Mark Emmert

Miami NOA delayed as NCAA investigates itself

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No, seriously.  This is actually happening.

Two weekends ago, a report surfaced that the NCAA would be issuing a Notice of Allegations to the Miami Hurricanes in connection to  improper benefits involving both the football and basketball programs.  That issuance was expected as early as a week ago Monday; since that report, there’s been nothing but crickets chirping as far as the ear could hear.

Today, we now know why the Notice of Allegations has been delayed, and the reasons behind the delay paint the NCAA in an even more negative light than it already has been over the past few years.

In a press release, the NCAA announced that its “national office has uncovered an issue of improper conduct within its enforcement program that occurred during the University of Miami investigation.”  In other words, the NCAA violated NCAA bylaws in its investigation of an NCAA member.  The genesis for the improper conduct seems to stem almost solely from documents obtained by the NCAA from bankruptcy proceedings involving Nevin Shapiro, the former UM booster who allegedly lavished millions of dollars in impermissible benefits on Hurricane football (mainly) and basketball players.

From the release:

Former NCAA enforcement staff members worked with the criminal defense attorney for Nevin Shapiro to improperly obtain information for the purposes of the NCAA investigation through a bankruptcy proceeding that did not involve the NCAA.

As it does not have subpoena power, the NCAA does not have the authority to compel testimony through procedures outside of its enforcement program. Through bankruptcy proceedings, enforcement staff gained information for the investigation that would not have been accessible otherwise.

As a result of misconduct on the part of his enforcement staff — conduct that he says “angered and saddened” him — president Mark Emmert confirmed that the NCAA “will not move forward with a Notice of Allegations against Miami until all the facts surrounding this issue are known.”

An external review of the NCAA’s enforcement program has been commissioned by Emmert.  Kenneth L. Wainstein, a partner with the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, has been retained by the NCAA and will be charged with conducting “a thorough investigation into the current issue as well as the overall enforcement environment, to ensure operation of the program is consistent with the essential principles of integrity and accountability.”

Emmert hopes that the review will be completed in a period of 7-10 days.

“Trust and credibility are essential to our regulatory tasks,” said Emmert.  “My intent is to ensure our investigatory functions operate with integrity and are fair and consistent with our member schools, athletics staff and most importantly our student-athletes.”

Regardless of how long this external review takes, it’s yet another delay in an investigation that’s more than two years in the making.

Shapiro first came to the NCAA’s attention in August of 2010, with reports surfacing that the convicted felon was writing a tell-all book in which he was alleging former Hurricane players had committed major NCAA violations.  In August of the next year, the NCAA’s investigation became public knowledge; a Yahoo! Sports report that same month had Shapiro claiming he spent “millions of dollars” on six dozen UM student-athletes, with the benefits ranging from “cash, prostitutes, entertainment in [Shapiro’s] multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and on one occasion, an abortion.”

In February of 2012, Shapiro, apparently agitated that nearly four dozen individuals connected to The U were lined up to testify against him in his federal trial, promised to take “that program down to Chinatown” and that the Miami story will become “an urban legend” before it’s all said and done.

Shapiro was ultimately sentenced to 20 years in prison for orchestrating what was in the neighborhood of a $1 billion Ponzi scheme.  The damage outside the courtroom, though, had already been done.

Miami has already self-imposed a bowl ban each of the past two seasons in an attempt to soften potential NCAA sanctions, although it was holding off on self-imposing scholarship reductions and other punitive measures for the time being.  How this latest revelation by the NCAA will affect a Notice of Allegations — if there even is one — remains to be seen.

Per the NCAA, a NOA is sent to notify a member institution that enough evidence exists that major violations have occurred and that The Association is moving forward in the process.  Some have asked whether misconduct on the part of the investigative staff will result in some sort of a “mistrial” for Miami’s case.

“It’s premature to answer that question,” Emmert said on a conference call Wednesday, adding, “this is a shocking affair.”

If/when Miami receives its NOA from the NCAA — Emmert said during the conference call that information obtained surreptitiously was a very small part of the case and would be “thrown out” — they will have 90 days to respond.  Following that response, UM will appear in front of the Committee on Infractions to answer the allegations.  Typically 6-8 weeks thereafter, the NCAA will issue its findings and any sanctions will be revealed.

Final 2016 College Football Bowl Projections

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 03: James Franklin, head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, celebrates with the Big Ten Championship trophy after Penn State beat the Wisconsin Badgers 38-31 at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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What a wild championship weekend that was. While it was fun to watch Penn State pull of a thriller against Wisconsin and see Virginia Tech threaten Clemson, the results of the final week of the regular season caused a few headaches for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. How will everything shake out? Outside of Alabama claiming the No. 1 seed in the playoff and Western Michigan securing the Group of Five bid, things seem up in the air until the committee announces their final set of rankings on Sunday afternoon.

