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Report: NCAA firing VP of Enforcement Julie Roe Lach

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Late last week, the NCAA was expected to release the findings of an external review into improper conduct committed by its enforcement staff during its investigation of the Miami athletics program.

Per one report, that issue of misconduct involved the NCAA’s vice president of enforcement, Julie Roe Lach, approving the payment of at least $20,000 to the attorney of former UM booster, Nevin Shapiro, in exchange for information relevant to the investigation.

Those findings are expected to be made public today in a 2 p.m. teleconference. Likely not a part of that phone call will be Lach. According to a Yahoo! report from Charles Robinson and Pat Forde, Lach has been fired. She’s been with the NCAA since 1998.

Assuming the report is true and that Lach really is, uh, “finished” — and there’s little reason to believe she isn’t — chances are the results of the external investigation led by the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft aren’t too promising. The NCAA has already delayed the release of a Notice of Allegations to Miami because of the alleged misconduct. Keep in mind this investigation has been going on for about two years and Miami has self-imposed two postseason bans, likely in an effort to soften any potential blow inflicted by the NCAA.

Shapiro’s attorney, Elena Perez, reportedly deposed two individuals tied to the Miami investigation – former Miami equipment manager Sean Allen and agent Michael Huyghue — in Dec., 2011, as part of a bankruptcy suit. She’s denied any wrongdoing.

Shapiro is currently serving jail time for orchestrating a $1 billion Ponzi scheme.

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Report: FSU not expecting NCAA penalties for Jameis’ crab hook-up

At least as far as Florida State is concerned, the athletic department is going Lt. Drebin on the latest Jameis Winston revelations — alright, move on, nothing to see here.  Please disperse.

In an interview with Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh that appeared on an ESPN NFL draft special last week, the former FSU quarterback, for the first time, stated publicly that he had received a seafood hook-up from an individual who worked at a Tallahassee grocery store. Winston went on to claim that he had gotten a similar hook-up from the Publix employee on at least one other occasion prior to that.

While Winston’s former head coach Jimbo Fisher stated that FSU’s compliance department had previously looked into the issue but felt like it was an isolated incident, athletic director Stan Wilcox subsequently released a statement saying “we will work in partnership with the NCAA to determine whether a violation occurred.”

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, which cites a source close to the football program, the school “does not expect any NCAA violations to stem from the latest revelation in Jameis Winston’s shoplifting incident.” Wilcox declined to respond to the Democrat’s report, but did state that he doesn’t expect the situation be a drawn-out one.

Winston was issued a citation late last April for shoplifting crab legs from a local Publix store. At the time, Winston claimed to police he had simply forgotten to pay for the seafood.

After leaving the Seminoles early for the NFL, Winston is widely expected to be the top pick in the upcoming draft.

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Blind USC walk-on hopeful will need NCAA waiver

Jake Olson Pete Carroll

Leave it to the NCAA and its policies to be the buzzkill, at least temporarily, as it concerns a potentially heartwarming story.

Last week it was reported that high school senior Jake Olson will attempt to become a walk-on at USC this year. Olson is a young man who, in addition to being a USC super fan, lost his eyesight to a rare form of cancer a few years ago and was essentially adopted by the Trojans football program in general and former head coach Pete Carroll specifically.

Flipping a middle finger in the general direction of his blindness, Olson became a long-snapper on his high school football team. He became so adept at that particular skill, in fact, that current USC head coach Steve Sarkisian very firmly stated that, when it comes to Olson snapping in a game for the Trojans, “it will happen” someday.

Before someday comes, though, Olson will have to navigate some NCAA obstacles.

Olson, you see, is one of this year’s recipients of a Swim With Mike scholarship, a handful of which are awarded annually from the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship fund at USC. Because that scholarship is considered an athletic one, the Orange County Register explains, Olson would count as one of the 85 scholarship players for the Trojans. From the Register‘s report:

The way the NCAA determines counters, football supersedes all other sports. According to bylaw 15.5.9.1, even a student-athlete “who was not recruited and/or offered financial aid to participate in football and who competes in football and one or more (other) sports shall be counted in football.”

Schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision have annual caps of 25 “initial counters” (incoming freshmen and transfers) and 85 total scholarships. USC has reached its limit of initial counters for 2015 – the first year it has been able to add a full recruiting class since 2011 because of NCAA sanctions.

The university will seek a waiver from the NCAA that would allow Olson to be a counted as a non-scholarship walk-on and not count against the 85-man limit.

As it turns out, there are other potential “issues” for which the family is being proactive and very upfront about in working with the school’s compliance officials. “Jake is a published author, makes motivational speeches and is involved in a charitable foundation – all of which the Olsons plan to vet through USC’s compliance department,” the Register writes.

“Jake has aspirations to walk on to the team and play football at USC,” Jake’s father, Brian Olson, told the paper. “There has to be a process of approaching the NCAA. We’re putting faith in the process that there’s a positive outcome for Jake. We’ll take it as it comes.

“It’s nothing negative. It’s just the way things are at the college level.”

The Register is of the belief that it’s unlikely the NCAA will deny Olson the waiver. Hopefully, the NCAA gets it right this time.

(Photo credit: openyoureyes.org)

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Big Ten, SEC each draw 400,000+ fans in spring football

Ohio State Spring Game Getty Images

When it comes to spring football, the Big Ten and SEC tend to rule the attendance game. It only makes sense with the largest stadiums in the country mostly residing within the Big Ten or SEC, not to mention some of the top brands in the game. Both conferences went over the 4 million fan mark this year in the conference-wide spring game attendance figures.

Both conferences closed the books on spring practices Saturday with Tennessee and Arkansas the last two SEC schools to play a spring game and Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin closing out the Big Ten spring schedule. When all was said and done, the Big Ten edges the SEC in spring attendance by roughly 2,000 fans.

The Big Ten’s spring total added up to 410,943 fans. That includes a new national record set by Ohio State (99,391) and three other schools with over 60,000 fans (Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan). Michigan State also set a new school record with 48,000 fans on Saturday. Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern are not included in that total due to not keeping track or recording a spring game attendance.

The SEC ended the spring with 408,599 fans coming out to SEC stadiums. The Big Ten numbers were top heavy, but there was a little bit more even distribution of fans throughout the SEC, with the notable exception of Vanderbilt. It should be noted Kentucky and Texas A&M did not play a spring game or record any spring attendance numbers. It should be expected Texas A&M be a solid spring draw next year after the completion of renovations on Kyle Field (better than Jerry World?). That could be enough to push the SEC in front of the Big Ten if we assume most of these attendance numbers are roughly the same in 2016.

Numbers are still coming in for the Big 12 and Pac-12, but none of the other power conferences will even sniff 200,000 fans this spring. It’s just a different routine in the Big Ten and SEC every spring, and the attendance numbers show it.

Source: 2015 Spring Football Attendance

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Michigan State center scores only TD of Spartans’ spring game

Jack Allen

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio was pushing to get 50,000 fans to show up at Spartan Stadium for the annual spring game, but he had to settle for 48,000 fans instead. That was still good enough for a school record for the spring game.

The 48,000 fans that did show up were treated to a handful of trick plays and familiar dominance in the trenches. The only touchdown of the game was scored by center Jack Allen, who found space on his way for a short touchdown run after 300-pound guard Donavon Clark rumbled 13 yards on a lateral from quarterback Connor Cook. Do not expect to see too much of that during he regular season, but do not forget about it either. Dantonio is know for pulling some tricks in key moments, but even that might be considered a bit of a costly risk.

As for individual performances, Shilque Calhoun was credited for 2.5 sacks in the game.Cook went 11-of-22 for 105 yards. It was not a stellar performance from the Spartans’ quarterback, but there is no real reason for concern in East Lansing. that is because the starting offensive line was split between teams. Put them all together and Cook should be in good shape in the fall. Cook’s backup, Damion Terry, did not play in the spring game as he recovers from injury.

Michigan State’s crowd of 48,000 was locked in as the fifth best this spring around the Big Ten. Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan all finished ahead of the Spartans, but Dantonio should feel good about the crowd that turned out. In Madison, Wisconsin, the crowd was considerably smaller, but there is a lot to do in Madison. Michigan State’s attendance (combined with the totals from Wisconsin and Iowa on Saturday) pushed the total spring attendance around the Big Ten to 410,943, giving the Big Ten the largest combined spring attendance in 2015.

