Miami calls for ‘no additional punitive measures’ from NCAA

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Released earlier today, the independent report into the NCAA’s mishandling of certain aspects of the investigation into the Miami football program seemingly left many more questions than it delivered answers.

Information obtained outside of normal NCAA protocol will be tossed out, as expected, but those hoping for a quasi-mistrial were disappointed as The Association confirmed that the process of investigating allegations of impermissible benefits will go forward.  A scathing response to the report’s findings and the NCAA’s insistence on continuing the probe, though, suggests the university will continue its push for a resolution in the case that comes sooner rather than later and with no additional sanctions — or else.

In Donna Shalala’s scorched-earth statement blasting, in essence, the NCAA’s ineptness, the UM president accused the NCAA of not living “up to their own core principles” in what she described as an “already-flawed investigation” highlighted by “a disappointing pattern of unprofessional and unethical behavior.”  Stressing that there “must be a strong sense of urgency to bring this to closure,” Shalala stated unequivocally that “we believe that this process must come to a swift resolution, which includes no additional punitive measures beyond those already self-imposed.”

Each of the past two seasons, Miami has self-imposed a postseason ban on the football program.

The intimation from Shalala, of course, is that the NCAA could face litigation down the road if further sanctions are imposed.  It’s unclear exactly how the NCAA will react to what’s essentially a (well-deserved) threat from one of its members.

Regardless, below is the full text of Shalala’s statement:

The University takes full responsibility for the conduct of its employees and student-athletes.  Where the evidence of NCAA violations has been substantiated, we have self-imposed appropriate sanctions, including unilaterally eliminating once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for our students and coaches over the past two years, and disciplining and withholding players from competition. 

We believe strongly in the principles and values of fairness and due process. However, we have been wronged in this investigation, and we believe that this process must come to a swift resolution, which includes no additional punitive measures beyond those already self-imposed.

In September 2010—two and a half years ago—the University of Miami advised the NCAA of allegations made by a convicted felon against former players and, at that time, we pledged our full cooperation with any investigation into the matter.  One year later, in August 2011, when the NCAA’s investigation into alleged rules violations was made public, I pledged we would ‘vigorously pursue the truth, wherever that path may lead’ and insisted upon ‘complete, honest, and transparent cooperation with the NCAA from our staff and students.’

The University of Miami has lived up to those promises, but sadly the NCAA has not lived up to their own core principles.  The lengthy and already flawed investigation has demonstrated a disappointing pattern of unprofessional and unethical behavior.  By the NCAA leadership’s own admission, the University of Miami has suffered from inappropriate practices by NCAA staff.   There have also been damaging leaks to the media of unproven charges.  Regardless of where blame lies internally with the NCAA, even one individual, one act, one instance of malfeasance both taints the entire process and breaches the public’s trust. 

There must be a strong sense of urgency to bring this to closure.  Our dedicated staff and coaches, our outstanding student-athletes, and our supporters deserve nothing less.

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts uses photo of Clemson celebrating title win as motivational phone background

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Nick Saban said last week that the loss to Clemson in the the national championship game earlier this year is one that he’ll never get over, although he didn’t go so far as to compare it to a death in the family. One playing member of Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide team is taking to steps to ensure that he never forgets, either.

Jalen Hurts was the Tide’s talented true freshman starting quarterback who helped lead ‘Bama into the title game and, with a 30-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left, gave his team a 31-28 lead. That lead was short-lived, however, as Deshaun Watson led his Tigers on an epic 88-yard drive that was capped by his two-yard touchdown pass with just one tick left on the clock for the 35-31 win.

The stunning last-second loss is something that Hurts makes a conscious effort to remind himself of daily as the rising sophomore, as the background on his smartphone, has a picture of Clemson players celebrating their win.

“We’re obviously all on our phones all the time,” Hurts said according to al.com after this past weekend’s spring game. “Every time I unlock it, it’s kind of a reminder. It kind of humbles me and keeps me motivated. …

“It’s not a grudge at all. It’s just something that keeps it on the back of your shoulder like, yeah, it’s still there. Remember why you’re doing it because at the end of the day, the goal for this team is to win the national championship.

Father of former Florida State WR Travis Rudolph killed in accidental shooting

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The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.

The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.

“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.