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Pac-12 chairman: ‘never discussed’ Rose Bowl idea

double-facepalm1

Earlier this week, a report from the USA Today said BCS officials and conference commissioners had decided to group their postseason options into four main categories, although the number of options branching from those categories ran much larger.

But as it turned out, almost all the options were somewhere between the status quo and downright awful. To make matters more confusing — as if three semifinal games to determine one championship game was sensible — a representative from one side of the dreaded Pac-12 option (i.e. option 2) didn’t even know it was an option.

We as a group never discussed that,” Oregon State president and Pac-12 CEO group chairman Ed Ray said to the Wall Street Journal. “This is the first time I’m hearing it. But that doesn’t mean that people weren’t in conversations where all these things came up and somebody suggested it.”

I still think Jim Delany bypassed the BCS computer mainframe one night and added it in. Whether in jest or not, I’m unsure. It was probably one of those things that you joke about, but secretly gauge everyone’s reaction just in case they’re on board.

But regardless of how the three semifinal option got to be its own choice worthy of consideration, it’s on the table. In theory, it could happen.

It’s still not real popular, though.

“This is not 1950, or 1960,” Georgia President Michael Adams said. “There are great schools in the [Atlantic Coast Conference] and the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12. I think it’s time to put everybody on an equal footing. I just reject the notion that the Big Ten and the Pac-12 ought to be treated differently in this process.

“If they can be accommodated without changing the entire process, then I think everyone is open to that,” Adams said. “I have great respect for the Big Ten and the Pac-12, and have two Big Ten degrees [from Ohio State]. But I don’t think that they have the right to dictate policy to all the rest of us.”

University of Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said that wasn’t the intention of the idea, although he admitted he only spoke for himself and not the Big Ten.

The long and short of it is that, categorized options or not, this postseason discussion isn’t much less convoluted now than it was a few months ago when meetings began in Dallas.

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Hugh Freeze to Florida? Rumor mill is turning out unlikely scenarios

Hugh Freeze

There is no question the Florida coaching vacancy that will soon officially become available will be one of the top landing spots for some coach in this season’s edition of the coaching carousel, and the rumor mill should be working at high speed in the coming weeks as Florida looks to find a replacement for outgoing Will Muschamp. One name that has been thrown out there in the coaching rumor mill already is Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze.

On the surface, it would seem to make sense Freeze would be on the list of potential targets for Florida, and why not? Freeze has shown signs of solid recruiting and development with the Ole Miss program in his short time in Oxford, and the Rebels looked to be one of the top teams in the country until the last few weeks. Despite a couple of losses in recent weeks, Ole Miss still looks to be in a better position than Florida right now, and that alone should be enough to keep Freeze in Ole Miss.

This time of the year always seems to turn out rumor after rumor, and sometimes those rumors may be leaked by agents representing coaches ready to either make a move or make a power move to get a brand new contract signed. Ole Miss is already working to put an end to any potential coaching rumors tied to Freeze. The school is already in the process of working on a new contract for Freeze, which both sides previously were reported to be in agreement to finalize after the regular season. The job security for Freeze at Ole Miss also appears to be very good, as he has already had his contract extended twice before.

Freeze leaving Ole Miss may not necessarily be out of the question, but leaving a job at one SEC school with as much job security as Ole Miss has provided for a bit of a rebuilding project at Florida does not appear to be the likely scenario to bank on. Coaches rarely make a move from one school to another within the same conference too. It is even more rare to see a coach at a strong program leave to rebuild another in the same conference.

Florida announced last week Muschamp will be removed as head coach at the conclusion of the regular season. It was Muschamp’s decision, apparently, to not coach the Gators in any potential bowl game the program will be invited to play. This makes sense, as it gives him plenty of time to focus on his next job, whatever and wherever that may be. It also gives the entire program a chance to move in a new direction and the players a chance to play without the distractions that could come with the Muschamp sideshow.

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Texas’ Espinosa won’t seek sixth year

Mississippi v Texas

As it turns out, an injury occurred early on in the season has played a significant role in one of the most experienced Texas offensive linemen calling it a career.