With all that in mind, CFTalk decided to peer into our crystal ball and see which teams wind up in certain bowl games prior to the official announcement. Running through all the scenarios, here’s how the bowl picture could play out from the final four to the very first one on December 17:

College Football Playoff

Bowl Teams
Peach Bowl No. 1 Alabama No. 4 Washington
Fiesta Bowl No. 2 Clemson No. 3 Ohio State

New Year’s Six

Bowl Teams
Rose Bowl Penn State USC
Sugar Bowl Oklahoma Auburn
Orange Bowl Florida State Michigan
Cotton Bowl Wisconsin Western Michigan

2016 FBS Bowl Games

Bowl Teams
New Mexico Bowl UTSA New Mexico
Las Vegas Bowl Houston San Diego State
Cure Bowl Appalachian State UCF
Camellia Bowl Arkansas State Central Michigan
New Orleans Bowl Southern Miss UL-Lafayette
Miami Beach Bowl South Florida Toledo
Boca Raton Bowl Western Kentucky Memphis
Poinsettia Bowl BYU* Wyoming
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Colorado State Idaho
Bahamas Bowl Old Dominion* Eastern Michigan*
Armed Forces Bowl Navy* North Texas+
Dollar General Bowl Troy Ohio
Hawaii Bowl Middle Tenn. State Hawaii
St. Petersburg Bowl Mississippi State+ Miami (OH)
Quick Lane Bowl Maryland Boston College
Independence Bowl Vanderbilt N.C. State
Heart of Dallas Bowl Louisiana Tech Army
Military Bowl Wake Forest Temple
Holiday Bowl Iowa Washington State
Cactus Bowl Baylor Boise State
Pinstripe Bowl Northwestern Pitt
Russell Athletic Bowl Virginia Tech West Virginia
Foster Farms Bowl Indiana Utah
Texas Bowl Texas A&M Kansas State
Birmingham Bowl South Carolina Tulsa
Belk Bowl Georgia Tech Arkansas
Alamo Bowl Oklahoma State Colorado
Liberty Bowl Georgia TCU
Sun Bowl North Carolina Stanford
Music City Bowl Minnesota Tennessee
TaxSlayer Bowl Miami (FL) Kentucky
Outback Bowl Nebraska Florida
Citrus Bowl Louisville LSU
Arizona Bowl South Alabama Air Force

*Accepted bowl invite
+ 5-7 team selected based on APR

No. 3 Clemson punches playoff ticket with ACC championship win over Virginia Tech

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 03:  The Clemson Tigers take the field during the ACC Championship against the Virginia Tech Hokies on December 3, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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For the second straight season, Clemson can say they punched their ticket to the College Football Playoff with yet another close ACC championship game victory.

The third-ranked Tigers jumped out to a big lead, led throughout and ultimately prevailed over Virginia Tech in a 42-35 win that was a tad closer than the final score indicated.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson continued his stellar play down the stretch this season, throwing for 288 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The signal-caller added another two scores on the ground to go with his team-high 85 yards rushing as well on a night where he made some clutch throws down the stretch to keep the team in front of a stingy Bud Foster defense.

Tailback Wayne Gallman also found the end zone in Orlando but was still relatively limited with just 59 yards on 17 carries.

The Hokies did make sure Clemson sweated out things by threatening in the second and third quarters. Quarterback Jerod Evans threw for 264 yards and a touchdown but couldn’t get any help from Virginia Tech’s normally reliable ground game and threw an interception with 71 seconds left to end a comeback. Evans also led the team in rushing and scored twice while running back Travon McMillian did the same but managed to do so on only 37 yards rushing.

With a second straight ACC title in the bag for Dabo Swinney and company, the only question left for Clemson is where will they stand on Sunday afternoon and what semifinal site they will head to. Alabama appears locked into the No. 1 seed in the Peach Bowl but could the close result against Virginia Tech — combined with Washington’s emphatic win in the Pac-12 title game — force a national title game rematch in Atlanta?

That’s probably not on the minds of the Tigers on Saturday night as they rightfully celebrate yet another league championship and look like a dangerous team to face at the end of the month.

No. 7 Penn State completes comeback for the ages to claim B1G title

Penn State's Saquon Barkley (26) makes an 18-yard touchdown catch against Wisconsin's T.J. Watt (42) during the second half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
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On Sept. 24, Penn State was 2-2 on the season, 0-1 in Big Ten play after a 49-10 undressing by Michigan in Ann Arbor. Their Big Ten title hopes were left for dead. As we know, they managed to rally and win the Big Ten East.

