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Documents: Oregon, NCAA agree ‘major violations’ committed

Chip Kelly AP

Chip Kelly may be off to the NFL, but the NCAA cloud that formed on his watch still looms over the Oregon football program.

In documents released to both The Oregonian and KATU-TV, both Oregon and the NCAA agreed that the school’s football program had committed what the television station describes as “several major violations” in its use of so-called recruiting services.  The documents were provided to the media entities following open records requests that were several months in the making.

The vast majority of the allegations — which in addition to utilizing suspect recruiting services include impermissible phone calls and too many coaches on the recruiting trail — occurred under Kelly, who left shortly after the first of the year for the Philadelphia Eagles.

One of the more significant takeaways from the released documents is that the NCAA’s enforcement staff made “no finding of lack of institutional control and no finding of unethical conduct.”  Such a development, if it holds through the next couple of steps in the process, could be a signal that the Ducks will avoid significant sanctions.

For its part, Oregon released a lengthy “no comment” in response to the reports.

“The review is ongoing until the NCAA Committee on Infractions issues its final report,” the school’s statement began. “The integrity of the process and our continued full cooperation with the NCAA prohibits us from publicly discussing the specifics of this matter.”

In March of 2011, both Yahoo! and ESPN.com published reports that called into question the financial relationship between Oregon and a pair of so-called recruiting services.  One of those services was/is Complete Scouting Services, solely owned and operated by purported “street agent” Willie Lyles.

In late February of 2010, Oregon purchased for $25,000 from Lyles’ scouting service what was described as a “2011 National Package” that detailed recruits from several states.  One of the biggest problems with that? The package for 2011 purchased by UO contained zero recruits that would make up the following year’s recruiting class.  Instead, the vast majority of players highlighted in the 143-page book UO received from Lyles contained data on members of the 2009 recruiting class.

In the midst of rumors that Lyles had steered recruits such as Lache Seastrunk to the Ducks — and that he was paid handsomely for said steering (allegedly) — the man at the center of the controversy claimed in July of 2011 that UO “paid for what they saw as my access and influence with recruits. The service I provided went beyond what a scouting service should … I made a mistake and I’m big enough of a man to admit I was wrong.”

That claim came a couple of months after Lyles, who has spoken to the NCAA on multiple occasions, labeled as ““unequivocally false” reports that he steered recruits to universities.

It was reported in late December that UO will appear in front of NCAA’s Committee on Infractions at some point this year, likely in the spring, after the school’s attempt at a summary disposition failed.  That failure apparently stemmed from the severity of one of the allegations involving Lyles.  From The Oregonian:

Oregon and the NCAA, however, reached an impasse late in 2012 while attempting to agree on the severity of one violation concerning the Ducks’ $25,000 payment to Texas-based talent scout Willie Lyles.  The Ducks believe the impermissible “oral reports” delivered from Lyles constitute a secondary violation; NCAA enforcement officials believe them to be another “major violation.”

Because the summary disposition fell through, the television station writes, “the findings discussed in this draft document will not necessarily be binding.”

According to the document dump late Monday night, the school has already proposed two self-imposed sanctions: two-year probation and a reduction of one scholarship for each of the next three seasons.  Following the hearing in front of the COI, sanctions will be handed down on the football program, at which point UO can either accept the punitive measures or appeal all or part of the sanctions.

UPDATED 11:38 a.m. ET: In response to the document dump, former Ducks and current Eagles head coach Chip Kelly released a statement that echoed comments made last December.  For what it’s worth, here it is.

“I am aware of the recent reports and of the ongoing investigation being conducted by the NCAA and the University of Oregon. While at Oregon, I know we were fully cooperative with all aspects of the investigation and I will continue to contribute in any way that I can. But until the NCAA rules on the matter, I will have no further comment.”

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Miami QB Ryan Williams becomes a first-time father

Wake Forest v Miami

As he continues rehabbing a serious knee injury, Ryan Williams will have a much, much, much more important job to perform in the coming months.  And years.

The Miami quarterback announced via Twitter that he and his wife, Deanna, are now the proud parents of a bouncing — and rather large — baby boy.  Roman Louis Williams, the first child for both mom and dad, was born July 29 and weighed in at a healthy nine pounds even.

The couple had announced back in March that Deanna was expecting.

Here’s a picture of the newest member of the Williams clan, courtesy of the newly-minted father’s Instagram account:

Ryan Williams' Son

Sincere congratulations to the new parents from all of us.

