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Apologies, responses rolling in after Gee’s remarks

E. Gordon Gee AP

E. Gordon Gee issued an apology earlier today when the Associated Press published certain remarks the Ohio State president made during a December meeting.

Specifically, Gee made comments about the “damn Catholics” at Notre Dame, Louisville’s academic reputation, and the SEC’s ability to read and write. Naturally, said remarks didn’t go over so well. Gee and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany have already reached out to SEC commissioner Mike Slive and Notre Dame to apologize.

“We find the remarks most regrettable, particularly regarding Father Joyce, who served Notre Dame and collegiate athletics so well and for so long,” Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said in a statement released Thursday. “President Gee has contacted [Notre Dame president] Father [John] Jenkins to offer an apology that he has accepted.”

Even with the apology, Delany and Ohio State have been forced into PR duty.

“The remarks made by Ohio State University president Gordon Gee were inappropriate and in no way represent the opinions of the conference,” said Delany. “We have great respect for the University of Notre Dame and the SEC, and we are proud of the rich, competitive history we share with each.”

“For the leader of a renowned university, inappropriate comments about particular groups, classes of people or individuals are wholly unacceptable and are not in line with what we aspire to be as an institution of higher education,” a statement from Ohio State’s board of trustees chairman Robert Schottenstein read.

But the damage has been done. Louisville issued a statement later on Thursday over Gee’s comments, which suggested the Big Ten had “institutions of like-minded academic integrity… So you won’t see us adding Louisville.”

“We understand this is not the first time President Gee has made statements he has regretted,” Louisville spokesman Mark Hebert said via the Wall Street Journal. “We accept his apology. But we will go ahead and send information to his office that might improve his knowledge of the school which is, perhaps, experiencing the sharpest upward trajectory of its academic and athletic programs of any school in the country—the University of Louisville.”

Jokes or not, Gee has pulled attention to his school for the wrong reasons once again.

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UNC celebrates ‘May the Fourth be with you’ with ‘Tar Wars’ poster

Princess Leia

This time last week, North Carolina was celebrating “National Superheros Day” by tweeting out a photoshopped movie poster featuring Larry Fedora as X-Men’s Wolverine.

Seven days later, it’s Star Wars Day across the vast expanses of the Internet — “May the Fourth be with you,” “may the force be with you;” get it? — and all kinds of celebrities and sports teams are getting in on the fun a few months ahead of the seventh installment of the mega-successful space saga being released.  UNC, of course, has gotten in on the social media craze, and decided to add a couple of buddies to their latest creation involving their head football coach.

Fedora, of course, plays Luke Skywalker in the poster.  The other three are athletic director Bubba Cunningham as Obi Wan Kenobi; new defensive coordinator and former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik as Hans Solo; and wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer as Yoda.

And, hopefully, you’ll sleep a little better tonight being informed of this development…

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Ex-Gamecock one of two FBS players transferring to Kennesaw St.

Mason Harris, Maty Mauk

When the 2015 season rolls around, one FCS program will have a decidedly FBS flavor to it.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Kennesaw State has added defensive end Mason Harris and cornerback Dante Blackmon to its roster. The former comes to the Owls from South Carolina, the latter from Appalachian State.

Harris will have one year of eligibility remaining, Blackmon two. Both players will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Back in mid-January, Harris joined the mass exodus of players leaving the Gamecocks this offseason, He started one game in 2014, and played in 31 the past three seasons.

Blackmon started the first three games in 2014 before losing his starting job.  He started nine of the 22 games in which he played for the Mountaineers.

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Rosters from two 2011 Bama-LSU games littered with NFL draftees

Allstate BCS National Championship Game - LSU v Alabama Getty Images

When the two Alabama-LSU “Games of the Century” were played back in the 2011 season, we knew there was a tremendous amount of potential NFL talent on the field.  Now, with the 2015 NFL draft officially in the books, we can put a number on that potential.

