State, although the Longhorns have a bye this weekend before squaring off with the Cyclones on Thursday the 28th.

In his two starts, the true freshman Ehlinger completed 36-of-67 passes for 520 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Both of those picks came in UT’s near-upset of USC in Week 3.