Williams suffered a torn ACL in early April and underwent surgery shortly thereafter, meaning the prohibitive favorite to replace Stephen Morris as the starter entering spring practice won’t hit the practice field through at least September.  The earliest Williams is expected to begin participating in practice is at some point in October, if then.

With Williams sidelined for the foreseeable future, Jake Heaps, the Kansas transfer, and Kevin Olsen are expected to be the two main combatants for the starting job, at least early on.  For his part, Heaps has been quoted as saying he didn’t come to The U “to be the backup.”

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FSU, SEC top preseason coaches’ poll

BCS National Championship - Florida State v Auburn Getty Images

Unlike in years past, the Amway (nee USA Today) coaches’ poll will have no bearing, outside of possibly influencing the members of the College Football Playoff selection committee, on college football’s postseason. In fact, it’s turned into nothing more than what the Associated Press‘ version has been for years: an exercise to give the fans something to argue and/or whine about in between/before the start of games.

With that in mind… the first coaches’ poll of the year is here!!!

In the first-ever Amway coaches’ poll, and as expected, defending champion Florida State will enter the 2014 season ranked No. 1.  FSU was tapped first on 56 of the 62 coaches ballots.

Others receiving first-place votes were Oklahoma with three while Oregon, Ohio State and South Carolina took one each.  Interestingly, the No. 2 team wasn’t among them as Alabama, 88 points behind the Seminoles, wasn’t deemed worthy of a first-place nod, at least as of yet.

The Sooners and Ducks were right behind the Tide at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, with the Buckeyes at No. 6 and Gamecocks at No. 9.  The remainder of the Top 10 consists of BCS runner-up Auburn (No. 5), UCLA (No. 7), Michigan State (No. 8) and Baylor (No. 10).

Conference-wise, and just as expected, the SEC led all leagues with seven teams in the Top 25.  The were followed by the Pac-12’s six, four each from the Big Ten and Big 12 and three each from the ACC.  There were no non-Power Five conference teams in the initial mix, with Notre Dame and its ACC affiliation claiming the remaining spot.

Below are the full poll results.  Below that you bitch, whine or moan about your team’s placement in the comments section.

1. Florida State (56 first place votes)
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma (3)
4. Oregon (1)
5. Auburn
6. Ohio State (1)
7. UCLA
8. Michigan State
9. South Carolina (1)
10. Baylor
11. Stanford
12. Georgia
13. LSU
14. Wisconsin
15. USC
16. Clemson
17. Notre Dame
18. Arizona State
19. Ole Miss
20. Texas A&M
21. Kansas State
22. Nebraska
23. North Carolina
24. Texas
25. Washington

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Pair of four-star CBs qualify, will play for Gamecocks

Thumbs Up

When we last checked on the qualifying efforts of South Carolina’s Class of 2014, there was concern that as many as eight of the 21 signees would fail to qualify academically.

A couple of weeks later, it’s not quite as bad as originally feared.

Head coach Steve Spurrier confirmed at a charity event Thursday night that a pair of touted cornerbacks, Chris Lammons and Wesley Green, have qualified and will be a part of the team in 2014. According to Saturday Down South, “[b]oth players’ standardized test scores were flagged prior to summer enrollment, which forced an unexpected cram session prior to the test’s re-take on July 11.”

Both Lammons and Harris were four-star prospects, with the former rated as the No. 14 corner in the country and the latter No. 17.  One or both are expected to contribute immediately to the Gamecocks’

The positive development regarding the two defensive backs means USC’s 2014 recruiting class will consist of 15 players instead of the original 21. The six not making the cut academically? Cornerback Darin Smalls, fullback Joe Blue, defensive tackle Dexter Wideman and defensive ends Dante Sawyer, Kalan Ritchie and Jhaustin Thomas.

Wideman is the highest ranked of that group, rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals.com.

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Suspended FSU WR has felony reduced

Florida State Spring Game Getty Images

A new development has cleared the path for the return of Jesus Wilson to Florida State.  How soon that happens, however, remains to be seen.

According to WarChant.com, Wilson has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft after originally being charged with a felony in connection to the “borrowing” of a scooter earlier this month.  As for punishment meted out by the courts, the wide receiver will perform 30 hours in a work camp and serve a probationary period of one year.

Additionally, he’s already made restitution.