And, actually, it’s a rather significant number as Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com reports that a whopping total of 45 players who played in the two Tide-Tigers games during that 2011 season — LSU won the regular season matchup, ‘Bama won the rematch in the BCS championship game — have been drafted by an NFL team.  Perhaps the most impressive number inside the number?  16 of the 22 defensive starters in those games were ultimately selected in the draft.

Given the fact that just one touchdown versus 10 field goals were scored in those two contests, though, it shouldn’t be surprising that the two defenses have littered recent drafts with players.

Another number?  Nine of the 44 offensive/defensive starters ended up becoming first-round picks.

Tide-Tiger players were picked in all seven rounds the past four years, and not surprisingly the top round was the opening one as 14 went on to become first-round picks.  The fifth round was next with 10, followed by the second (six), fourth (five), third (four), seventh (four) and sixth (two) rounds.

While 45 is a remarkable number, it still falls well short of the all-time record in this particular category: 52 of the players in the Miami-Ohio State title game following the 2002 season went on to be drafted.  Even more insane is that 37 of the starters in the Buckeyes’ upset of the Hurricanes ended up being selected in the next handful of drafts, with 18 taken in the first round.

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Belk named title sponsor of Tar Heel-Gamecock opener

South Carolina v North Carolina Getty Images

Because of course an already over-commercialized sport needs additional commercialization.

In a press release Monday, the Charlotte Sports Foundation announced that department store chain Belk has been named as the title sponsor of the 2015 North Carolina-South Carolina opener.  The game will kick-off at 6 p.m. ET Sept. 3 and will be played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

The game will officially be promoted as “The 2015 Belk College Kickoff.”

“College football is at the heart of Southern lifestyle and Belk is excited to partner with the Charlotte Sports Foundation as the title sponsor of the Belk College Kickoff Game,” said Jon Pollack, Belk executive vice president, sales promotion, marketing and eCommerce. “The Belk College Kickoff Game is a great opportunity to engage fans and customers in the Southeast, as well as celebrate and support the Charlotte community.”

“We are excited to expand our partnership with Belk to bring top level college football games to Charlotte,” said Will Webb, executive director of the CSF. “We can’t wait for the Tar Heels and Gamecocks to take the field, and their fans to experience our great city.”

Belk is also the title sponsor of the appropriately named Belk Bowl, which is played in Charlotte and features, as this opener will, one team each from the ACC and SEC.

The Tar Heels and Gamecocks, former conference rivals in the Southern then the ACC, have faced each other 54 times, with the first coming meeting in 1903 and the last in 2013.  UNC owns a 32-18-4 edge in the series, although USC has won five of the last six dating back to 1988.

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WVU’s Russell Haughton-James arrested on felony burglary charge

Russell Haughton-James

With another weekend in the books, it’s time to, once again, reset the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.

The latest to trigger a double-zero reset is Russell Haughton-James, the West Virginia offensive lineman who WV Metro News is reporting was arrested on one count of burglary Sunday night.  No specifics as to what led up to Haughton-James’ arrest have been released.

According to the North Central Regional Jail’s website, Haughton-James’ incarceration status is listed as “pre-trial felon.”

What if any impact this incident will have on Houghton-James’ status with the team is uncertain, although the team is aware of the arrest.

After playing in just two games as a redshirt freshman in 2012, Haughton-James has played in 24 the past two seasons.  In the 12 games he played in 2014, he was mainly a backup tackle.

(Photo credit: North Central Regional Jail)

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Cactus Bowl will be played at Chase Field for next three years

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Getty Images

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reports the Cactus Bowl will be played in Chase Field — home of the Arizona Diamondbacks — for the next three seasons, making it the fourth bowl game to take place in an MLB stadium.

The annual Big 12 vs. Pac-12 game will join the Pinstripe Bowl (Yankee Stadium), St. Pete Bowl (Tropicana Field) and Miami Beach Bowl (Marlins Park) as being played in a baseball stadium. The Emerald Bowl, now known as the Foster Farms Bowl, was played at AT&T Park in San Francisco from 2002-2013 before moving to Levi’s Stadium last year.

