Les Miles denies improprieties during time at Okla. St.

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During the midst of a nearly full slate of games Saturday, reports surfaced (of course), that Sports Illustrated would be releasing a report this coming week alleging improprieties in the Oklahoma State football program dating back to Les Miles time as head coach a decade ago.

As for specific allegations that will be raised in the piece, the Daily Oklahoman writes that the magazine’s claims, based on interviews with former players, coaches and staff members, will include “academic fraud, players being paid for performance by an assistant coach or overpaid by boosters for jobs, and an OSU hostess program that provided sex for recruits.”  OSU, the paper reports, is likely to bring in an outside investigator to ensure it’s in compliance with NCAA standards.

The school has already notified both the Big 12 and the NCAA of the pending developments.

“Oklahoma State University is deeply troubled by these claims. We will investigate the accuracy of the allegations and take all appropriate action,” said OSU President Burns Hargis in a statement. “We do not condone or tolerate improper conduct in our athletic programs. OSU requires everyone affiliated with the university to follow the rules and adhere to the highest ethical standards.”

The good news for the OSU football program, aside from than the negative publicity, is the fact that the allegations involve no current players or coaches.  The vast majority of the alleged improprieties — 85 percent a source told the Oklahoman — occurred between 2001-07; the NCAA’s statute of limitations is four years.

Current LSU head coach Les Miles held the same job with the Cowboys from 2001-04 before leaving for the Tigers.  Asked about any improprieties during his time in Stillwater, Miles, as expected, vehemently denied any such things occurred on his watch.

I don’t know of any improprieties while I was coaching there,” Miles said after LSU’s win over UAB Saturday night. “We always did things right. …

“Oklahoma State has never been a place where you needed to cheat to have success.”

A former Mike Gundy assistant, though, could have some NCAA issues in his future.

* Coaches and boosters paying athletes, including violations ranging from paying for jobs not performed, overpaying for jobs and strictly paying players for performance.

Former OSU assistant coach Joe DeForest is accused of running a bonus program – paying players for specific plays – as recently as 2011.

DeForest is currently the associate head coach and special teams coordinator at West Virginia.  He was an assistant at OSU from 2001-11, and stayed on staff when Gundy took over for Miles in 2005.

WVU athletic director Oliver Luck stated that the assistant has denied the allegations raised by Sports Illustrated, but allowed that “it is the right thing to do to look into the matter and review practices here.”  Luck also acknowledged that WVU has been in contact with the NCAA.

Foot injury could sideline Auburn’s Tashawn Manning for rest of spring

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After kicking cancer’s ass, this latest health issue hardly qualifies as a big deal.  Still, it’s a thing.

Tashawn Manning has been battling an unspecified foot injury of late, which has limited the defensive tackle’s availability for most of the first two-thirds of Auburn’s spring practice sessions.  With just five practices remaining, Manning could very well be sidelined for al of them.

“The problem is this is Day 9 and Saturday will be Day 11, so there’s a probability” that the player will not see the field for what remains of spring practice, Manning’s position coach, Rodney Garner, said according to al.com.

Around Thanksgiving of 2015, Manning, then an Auburn verbal commit, was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia.  In July of last year, he was finished with chemotherapy and declared cancer-free.

The defensive lineman didn’t play at all last season, instead taking online classes as he built up his strength as well as his weight after losing more than 60 pounds because of the chemo.  In January, he enrolled at AU and, two months later, was cleared to participate in the spring.

Suspended Mich. St. staffer receives one-MONTH contract extension

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A disturbing situation in East Lansing has added a head-scratching twist.

According to ESPN.com, and by way of a Freedom of Information request, Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell was on the receiving end of a one-month contract extension earlier this month.  Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance, was set to see his contract expire at the end of this week.

What makes this development noteworthy is that Blackwell has been indefinitely suspended by the Spartans since early February.

Around that time, it was confirmed by the university that three still-unnamed MSU football players had been suspended after allegations of sexual assault were made against them last month.  An unnamed football staffer was suspended at the time as well; that staffer was subsequently identified as Blackwell.

A police investigation, as well as a Title IX probe, into the allegations continue.  Blackwell is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault, but rather a non-sexual crime that’s connected to the investigation.

Mark Dantonio hadn’t spoken publicly about the allegations until earlier this week, and the head coach probably would’ve been better served to have kept it that way.

A&M, UCLA both add New Mexico to future schedules

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Texas A&M and UCLA announced Wednesday that their 2017 opener had been moved from Saturday to Sunday.  As it turns out, that wasn’t the only scheduling news connecting the two football programs.

As part of a release announcing seven games being added to its future schedules, New Mexico confirmed that two of those contests will include A&M and UCLA.  Both of those games, obviously, will be on the road, with the Lobos traveling to College Station Sept. 18, 2021, and to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Sept. 13, 2025.

In its release, the school wrote that “[t]he game in College Station has a guarantee of $1,100,000 and 450 complementary tickets,” while “[t]he game in Pasadena has a guarantee of $1,200,000 plus 2,000 complementary tickets that UNM can sell for extra revenue.”

The last and only time New Mexico and UCLA squared off was in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl, a 27-13 win for the Bruins.  UNM and A&M actually completed a home-and-home series relatively recently, with the Aggies winning both games played in the 2008 (28-22) and 2009 (41-6) seasons.

In addition to the future Power Five games, a continuation of the long-running rivalry with UTEP will be extended.  UNM will play in El Paso in 2021, then host UTEP in 2022.  Those two games will mark the 79th and 80th contests in the regional rivalry.

Michigan State, Washington round out future schedules with Utah State

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Needing to fill a single spot in some future schedules, both Michigan State and Washington have come calling to the Mountain West for an opponent. Utah State was happy to oblige.

Michigan State will host Utah State on September 1, 2018. The Aggies will travel to Washington on September 19, 2020. For their travels, Utah State will collect $2.9 million between the two games, according to FBScheduels.com ($1.4 million from Michigan State, $1.5 million from Washington).

The Big Ten and Pac-12 each use nine-game conference schedules, leaving three spots open for non-conference games. The Big Ten requires all conference members schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent (the Pac-12 has no such requirement of its members at this time), although exceptions are made. Utah State, as a member of the Mountain West Conference, would not satisfy that requirement for the Big Ten, but the Spartans already have a road game against Arizona State (Pac-12) on the schedule in 2018. Michigan State and Arizona State will play again in 2019 in East Lansing. Michigan State also has future power conference matchups with Notre Dame (2017, 2026, 2027) and Miami (2020, 2021). Michigan State will also play BYU in 2020 in Provo.

Washington has future power conference matchups with Rutgers (2017), Auburn (2018, in Atlanta), and Michigan (2020, 2021). The Huskies will also face Mountain West Competition from Fresno State (2017), Hawaii (2019), and Nevada (2027).

Utah State will face power conference opponents on the road in 2017 (Wisconsin, Wake Forest), 2018 (Michigan State), 2019 (Wake Forest, LSU), 2020 (Washington), and 2021 (Washington State). Utah State will also host Washington State in 2020 as part of a home-and-home deal. Utah State also has an annual series against BYU running through 2020.