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Hokies close out spring and set focus on Buckeyes

Motley, Brewer

Every year there is one team that has the opportunity to play the defending national champions in the first game of the season. In 2015 that will be Virginia Tech, the only team to hand national champion Ohio State a loss last season. This year the Buckeyes visit Blacksburg for a Monday night game n Labor Day, which means now that the spring is over the Hokies are already in need of getting ready for everything Ohio State will throw at them.

Some teams end their springs with some question marks, but the vibe seems pretty positive at Virginia Tech after Saturday afternoon’s spring game.

“I like where we are. I like our football team,” Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said after the game. “I think we’ve got a lot of good character guys and a lot of good football players. I like where we are right now and we’ve got to keep going in a positive direction.”

Starting quarterback Michael Brewer threw one touchdown while splitting time between teams. The red zone efficiency was respectable between the two teams as well, with touchdowns scored on four of five red zone opportunities. On the flip side, the defense gave up four touchdowns in five red zone situations.

“I thought the offense took a step in the right direction,” Brewer said following the game. “We’re not where we need to be or where we want to be, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

In typical Virginia Tech fashion, the first score of the game came on special teams when Greg Stroman returned a punt early on for an 88-yard touchdown. Later in the game the defense got on the scoreboard when Donovan Riley returned a fumble 36 yards for a score. The defense could be credited for another score after recovering a fumble deep in the offense’s pat of the field to set up a short touchdown run by Trey Edmunds.

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Kansas spring game sees starting QB injured, leading rusher suspended

Michael Cummings

It was quite a disastrous afternoon for the Kansas Jayhawks. Not only was a starting quarterback injured, but two more players were confirmed to be suspended for violations of team rules.

Michael Cummings limped off the field with the assistance of the team’s medical staff. He had taken a low hit by safety Michael Glatczak, but the severity of the injury is not yet known. Kansas head coach David Beaty said it was too early to start discussing how the future of Cummings looks. Cummings was the leading passer for Kansas in 2014 with 1,715 yards and nine touchdowns.

Two other players with an uncertain future right now at Kansas are wide receiver Rodriguez Coleman and running back Corey Avery. Beaty said both players have been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, and it is unknown when or if either player will return to the program. Avery was the leading rusher for the Jayhawks last fall, rushing for 631 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman. Coleman had three catches for 37 yards in 2014.

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Jeff Long says 13th games were factor for CFB Playoff committee

Jeff Long

This may not sit too well with some fans in Big 12 country, specifically fans of Baylor or TCU. If there was any doubt how valuable a conference championship game was going to be in the College Football Playoff era, Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long made the message pretty clear; it’s pretty important.

Long, who chairs the selection committee for the College Football Playoff, was a guest in the broadcast booth for a short Q&A on the SEC Network during the Arkansas spring game Saturday afternoon. During his interview Long was asked about the College Football Playoff and the value of playing a conference championship game in the eyes of the selection committee. In his response, Long said the 13th game played by those in conference championship games was a factor for the selection committee. Baylor and TCU only played 12 games, with the Big 12 not holding a conference championship game.

Baylor and TCU shared the Big 12 championship last fall, and neither school was invited to participate in the first College Football Playoff despite entering the final week of the season ranked ahead of Ohio State. The Buckeyes roared into the playoff following a dominating victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game despite trailing TCU in the weekly CFB Playoff rankings up until the final week of the rankings.

Change may be on the way for the Big 12 though. The conference could begin playing a championship game as soon as 2016, which would give its conference champion one more time to impress the selection committee. Of course, even if the Big 12 had a championship game last season it is unknown if it would have been enough to keep TCU or Baylor in the playoff field ahead of a surging Ohio State along with Alabama, Oregon and Florida State. Big brands still carry weight growing and blossoming programs like Baylor and TCU are working to achieve.

Long also said during his brief moment in the booth the committee would be reviewing possible minor changes to the College Football Playoff, although nothing too drastic is expected to change in the eyes of the public.