Starting center Dominic Espinosa sustained what turned out to be a very significant ankle injury in UT’s season-opening win over North Texas.  Because a health issue kept him off the field as a true freshman in 2010, it was thought that the offensive lineman would apply for a sixth season of eligibility and return to the Longhorns in 2015.

That won’t be the case, however, as Espinosa himself confirmed, via a very heartfelt letter penned to the fans of the football program and posted on social media, that he is retiring from the game of football.

Prior to the injury in the opener, Espinosa had started 40 straight games at center for the Longhorns.

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Stanford won’t have Ty Montgomery for game vs. UCLA

Ryan Murphy, Ty Montgomery AP

Stanford’s offense has been bad enough with Ty Montgomery on the field.  Without him?  That’s far from optimal, yet that’s the position the Cardinal will find itself this weekend.

Tuesday afternoon, David Shaw confirmed that the all-purpose wide receiver will not play in Friday’s regular-season finale against UCLA.  Montgomery sustained an injury to his right shoulder very early on in last weekend’s win over Cal.

It’s the same shoulder that nearly kept him out of the opener after undergoing surgery earlier in the offseason.  Shaw did say there’s a “distinct possibility” he’ll be healthy enough to play in a bowl game.

Montgomery leads the Cardinal in receptions (61) and receiving yards (604), and is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (three).  Montgomery’s absence will also hurt the Cardinal on special teams as he’s their leading kickoff (25.2 yards per return) and punt returner (19.8 ypr).  He’s returned two punts for touchdowns this season.

The Hornung Award finalist being unavailable could also impact the Pac-12 South race.

If UCLA wins Saturday, they claim the division title and the spot opposite Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.  If UCLA loses, the winner of the Arizona-Arizona State game earns the berth.

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Gophers’ David Cobb ‘very questionable’ for B1G play-in game

Minnesota v Nebraska Getty Images

The winner of Saturday’s Minnesota-Wisconsin game will move on to face Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game the following weekend.  Unfortunately for one of the participants, they could very well be missing a very key piece of its running game.

Tuesday afternoon, Gophers head coach Jerry Kill was asked about running back David Cobb‘s status for the play-in game. “Very questionable,” Kill responded.

Cobb sustained a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter of the Week 13 win over Nebraska in Lincoln.

Especially when it comes to a game with such high stakes, losing Cobb would be a significant blow for the Gophers.

Cobb has rushed for 1,430 yards this season, over 1,000 yards more than the team’s No. 2 rusher, quarterback Mitch Leidner (407).  The top back besides Cobb?  Berkley Edwards and his 140 yards.

While Cobb is ninth nationally in rushing, his Gopher teammates on the defensive side of the ball will be tasked with stopping the nation’s leading rusher (2,109 yards) and scorer of rushing touchdowns (25) in Melvin Gordon.

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Christian Hackenberg’s dad ‘won’t even touch’ transfer talk

Christian Hackenberg, Adolphus Washington

To say that Christian Hackenberg‘s second season in Happy Valley has been underwhelming would be an understatement.

As a true freshman, Hackenberg completed 59 percent of his passes and tossed 20 touchdowns vs. 10 interceptions in Bill O’Brien‘s final year at Penn State.  In James Franklin‘s first season with the Nittany Lions, Hackenberg has thrown just eight touchdowns against 14 interceptions in completing just over 55 percent of his passes.  In 2013, he threw for 2,955 yards on 392 attempts; in 389 passes this season, he’s totaled 2,411 yards.

Certainly not all of the struggles are on Hackenberg — the offensive line has allowed 39 sacks and even more quarterback hits — but those struggles, alongside public squabbling with teammates and just overall frustration, has led some to speculate that the Freshman All-American could be looking to transfer from the  Nittany Lions at season’s end.  In a telephone interview with Lancaster Online, Hackenberg’s father, a former college quarterback himself, didn’t exactly refute the speculation, although he did allow that leaving is not a talking point for the family.  Well, at least for now it’s not.

