Florida DT’s adoption by former booster raises eyebrows, but where’s the incentive?

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Impermissible benefits have become a numbing part of the NCAA’s role in college football (and college athletics in general), but what happens when a player who’s received impermissible benefits is adopted by someone who’s already been disassociated from a program for giving them out?

You get Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and his adoptive family,  Kevin and Tiffany Lahn.

Floyd, a junior defensive tackle for the Gators, was suspended two games and forced to repay nearly $3,000 in benefits he received last year “for living expenses, transportation and other expenses” by “an individual not associated with the university.” Turns out, that individual was Lahn, according to a story from the USA Today.

“After his suspension, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was adopted, at age 20, by the man who provided those benefits,” the paper writes.

Lahn, a vice president of a commercial real estate company, was actually disassociated from South Carolina in April of this year for his role in providing benefits to Gamecocks student-athletes. South Carolina was hit with three years probation, as well as scholarship and recruiting restrictions as part of the NCAA’s punishment.

Given that bit of information, the USA Today pondered if Lahn’s adoption of Floyd “could be a loophole used in the future to provide benefits for elite athletes.” You can read the entire story HERE — it really is a solid write-up by Rachel George — but we thought about the possibility of an impermissible benefits loophole too. Basically, the NCAA answered the question for us:

John Infante, a former assistant compliance director at Colorado State and Loyola Marymount and author of the Bylaw Blog, says the NCAA likely wouldn’t want to get involved in assessing the legitimacy of adoptions and trying to determine whether they have been done to formalize an existing relationship or to find a way around the rules to provide benefits.

“It’s between a rock and a hard place, because, on one hand, you let this go, if you’re saying this is the one thing we’re not going to touch — parents and legal guardians — well then you’ve established a way around the rules where AAU coaches, runners, agents, boosters just adopt kids and start providing for them,” he says. “You can basically do whatever you want.”

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn says examinations are made on a case-by-case basis. “If a student-athlete is adopted, from that point forward the individual would be treated as any other parent,” Osburn said in an e-mail.

We’ve criticized the NCAA often here at CFT, but if the Association doesn’t look too deep into Floyd’s arrangement you won’t hear a peep from us about it. Yes, it’s possible that the Lahn family is using adoption as a loophole to provide Floyd with what the NCAA would normally consider to be impermissible benefits, but is it likely? When you really think about it, doesn’t that sound like a high risk, low reward situation?

Let’s assume for argument’s sake there is an ulterior motive on the part of the Lahn family:  that they hope by giving Floyd lavish gifts they’ll be rewarded with a hefty return on investment later when Floyd, considered to be a high draft prospect, is signing his pro contract. For one, that’s a lot of finger and toe crossing. Floyd could get hurt, fizzle out or blow his money Vince Young style by buying his entire team “Death by Chocolate” at the Cheesecake Factory five days a week for three years.

Even if the Lahn family networks Floyd with a top agent — that would be an NCAA violation — that’s not going to prevent an athlete from a “broken and poor family” from knowing how to manage his finances, which may or may not involve them. And all in the name of providing permissible benefits?

Secondly, the Lahn family is clearly well-off. They have a 6,500-square-foot home on a golf course, they take trips to Miami and they gave Floyd a Ford Explorer as a gift. Nobody’s eating Top Ramen and hot dogs in the Lahn household — not that there’s anything wrong with that part of a balanced diet. And guess what? Floyd isn’t the only college athlete eating from the silver spoon his family provides. He might be in the minority, but he’s not on an island.

But putting business decisions aside, sometimes you just have to consider the process of adopting a kid of any age.

“There’s no ulterior motive on either part. It was just that they bonded really well,” Steve Gordon, a close friend of both Floyd and Lahn, told the paper. “(Adoption is) a huge load. You can’t do it for an ulterior motive other than that you actually have love and concern for the kid and their well-being.”

Well, you can, it just has to be one hell of a good motive. For the Lahn family, it would appear adding a member to their family is good enough.

Fortune Magazine names Nick Saban one of World’s 50 Greatest Leaders

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Add another line to the future College Football Hall of Famer’s burgeoning résumé.

Fortune Magazine Thursday released its annual list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.  Checking in at No. 12, ahead of the likes of Apple CEO (and Auburn alum) Tim Cook (No. 14), Oprah Winfrey (No. 27) and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (No. 29)?  Alabama Crimson Tide head football coach Nick Saban.  He’s the only individual on the list with direct ties to college football.

Below is a portion of the magazine’s write-up on the coach:

Add an earlier one he won at LSU in 2003, and his six rings match Alabama legend Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most football championships by a college coach in the so-called poll era, dating back to 1936. Now that he’s succeeded to a historic degree, Saban is grappling with the sports version of what business guru Clayton Christensen famously dubbed the “Innovator’s Dilemma”—the fact that success today makes it hard to keep the edge you need to win in the future. But if the last few years are any indication, the grappling is going pretty well.

The only other individuals from the sports world who made the list tennis player Serena Williams (No. 15) and “The Gymnasts and Their Allies” (No. 22), with the latter connected to the scandal surrounding disgraced former professor at Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and sports physician for both the Spartans and USA Gymnastics Larry Nassar.

For the complete list, including the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and other schools at No. 1, click HERE.

Alabama announces future home-and-home with Notre Dame

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The reports have officially come to fruition.