We’ve also seen regular season games take place at Wrigley Field (Northwestern-Illinois) and Busch Stadium (SIU-Carbondale-Southeastern Missouri State) in recent years. Notre Dame will face Boston College at Fenway Park this November as well.

Hopefully, whichever team wins this year’s Cactus Bowl will celebrate the way the Dodgers did after winning the NL West at Chase Field in 2013:

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Some good news for Tennessee: Peyton Manning sees more ‘Sunday bodies’

Butch Jones AP

Tennessee was shut out of last weekend’s NFL Draft, which on the surface can be viewed as a problem and/or indictment of the program.

But that’d be missing the larger point. A tidal wave of players will make the sophomore-junior leap while Butch Jones has pulled in a ton of top recruits since taking over in Knoxville. And perhaps the most famous Tennessee alum is seeing the improvements:

Per 247 Sports, Tennessee projects to have 14 upperclassmen starters in 2015, many of whom have been through plenty of close games over the last two years. Pairing that experience with their natural talent should begin to pay off for guys like Josh Dobbs and an offensive line made up of four upperclassmen and a very good sophomore right guard in Jashon Robertson.

But here’s the other thing about Tennessee: As of now, they don’t have any players projected as 2016 first-round picks in the way-too-early mock drafts that are out there (like CBS Sports, Walter Football and Bleacher Report). So perhaps there won’t be a mass exodus of talent out of Knoxville after this coming season, even if Manning sees the potential for plenty of these guys to make it in the NFL.

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‘Disappointed’ Dykes had no choice but to can Cal assistant

California v Northwestern Getty Images

A week or so after being forced to push one assistant off his Cal coaching staff, Sonny Dykes spoke publicly about the situation.

The Bears head coach acknowledged that he was “disappointed and surprised” after learning that Pierre Ingram was arrested April 16 and charged with solicitation of a lewd act in the midst of a prostitution sting.  Eight days after his arrest, Ingram, who served as Cal’s wide receivers coach as well as the football program’s recruiting coordinator, was dismissed by Dykes.

Dykes stated that, in essence, he had no choice but to can his assistant, even as it was a hard situation to go through on both sides.

“It’s hard when somebody you know goes through a hard time in their life, especially somebody that you know well,” Dykes said.

“Obviously, it’s not anything you ever want to hear. I was disappointed and surprised. I think everybody was surprised that knew Pierre, but we had to move on.”

Ingram had spent the past two seasons as the Bears’ running backs coach before moving over to receivers this offseason.

As far as a replacement goes, Dykes stated that the search is ongoing but is headed in the right direction. There is no timeline for a hire.

Dykes added he’s unsure if the title of recruiting coordinator will go to the new assistant or to someone already on his staff.

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Spinal condition forces Oregon State’s Dashon Hunt to retire

Colorado Buffaloes vs Oregon State Beavers

For the second time in less than a month, a spinal condition has prompted a Power Five player to call it quits.

In a midweek Instagram posting, Oregon State’s Dashon Hunt announced that he is being forced to retire from the sport because of a medical condition.  According to Hunt, and which was subsequently confirmed by OSU, he was born with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spine.  It’s a condition similar to what prompted Florida’s Rod Johnson to step away from the game three weeks ago.

Below is Hunt’s social media missive.

“It was truly a blessing to have been apart of the #OregonStateFootball team but sadly my days of playing is over due to a condition that I was born with called #SpinalStenosis. This team will forever be my team and I will always support every single brother of mine on it through their football careers and life. And a message to all my teammates “just because I can’t play on the field with yall, best believe I’ma be on the sideline helping and watching yall strive towards greatness because our team is bound for great accomplishments in these upcoming years. I love all yall as my own brothers and I’ll always be here for every last one of yall” And to everyone else who has supported me throughout my career thank you very much from the bottom of my heart and God Bless you all!”

Hunt was a four-star member of the Beavers’ 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 corner in the country by Rivals.com.  He was the highest-rated recruit in an OSU class that was rated 39th in the country and eight in the Pac-12.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Hunt played in seven games in 2014.  He was expected to compete for a starting job in 2015.