I won’t even touch that,” Erick Hackenberg told the paper when asked about the rumors. “That’s everyone else’s $64,000 question. The $64,000 question in the Lasch Building (PSU’s football facility) and in this household is how can we get better every week and at the end of the year be in a better place than now — or three weeks from now, or a month from now, at a bowl game, be at a better place than we are now. Everything else will handle itself.

“I don’t really have a comment on that at all. I think that’s a lot of conjecture. … It’s the outside, looking in. Out of respect to Coach (James) Franklin and the team, out of respect to Christian and everybody else, that’s not fair to a lot of people, so I’m not going to touch that. That’s something that doesn’t even need to be talked about at this point. He loves being at Penn State.”

It seems highly unlikely that Hackenberg, a five-star recruit rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2013 coming out of high school in Virginia, would leave the Nittany Lions after this season.  Stranger things have happened, though so it at least bears monitoring.

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Irish won’t have two starting defensive linemen for USC game

Rice v Notre Dame Getty Images

Notre Dame will head into its annual rivalry game with USC very shorthanded along its defensive line.

Tuesday afternoon, head coach Brian Kelly confirmed that Sheldon Day (pictured, left) and Jarron Jones (pictured, right) have been ruled out of Saturday’s game with the Trojans due to injuries. Day will miss a second consecutive game because of a sprained knee, while Jones is out with a Lisfranc injury.

Day could return for a bowl game, Kelly said, but Jones is out for the remainder of the season. Jones will undergo surgery next week and be sidelined for anywhere from 4-6 months, which means his availability for spring practice is certainly up in the air.

Jones had started all 11 games this season and totaled 12 for his career.  Day started the first 10 games before suffering his knee injury.  He has 17 career starts.

The injury news is not limited to the defensive line, unfortunately, as freshman defensive back Drue Tranquill sustained a torn ACL in the loss to Louisville and will, obviously, be out for the remainder of the 2014 season.  As is the case with Jones, Tranquill’s availability for spring practice is in jeopardy.

Tranquill had started two of the last three games at safety for the Irish.

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Baylor toots its own ‘game control’ horn

Art Briles AP

Rather quickly, discussion over College Football Playoff worthiness has devolved into the murky world of “game control.”

While ESPN has created some type of tangible statistic for it, the CFP committee has cloaked itself in the abstract when it comes to “game control.” As was the case when it came to obscenity, apparently the Supreme Court of College Football just knows it when it sees it.

There are seven teams widely viewed as capable of landing a seat at the four-team playoff table. One of those, one-loss and seventh-ranked Baylor, has taken to touting its own “game control” prowess in its weekly game notes release.

Baylor Game Control

As for the Bears players?  The metric doesn’t compute.

“Haven’t heard it,” offensive tackle Pat Colbert said when asked about “game control.”

One of Colbert’s teammates, though, knows what’s really important.

“At the end of the day, you just have to go and win out the season and see where you are at the end,” running back Shock Linwood said. “You’re in control of your own destiny.

“We all know what it takes for us to be in the playoffs. We have to go out there and finish the year off right.”

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Tide remains Bovada’s title favorites

Nick Saban AP

With one week left in the Power Five regular season — two if you’re the Big 12 — the gang from Tuscaloosa remains the apple of one wagering website’s eye.

According to Bovada.lv, Alabama remains its favorite to win the 2014 College Football Playoff at 2/1.  Those are slightly shorter odds than the 5/2 the Tide was getting in the set of odds released by Bovada last week.

Oregon remains behind UA, although the Ducks’ odds went from 15/4 on Nov. 18 to 9/2 this release.  2013 BCS champion Florida State, which began the 2014 season as the CFP favorite, remained at 6/1 for the third straight week.

Of the remaining seven teams still listed by Bovada, three saw its odds lengthen from last week — Ohio State, at 7/1 from 6/1; TCU, at 8/1 and 7/1; and Georgia, 33/1 from 25/1 — while three saw shortened ones — Baylor and Mississippi State, 17/2 to 8/1; and UCLA, 50/1 to 25/1.

One team was taken off Bovada‘s board, and that was Ole Miss.  The Rebels had been at 33/1 a week ago.  Missouri, meanwhile, went from off the board to 50/1, the longest odds of any of the 10 teams receiving odds this week.

