Updated: NCAA says Miami ‘grasping at straws’ to get case dismissed, ‘offended’ by remarks

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Earlier this month, a portion of the NCAA’s response to Miami’s motion to dismiss its infractions case was passed along via CBSSports.com. Now, more blurbs from that response to the Committee on Infractions have been revealed through CBSSports and the Associated Press.

The NCAA’s enforcement staff claims, among other things, that Miami is “grasping at straws” to discredit members of the enforcement team, and that it is “offended” (LULZ!!!1!1!!) by remarks in the motion.

(Updated: You can read the entire 42-page document HERE)

“In the enforcement staff’s view, the motions to dismiss are largely based on assumptions, false accusations, misleading statements and meritless claims about the enforcement staff and its investigation. For the reasons set forth below, the enforcement staff requests that the Committee on Infractions deny the motions,” Interim Vice President of Enforcement Jonathan Duncan wrote.

Specifically, the enforcement staff fires back at UM’s assertion that it was “wronged” by the fact that former athletic director Paul Dee, now deceased, was never interviewed.

“Though the enforcement staff did not interview Dee prior to his untimely passing, it was not due to oversight or inattention,” the response reads. “In this case, the enforcement staff planned to and did conduct interviews relating to institutional control issues in June 2012, approximately three weeks after Dee’s passing. Because Dee’s death was unexpected, the enforcement staff could not have predicted that he would not be available for an interview in June 2012. Had the institution or enforcement staff known of Dee’s condition or impending death, the enforcement staff would have exhausted all reasonable efforts to preserve Dee’s testimony.”

The response also comes to the defense of members of the enforcement team, including investigators Brynna Barnhart and Stephanie Hannah. 

“… Overall, the enforcement staff believes that the institution is again grasping at straws in an attempt to disqualify members of the enforcement team with the most knowledge about the case. Not only are these personal attacks based on no evidence that would support the removal of Barnhart and Hannah from the case, they are also not a basis for dismissal of the case in its entirety.”

However, the Miami Herald reported last month that, according to the law firm that conducted the NCAA’s external review of the investigation, Hannah didn’t know her work with Nevin Shapiro‘s attorney, started by her predecessor, Ameen Najjar, was previously given the no-go from the NCAA’s legal team.

“Ms. Hannah assumed there was nothing amiss about the arrangement [with Maria Elena Perez] and that it had been completely blessed prior to her involvement in the case,” Ken Wainstein of the Cadwalader law firm previously told the Herald in an email.

There’s more, but the point is clear: the NCAA made its apology and is now back on its moral high horse. And, in all likelihood, the case will move toward a June hearing with the COI.

But the only thing offensive about this case is the NCAA’s use of the word “offensive”, showing once again how little self-awareness college athletics’ governing body has.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas set to give DC Todd Orlando new contract with raise to $1.7 million a year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: “There are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC.”

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.