Alabama Spring Game

Myriad turnovers the theme of Tide’s spring game

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And by “myriad” we mean “thiiis close to double digits” in the two-time defending BCS champion Alabama’s annual A-Day game.

Just over 78,000 fans Saturday — there were a school-record 87,000 in attendance for Auburn’s spring game, for what it’s worth — witnessed the Tide turn the ball over a whopping nine times as the White team edged the Crimson team 17-14.  The White squad, which consisted of the first-team offense, was responsible for four of the turnovers — two interceptions, two fumbles — while Team Crimson coughed it up five times — four interceptions, one fumble.

AJ McCarron, who will be entering his third year as the Tide’s starter, tossed both of the White team’s interceptions in his 19-for-30, 223-yard effort, and had a third pick called back because of defensive offsides.  He also led his side on the game-winning drive, with a 50-yard bomb to Christion Jones setting up T.J. Yeldon‘s seven-yard touchdown run late in the game.

Yeldon, incidentally, was named the Dixie Howell Award winner (game’s most valuable player) after combining for 129 yards of offense — 69 rushing, 60 receiving.  The rising sophomore led all players in both categories.  It’s also the second straight year the back has staked his claim as the spring game MVP.

McCarron’s backup, Blake Sims, also tossed two interceptions, as did early enrollee and fellow Team Crimson teammate Cooper Bateman.

Suffice to say, the offensive effort — both literally and figuratively — did not sit well with the detail-oriented Nick Saban.

“The biggest thing I was concerned about was how the team would go out there and what would be their energy, their enthusiasm, and their attention to detail,” the head coach said in quotes distributed by the team. “I don’t think that there were enough guys that answered that question in a positive way to my liking. But I’m never satisfied.”

That said, Saban made sure that everyone listening knows he’s not disappointed with his squad at this point in the offseason.  Rather, he’s merely not satisfied with where they are right now — a trait that even the head coach himself readily acknowledges is an annual occurrence.

“I spoke to a bunch of alumni groups today, and they all want me to make a comparison between this year’s team and last year’s team and the team before that, and the team before that, and the team before that,” Saban said. “And I wasn’t happy with any of those teams at this point. If I was happy with them, we wouldn’t have summer conditioning, we would not have fall camp, and we wouldn’t have thirty practices to get ready for our first game against Virginia Tech. We’d just pack it in and say, ‘Alright, let’s go to Atlanta and play the game.’

“We’re not there yet. That’s why we have all these practices, that’s why we have all the work we need to do.

McCarron, though, pretty much summed up quite well most everyone’s feelings on a game that’s nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.

“This is like playing in an all-star game. You don’t get in a rhythm. It’s not a real game, but it’s fun to go out there and try to make plays happen, and do some trick plays,” the senior said.

The attendance total of 78,315 was the sixth-largest in the storied program’s history, with the five highest coming in the first five years of Saban’s run in Tuscaloosa.  The largest crowd ever to witness an A-Day game was 92,310 in 2011.

As the school wrote in its press release, “[m]ore than 592,000 fans have attended the seven A-Day games during Saban’s tenure as head coach, including 90,000 plus in three of the seven years.”

Northwestern remembers Randy Walker 10 years after his passing

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Ten years ago Wednesday, the college football world was rocked by the unexpected and sudden loss of Northwestern coach Randy Walker.

The athletics department produced a touching video tribute to the man who suffered a heart attack at the age of 52, seven years into his tenure in Evanston.

Walker’s death unexpectedly thrust a young former Wildcats linebacker named Pat Fitzgerald into the head coach’s chair.

“I would prefer to be toasting to his longevity right now,” Fitzgerald says in the video.

Walker posted a 37-45 mark at Northwestern, including a surprising 8-4 campaign in 2000.

That followed a successful nine-year run at Miami University, the southwest Ohio school where he was a player.

Report: Ole Miss violations laid out to NCAA by stepfather of Laremy Tunsil

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The Mississippi football program might not find out its NCAA fate very soon, but the rest of the world learned more specifics regarding the accusations the Rebels face Wednesday.

Sports Illustrated published the results of its investigation, including specific allegations levied by a man in the process of getting a divorce from the mother of star offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil.

Lindsey Miller detailed several potentially serious violations involving Tunsil and his family, and SI was able to view some of the information he says he turned over to the NCAA during extensive interviews.

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations is consistent with Miller’s claims in numerous places, including 12 occasions of free lodging that totaled $2,253. Miller says he told the NCAA those nights were arranged by boosters he met through [Mississippi DL coach Chris] Kiffin, but the NCAA never found that link. Kiffin’s name appears 13 times in the Notice of Allegations, but none of those prove he set Miller up with boosters.