Bovada Week 13 CFP Odds

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A Buckeye throws another rivalry punch? ‘They’re dismissed’

Dontre Wilson, Delano Hill AP

The 110th edition of Michigan-Ohio State in 2013 featured two Buckeyes — offensive lineman Marcus Hall and running back Dontre Wilson — being ejected from The Game for throwing punches in the midst of a kick-return fracas.

Neither player was dismissed or suspended by head coach Urban Meyer, although Hall was reprimanded by the Big Ten for twin obscene gestures and didn’t start — or ultimately play — in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State the following week.

With the 111th edition of The Game on the horizon? It appears Meyer is taking a more strident stance when it comes to in-game fisticuffs.

“He said he wants the game to be very intense, but if anybody throws a punch they’re dismissed,” linebacker Curtis Grant said Monday. “He pretty much put it out there [Sunday]. There’s no telling what will happen if we get in a fight this year.”

For his part, Meyer acknowledged “a very strong conversation” with his team Sunday when it came to last year’s The Game incident, although he stopped short of mentioning a boot if another jab is thrown.

“That’s not the way we play the game and I think a lot of lessons were learned,” Meyer said. “We went without one of our key linemen in the championship game the following week and we played a game without two or three good players. So that’s not, that was a very strong conversation (Sunday) in the team meeting.”

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New Mexico State hires Southern Illinois’ Mario Moccia as AD

Mario Mocca

New Mexico State has plucked away Southern Illinois athletics director Mario Moccia to lead its own department, the school announced on Monday.

Moccia is a New Mexico State alum, which explains why he’d leave a stable Division I program for a department straddling between the its mismatched place in the Sun Belt (in football) and the flailing WAC (in everything else). He’ll earn $240,000 a year, plus incentives.

“This is an exciting day for me and my family,” Moccia said in a statement. “Returning to one’s alma mater is an opportunity not afforded to many people and to come back to Las Cruces and New Mexico State University where I have so many fond memories as a student-athlete makes me a very fortunate individual. I know my wife, Heidi, and children Addie and Gemma are excited as well.

“At the same time there are mixed emotions of leaving a tremendous athletic staff, program and so many friends in the southern Illinois area,” he said. “After eight plus years you create many close friendships and both Heidi and I hope that the distance won’t be an obstacle to continuing them.”

“While I am disappointed to see Mario leave, I completely understand what a unique and fulfilling opportunity it will be for him to serve as athletic director at his alma mater,” Southern Illinois head coach Dale Lennon said. “I will always be grateful for the privilege of working under his leadership and for his unwavering support of the Saluki football program.”

Moccia inherits one of the most challenging football situations in FBS. The Aggies are 4-19 in two years under head coach Doug Martin with one game remaining this season. The Aggies have not won a conference championship since 1978, and last played in a bowl game in 1960.

Moccia had been Southern Illinois’ AD since 2006. A former baseball player, Moccia spent time in the Detroit Tigers’ farm system and was inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame in 1998.

Moccia was named the Under Armour Athletics Director of the Year in 2013.

(Photo credit: New Mexico State athletics)
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MAC reprimands four Central Michigan players for refusing to shake hands

Three weeks ago, Maryland captains refused to shake hands with their Penn State counterparts before their 20-19 win.

 

Ninety-nine percent of America saw it and thought, “Shame on them.” Central Michigan’s captains thought, “Cool, let’s try it!”

Central Michigan captains Titus DavisJustin CherocciAndy PhillipsLeterrius Walton declined to shake hands of Western Michigan’s captains, and on Monday the Mid-American Conference issued a public reprimand for that decision.

“Sportsmanship is among the core values of intercollegiate athletics and a value reinforced by members of the Mid-American Conference,” commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement. “While the pre-game handshake is a simple gesture, it is one that is symbolic of the ethics and traditions of the game.  Team captains are expected to demonstrate leadership and have a responsibility to pattern behavior that exemplifies the very best values of the team and institution they represent.”

The conference has endorsed Central Michigan’s decision to strip the four players of their captainship.

