Signing Day-Mississippi

Wrapping up Signing Day 2013

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And… exhale.

Another Signing Day is in the books. Did you get everything you wanted? How’d the press conference go? Wait, let me guess. There was probably a “We really feel like we addressed our needs” or a “I think this might be our best class ever.” Maybe there was a disgruntled “We’re not about the star system here. I’m more concerned about how we do on the field in the fall.”

Anyway, there was a lot happening as recruits from around the country faxed in (for probably the first and only time in their lives) their national letter of intent. Below are some highlights from today. We’ll also have final class rankings later tonight when they become available, so stay tuned.

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Rebels with a cause
Ole Miss may not have had the top signing class in 2013 — Rivals.com says that distinction technically belongs to Alabama for now — but it’s difficult to imagine any one program having a bigger day than the Rebels. Hugh Freeze and his coaching staff managed to pull in the No. 1 overall recruit, Robert Nkemdichethe No. 1 wide receiver  Laquon Treadwell; and the No. 1 offensive lineman, Laremy Tunsil. All three are five-star prospects. Of course, this doesn’t mean Ole Miss is automatically an SEC West contender, but it’s hard not to be impressed with the pieces Freeze is putting into place.  

Don’t forget about the champs, though 
Yeah, Ole Miss had a banner day on the recruiting trail, but Alabama did pretty well today too. Win three out of four BCS championships and getting the best high school athletes in the country becomes a lot easier. And weirder, for that matter. Tide offensive line commit A’Shawn Robinson had a man in an elephant costume at his Signing Day press conference. Here’s the link to the picture (Warning: nightmare fuel). 

It’s all about the [SWAG] U 
While appearing on ESPNU’s coverage of Signing Day, Miami coach Al Golden spoke about the difficulty of recruiting with the NCAA’s investigation of the program lingering in the background — even with the Association completely botching said investigation. Still, the Hurricanes were able to land four-star wide receiver Stacy Coley. Upon making his announcement, Coley pulled out an orange and green “SWAG” hat — SWAG of course standing for “Stuff We All Get” — as everyone watching nearly died from the irony.

For whom the recruiting Bell tolls 
Most of the Big Ten may be struggling to land top recruits, but Michigan and Ohio State certainly aren’t. In fact, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer managed to flip a couple of recruits from SEC territory: highly-touted safety, Vonn Bell, previously a Tennessee commit; and four-star receiver, James Clark, who was previously “in good shape” to sign with Florida. That’s some B1G crootin’ right there.

Vander-does is better than Vander-doesn’t
Notre Dame signed three five-star recruits on Wednesday, including 310-pound defensive tackle Eddie VanderdoesIt’s weird to think the Irish could quietly have one of the best classes this year, but this is a top-five group that could rise another spot or two tonight before the final rankings are called.

Is that you, Landon Collins’ mom?
Watch out, Alex Collins‘ mother is apparently on the loose with her son’s letter of intent in hand. The four-star running back committed to Arkansas Monday night, but it sounds like his mother has other plans. Collins is still expected to sign with the Hogs, but yikes.

Randy Edsall’s high speed chase: more exciting than Maryland football 
Speaking of weird recruiting stories, this one from Maryland coach Randy Edsall doesn’t get much stranger. Calling 911 and getting chased out of a neighborhood by a mysterious truck was involved. Thankfully, no quarterbacks were harmed in the process.

It’s not the size that matters 
USC had one of the smallest classes today with 12 commitments, but had more five-star signees (five) than any other program. Rivals.com has the Trojans as the team with the highest star average with 4.42.

Unfamiliar territory
While Oklahoma and Texas had top-20 classes, neither had a five-star commitment. The last time either program went without a five-star commit was in 2010 and 2008, respectively.

Northwestern remembers Randy Walker 10 years after his passing

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Ten years ago Wednesday, the college football world was rocked by the unexpected and sudden loss of Northwestern coach Randy Walker.

The athletics department produced a touching video tribute to the man who suffered a heart attack at the age of 52, seven years into his tenure in Evanston.

Walker’s death unexpectedly thrust a young former Wildcats linebacker named Pat Fitzgerald into the head coach’s chair.

“I would prefer to be toasting to his longevity right now,” Fitzgerald says in the video.

Walker posted a 37-45 mark at Northwestern, including a surprising 8-4 campaign in 2000.

That followed a successful nine-year run at Miami University, the southwest Ohio school where he was a player.

Report: Ole Miss violations laid out to NCAA by stepfather of Laremy Tunsil

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The Mississippi football program might not find out its NCAA fate very soon, but the rest of the world learned more specifics regarding the accusations the Rebels face Wednesday.

Sports Illustrated published the results of its investigation, including specific allegations levied by a man in the process of getting a divorce from the mother of star offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil.

Lindsey Miller detailed several potentially serious violations involving Tunsil and his family, and SI was able to view some of the information he says he turned over to the NCAA during extensive interviews.