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Jim Mora will name starting UCLA QB “whenever kickoff is vs. Virginia”

Jerry Neuheisel

The UCLA spring drew to a close Saturday afternoon on the west coast. As far as head coach Jim Mora is concerned, there is no need to name a starting quarterback just yet, and he may be letting the competition brew right up until the season’s opening kickoff against Virginia.

Earlier this week Mora said “I will not say who’s the guy until our first series against Virginia,” and after the spring game that plan has not changed.

The options for UCLA are Jerry Neuheisel, Asiantii Woulard, Mike Fafaul and early enrollee Josh Rosen. If the spring game was any indication, it might be a wide open race to replace Brett Hundley. There were some nice plays at times, but the final spring practice also saw a decent amount of overthrowing targets, and it would be fair to suggest none of the candidates for the starting job jumped out and grabbed a hold of the position out of the spring.

Woulard did serve up one of the nicer highlights from UCLA’s scrimmage…

UCLA opens the 2015 season at home against Virginia on September 5.

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Urban Meyer was against satellite camps before he was for them

Urban Meyer

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer may think satellite camps should be outlawed, but do not think for one second he is not going to take advantage of the NCAA rules the same way his coaching brethren at Michigan and Penn State are. Ohio State coaches will be working with coaches at Florida Atlantic this summer, giving Ohio State coaches access to potential recruits in the state of Florida in the same way Penn State and Michigan will have access to recruits in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and beyond.

There is a connection between the two schools, according to Cleveland.com. FAU Athletics Director previously was employed by Ohio State. Meyer’s previous experience in the state of Florida also helps.

“I think we’re thinking about doing one,” Meyer said Monday. “I can’t tell you if it has been finalized. Am I a fan of that? Not really. A big lore to Ohio State is getting them here on campus.

“I think what happens is monkey see, monkey do, they did that so let’s go do it,” Meyer said. “We’re not going to do it only because other schools are trying it.”

No word on whether or not Meyer will be accepting an open invite by Jim Harbaugh to help with Michigan’s summer camp.

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Leah Still scores touchdown at Temple spring game

Nike Levi's Kids Rock - Runway - New York Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2015

Leah Still, the daughter of Cincinnati Bengals player Devon Still, has already scored the best touchdown of the day among all the spring games being played this afternoon.

Still was a special guest at Temple’s spring game today. The Owls invited her to toss the coin before the game, and then gave her a chance to score one more career touchdown than her father, a former Penn State defensive lineman, ever had.

Good job by the Temple Owls here.

Leah Still’s inspirational story caught the attention of the sports world and beyond last fall, just months after she had been diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma, which led to surgery and other forms of treatment. The Cincinnati Bengals released Devon still from the team but kept him on the practice squad so he and his family could benefit from the health insurance provided by the NFL. Leah is currently in remission and remains an inspiration for so many.

UPDATE (7:30 p.m.) – We now have a better quality video courtesy of CSN Philly;

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UAB linebacker brings helmet to graduation and leaves President Watts hanging

Derek Slaughter

UAB linebacker Derek Slaughter won the crowd at a graduation ceremony this week. The graduating senior brought his UAB football helmet to graduation and held it high as he walked to the stage to accept his diploma from the university. The crowd erupted in support of not just Slaughter, but the entire football program that was cast off by the university and the board of trustees.

That moment was great, it was touching. Then Slaughter scored one more point as he left UAB President Ray Watts hanging as he walked off the stage.

The disgraced university president was there to offer a congratulatory handshake to all UAB students graduating, but Slaughter refused to shake hands with Watts, who has become the target for so much criticism over the shutting down of the UAB Blazers football program despite a new report suggesting the program was financially viable.

In this video below you can see Slaughter make his way to the right of the stage to walk back to his seat. The image may be a little grainy, but you can see Watts extend his hand to shake hands, as Slaughter walks right on by.

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Washington’s Chris Petersen has Huskies focused on tackling technique

Chris Petersen

If there is one thing to take note of as you watch Washington football this fall, pay attention to the technique with which the Huskies tackle. Head coach Chris Petersen has been trying to change the way the fundamentals of tackling are taught and enforced in his second spring with the Huskies.