July 9, Wilson was arrested and charged with the theft of a motor scooter back on June 11.  Here are some of the pertinents from the reports:

The keys were in the ignition, making a getaway rather easy. The owner of the moped, Sebastian Bellini, informed police he thought he dropped the keys. Soon after the alleged theft, Wilson crashed the vehicle with damages costing $882.13. When police investigated the accident Wilson told police he had borrowed the scooter from a friend. When asked to identify the friend who had allegedly lent him the vehicle, Wilson failed to show up to a photo lineup. Wilson later sent the police a statement claiming to have taken the bike, which led to an arrest just days later.

Because of the felony charge, Wilson was automatically and indefinitely suspended according to FSU policy. Based on the fact that the charge was dropped to a misdemeanor, he’s now eligible for reinstatement.

Wilson was a three-star member of the Seminoles’ 2013 recruiting class who caught three passes for 23 yards as a true freshman. Provided he’s back with the team, Wilson’s expected to play a bigger role in FSU’s offense in 2014.

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Ex-Tide RB Dee Hart says he’s headed to Colo. St.

Michigan v Alabama Getty Images

A few months after being “parting ways” with Alabama, Dee Hart apparently found a new football home.  And, when he gets there, he’ll find a very familiar face.

In a text message Wednesday, Dee Hart confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that he is in the process of transferring to Colorado State.  The Rams’s head coach is Jim McElwain, who was Alabama’s offensive coordinator when the running back signed with the Tide in 2011.

Because Hart has already graduated from UA, he’s expected to be eligible to play for CSU immediately in 2014.

Hart was a touted five-star member of the Tide’s 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 running back in the country.  The paper talent never translated to the field in Tuscaloosa as Hart’s career totals are just 43 carries for 166 yards and a touchdown.

In February of this year, Hart was arrested and charged with giving false information and possession of marijuana. It was revealed at that time that Hart hadn’t been a part of the team since shortly after the Tide’s Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

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Former Texas A&M DE heading to Houston

SMU v Texas A&M

The search for a new football home did not take long for former Texas A&M defensive end Gavin Stansbury. Stansbury plans to join the Houston Cougars of the American Athletic Conference and will be eligible to play immediately this fall. The news was first reported by Joseph Duarte The Houston Chronicle and followed  up by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports via Twitter.

Just last week Texas A&M confirmed Stansbury decided to leave the program. This decision was made following an arrest after a traffic stop. There was a warrant for Stansbury’s arrest stemming from an altercation at a party at Rice University in April. Stansbury was faced with a misdemeanor charge for assault. Stansbury was suspended from team activities but had returned following the arrest.

As far as football is concerned, this is a nice addition for Houston. Stansbury was a three-star prospect at defensive end according to Rivals.com. The Cougars were picked third in the AAC this season, behind Cincinnati and defending champion UCF. Stansbury appeared in 10 games last season for Texas A&M and finished seventh on the team with 47 tackles and tied for the team-high with three sacks. He is ready to step right in and see some significant playing time for the Cougars.

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Playbooks on iPads are not quite as exciting for kickers

iPad

One of the perks of playing college football at a big program is getting an iPad loaded with the playbook on it every season. Today many players started getting their digital playbooks as camps start opening up. This tends to be a pretty exciting time for college football players, and they are surely advised not to share any of the information through public forums like Facebook or Twitter.

Sometimes players can get away with it. Kickers, for example, have a pretty simple role on a college football team. Kick the ball far on kickoffs and between the poles on extra point and field goal attempts.

Here is the playbook’s instructions to Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt.

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Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon “not reporting at this time”

Joe Mixon

As a legal investigation continues to cloud the future of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, the university has issued a statement stating the five-stare Class of 2014 addition is not currently reporting to team activities. That is about as close as we have gotten to any word of a possible indefinite suspension for the talented running back expected to contribute right away for the Sooners.

Mixon was reportedly involved in a serious altercation over the weekend, with a 20-year old female reportedly being the other party involved and injured in the incident in question. Mixon’s attorney has stated his client’s innocence, but police continue to work the investigation to determine the next steps. The timeline for the police investigation is unknown just yet, but is expected to continue into next week and perhaps longer.

It is typical for schools to indefinitely suspend players tied to any ongoing legal investigations, so it was probably only a matter of time before Oklahoma released this type of statement, with summer camps set to open.

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Season tickets at Iowa could net you free tuition

Michigan v Iowa

Iowa is going to offer free tuition to five students, chosen at random, who have purchased season tickets for the upcoming 2014 season. If nothing else, it is one way to battle the downward trend in college football attendance.

