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NCAA committee pushing ejection for targeting defenseless players

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In its ongoing effort to improve the on-field safety of its players, the NCAA Football Rules Committee has taken a rather significant step to further prevent the targeting of defenseless players.

Among a laundry list of new proposals, the committee announced Wednesday that it is pushing forward a rule that, if passed, would “eject players who target and contact defenseless players above the shoulders.”  The penalty for targeting, which was first implemented in 2008, will still be 15 yards, but will also carry a semi-automatic ejection that could bleed into the next game.

If a player is ejected for targeting in the second half, that player would miss both the rest of that game as well as the first half of the next game.  A first-half ejection for targeting would not cost a player playing time the next game.

While the effort to increase player safety will, for the most part, be applauded, there is already concern/consternation over the definition of targeting.  Specifically, there is concern over officials, who are by and large human beings like the rest of us, maintaining some level of consistency as to what targeting actually entails.  The NCAA defines it as follows:

Rule 9-1-3 — No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.
Rule 9-1-4 — No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.

In suspending Ole Miss freshman defensive back Trae Elston and South Carolina defensive back D.J. Swearinger in back-to-back weeks last September, the SEC cited those very bylaws from the NCAA’s Football Rule Book.  Swearinger was flagged on the play in question, while Elston wasn’t.  Because of the inconsistency with which officiating crews from even the same conference view targeting, the NCAA is taking an additional step in an attempt to create some type of fairness for what could be a very punitive measure:

The committee has also decided, in an effort to address concerns when one of these plays is erroneously called, to make the ejection portion of the penalty reviewable through video replay. The replay official must have conclusive evidence that a player should not be ejected to overturn the call on the field.

Individual conferences will continue to maintain the right to mete out additional punishment they deem necessary or justified.

“The general consensus is that the officials on the field make this call properly the vast majority of the time and know what the committee is looking for with this foul,” said Rogers Redding, secretary-editor of the rules committee and national coordinator of officials for College Football Officiating, LLC. “This move is being made to directly change player behavior and impact player safety.”

In discussing “measures to remove targeting… [that] will improve our great sport,” Troy Calhoun, chair of the committee and head coach at Air Force, said in a statement that “[w]e all have a role to embrace when making a positive impact on our game.”

It should be noted that this issue, as well as the ones coming below, are merely proposals at the moment and must still be reviewed by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel.  That panel will meet March 6 to conduct the review.

The PROP will also consider the following next month:

— To add a 10-second runoff with less than a minute remaining in either half when the sole reason for the clock to stop is an injury.

(Note: in other words, this proposal will encourage teams with the lead to fake injuries to drain the clock?  Yep, got it.)

— To establish three seconds as the minimum amount of time required to be on the game clock in order to spike the ball to stop the clock. If one or two seconds remain on the clock, there is only time for the offense to run one more play.

(Note: why the committee would feel the need to address this issue in any way, shape or form is beyond is head-scratching, unless it’s merely to save Les Miles from his inner Mad Hatter Clock Manager.)

— To require a player that changes numbers during the game to report this to the referee, who will announce this.

(Note: this will be forever known as the “Lane Kiffin Rule” and that is spectacular on several levels.)

— To only allow one player number to be worn by the same team and participate at the same position (e.g., two quarterbacks on the same team are not allowed to have the same number).

— To require teams to have either their jersey or pants contrast in color to the playing field.

(Note: this will likely be referred to as the “Boise State Rule.” If passed, this would preclude the Broncos from wearing their all-blue uniforms on the famed/infamous Smurf Turf. Upon their “return” from the Big East to the Mountain West, the MWC had decided to allow that uniform combination after previously banning it.)

— To allow the use of electronic communication by the on-field officiating crew after successful experimentation by the Southeastern Conference. This is not a required piece of equipment but will allow officiating crews to use this tool.

–To allow the Big 12 Conference to experiment with using an eighth official on the field in conference games. This official would be placed in the backfield opposite the referee.

–To allow instant replay to adjust the clock at the end of each quarter. Previously this provision was only in place for the end of each half.

A Travone Valentine return to LSU in 2016 now a possibility

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 10:  Mike VI, mascot of the Louisiana State University Tigers, during pregame warmups before the game against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Back in January, Travonte Valentine was hoping Les Miles would give him another shot at a playing career at LSU. Specifically, Valentine was hoping that he’d get another shot at being a Tiger in 2017.

Not only does it appear Miles is ready to welcome the defensive lineman back, but that welcome could come a year earlier than expected. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Currently enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Valentine was expected to become a 2017 prospect, but NCAA rules may allow him to suit up for LSU in 2016, according to numerous sources with knowledge of Valentine’s academic situation.

Valentine and other sources have confirmed that LSU has checked with its compliance department about what it would take for him to enroll this fall. Valentine, who is currently in good academic standing, has to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, while completing the required number of course hours to qualify. The Tigers are taking a conservative approach to the situation, given the history between both parties, but multiple sources said the program is open to the idea if Valentine maintains his current course, and compliance decides that the transfer would meet NCAA guidelines.

Should Valentine ultimately return to Baton Rouge, it’d be the continuation of a lengthy — and bumpy — odyssey.

After signing with the Tigers in February of 2014, Valentine dealt with NCAA Clearinghouse issues — the player said another SEC program was the root cause — that forced him to miss the start of summer camp his true freshman season. While he was ultimately cleared to practice, he was not permitted to play in any games because of the lingering academic issues.