“The game has to change,” Petersen said, according to The Seattle Times. “We have to change as coaches.”

Petersen picked up some new ideas after having a discussion with a former Boise State player, Michael Lose, about the relatively low number of head injuries in rugby. Rugby players, if you were unaware, typically do not wear helmets. His interest in improving tackling technique continued to grow after a conversation with Seattle Seahawks defensive assistant Rocky Seto.

“We are fully committed to this,” Petersen said. “It’s the right thing to do. But the really neat thing about this whole thing is, not only is it the right thing to do because it’s the safe thing to do, it’s a better way of tackling.”

Going for the big hit may result in a nice highlight or two, but it can also lead to the chance of a missed tackle. Better form and better technique could not only make for a a safer game, but a better defense as well.

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Texas A&M’s Kyle Field better than Jerry World, says chancellor

Kyle Field

Texas A&M has invested serious money ($485 million) to give Kyle Field a nice facelift over the course of the past two years. When all is completed, Kyle Field will be better than a pair of NFL stadiums in the state of Texas, AT&T Stadium and NRG Stadium. Well, according to Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp at least.

“This stadium is going to be the most impressive college sports venue in the country,” Sharp said for a local news story on KBTX. That includes the two NFL stadiums that have taken up hosting college football games in the regular season and bowl season in recent years.

One of the notable upgrades to Kyle Field, other than more restrooms, is the expanded WiFi coverage inside the stadium, which Texas A&M claims will be able to handle 100,000 calls at the same time and save your phone’s battery life from start to finish.

“If you come to the stadium with a full charge, it should last the whole game,” Todd Christner, Director of Wireless Business Development for IBM/Corning, said. [Insert AT&T Stadium joke here if you wish].

Sharp also commented on the future, or lack thereof, of the rivalry between Texas A&M and Texas. As far as he is concerned, the series will not be returning for some time. That’s a shame. It would be fun watching one of college football’s best in-state rivalries play in the so-called most impressive college sports venue in the country.

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Boise State’s potential starting QB arrested

Boise State at Air Force

I suppose it is time to hit the reset button on that arrest ticker on the side of the page.

Boise State quarterback Ryan Finley was reportedly arrested early Saturday morning and charged for a pair of misdemeanor offenses related to alcohol. The Idaho Statesman says Finley was charged for possession of an alcoholic beverage as a minor and resisting or obstructing officers.

Finley, a sophomore, ended the spring as the most likely candidate to be Boise State’s starting quarterback in the fall. A pair of misdemeanor offenses may not do much to distract from that idea, unless Finley gets in any more trouble moving forward between now and the start of the new season.

Finley was Boise State’s backup quarterback behind Grant Hedrick last season. He appeared in five games and completed 12 of his 27 pass attempts for 161 yards. He tossed a pair of touchdowns and was picked off once in the process. With the leg up in experience, Finley saw the most action in Boise State’s recent spring game with the first-team offense, a suggestion the starting job under center will ultimately be his to lose.

There has been no statement from Boise State at this time.

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Peyton Manning, Vol for life, donates $3 million to Tennessee

Tennessee v Georgia Getty Images

Peyton Manning, whom you may remember from various commercials for MasterCard, Gatorade, Oreo or Papa John’s Pizza*, made a sizable contribution to his alma mater Friday. The former Tennessee Volunteer quarterback donated $3 million back to his school, the funds to be used to support the football program and the Peyton Manning Scholarship Endowment.

Not only is $3 million being used to support the football program and an academic fund, but the donation will also provide an opportunity to honor Tennessee legend and longtime athletics official Gus Manning and administrator for the UT baseball program Carmen Tegano. Gate 16 at Neyland Stadium will be renamed the Gus Manning Gate, and a dining hall will be named in Tegano’s honor.

“Gus and Carmen both personify what it means to be a Vol for Life, and both have made the University of Tennessee a better place,” said Peyton Manning. “No one has served Tennessee and its athletics program better than Gus, and Carmen has also served this University with tremendous distinction.”

Peyton Manning has supported the academic scholarship fund in his name since graduating from Tennessee and becoming the top draft pick in the NFL Draft in 1998.

* Manning went on to have a pretty successful career in the NFL as well.

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