“The fans in the stadium really feed off the energy from students, so we’d like to have a full student section,” Lisa Pearson, director of marketing for Iowa said to the Iowa City Press-Citizen. “We’re trying to get as many students into the stadium as possible.”

Iowa typically reserves 10,000 tickets for students, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, but only about 7,300 were sold last season. Overall season ticket sales have also dipped at Iowa with 52,000 tickets sold last season for Kinnick Stadium, which holds more than 70,000 on game day.

Students at Iowa might want to take the gamble on free tuition. Iowa should be a pretty good team this season and could easily play into the Big Ten West along with Wisconsin and Nebraska. The Hawkeyes always seem to have a year that comes out of nowhere and that appears to be what many are thinking this season. Iowa was picked second in the unofficial Big Ten media poll last week.

UPDATED (8:21 PM ET): It seems there may be a concern over this whole plan now. Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta released the following statement, as shared by KWWL;

“This afternoon we learned of concerns related to a student football promotion,” Barta said in a written statement. “A question has been raised whether the promotion is compliant with state raffle laws. I have suspended the promotion temporarily as we determine how to make sure that this promotion is in complete compliance.

“In the end, our goal is to do everything possible to make sure that the student experience at Hawkeye football games is as fun and exciting as possible,” he added.

So now there is a waiting game to find out if Iowa will be able to follow trough on this plan.

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Coaches at Penn State and Pitt trying to reignite the rivalry

James Franklin

Penn State and Pittsburgh used to play every season, but once the two programs went their separate ways by joining the Big East (Pitt) and Big Ten (Penn State), it has been a struggle to get the two programs to see eye-to-eye when it came to scheduling any future games. Much of the tension stemmed from the days of Joe Paterno leading the Penn State program and demanding an extra home game in any scheduling arrangement with Pittsburgh, but that is best left for historians to dig deeper into today. Penn State and Pittsburgh have a four-game series lined up for 2016 through 2019. If it was up to the head coaches of both programs today, the series would continue on an annual basis.

The topic of power conference opponents scheduling other power conference opponents has become an increasingly relevant topic with the emphasis shifting on strength of schedule in the College Football Playoff era. With Pitt also needing to fulfill a non-conference scheduling requirement to schedule an opponent from another power conference opponent each season under the ACC’s new guidelines, it would seem only natural for the Panthers to explore the revival of past annual rivalries against either West Virginia or Penn State.

Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst was asked about historic and regional rivals Penn State and West Virginia this week while moving through the ESPN car wash. In what may come as a bit of a surprise, Chryst told Brett McMurphy of ESPN he would prefer to see an annual match-up with Penn State instead of West Virginia if he had to choose between the two. Penn State head coach James Franklin appears to be on the same page, telling McMurphy today on his run through the ESPN media gauntlet he would support seeing an annual series with the Panthers.

What needs to happen before this can actually become an annual tradition in the Keystone State? There may not be a whole lot that needs to fall into place, although Penn State playign a nine-game schedule in the Big Ten moving forward while the ACC sticks to an eight-game schedule will present many of the same problems faced with reviving the Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia. In the end, Penn State’s desire to assure an extra home game on the schedule could resurface in a different capacity by ensuring Penn State has seven home games at a minimum for years to come.

With new leadership in place at both schools compared to the late 1980s and early 1990s, perhaps getting these two in-state rivals back together for the long term could be a more realistic possibility.

Penn State and Pittsburgh last played in 2000. The two schools agreed to a two-game series in 2016 and 2017 and later agreed to extend the series by two more games through 2019. Penn State leads the all-time series, 44-41-4.

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Pac-12 QBs set pace for Unitas Award watch list

Marcus Mariota

For those who thought — or were hoping — they’d seen the last of these types of posts this year, you are sadly mistaken.

The latest to release its preseason watch list is the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually to the nation’s top senior (eligibility-wise or academically) quarterback.  In other words, don’t freak out because Florida State’s Jameis Winston or the like aren’t included.

Among those who are included are three semifinalists for last year’s award, with all three hailing from the Pac-12: Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly (no relation), Oregon State’s Sean Mannion and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

Speaking of the Pac-12, they paced all conferences with seven quarterbacks on the watch list.  The Big Ten was next with six, followed by the SEC (five), Big 12 (three), Mountain West (two) and one each from the AAC, ACC and Conference USA.  Prairie View A&M’s Jerry Lovelocke was the only non-FBS player to make the initial cut.