Then in April of last year, head coach Les Miles confirmed that Valentine had been suspended, with the specific reason being, again, academics.  At the time of his departure from the program, it was reported that Valentine, in addition to the academic issues, had failed multiple drug tests.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class, Valentine was rated as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Florida. He had been expected to be an immediate contributor to LSU’s line rotation.

Nick Saban labels Alabama assistant’s departure as a ‘resignation’

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 15:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on during pregame warmups prior to facing the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 15, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Despite surprisingly seeing just one player selected in the first round of the NFL draft, there might not have been a happier football program than the one at Alabama.  Thanks to the controversy swirling around Laremy Tunsil and his social media misadventures, the fact that a report surfacing shortly before the draft that had a Tide assistant leaving amidst potential NCAA issues had flown almost completely under the radar.

According to the report, defensive line coach Bo Davis was expected to resign or be fired after the school opened an inquiry into possible recruiting violations.  In the first public comments from the school, Davis’ departure is being labeled as a resignation.

“Bo Davis has submitted his letter of resignation,” a statement attributed to head coach Nick Saban began. “We appreciate all the contributions he made to the program and wish him and his family the very best in the future.”

The specific nature of the alleged violations are unknown.  The NCAA, though, has reportedly made multiple inquiries into the situation and the Tide is currently in the midst of investigating the allegations against the coach.

Davis first worked for Saban with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins before moving on to Tuscaloosa as part of Saban’s first Tide staff.  He left for five years before returning to the Tide in 2014.

Not only is Davis considered one of the best line coaches in the country, he’s also a premier recruiter in a program overflowing with such personnel.

The current thought process is that Tosh Lupoi, a Tide football staffer not unfamiliar with NCAA allegations himself, could slide into Davis’ role.  Lupoi had previously served as the line coach at Cal and Washington before moving on to ‘Bama in 2014.

For Atlanta satellite camp, Georgia to partner with… Michigan?

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 15:  (EDITORS NOTE: This image has been converted to black and white and uses filters) A view of a cat and a dog cuddling during the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 2013 in Cannes, France.  (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
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For those who think the Trump and Clinton supporters can’t find some common ground (they can’t), take note.

In “The Great Satellite Camp Debate of 2016,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh took exception to some of the comments made by his counterpart at Georgia, Kirby Smart, saying “he is barking up the wrong tree” with the implication there is “any intent on our part to break rules.”  Thursday, the NCAA put that issue to rest (for now) by rescinding a ban on satellite camps that had caused the Smart/Harbaugh sniping in the first place.

Just a few hours after the ban was lifted, it was announced that Smart’s coaching staff would be one of two featured at an Atlanta-area camp.  The other?  Lucifer, grab your skates.

While many will be stunned at this “dog dates cat” development, it’s not that shocking.

“That whole thing got so overblown,” Smart, per DawgNation.com, said at an event in Dallas a week ago. “Because he and I, he and staff members from his staff had communicated. That’s a big deal to the media, big deal to you guys. But in the coaching profession we’re a bit more light-hearted about it.”

Ole Miss issues statement on Laremy Tunsil’s money admission

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Laremy Tunsil #78 of the Mississippi Rebels scores runs in a touchdown during the second quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Opening night of the NFL draft in Chicago began with many, including the school itself, touting the fact that Ole Miss was on the precipice of creating some program history.  The Rebels did just that as, for the first time ever, they saw three players selected in the first round, but it was what happened in between that most will remember.

Laremy Tunsil, one of the trio expected to go as, ahem, high as No. 3 to the San Diego Chargers, saw his stock tumble as, shortly before the draft, “someone” hacked into his Twitter account and posted a video clip of the offensive lineman taking a bong hit through a gas mask.  The hacking of Tunsil’s social media accounts wasn’t over as, after he was selected with the 13th pick by the Miami Dolphins, someone posted incriminating text messages on his Instagram account, missives that indicated he had received impermissible benefits from Ole Miss staffers.

Adding to Ole Miss’ angst, Tunsil, who was sued by his stepfather the day before the draft, answered “I’d have to say yeah” when asked in a press conference if he took money from a coach.

What should’ve been the best NFL draft night in program history instead turned into an abject nightmare for Ole Miss, which is still in the midst of an NCAA situation in part related to Tunsil.  While Tunsil is free and clear of the ramifications of his bombshell and previously-acknowledged improprieties, it’s Ole Miss that’s left to deal with accusations that could, potentially, lead to further action from the NCAA.

“The university is aware of the reports from the NFL Draft regarding Laremy Tunsil and potential NCAA violations during his time at Ole Miss,” a statement from the school began. “Like we do whenever an allegation is brought to our attention or a potential violation is self-discovered, we will aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC.”

The 2016 early draft entrant missed the first seven games of the 2015 season as “it was determined by the NCAA that Tunsil received impermissible extra benefits that included the use of three separate loaner vehicles over a sixth-month period without payment, a four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate, and one day use of a rental vehicle.”

In January, Ole Miss was hit with a Notice of Allegations that included 28 violations spread across football, women’s basketball and track and field. Of those 28 violations, 13 are related to football, though the most serious of the allegations stem from the Houston Nutt era.  Also included in that baker’s dozen are Tunsil’s improper benefits.

Exactly a week ago, it was announced that the NCAA had granted Ole Miss a 30-day extension to issue its response to the Notice of Allegations.  Based on the events of Thursday night, both sides might need to clear additional room on their respective calendars to deal with Tunsil’s admissions.