Auburn’s A-Day was noteworthy for a few reasons, as it marked the return of former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn as the team’s new head coach to get a stumbling program back on track. The Tigers’ spring game also saw a record crowd of 83,401 in attendance. Based on pictures taken throughout the day, that number didn’t look to be an exaggeration at all.
But today was also memorable for a more somber reason: following the spring game, fans made their way to Toomer’s Corner to roll the oak trees one last time before their removal this week. Though the exact number of people in attendance isn’t known, it was a tremendous showing.
The trees at the famous spot have been dying since Harvey Updyke Jr. poisoned them over two years ago following the 2010 Iron Bowl. Updyke was recently sentenced to three years after changing his plea to guilty for a charge of criminal damage of an agricultural facility. He will spend the next five months incarcerated.
“There’s more to Auburn than two oak trees, revered and sturdy as they are,” retired athletic director David Housel said. “These oak trees are but an outward visible symbol of the Auburn heart. … This is a day of celebration and remembrance.”
Auburn is currently in the beginning stages of planning a redevelopment project intended to maintain the “historical character of the corner.” Additionally, the soil around the trees is still be tested for herbicides.
Designers revealed the new mock-up for the future site today. The primary difference will be the addition of more wall seating and a tree-lined path into Samford Park. Auburn expects to complete construction on the new design before the start of the 2014 football season. Th0ugh more significant changes were considered, it was decided there were “not how the Auburn Family wanted to go.”
A temporary structure for rolling after victories should be ready before the start of this season.
We’ll have more from Auburn’s spring game in a SEC wrap-up post later today.
(Hat tip: al.com)
College football has lost a coaching legend of the sport that you may never have heard of.
Carson-Newman announced Wednesday morning that its legendary former head football coach, Ken Sparks, passed away earlier in the day at the age of 73. Sparks had been battling prostate cancer since being diagnosed in 2012, but doctors stopped treating him in January of this year.
According to WBIR-TV, Sparks had been in hospice care for the last several weeks.
Sparks was the head coach at Carson-Newman from 1980 through November of 2016, when he stepped down because of health concerns. During his time at the Div. II program — the first baker’s dozen years they were an NAIA school — the Eagles went 338-99-2. Sparks laid claim to five NAIA national championships and qualified for the Div. II playoffs 15 times in 24 years, although they failed to win a title at that latter level.
The 338 wins for Sparks are the fifth-most at any level of college football, behind only John Gagliardi (489), Joe Paterno (409), Eddie Robinson (408) and Bobby Bowden (377).
Not surprisingly, Alabama is going to err on the side of caution when it comes to one the most productive horses in its backfield stable.
On a second-down carry late in the third quarter of the national championship game loss to Clemson, Bo Scarbrough went down with an injury that turned out to be a fractured bone in his lower right leg. The rising sophomore running back has recovered enough to be a participant in the Crimson Tide’s spring practice during some drills, albeit in non-contact mode.
Following the fourth practice of the spring Tuesday, Nick Saban made it clear made it clear that, while Scarbrough is getting some work in, the football program won’t be pushing him.
“Bo is doing more and more every day,” the head coach said according to al.com. “He did quite a bit today in practice, non-contact stuff, but he’s sort of gaining confidence. Our goal for Bo is by the end of spring, he’s fully confident that he can do everything he needs to do. Whether he ever scrimmages or is really something that we’re not that concerned about.”
It’s expected Scarbrough, barring a setback between now and then, will be fully recovered well ahead of the start of summer camp in early August.
Scarbrough’s 812 yards rushing year was second amongst Tide backs, while his 11 rushing touchdowns were second on the team. He ran for 180 of those yards and two of the touchdowns in the College Football Playoff semifinal win over Washington, then had 93 yards and two more touchdowns before going down with the injury in the title game.
Coming off a season in which he was the best player on Western Kentucky’s men’s basketball team, Justin Johnson is going to try his hand at another sport.
According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Johnson will practice with the Hilltoppers football team for the remainder of spring practice. The 6-7 forward will, not surprisingly, spend his time at tight end.
At the end of practices this spring, a WKU official told CFT, both sides will determine what if any future Johnson has in the sport.
Johnson admitted in one interview earlier this basketball season that he grew up wanting to play linebacker for Ohio State, and he did play two years of football at his Kentucky high school. Despite the fact that both Kentucky and Louisville had interest in him as a tight end, he ended up signing with WKU’s hoops team in 2014.
That decision has worked out well for both parties as Johnson has led the team in scoring and rebounding each of the past two seasons. He led Conference USA in the latter category as well as double-doubles, and was named second-team all-conference after his junior season.
A former Western Kentucky fraternity member says he was attacked by a group of Hilltoppers football players and plans to file charges.
Jerald Armfield, an alum of WKU’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, told WBKO-TV he was caught in an ongoing feud between the fraternity and the football team:
“I went to the house in the best interest of the fraternity and Western as a whole to prevent any type of violence from occurring. We got up there and realized they were all hiding behind garbage cans, trees, and buildings.”
“I never in my wildest dreams thought they would attack me in the manner that they did. They all started surrounding me. One of them threw a rock at me. It was within a few seconds that one of them punched me in the face.”
“I fell down. I was kicked several times. The whole time they were beating me, I was begging them to stop, telling them I wasn’t here the night before, I had nothing to to do with it, like please stop, please stop, and they didn’t.”
Armfield said between nine and 10 people ultimately attacked him; it isn’t known for sure how many of that group are on the football team, though the program’s involvement in the incident is being investigated.
“We are aware of the allegations involving a few members of our football team,” the program said in the statement when word of the altercation broke three weeks ago. “We are cooperating fully with the authorities. However, at this time, we have not received a police report and cannot provide further comment.”
While the status of the investigation is currently unknown, Armfield told WBKO he would like it to end with multiple charges. “I made it very clear that night when the police arrived on the scene that I wanted charges pressed,” he said. “As far as I know a detective from Bowling Green Police Department has it. As it stands right now, I still want charges pressed. They need to be held accountable for what they did not only as citizens but as students at Western.”