Tunsil was part of a surprisingly star-studded recruiting class in 2013, but head coach Hugh Freeze has consistently defended his program against accusations his recruiting success was thanks to illegal methods.

Freeze, who took over as coach in December 2011, may minimize the NCAA’s case, but nine of the 13 football allegations relate to his tenure there. (Four allegations, including fraudulent ACT scores, occurred under former coach Houston Nutt.) There are four Level I violations under Freeze and a significant Level II failure to monitor charge in which the NCAA says the athletic department and football program failed to monitor Tunsil driving three different loaner cars between August 2014 and June 2015. (That latter allegation is the one Ole Miss is disputing.)

Perhaps complicating matters is the fact Miller went to the NCAA only after having a fallout with Tunsil and his mother, Desiree Polingo, during the summer of 2015.

Polingo denied Miller’s accusations via a statement to SI, and in another statement a lawyer for Tunsil told SI, “You have to consider the source.”

Mississippi has already admitted to 12 of the 13 allegations and self-imposed penalties, but it remains to be seen if the NCAA Committee on Infractions will find the punishment sufficient or more is added.

The full SI story goes into deeper detail about the situations facing not only Ole Miss athletics but also the NCAA enforcement model itself.

NCAA announces common-sense change to bowl selection process

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Andy Janovich #35 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers jumps over Jayon Brown #12 of the UCLA Bruins during the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi's Stadium on December 26, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The NCAA Division I council announced 5-7 teams will still have a chance to make a bowl this fall.

They will have to wait until all of the 6-6 teams have been picked, though.

The common sense rule tweak was announced Wednesday.

Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose State all made bowls last season despite finishing the regular season 5-7, and coincidentally they all won.

In a statement, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who serves as chair of the football oversight committee, said the postseason selection process “makes sense and is fair to the schools and the bowls.”

APR scores will continue to be used to designate which 5-7 teams are eligible to take up the bowl slots left available after all of the 6-6 teams have been selected.

After swelling to 41 games last season, the postseason is not set to expand again until at least the 2020 season as a result of a moratorium on the certification of new bowls was established by the council in April.

NCAA inquires about additional Sandusky victims from Penn State lawsuit

BELLEFONTE, PA - OCTOBER 09: Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky (C) leaves the Centre County Courthouse after being sentenced in his child sex abuse case on October 9, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The 68-year-old Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years and not more that 60 years in prison for his conviction in June on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, including while he was the defensive coordinator for the Penn State college football team. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Penn State and Joe Paterno‘s family have already done their part to return the tragic Jerry Sandusky saga to the news this year.

Now the NCAA apparently wants to join in.

The Centre Daily Times reports the college sports governing body has requested information regarding two men allegedly victimized by Sandusky, a long-time Penn State assistant coach, in the 1970s.

Their stories came to light in a court filing from a lawsuit involving Penn State and an insurer. The school tried to collect on a policy to help pay settlements it reached with more than 30 individuals who accused Sandusky of sexually abusing them.

The university tried to recoup money for those settlements from liability insurer Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, but PMA challenged that in court. The two men’s cases were revealed in an order by Philadelphia Judge Gary Glazer that referenced their cases, years earlier than the 10 Sandusky was convicted of in 2012. One said he told Paterno.

The CDT story does not give any indication the NCAA might want to revisit the sanctions that were handed down in 2012.

Rather, it is looking for defense fodder in a defamation lawsuit filed by the family of Paterno, the legendary Nittany Lions head coach

The estate claims the college sports oversight group defamed the man who helmed the program from 1966 until his firing in 2011 after the Sandusky story broke.

A key point is the NCAA’s acceptance of the findings of the Freeh report, the university-commissioned investigation of the Sandusky scandal, which placed blame on four Penn State leaders, including Paterno, who died six months before it was released. The NCAA then levied historic sanctions on the university, including stripping 110 wins from the Nittany Lions, dropping Paterno from first place in the leaderboard for most wins by a Division 1 coach.

But in new documents, the NCAA says it needs the information about the two claimants to refute the estate’s defamation claims.

Sandusky was convicted in 2012, and some of the sanctions Penn State agreed to accept from the NCAA were gradually lifted in the following years.

While Sandusky reportedly continues to work on getting his convictions overturned, it’s not hard to imagine Sandusky’s victims and plenty of members of the Penn State community would prefer to move on from the tragedy — allowing both time to heal in whatever way is possible.

The same can most likely be said of current coach James Franklin, who took the job two-plus years ago after coach Bill O’Brien endured the brunt of the storm and maintained solid recruiting despite the sanctions.

During the spring, Franklin told CBSSports.com, “This is really year one for us in a lot of ways,” citing a return to having close to a full allotment of scholarships.