To add insult to insult, Central Michigan lost the game, 32-20. The Chippewas have concluded their regular season at 7-5 and wait to see if they will garner a bowl selection.

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Black Monday strikes as five FCS schools make coaching changes

The Football Championship Subdivision regular season came to a close on Monday, which means the coaching carousel got rolling on Monday with five schools making changes.

At the top of the list is Youngstown State, a program that claims four national championships. ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported Monday evening that head coach Eric Wolford would not return after five seasons on the job and a 31-25 record. Wolford posted four winning campaigns in his five seasons, but did not qualify for the FCS playoffs. Cruelly, the Penguins came within a field goal of making the playoffs this season. They lost 27-24 in overtime to Indiana State on Nov. 15; both teams finished 7-4, and Indiana State earned an at-large berth in the 24-team bracket, while Youngstown State did not.

Jim Tressel is the president of Youngstown State University, and FootballScoop.com posted Monday that the next coach will likely have ties to the former Youngstown and Ohio State coach.

Next, Alabama State announced that it would not renew the contract of head coach Reggie Barlow, and that associate head coach/offensive line coach Antonio Bradford had been named interim head coach. Barlow went 49-42 in eight seasons at the school, and 7-5 this season.

“We thank coach Barlow for his contributions to Alabama State University, as a student-athlete, assistant coach, and head coach,” Alabama State president Gwendolyn Boyd said in a statement.

At Norfolk State, head coach Pete Adrian announced his retirement after 10 seasons at the school. His 54 wins are the second-most in Norfolk State history.

“My time at Norfolk State has been terrific,” Adrian said in a release. “The players and the administration have been great to work with, and I will miss them very much. But after 46 years in coaching, I feel like I need to spend more time with my family while I can. I am very grateful for the opportunity to coach at NSU and to the fans and University administration for the support they have given me.”

Virginia Military Institute announced it would not extend the contract of head coach Sparky Woods, who compiled a 17-62 mark in seven seasons.

“Jean Ann and I thank VMI for the opportunity I’ve had to serve as head football coach,” Woods said in the announcement. “It’s been a blessing to know and work with the exemplary cadet-athletes who have been part of our program. They have excelled as cadets, as students, and as citizens, and I am proud of them and the progress we have made together. I also thank our staff for their focus and tireless energy. We leave this program with the belief that we have built a solid foundation for the future, and we wish VMI football the best.”

Finally, Wagner revealed that head coach Walt Hameline will step down and give way to associate head coach/offensive coordinator Jason Houghtaling.

“To be the head coach here at Wagner for almost 35 years, it’s been an outstanding experience. It truly has been an honor to have coached so many outstanding student-athletes and to have worked with so many excellent coaches,” said Hameline. “I’ve had great support from our president and our board of trustees through the years, have worked with tremendous administrators here on staff, and look forward to continuing to lead the Seahawk athletic department.”

Hameline retires ranking 49th on the NCAA’s all-time wins list 223 victories. He will remain on as athletics director, a post he has held since 1981.

Additionally, Missouri State head coach Terry Allen was let go on Sunday after nine seasons on the job.

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Les Miles sidesteps questions regarding his interest in the Michigan job

Les Miles

LSU head coach Les Miles was asked about the impending opening at Michigan and his prospective interest in the job should it come open at his weekly availability on Monday, and he didn’t exactly shoot the speculation down with a high-caliber rifle.

“I have given little or no thought to any other jobs, and I am so comfortable with my team and doing what I’m doing,” Miles said, via MLive.com. “I do not read the paper. I certainly respect and love Michigan and wish them the very best.”

Miles played under Bo Schembechler in the 1970’s, and served as offensive line coach under Schembechler and his replacement Gary Moeller from 1987-94. He has turned down the Wolverines before, though, declining an offer following the 2007 job as LSU was in the midst of a national championship march. That job, of course, went to Rich Rodriguez, sending Michigan into a tailspin from which it has yet to recover. Which brings us back to ‘ol Lester.

Asked if he considered it a compliment for his name to be a thrown in the mix, Miles again hemmed and hawed.

