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USA Today digs into Mark Emmert’s past; results are not good

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While the end result of the Miami-NCAA case remains to be seen, there’s no arguing that college athletics’ governing body has screwed up royally investigating the Hurricanes. Some — many? — would also argue that Mark Emmert‘s unprecedented action against Penn State following the Freeh Report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal was uncalled for, making the past year memorable for the NCAA for all the wrong reasons.

Well, the hits keep coming.

In an equally fascinating and unsettling piece by USA Today‘s Brent Schrotenboer, Emmert’s previous stops at Montana State, UConn, LSU and Washington  are placed squarely under a microscope to reveal a trend of scandals that make you wonder how Emmert was awarded his job as NCAA president to begin with.

As chancellor at UConn, Emmert oversaw a $1 billion construction project that resulted in a loss of over $100 million due to mismanagement. “Memos from 1998-99 showed that Emmert and two other top UConn officials knew about the construction project’s big problems then, but failed to disclose them to the school’s board of trustees or the state legislature,” Schrotenboer writes.

By the time the problems were discovered in 2005, Emmert had moved on to become chancellor of LSU and later denied withholding information.

“I never saw an audit issue that was a problem at all, and we certainly wouldn’t have kept it from people,” he told the USA Today.

While at LSU, Emmert led an investigation into allegations of academic fraud that emerged in the football program under former coach Nick Saban. While the conclusions of that investigation acknowledged  five minor, isolated violations, court documents obtained by the USA Today show a deposition given in 2004 after Emmert’s departure for Washington said “problems were far more systemic than the school admitted…”

(Similarly, in 1995, the NCAA ruled that Montana State was guilty of a lack of institutional control for academic fraud in men’s basketball while Emmert was a member of the university’s senior management team along with the NCAA’s current COO, Jim Isch. But by that point, Emmert had left for UConn.)

Emmert continued to make enemies at UW. The USA Today writes Emmert “irked some faculty with two bold moves. He pushed to use taxpayer money to fund a football stadium renovation and helped make football coach Steve Sarkisian the highest-paid state employee at about $2 million.”

Emmert stood by the decision, claiming athletics are the “window into the institution”.

While that’s true, Emmert was also pulling in a yearly salary of $762,000 as the university’s president, making him the highest-paid public university president in the nation at the time. That is, until he became president of the NCAA in 2010.

Since then, Emmert and the NCAA have come under fire numerous times for their handling of specific infraction cases, including the debacle with Miami. That’s led to calls for Emmert’s resignation, but he asserted to the USA Today that “the president of the NCAA doesn’t get involved in infractions cases.”

Emmert may have a hard time explaining that one to Penn State.

But the USA Today‘s piece has to make you wonder if Emmert ever had to explain any of his past screw-ups to the NCAA. More importantly, did the NCAA ever ask? Or know? If there’s one thing the Cadwalader external report on the Miami investigation showed, it’s that no one in the NCAA seems to talk to anybody or corroborate anything. At least, that’s the impression it gives off.

And apparently it starts at the top.

NCAA member schools should be appalled and no vote of confidence from the executive committee should matter anymore when it comes to Emmert’s job security.

Record-breaking QB one of two coaches hired by New Mexico State

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Doug Martin‘s 2017 on-field coaching staff will have a decidedly familiar feel to it, even as it’s in some ways brand-new.

New Mexico State announced that two coaches have been hired by Martin, Chase Holbrook and Kai Brown.  The former will serve as tight ends coach, the latter as defensive ends coach.

Holbrook spent the 2016 season as a quality control coach for Mike Leach at Washington State.  A former NMSU quarterback, he still owns the school’s single-season and career records for passing, passing attempts, completions, touchdowns, total offense and total touchdowns.

Brown was a graduate assistant the past three seasons for the football program.

“We are really excited about Chase coming back to New Mexico State,” Martin said. “Having a former great quarterback that has his name written all over the Aggie record book will have a huge impact on us taking that next step. Chase really believes and cares deeply about the football program here. To have a coach of his talent join our staff makes us a better program immediately. …

“Kai has been a very loyal hard working coach for us as a GA and it gives me great pride to add him to our staff in a full time role. He brings a lot of enthusiasm to our program and has a great relationship with our players.”