Late last month, it was reported that Alabama was working on scheduling a home-and-home series with Notre Dame.  Nearly a month later, the Crimson Tide confirmed that it has indeed reached a scheduling agreement with their counterparts with the Fighting Irish.

The Crimson Tide will travel to South Bend Sept. 2, 2028, with the Fighting Irish heading to Tuscaloosa on Sept. 1 of the following season.

“It doesn’t get more tradition-rich than Alabama and Notre Dame when it comes to college football,” a statement from UA athletic director Greg Byrne began. “What a great opportunity this is for our program and for our fans to kick off the 2028 and 2029 seasons.”

The two storied football programs have met seven times previously, with the last coming in the 2012 championship game.  The Tide won that last matchup, but trail in the series 5-2.  Including the BCS title game, three of the meetings have come in the postseason, with the other two being the 1973 Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl following the 1974 season.

The 2029 game will mark the Fighting Irish’s first-ever appearance at Bryant-Denny Stadium as their two previous regular-season games against the Crimson Tide were played at Legion Field in Birmingham (1980, 1986).  Alabama has played Notre Dame in South Bend twice (1976, 1987).

“We are excited to be able to add a home-and-home series with a team like Notre Dame,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “Alabama and Notre Dame represent two of the most storied programs in college football history. What a great opportunity for our team and our fans to be able to witness these teams play in two of the sport’s most iconic venues in Tuscaloosa and South Bend.”

Tennessee announces four-year deal for AD Phillip Fulmer

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Earlier this month, it was reported that Tennessee and Phillip Fulmer were closing in on a long-term deal.  Two weeks later, those reports have come to fruition.

Thursday morning, UT announced that it has reached an agreement on a four-year contract with Fulmer to continue in his role as athletic director.  Fulmer was named as acting athletic director on Dec. 1, not long after John Currie was fired from the post.  His first big move came less than a week after being tabbed for the role when Jeremy Pruitt was hired as the Volunteers’ new head football coach.

Fulmer’s contract will reportedly average $1 million annually, with the opportunity to earn up to $300,000 in bonuses as well.

“Phillip has been a great partner over the last four months and I commend him for the work he has done with our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” chancellor Beverly Davenport said in a statement. “Phillip has been connected to the University of Tennessee and its athletics program for more than 40 years and he understands the expectations we have for our athletics department.

“He is surrounded by a very knowledgeable staff that is deeply committed to the success of our student-athletes. I look forward to our continued partnership.”

A native of Winchester, Tenn., Fulmer played his college football for the Volunteers in the late sixties.  He began his coaching career at UT as a grad assistant from 1972-73, then returned as offensive line coach in 1980.  After spending 13 seasons as an assistant, he took over as the Volunteers head coach in 1992 — Johnny Majors has always alleged Fulmer was behind his ouster — and spent 17 seasons leading his alma mater.

In that span, Fulmer went 152-52, winning a pair of SEC titles and the 1998 national championship.

“I am very grateful to Chancellor Davenport for the opportunity to continue to serve our outstanding university and its proud legacy,” Fulmer said. “The positive momentum established by our talented student-athletes, dedicated coaches, excellent staff, our great alumni and fans has united us all. I am excited to work alongside them as we push forward in pursuit of excellence in all sports.”

Jalen Hurts’ dad: if son loses Alabama QB battle, ‘he’d be biggest free agent in college football history’

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For the first time, the rumors surrounding the future of the quarterback situation at Alabama have some real legs.

Ever since true freshman Tua Tagovailoa replaced two-year starter Jalen Hurts in the national championship game, it’s been thought that the former would replace the latter as Alabama’s No. 1 quarterback moving forward.  Even with Tagovailoa battling a hand injury since very early in the spring, most observers are still of the opinion that the rising sophomore will win the job and be under center when Alabama opens the 2018 season against Louisville.

And, should that come to fruition?  Hurts’ father, Averion Hurts, very heavily intimated to Matt Hayes of Bleacher Report that his son, 26-2 as the starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide, would transfer if he loses a job he’s held for most of the past two seasons.

Coach Saban’s job is to do what’s best for his team. I have no problem with that,” Averion Hurts said. “My job is to do what’s best for Jalen—and make no mistake, Jalen is a quarterback, and he wants to play quarterback. He loves Alabama, loves Coach Saban and everything about that place. But he wants to play, and he will play…”

Averion stops mid-sentence because the idea of his son not playing for Alabama isn’t one he takes lightly. What if Jalen doesn’t win the job, he is asked?

He shakes his head slowly, answers begrudgingly. “Well, he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.

Given the rumors swirling around Hurts, the Crimson Tide has been in pursuit of at least one graduate transfer at the position this offseason.  East Carolina quarterback Gardner Minshew announced his commitment to UA in February, only to flip a month later to Washington State.

Earlier this month, a terse Saban told the media he has no timeline on making a decision on a starter.

“First of all, I don’t have a time frame. So how could it affect it? You have a time frame. I don’t,” the coach said. “So from your perspective, maybe I should ask you the question. From my perspective, if there is no time frame, how does it affect it? I can’t answer that. But I don’t think any time a player gets hurt at any position that he should be penalized for that.”

Earlier this week, Saban once again indicated that Tagovailoa would likely be a non-participant in this weekend’s spring game, meaning any decision on a starter likely won’t be made until some point during summer camp.