Colorado St. players involved in ‘savage beating’ of students suspended

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A disturbing incident which took place over the weekend has resulted in three players being at least temporarily removed from the Colorado State football program.

The players — junior defensive end Nordly Capi (pictured), junior linebacker Mike Orakpo and junior defensive end Colton Paulhus — were allegedly involved in the “savage beating“, as the Fort Collins Coloradoan described it, of four freshman CSU students at a party late Friday night.  The alleged victims were left with various injuries, from chipped teeth to eyes nearly swollen shut to cuts and bruises to one having a boot print left on his back from where he was allegedly assaulted by one of the football players.

Two of the alleged victims, 19-year-old John ‘JD’ Haley and 20-year-old Donny Gocha, spoke to the Coloradoan and relayed their version of how the events that night transpired.

They say they were leaving a party at LaPorte and Shields about midnight on Friday when an SUV loaded with fellow students drove past, its occupants yelling homophobic insults. When Gocha responded with the same insult, the SUV screeched to a halt and several men piled out, Haley said.

“You could just tell they were looking for a fight,” Haley said. “They just started beating the back of Donny’s head in.”

Haley said he and their other two friends tried to protect Gocha while the much larger men kicked and punched him.

“I covered Donny’s head with my body,” Haley said. “We were all scared for his life. It froze me. You can’t really put into words how disturbing it was. My only thought was to protect his head.”

Haley added that “[i]t wasn’t really much of a fight. It was basically just a beating.  I’ve never seen anyone so mad, so violent. The kid was on a rampage.” Haley did not reveal which football-playing “kid” to which he was referring.

In a Facebook posting that was subsequently deleted, offensive lineman Trey Cassidy acknowledged that unnamed teammates were involved in the alleged beating, in essence apologizing for their actions and lamenting the fact that the entire program will be portrayed in a harsh light because of the actions of a few.

“Well first off, I want to apologize for what my teammates have done to three students last night. I just talked to the students who were assaulted. I hang out in their hall regularly and do not believe that there is any hostility between us,” Cassidy wrote Saturday on a Facebook group where Haley had posted photos of his injuries. “I figured everyone else should know that not everyone on the team are like these athletes that get into fights every other weekend. But it is this select few … that get the rest of us labeled as a group, you would assume that everyone on campus would realize this. But let’s face reality people, some people are going to label the entire team as hot headed people that can’t be trusted.”

“A group of football players jumped a few students, I am not allowed to really get into it but I can say they are currently suspended.”

Capi, who led the Mountain West Conference in sacks last season, and Orakpo, the younger brother of former Texas standout Brian Orakpo and the Rams’ third-leading tackler in 2011, were also involved in a physical altercation around St. Patrick’s Day this year.  No charges were ever filed in that incident, nor have any been filed (yet) as a result of this latest situation.

First-year head coach Jim McElwain announced Saturday that three players had been indefinitely suspended by the program.  While again not releasing the specific names of the players, and perhaps in response to the calls for all three players to be permanently dismissed from the program, McElwain released a statement Monday afternoon.  Here it is, in its entirety:

“At this point, the three players reported to be involved in the incident over the weekend are indefinitely suspended from the football program. That means they are effectively no longer part of this team and will not take part in any football-related activity. We do not condone in any way, shape or form this type of behavior. It is completely unacceptable.

“I understand people want me to remove them from the team immediately. But until the investigation concludes and due process takes its course, suspending them indefinitely is the strongest action I can take.

“The vast majority of players in this program are good kids. They work hard and they do the right thing. They understand that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

Once the police investigation is completed, that report will be the basis for an internal investigation, which will determine what if any permanent sanctions will be levied on any or all of the players allegedly involved.

Jim McElwain hints at playing three quarterbacks vs. Michigan

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Considering his opponent won’t so much as release a simple roster, there’s no reason whatsoever for Florida head coach Jim McElwain to say anything of consequence.

Still, it sounds as if No. 17 Florida may play all three of its quarterbacks next Saturday against No. 11 Michigan (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

“You’re going to see a bunch of them in there playing. The three guys have done a really good job. Not naming a starter right now,” McElwain said. “I think that there’s some things that they all bring to the table that are really good. Now the key to us is putting them in those positions that play to their strengths.

“Will all of them play? I don’t know yet. Will a couple of them play? I don’t know yet. I know we will have somebody at the position. This is not — don’t read into this that we’re not happy where they’re at. It’s really more so the competition has really brought out some good things. It’s going to be … ultimately the guy the team moves with the best, the guys that create positive plays on third down and get the ball in the end zone [that we go with].”

The three of them, by the way, are graduate transfer Malik Zaire, junior Luke Del Rio and redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks. In a world governed by the truism of “If you have two quarterbacks you don’t have any,” it’s not exactly a good sign that none of Zaire, Del Rio or Franks have separated themselves from the others.