AJ McCarron of Alabama was the 2013 recipient of the award.

Below is the complete list of 27 players:

2014 Unitas Award Preseason Watch List

 

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Reports: Josh Turner has dismissal reversed, still with ‘Horns

Mississippi v Texas

Hold the phone on at least one of the players reportedly booted past the Austin city limits.

Both Rivals.com and 24/7Sports.com are reporting that Josh Turner is once again a member of the Texas football team.  Per the latter recruiting website, Turner was set to transfer when, “just prior to Turner finalizing his plans, head coach Charlie Strong allowed Turner to appeal to the decision of his dismissal.”

A meeting with head coach Charlie Strong was held Tuesday night that went well enough that Turner was placed back on the team, albeit with what 247Sports termed as “severe restrictions.” What those restrictions entail wasn’t divulged.

Turner has started five games in the secondary during his 37-game UT career.  He will be a senior in 2014.

Running back Joe Bergeron and Jalen Overstreet along with defensive end Chevoski Collins remain on the outside of the program looking in and are not expected to see their dismissals reversed. Bergeron is seeking to be released from his scholarship so he can transfer to a Div. II school in the state.

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Stanford’s Ty Montgomery ‘ahead of schedule’ in shoulder rehab

Ty Montgomery, Kameron Jackson

Maybe the situation’s not as dire as it appeared at first blush.

Ty Montgomery is in the midst of recovering from shoulder surgery, with Stanford’s David Shaw acknowledging this weekend that the star wide receiver might not miss just the opener against UC-Davis but the following Saturday’s conference opener against USC as well.  While there’s certainly the possibility that Montgomery could be held out of the opener — see: competition, level of — there appears to be more optimism regarding the game against the Trojans.

“Ty’s ahead of schedule. He’s ahead of schedule. He’s a phenomenal athlete,” Shaw said Wednesday.

As for holding out Montgomery for the opener even if he’s healthy enough? At least in the here and now, the Cardinal head coach doesn’t want to hear that kind of talk.

“f he’s ready to go Game 1 and the doctors say, `You know what, he’s at limited risk for re-injury, let’s let him go play,’ I’m all for it,” Shaw said. “There’s no babying football players. If Ty’s ready to go, he’s returning kickoffs, he’s playing the game. If he’s not, we’ll hold him off. I don’t have an issue with that.”

For his part, Montgomery said today that “[w]henever they can tell me I can play, I’m ready to play.”

Montgomery was easily the Cardinal’s top pass-catcher in 2013, leading the team with 61 catches for 968 yards and 10 touchdowns.  The next closest was Devon Cajuste‘s 28-642-5.

For good measure, Montgomery was third in the nation in kick return average (30.3) and was one of just seven players to return more than one kickoff for a touchdown (New Mexico’s Carlos Wiggins returned three for scores).

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Report: Chris Gallon, one of BGSU’s top WRs, could miss season

Kent State v Bowling Green Getty Images

If it weren’t for bad injury luck, Chris Gallon wouldn’t have any luck at all.

Speculation has surfaced recently that the Bowling Green wide receiver either suffered a significant new injury or had reinjured his knee.  While the school has yet to address what if any injury issue the wide receiver may be facing, the whispers are growing louder.  And sounding season-ending-ish before the season even gets started.

From the Twitter account of WTOL-TV’s Jordan Strack:

The loss of Gallon certainly wouldn’t be optimal for BGSU’s offense.

In 2012, Gallon led all Falcon receivers in catches (54), yards (720) and receiving touchdowns (six).  He was second in all three categories last year (24-232-2) when he went down with what turned out to be a season-ending injury.

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After putting arm through window, LSU’s Lealaimatafao likely lost for year

LSU Trey

In a move not even remotely unexpected, it appears LSU won’t have one member of its 2014 recruiting class at its disposal.

In a tweet, Ross Dellenger of the Baton Rouge Advocate confirmed that, according to head coach Les Miles, “Trey Lealaimatafao will ‘probably not‘ play this season after arm injury.”

Last week, Lealaimatafao suffered what was initially feared to be an amputation-level injury to his arm after punching through a weight-room window. Fortunately for Lealaimatafao, the physical damage wasn’t as severe as initially reported and the defensive tackle was released from the hospital two days later.

One day after his release, was Lealaimatafao was arrested for allegedly stealing a bicycle from an on-campus library.

Lealaimatafao was a three-star member of the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 26 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 43 player in the state of Texas at any position.

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