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Nearly 30 percent of early entries weren’t selected in NFL draft

B.J. Catalon, Darrion Richardson AP

Not surprisingly, some of the players who left eligibility on the table for an early shot at the pros were left without a chair when the draft music stopped Saturday.

By the deadline in mid-January, a total of 84 players with eligibility remaining filled out their paperwork to make themselves available for the 2015 NFL draft.  As noted by Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com, 24 of those 84 players went undrafted as the seven-round event concluded yesterday evening.

While that’s 28.6 percent, it’s actually a better rate than a year ago.  In 2014, 36.7 percent (36 of 98) of the early entrants went undrafted.  That total of 98 last year was a record number of draft-eligible players who left with eligibility remaining, which prompted the NFL to change its protocol in an attempt to roll back the number of players leaving early.

Getting back to this year, 16 of the 24 who weren’t selected came from Power Five football programs.  TCU was the only school with two early entrants who weren’t picked (running back B.J. Catalon, safety Chris Hackett), while two of the players came from non-FCS levels.

It should be noted that most if not all of the players in this group will sign as an undrafted free agent.

Below is the complete list of those who went undrafted.

SS Durell Eskridge, Syracuse
CB Jacoby Glenn, UCF
FS Chris Hackett, TCU
WR DaVaris Daniels, Notre Dame
RB Trey Williams, Texas A&M
DE Deion Barnes, Penn State
TE Jean Sifrin, Massachusetts
DT David Irving, Iowa State
WR Deontay Greenberry, Houston
DT Ellis McCarthy, UCLA
RB B.J. Catalon, TCU
WR Chris Harper, California
LB Max Flores, Northern Colorado
RB Dee Hart, Colorado State
RB Braylon Heard, Kentucky
WR George Farmer, USC
WR Nigel King, Kansas
OT Patrick Miller, Auburn
WR Zach D’Orazio, Akron
WR Tacoi Sumler, Appalachian State
OG Tyler Moore, Florida
WR Jaquel Pitts, Trinity International
LS Easton Wahlstrom, Arizona State
OLB Darien Rankin, North Carolina

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Ex-Gopher, Rutgers QB Philip Nelson to start over at S. Alabama

Philip Nelson AP

Whether or not you are of the belief that he deserves it, Philip Nelson is getting a second chance at an FBS playing career.

According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune report from late this past week, Nelson’s father has confirmed that his son has moved on to South Alabama and will play for the Sun Belt program in 2015.  For what it’s worth, USA has yet to confirm the quarterback’s addition to its roster.

When it does, though, it may have some explaining and/or spinning to do.

In May of last year, Nelson, then a Rutgers Scarlet Knight, was arrested in connection to a vicious assault outside of a Mankato, Minn., bar. Nelson was ultimately charged with first- and third-degree assault, both felonies, in an incident that left the victim, former Div. II football player Isaac Kolstad, hospitalized and fighting for his life.

The Kolstad family had released a statement at one point a year ago confirming that the 24-year-old Kolstad, who is married and has a young daughter, was on life support and had a portion of his brain removed after allegedly being kicked in the head by Nelson and punched by another male who is facing charges as well.  Kolstad, who Nelson’s attorney had accused of throwing a sucker punch that triggered the fight, is making steady progress from his injuries.

Nelson ultimately pleaded guilty to lesser charges earlier this year and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and credited for serving two days in jail.  It was concluded by a prosecution witness that the other male charged had caused Kolstad’s brain injury, which led to a plea agreement that also included a $300 fine.

In January of last year, Nelson transferred from Minnesota to Rutgers.  He was dismissed by the Scarlet Knights shortly after being charged in connection to the beating.

In 2012 and 2013, Nelson, who was a three-star member of the Gophers’ 2012 recruiting class, started 16 games.  Nine of those starts came as a true sophomore in a 2013 season in which he led the run-heavy Gophers in passing yards (1,306) and passing touchdowns (nine).  He was also third in rushing yards (364) and rushing touchdowns (six).