Zaire showed flashes but was eventually benched at Notre Dame and just arrived on campus this summer. Del Rio, a 2-time transfer before arriving at Florida, was the Gators’ starter coming out of training camp last season but fought through injuries throughout the season. And Franks is a 6-foot-5 former 5-star recruit that many thought would have grabbed the job by the horns by now.

While every team turns over from one season to the next, Florida finished 105th nationally in yards per play last season while Michigan’s defense placed second. With top playmaker Antonio Callaway serving a suspension, Florida will look to put the ball in the hands of whomever can move it, even if three of them happen to play quarterback.

Tracy Claeys discusses protests that led to his firing from Minnesota

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Chances are you haven’t heard Tracy Claeys‘s name mentioned in a while. The former Minnesota interim-turned-full time head coach was let go in January and has not been picked up by a new staff in the months since.

But Minnesota released an outside report last week that defended the school’s decision to suspend 10 players amid a sexual assault investigation and pinned the subsequent team-wide threatened boycott of the Holiday Bowl on “weak leadership” of the coaching staff. The Gophers played and won that Holiday Bowl, but it wasn’t enough to save Claeys’s job.

On Wednesday, Claeys penned an essay in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that both defended his tenure as the Golden Gophers’ head coach and admitted mistakes in a saga that would have swallowed many a head coach’s career.

Last September, I suspended five players for a reported sexual assault. When law enforcement authorities the following month declined to file any charges, the university reinstated those players. At the time, I was congratulated by our athletic director for my handling of this issue and promised that I would remain the head football coach in 2017.

But university officials soon conducted their own inquiry and in December resuspended the five players and suspended five more — again, even though prosecutors had determined there was no basis for formal charges.

Members of our Football Leadership Group and others on the team felt strongly that administration officials had overstepped their authority and that the accused players were treated unfairly and denied protection under due process. To amplify their argument and shine light on what players felt was a flawed and unjust process by the university, the team voted to boycott the Holiday Bowl.

It was a decision that moved us directly into the national spotlight. Unfortunately, some misunderstood or misinterpreted the players’ decision to boycott the Holiday Bowl. They felt that our team and coaches were condoning or downplaying sexual misconduct or assault. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In light of this new report, are there things I would have done differently? Certainly. First and foremost, I would have remained on campus with my team and coaches rather than attend a Holiday Bowl news conference in San Diego. I’m confident that my presence would have better directed the conversation with our players and that I could have steered them toward something other than a decision to boycott the game.

 I also would have refrained from using social media to state my support of the team’s decision. This was too complex and important an issue to address in a 140-character message. It generated more questions than it answered and likely created more problems than it solved.
Claeys was 11-8 in his one and a half seasons as Minnesota’s head coach, his first head coaching job. Assuming he does not get hired in the next week and a half, the 2017 season will be Claeys’s first out of the game since launching his career as a student trainer at Kansas in the early ’90’s.

Kirk Ferentz and wife donate $1 million to Iowa children’s hospital

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Kirk Ferentz may be the but of a bunch of contract-related jokes, but no one jokes about the man’s character.

And for good reason.

The University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital announced Wednesday that Kirk and his wife Mary have donated $1 million to create the Savvy Ferentz Program in Neonatal Research, which will aim to improve the survival rate for premature babies. The Ferentzes made the donation in honor of their granddaughter Savvy, who was born in 2014 at 22 weeks gestation.

“We knew Savvy was born too early,” Mary said in a statement. “We also knew they do extraordinary things at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital that would give her a fighting chance. We were thankful we had that.”

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital claims higher survival rates for infants born at 24- and 25-weeks than the average U.S. hospital, and the Ferentzes hope their donation will further increase those rates.

“The University of Iowa has long been a leader in neonatal research and in providing high-level patient care, particularly to this most vulnerable population,” Iowa pediatrics professor Dr. Jeffrey L. Segar said. “This gift from the Ferentzes will help us capitalize on our strengths, advance our research, and, most important, make an impact on the lives of many Iowa children and their families, now and far into the future. We are deeply grateful for their support.”

Kirk Ferentz will begin his 19th season as Iowa’s head coach next Saturday against Wyoming (noon ET, BTN).

Texas TE Andrew Beck now out for entire 2017 season

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As it turns out, it’s much worse than originally thought for one playing member of the Texas football program.

Nearly a week ago, Andrew Beck went down during practice with what was later diagnosed to be a broken foot.  At the time, it was thought that the tight end would miss anywhere from 6-8 weeks, which would’ve put him back, at the latest, early October.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, however, and the Longhorns announced that Beck will be sidelined for the entire 2017 season because of the injury.  The senior will undergo surgery at some point this week to repair the damage.  He’s already undergone two previous foot surgeries and sat out the spring because of issues in that area.

The good news is that Beck has yet to use his redshirt season, which means he could return in 2018 as a fifth-year senior.

Beck started 13 games the past two seasons, including three in 2016.  Last season, he caught four passes for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Entering summer camp, he had been expected to be the Longhorns’ starter.

With Beck out, that onus will likely fall on Kendall Moore, a graduate transfer from Syracuse.