And then, with 5:15 left in the second quarter, the Nittany Lions trailed 28-7 and their chances of actually winning the game were again left for dead.

But the Cardiac Cats rallied. Again. The seventh-ranked Lions closed the game on a 31-3 run to race past No. 6 Wisconsin for a 38-31 Big Ten Championship victory.

Of course, this win means much more than that. At 11-2 on the season, winners of nine in a row and winners of college football’s best conference, the question now becomes whether the College Football Playoff selection committee chooses the Lions over 11-1 Ohio State or Pac-12 champion Washington on Sunday.

But first, the comeback.

Penn State simply could not get out of its own way — or get Wisconsin out of its way… or get in Wisconsin’s way, for that matter — over the game’s first 25 minutes. The Badgers opened by forcing two three-and-outs and launching two long touchdown drives to grab a 14-0 lead a dozen minutes into the game. After a McSorley touchdown pass put Penn State on the board, the Nittany Lions allowed an errant snap to be returned for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

James Franklin elected to go for a fourth-and-short in his own territory on the ensuing possession and was rebuffed. Wisconsin again capitalized on the mistake to grab a 28-7 lead with 5:15 remaining in the first half. Penn State again failed on a fourth-and-short near midfield on the next possession, but this time the Badgers failed to cash in. And that proved costly.

Because that failure to land the death blow allowed Penn State’s Cardiac Cats persona to awaken.

The Lions’ comeback started when McSorley hit Saeed Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown catch with 58 seconds left in the half to pull within  a more manageable 28-14 deficit at the break.

After Wisconsin missed a field goal to open the second half, McSorley answered by finding Blacknall for a 70-yard scoring strike on the very next play. Then Penn State tied the game on its next touch as Saquon Barkley punched in a 1-yard score at the 4:22 mark of the third quarter.

Wisconsin re-gained the lead with a 23-yard Andrew Endicott chip shot, but only after Bart Houston missed what would have been a walk-in touchdown to tight end Troy Fumagalli on 2nd-and-8 from the 10-yard line.

Given the opportunity to take the lead, Penn State took full advantage, marching 81 yards in only four plays as Barkley hauled in an 18-yard wheel route from McSorley.

McSorley finished the game hitting 22-of-31 passes for 384 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions — against a defense that came in allowing eight touchdowns while swiping 21 interceptions. Compared to Houston’s numbers — 16-of-21 for 174 yards — quarterback play proved to be the difference in the game. McSorley’s play allowed Penn State to win a game in which it was out-rushed 241-51.

Wisconsin punted on its next touch, and Penn State missed its chance to deliver a knockout punch, instead settling for a 24-yard Tyler Davis field goal with 5:14 to play in the game.

Wisconsin would need a touchdown to force overtime, while Penn State would need a stop to complete its 21-point comeback. The Badgers moved to the Penn State 24, but, facing a 4th-and-1, Corey Clement was stuffed for no gain.

Penn State expired the final 58 seconds and secured the largest comeback ever in a Power 5 conference championship game.

Arkansas State, Appalachian State end up as SBC co-champs

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Two of the 10 FBS conferences don’t have championship games to determine a league champion.  The Big 12, which will go to a title game format next season, crowned an undisputed champion earlier today.  The other game-less league, on the other hand, will have more than one official champ.

Arkansas State had the opportunity to potentially win the Sun Belt Conference outright, but lost in Week 13 to drop to 6-1 in conference play.  Appalachian State won the same weekend to finish the season at 7-1 and claim at least a share of league title.

ASU and Troy, both 6-1 entering Week 14, needed a win to claim its share.

Troy failed miserably, falling 28-24 on the road to a Georgia Southern team that entered the game 4-7 overall and 3-4 in the SBC.  ASU, though, passed its final regular season test, putting 20 fourth-quarter points on the scoreboard in getting past Texas State in a 36-14 win in San Marcos.

The Red Wolves have now won five SBC titles the past six years, with three of those (2011, 2012, 2015) being undisputed.  They’re also the first team since Troy was in the midst of a five-year run from 2006-10 to win back-to-back championships.

As for App State, this is the Mountaineers’ first FBS league championship since moving to the SBC from the FCS for the 2014 season.

The three teams at the top of the SBC will play in some combination of the New Orleans/Dollar General/Camellia Bowls.  Arkansas State will be playing in its sixth straight bowl game, while Appalachian State will be in its second in a row in just its third season at this level.  Troy, meanwhile, will be making its first postseason appearance since winning the New Orleans Bowl in 2010.