Prior to moving on to USA, Fresno State, Georgia and Ole Miss were in the mix for his services.  Nj.com wrote that “the SEC schools moved on as the legal process dragged.”

Nelson will now have two years of eligibility remaining.

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Auburn dismisses Elijah Daniel following theft arrest

South Carolina v Auburn

Just days after being arrested for suspected theft, Elijah Daniel has been asked to leave the Auburn football program. Auburn announced the latest roster decision Saturday.

As previously reported, Daniel was one of three suspects in a theft investigation on campus. Daniel and two other former Auburn athletes — DeNorris James and Khalil Sellers — were the primary suspects in an on-campus theft investigation following various incidents over Auburn’s spring break. Daniel was charged with four counts of theft of property and four counts of burglary. Between the eight charges, six are considered felonies.

Daniel played in 13 games for the Tigers last fall, and he started in two of them.

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UAB gets two players drafted by NFL teams

2015 NFL Scouting Combine

For just the third time in program history, UAB has sent two players through the NFL Draft. It might end up being the last time UAB hears the school’s name mentioned during the NFL Draft.

UAB wide receiver J.J. Nelson was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round of the draft. In the sixth round, tight end Kennard Backman was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. The only other years UAB has had multiple draft picks in the same year are 2002 (Eddie Freeman and Bryan Thomas) and 1998 (Dainon Sidney and Izell Reese).

UAB made the decision to shut down the football program at the conclusion of last football season. The football program, despite being eligible for postseason play, did not play in any postseason bowl game. In the meantime, criticism of the handling of the shutdown and questions about why the program was shut down or if it had to be shutdown have continued. One report has suggested the program was financially viable.

We do not know whether or not UAB football will make a return. The earliest it was believed to be possible was 2016, and Conference USA has decided to close the door on UAB’s membership moving forward. Things look bleak, which is why moments like the NFL Draft should be cherished by those closely associated to the UAB football family.

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NFL Draft sees SEC take conference crown, FSU & L’Ville go 1-2

Florida State v Louisville

If there was one thing to be learned from this year’s NFL Draft, it is that the schools in the south are loaded with NFL talent. Big surprise, right?

After a bit fo a slow start, the SEC finished strong and sent more players to the NFL Draft than any other conference. By the time the last pick was made, the SEC had sent 54 players to NFL franchises, seven more than the ACC’s 47 players, even though Tennessee was blanked.

Here is how the power conferences stacked up:

The ACC was carried in a big way by Florida State, which set a new three-year record for most cumulative draft picks in the later rounds. Florida State had 11 players go to NFL teams in this year’s draft, including Jameis Winston as the number one overall player. While Florida State flexed plenty of draft muscle, Louisville had a big final day of the draft and ended just one pick shy of Florida State’s 11 players. Clearly Charlie Strong was able to transform the Louisville football program with plenty of talent before leaving for Texas. Hopefully he remembers their names.

Here is a look at the top draft factories this year:

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Tennessee blanked in NFL Draft for first time since 1964

Derek Dooley

The 2015 NFL Draft is officially in the books, and for the first time since 1964 there was not a single player from the Tennessee Volunteers selected.

The lack of draft picks is the product of a program that had been trending downward under former head coach Derek Dooley. Despite his enthusiasm for the game, Dooley was not able to keep Tennessee chugging along as a power in the SEC and the talent coming in just was not up to par with Tennessee teams of the past.

The good news is things are already starting to trend upward for Tennessee. Butch Jones has sparked some new life in Knoxville and the roster should be loaded in 2015. Tennessee going two years without a draft pick is very unlikely.

Vanderbilt was also without a draft pick this year, but a pair of FCS programs in the state of Tennessee did not go without a pick. Tennessee State had two players drafted (offensive linemen Anthony Morris and Robert Myers). Tennessee Chatanooga had outside linebacker Davis Tull go in the fifth round.

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