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations is consistent with Miller’s claims in numerous places, including 12 occasions of free lodging that totaled $2,253. Miller says he told the NCAA those nights were arranged by boosters he met through [Mississippi DL coach Chris] Kiffin, but the NCAA never found that link. Kiffin’s name appears 13 times in the Notice of Allegations, but none of those prove he set Miller up with boosters.

Tunsil was part of a surprisingly star-studded recruiting class in 2013, but head coach Hugh Freeze has consistently defended his program against accusations his recruiting success was thanks to illegal methods.

Freeze, who took over as coach in December 2011, may minimize the NCAA’s case, but nine of the 13 football allegations relate to his tenure there. (Four allegations, including fraudulent ACT scores, occurred under former coach Houston Nutt.) There are four Level I violations under Freeze and a significant Level II failure to monitor charge in which the NCAA says the athletic department and football program failed to monitor Tunsil driving three different loaner cars between August 2014 and June 2015. (That latter allegation is the one Ole Miss is disputing.)

Perhaps complicating matters is the fact Miller went to the NCAA only after having a fallout with Tunsil and his mother, Desiree Polingo, during the summer of 2015.

Polingo denied Miller’s accusations via a statement to SI, and in another statement a lawyer for Tunsil told SI, “You have to consider the source.”

Mississippi has already admitted to 12 of the 13 allegations and self-imposed penalties, but it remains to be seen if the NCAA Committee on Infractions will find the punishment sufficient or more is added.

The full SI story goes into deeper detail about the situations facing not only Ole Miss athletics but also the NCAA enforcement model itself.

NCAA announces common-sense change to bowl selection process

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Andy Janovich #35 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers jumps over Jayon Brown #12 of the UCLA Bruins during the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi's Stadium on December 26, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The NCAA Division I council announced 5-7 teams will still have a chance to make a bowl this fall.

They will have to wait until all of the 6-6 teams have been picked, though.

The common sense rule tweak was announced Wednesday.

Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose State all made bowls last season despite finishing the regular season 5-7, and coincidentally they all won.

In a statement, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who serves as chair of the football oversight committee, said the postseason selection process “makes sense and is fair to the schools and the bowls.”

APR scores will continue to be used to designate which 5-7 teams are eligible to take up the bowl slots left available after all of the 6-6 teams have been selected.

After swelling to 41 games last season, the postseason is not set to expand again until at least the 2020 season as a result of a moratorium on the certification of new bowls was established by the council in April.

NCAA inquires about additional Sandusky victims from Penn State lawsuit

BELLEFONTE, PA - OCTOBER 09: Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky (C) leaves the Centre County Courthouse after being sentenced in his child sex abuse case on October 9, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The 68-year-old Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years and not more that 60 years in prison for his conviction in June on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, including while he was the defensive coordinator for the Penn State college football team. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Penn State and Joe Paterno‘s family have already done their part to return the tragic Jerry Sandusky saga to the news this year.

Now the NCAA apparently wants to join in.

The Centre Daily Times reports the college sports governing body has requested information regarding two men allegedly victimized by Sandusky, a long-time Penn State assistant coach, in the 1970s.

Their stories came to light in a court filing from a lawsuit involving Penn State and an insurer. The school tried to collect on a policy to help pay settlements it reached with more than 30 individuals who accused Sandusky of sexually abusing them.

The university tried to recoup money for those settlements from liability insurer Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, but PMA challenged that in court. The two men’s cases were revealed in an order by Philadelphia Judge Gary Glazer that referenced their cases, years earlier than the 10 Sandusky was convicted of in 2012. One said he told Paterno.

The CDT story does not give any indication the NCAA might want to revisit the sanctions that were handed down in 2012.

Rather, it is looking for defense fodder in a defamation lawsuit filed by the family of Paterno, the legendary Nittany Lions head coach

The estate claims the college sports oversight group defamed the man who helmed the program from 1966 until his firing in 2011 after the Sandusky story broke.

A key point is the NCAA’s acceptance of the findings of the Freeh report, the university-commissioned investigation of the Sandusky scandal, which placed blame on four Penn State leaders, including Paterno, who died six months before it was released. The NCAA then levied historic sanctions on the university, including stripping 110 wins from the Nittany Lions, dropping Paterno from first place in the leaderboard for most wins by a Division 1 coach.

But in new documents, the NCAA says it needs the information about the two claimants to refute the estate’s defamation claims.

Sandusky was convicted in 2012, and some of the sanctions Penn State agreed to accept from the NCAA were gradually lifted in the following years.

While Sandusky reportedly continues to work on getting his convictions overturned, it’s not hard to imagine Sandusky’s victims and plenty of members of the Penn State community would prefer to move on from the tragedy — allowing both time to heal in whatever way is possible.

The same can most likely be said of current coach James Franklin, who took the job two-plus years ago after coach Bill O’Brien endured the brunt of the storm and maintained solid recruiting despite the sanctions.

During the spring, Franklin told CBSSports.com, “This is really year one for us in a lot of ways,” citing a return to having close to a full allotment of scholarships.