Tar Heels lose Giovani Bernard to the NFL

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Dozens of eligible underclassmen have or will announce in the coming weeks that they are leaving early for the NFL, with each carrying various degrees of impact on their respective team’s prospects for the 2013 season.

This one will likely have as big of an impact as any other.

Largely overlooked and undervalued outside of Chapel Hill specifically and the ACC in general over the past two seasons, Giovani Bernard announced that he has decided to leave North Carolina and enter the 2013 NFL draft.  The running back, who likely would’ve been included in the preseason Heisman mix, is foregoing his final two years of eligibility to make the leap.

A press conference has been scheduled for 2 p.m. ET today for Bernard to discuss the decision.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my three years in Chapel Hill and coming to UNC was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” said Bernard in a statement released ahead of the press conference.  “I feel like the best decision for my future is to enter the NFL draft this year.  I want to thank Coach Fedora, this coaching staff and the previous coaching staff for putting me in a position to succeed.  I am on track to graduate and I plan on coming back to earn my degree in the Spring of 2014.”

A torn ACL suffered during summer camp cost Bernard all of his true freshman season in 2010, but the redshirt sophomore came back to earn All-ACC first-team honors the past two seasons.  He led the conference in rushing, scoring and all-purpose yardage in 2012, and led the nation in punt returns average (16.4 yards per).

He accomplished all of that this season despite missing two games with a left knee issue.

“Gio is a special player and an even better person,” said UNC head coach Larry Fedora.  “He flourished in our offense and was an outstanding leader for our program.  After the season was over, we helped him gather as much information as possible so he and his family could make the best decision for his future.  We support his decision and wish him nothing but success as he takes the next step in his football career.  He is a tremendous ambassador for this program.”

Depending on which direction other players at his position take before the mid-January deadline, the 5-10, 205-pound Bernard could be the first running back selected in the upcoming draft.

Title IX probe into sexual assault allegations involving three Michigan State football players completed

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The Title IX investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving playing members of the Michigan State football team has ended, the Associated Press and other media outlets are reporting.

In early February, three unidentified football players as well as a football staffer were suspended amidst allegations that a sexual assault took place on January 16 at an on-campus apartment complex.  As a result of the allegations, a Title IX investigation into the alleged incident commenced in early February and lasted a little over three months.

That investigation was headed by Rebecca Veidlinger, an independent Title IX consultant and Ann Arbor attorney who previously worked in MSU’s Title IX office.  Because of federal privacy laws, the university will not release the findings of Veidlinger’s probe.

As for the next step in the process? Mlive.com explains.

Speaking generally about Title IX investigations, [university spokesperson Jason] Cody said there are two possible outcomes at the conclusion of an investigation. If no university policy violation is found, then the matter would be closed. If a policy violation was found, the case would then be sent to the school’s student conduct system.

The student conduct system could then levy any sanction ranging from a warning or probation to suspension or expulsion.

The alleged sexual assault has spawned three separate investigations, including the recently-completed Title IX probe.  A criminal investigation conducted by campus police led to requests for four arrest warrants to be issued, although the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office has thus far declined to act.  Additionally, the university has hired an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the football program and its handling of the allegations.

Thus far, the names of the players allegedly involved in the assault have not been released.  The suspended staffer was subsequently identified as Curtis Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance.  Blackwell, who is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault but rather a non-sexual crime after the fact, has received a pair of one-month contract extensions since his suspension was levied.

Ball State transfer WR Damon Hazelton officially added to Virginia Tech roster

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Virginia Tech officially bolstered its receiving corps Monday, although they won’t see an offensive dividend this season.

A little over a month ago, Ball State’s Damon Hazelton took to Twitter to reveal that he would be transferring to Tech. In a press release, the Hokies announced that the wide receiver began summer classes yesterday and will continue his collegiate playing career with the football team.

That continuation won’t happen on the field in 2017, though, as NCAA transfer rules will force Hazelton to sit out this season. He will then have three years to use three seasons of eligibility beginning in 2018.

The 6-2, 207-pound receiver will, however, be permitted to practice with the team while he sits out his transfer year.

Hazelton was a two-star member of Ball State’s 2016 recruiting class. As a true freshman last season, Hazelton was second on the Cardinals with 51 receptions for 505 yards, while his four receiving touchdowns were tops on the team.

Starting Marshall corner charged with drunk driving

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The “Days Without An Arrest” ticker had just gotten to halfway to double digits… and then Rodney Allen came along.

According to WSAZ-TV in Huntington, the Marshall cornerback was arrested on multiple charges over the weekend, including driving under the influence. Additionally, he is facing one count each of crashes involving damage to vehicle and not having a driver’s license.

From the television station’s report:

According to the criminal complaint, Allen was stopped early Sunday morning in the 1400 block of 4 1/2 alley. Allen was driving a vehicle attempting to leaving the scene of an accident that caused property damage.

According to the criminal complaint, Allen showed indications of being impaired at the scene. He then blew a .167 BAC into an intoxometer at HPD headquarters.

Allen only had an ID card out of Texas and not a driver’s license.

“We are aware of the situation and will handle it internally and appropriately,” a statement to the station from the university’s athletic department read.

Allen started 11 of 12 games for the Thundering Herd last season. His four forced fumbled tied for 10th nationally and his 14 passes defensed were tops in Conference USA, while his two interceptions tied for the team lead.

Miami makes addition of FCS All-American corner official

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Way back in late February, Dee Delaney announced via Instagram that he would be spending the 2017 season at Miami of Florida. Monday, that move officially came to fruition.

In a press release, The U confirmed that Delaney is now enrolled in classes for the university’s first summer session. As the cornerback is coming in as both a graduate transfer and a player from the FCS level, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2017.

This upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

Delaney was an FCS All-American at The Citadel each of the past two seasons. The 6-1, 191-pound defensive back intercepted 11 passes in that span, including six picks in 2016 that were tied for second at the FCS level.

Delaney was one of 11 new players the football program welcomed for the summer session. Nine of those are true freshmen, while the remaining addition, junior college transfer defensive back Jhavonte Dean, signaled his intentions to play for the Hurricanes in very early February.

“We are excited to welcome these young men to the University of Miami,” head coach Mark Richt said in a statement. “We continue to strengthen our roster with the addition of this group of players.”