This will be both coaches’ first foray into full-time coaching responsibilities at the FBS level.

Cal turns to Fresno State to complete Justin Wilcox’s staff

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 14:  A member of the California Golden Bears spirit squad waves a team flag while standing next to the Bears' mascot in front of the Michigan State Spartans crowd on September 14, 2002 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan.  California defeated Michigan State 46-22.  (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Getty Images)
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In late December, Fresno State hired Tony Tuioti as part of Jeff Tedford‘s first coaching staff with the Mountain West program.  Two months later, Tedford’s former Pac-12 employer has poached said staff.

By way of a press release, Cal announced that Tuioti has been hired as Justin Wilcox‘s outside linebackers coach.  Tedford served as Cal’s head coach from 2002-12; Tim DeRuyter, Fresno’s head coach for five seasons before being fired and replaced by Tedford, is now Wilcox’s defensive coordinator with the Golden Bears.

“Tony has a tremendous resume that showcases his diverse skill set and abilities both on and off the field,” Wilcox said in a statement. “Not only is he an excellent coach, but the experience he has as a director of player personnel will be a tremendous benefit to us in the structuring and organization of our recruiting operation. Finding someone with a skill set as unique and diverse as Tony’s is challenging. We are fortunate that we have found that in Tony and are looking forward to his contributions to our program.”

“Working at Cal for a coach like Justin Wilcox was an opportunity I could not pass up,” a statement from Tuioti began. “I have a tremendous feeling about the positive direction Cal is headed, and I really wanted to be a part of that and contribute all I could to a football program with tremendous potential.”

In 2016, Tuioti worked as a football staffer at Michigan.  His last on-field job at the collegiate level came at Hawaii (2012-13, linebackers coach; 2010-11, defensive line).

Georgia raising money to build Devon Gales a home

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It’s been close to a year and a half since Southern football player Devon Gales fractured his C6 vertebrae when covering a kick at Georgia. While the two sides will forever be linked, Georgia has gone above and beyond its duties to help improve his life.

In addition to regularly visiting him in the hospital and paying for his parents’ travel to Georgia, the Bulldogs will now raise funds to build him a house.

Gales received an NCAA Sportsmanship Award at the Bulldogs’ basketball game on Saturday, and it was announced that the UGAAA will launch a “Drive to Build a Dawg House” for Gales and his family.

“Anybody can just their prayer for you and send you on your way, but they didn’t. They took me as one of their kids, not just as another player, but as one of their children,” Gales said.

To contibute, text (707) 204-1707 to donate $5 toward the fund.

Mike Gundy says Sugar Bowl loss to Ole Miss wasn’t on a “level playing field”

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Laquon Treadwell #1 of the Mississippi Rebels celebrates scoring a 14-yard touchdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the fourth quarter of the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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Mike Gundy originally blamed himself for Oklahoma State’s 48-20 loss to Ole Miss at the Sugar Bowl that closed the 2015 season.

Speaking at the AFCA Convention in Nashville last month, I heard Gundy explain to thousands of fellow coaches he felt he overtrained his Cowboys in preparation to play the physically imposing Rebels. The end result backfired. As I wrote for FootballScoop:

As Oklahoma State prepared to face No. 12 Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, Gundy pushed his players harder than usual in December practices. “They’re going to knock us off the ball and it’s not going to look pretty,” he remembers thinking. That strategy backfired on him, though, as the Rebels pounded Gundy’s team 48-20. Oklahoma State was out-rushed 207-63 and averaged only 6.7 yards per pass attempt to Ole Miss’s 9.9. “We weren’t physical and we were slow,” Gundy said.

But now Gundy thinks something else may have contributed to that 28-point spanking.

As he explained to the Tulsa World‘s Bill Haisten, Gundy said he couldn’t help but think of the Sugar Bowl when he learned of the NCAA’s charges against Ole Miss.

“The first thing I thought about was (OSU’s recent experience with the NCAA),” Gundy said, “and the second thing was the Sugar Bowl and my players and what they went through.”

He continued: “We’ll never know what we could have done in the Sugar Bowl if it was a level playing field. That is the truth. I’m not sure we would have won the Sugar Bowl, but we’ll never know.”