“I, uh, don’t really look at it as a compliment or not, I haven’t read the newspaper in a month, just so you know,” he said. “It’s hard for me to tell you what the record of other schools are.”

There is one way for Miles to make the speculation go away, and that is to definitively state he will be LSU’s coach in 2015. But he didn’t do that.

However, that does not mean Miles will be Michigan’s next head coach. Far from it. He could have an interest in holding a conversation with interim athletics director Jim Hackett just to see if he would maybe, possibly be interested – he did the same with Jeff Long at Arkansas before he ultimately hired Bret Bielema - or he could be interested in serving as a reference point in hopes of helping identify another coach to send his alma mater pointed in the right direction.

Anything’s possible. And that’s kind of the point, because Les left it that way.

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Paul Finebaum will do a live simulcast of the Iron Bowl on SEC Network

SEC Network open house

Are you a fan of bombastic SEC personality Paul Finebaum? If you answered that query in the affirmative, the folks at ESPN have something up their sleeve for you.

Playing off the success of the BCS National Championship multi-cast, Sports Illustrated media writer Richard Deitsch wrote Monday that ESPN planned to provide a simulcast of Saturday’s AP No. 15 Alabama at No. 1 Alabama tilt on SEC Network with Finebaum taking calls throughout the game. The show will be called Finebaum Film Room: Iron Bowl Live.

The simulcast was borne out of rare circumstances. First, ESPN had to gain rights to televise the Iron Bowl in the first place – a rarity in recent years, ESPN has aired the game once in the past decade – which it did thanks to CBS reaching its contractual limit of five Alabama broadcasts with the Mississippi State game on Nov. 15.

CBS picked up the Egg Bowl, which meant ESPN was free to grab the Iron Bowl and plunk it in a primetime slot of 7:45 p.m. ET.

Next, SEC Network had to have the free airspace with which to air this Finebaum-mania. The SEC Thanksgiving weekend schedule is traditionally sparse, and especially so this year: LSU visits Texas A&M on Thursday night, Arkansas visits Missouri on Friday, and SEC-ACC rivalries pitting Florida and Florida State, South Carolina and Clemson and Kentucky and Louisville all swung to the ACC’s television package this season. With only Georgia Tech at Georgia and Tennessee at Vanderbilt on the docket, SEC Network had the space to run its simulcast.

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Former Texas RB Joe Bergeron involved in off campus incident, accused of punching a female student

Joe Bergeron

Joe Bergeron has dominated the Division II Lone Star Conference for Texas A&M-Commerce this season, rushing 148 times for 859 yards and 12 touchdowns for the 8-3 Lions. Of course, the only reason Bergeron is a Lion in the first place is because of his July 25 dismissal from the Texas roster by new head coach Charlie Strong.

And now we may have a glimpse as to why Strong cut his talented running back loose.

According to documents obtained by FoxSportsSouthwest.com, Bergeron allegedly punched, slapped and shoved a female student in the post-midnight hours of Oct. 9.

Police were called and a report was filed, but Bergeron was not charged with a crime.

“What we uncovered and found to be accurate was that he was involved in an incident off-campus,” A&M-Commerce athletics director Ryan Ivey told FSSW. “We don’t believe that it was as severe as the incident report is.”

According to the incident report, the victim and Bergeron’s group of friends began arguing at a bar in Commerce, and then argued again outside the Kappa Alpha fraternity house. After a heated exchange, the victim allegedly knocked a cup from Bergeron’s hands, and he responded by punching her in the face.

She then followed him into the house, where he shoved her against a wall. The victim approached Bergeron again, and he then slapped her on the left side of her face, the same spot where he had allegedly punched her moments before.

Texas A&M-Commerce head coach Colby Carthel suspended Bergeron for a violation of team rules for the Lions’ Oct. 11 game with Angelo State, but he returned a week later to rush 11 times for 34 yards in a 48-21 win over West Texas A&M.

“We talked to a number of people, those that were there, those that were outside of it,” Ivey said. “We interviewed a number of people and just felt like what we did, the punishment fit his involvement.”

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