Texas assistant named in SI’s OSU report

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As expected, Sports Illustrated released the first of a five-part series Tuesday morning detailing allegations of improprieties in the Oklahoma State football program dating back to 2001, Les Miles‘ first year as Cowboys’ head coach.

While the details released thus far are from stunning at this level of college football — envelopes stuffed with cash handed to players by boosters, so-called $100 handshakes, jobs that involved little or no work in exchange for above-market wages — there was one piece of new information contained in the opening salvo that could leave a pair of programs outside of Stillwater taking at least a cursory look into one of its current/former assistants.

According to the report, Larry Porter, along with current WVU assistant Joe DeForest, took part in in the systematic payment of cash to players that would be considered NCAA violations.  Porter was the running backs coach at OSU during Les Miles’ three years at the school, then followed Miles to LSU for another five years.

He’s in his first year as running backs coach at Texas.  From the report:

DeForest and assistant Larry Porter, who was running backs coach from 2002 to ’04, also made straight payments to players. Girtman says that when he arrived in Stillwater in the summer of 2003, DeForest handed him a debit card with $5,000 on it, which was periodically refilled. Ricky Coxeff, a cornerback in 2003 and ’04, says he waited in the car on several occasions as Williams and Bell visited DeForest at his home and then returned with cash. Shaw says that Porter gave him $100 “four or five times,” telling him to use the money to get something to eat. Several weeks before the start of fall camp in ’03, Carter says that Porter gave him “a couple hundred bucks” in the locker room so that incoming freshmen Coxeff and defensive lineman Xavier Lawson-Kennedy could stay at Carter’s apartment — before they were allowed under NCAA rules to begin receiving room and board. Lawson–Kennedy confirms that he and Coxeff stayed at Carter’s apartment.

Porter has denied the allegations contained in the story, telling SI in a statement that “I’ve been made aware of the accusations, and I’m disappointed because they are all absolutely not true. None of that ever happened.”

While Porter’s name being attached to alleged impermissible benefits was a new angle to the story, it’s DeForest and his reputation, though, that continues to be battered.

Brad Girtman, who played for OSU from 2003-04, told SI that DeForest himself set the scale for alleged payments: quarterback hurries were worth $50, a tackle between $75 to $100 and a sack from $200 to $250.  Rodrick Johnson, a linebacker/defensive lineman from 2004-07, stated that DeForest, OSU’s special teams coordinator as well as cornerbacks coach, set the scale at between $100 and $500 for big plays on special teams.

Girtman also claims that DeForest gave him a list with the names and phone numbers of boosters on it, telling him “[i]f you need anything, call this guy” as he pointed to one name in particular.  It was also alleged by at least one former player that DeForest paid players to do odd jobs around his house; the players, it’s alleged, did nothing and were paid “$400, $500, $600” by the coach.

DeForest has denied any and all wrongdoing.

“I have never paid a player for on-field performance,” DeForest’s statement began. “I have been coaching college football for almost 24 years, and I have built a reputation of being one of the best special teams coordinators and college recruiters in the country based on hard work and integrity.”

DeForest’s current employer, WVU, has already publicly stated that they are looking into the allegations to find what if any alleged misconduct may have been brought over to the Mountaineers.

The problem for Oklahoma State, though, is the fact that, after Miles left for LSU following the 2004 season, DeForest remained as part of Mike Gundy‘s new coaching staff and stayed at the school through 2011.  While most of the allegations occurred during Miles’ time in Stillwater, players have claimed that the payment program continued through at least 2011, DeForest’s last year at the school.

“They figure if a player shines and you pat him on the back in an obtainable way, he’s going to do whatever he can to keep getting that paper,”  Javius Townsend, a redshirt offensive lineman during the 2010 season, was quoted as saying.

The NCAA’s statute of limitations is four years; with the allegations levied against DeForest having come as recently as two years ago, the NCAA will certainly take an interest in that aspect of the report.  Along with WVU, both LSU and Texas and their respective compliance departments will also likely conduct their own investigations due to Porter’s alleged payments to players.

It should be noted that neither Miles nor OSU mega-booster T. Boone Pickens have been accused of any wrongdoing.  Well, at least not yet; the second part of the series, expected to focus on widespread academic misconduct, will be released at the same time tomorrow morning.

 

UPDATED 11:21 a.m. ET: Texas was notified of Porter’s alleged involvement in the payment of players last Wednesday.  In response, athletic director DeLoss Dodds released a statement.

“After questioning him on Thursday concerning those allegations, we do not have any issues with him at this time.”

Jim McElwain hints at playing three quarterbacks vs. Michigan

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Considering his opponent won’t so much as release a simple roster, there’s no reason whatsoever for Florida head coach Jim McElwain to say anything of consequence.

Still, it sounds as if No. 17 Florida may play all three of its quarterbacks next Saturday against No. 11 Michigan (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

“You’re going to see a bunch of them in there playing. The three guys have done a really good job. Not naming a starter right now,” McElwain said. “I think that there’s some things that they all bring to the table that are really good. Now the key to us is putting them in those positions that play to their strengths.

“Will all of them play? I don’t know yet. Will a couple of them play? I don’t know yet. I know we will have somebody at the position. This is not — don’t read into this that we’re not happy where they’re at. It’s really more so the competition has really brought out some good things. It’s going to be … ultimately the guy the team moves with the best, the guys that create positive plays on third down and get the ball in the end zone [that we go with].”

The three of them, by the way, are graduate transfer Malik Zaire, junior Luke Del Rio and redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks. In a world governed by the truism of “If you have two quarterbacks you don’t have any,” it’s not exactly a good sign that none of Zaire, Del Rio or Franks have separated themselves from the others.

Zaire showed flashes but was eventually benched at Notre Dame and just arrived on campus this summer. Del Rio, a 2-time transfer before arriving at Florida, was the Gators’ starter coming out of training camp last season but fought through injuries throughout the season. And Franks is a 6-foot-5 former 5-star recruit that many thought would have grabbed the job by the horns by now.

While every team turns over from one season to the next, Florida finished 105th nationally in yards per play last season while Michigan’s defense placed second. With top playmaker Antonio Callaway serving a suspension, Florida will look to put the ball in the hands of whomever can move it, even if three of them happen to play quarterback.

Tracy Claeys discusses protests that led to his firing from Minnesota

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Chances are you haven’t heard Tracy Claeys‘s name mentioned in a while. The former Minnesota interim-turned-full time head coach was let go in January and has not been picked up by a new staff in the months since.

But Minnesota released an outside report last week that defended the school’s decision to suspend 10 players amid a sexual assault investigation and pinned the subsequent team-wide threatened boycott of the Holiday Bowl on “weak leadership” of the coaching staff. The Gophers played and won that Holiday Bowl, but it wasn’t enough to save Claeys’s job.

On Wednesday, Claeys penned an essay in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that both defended his tenure as the Golden Gophers’ head coach and admitted mistakes in a saga that would have swallowed many a head coach’s career.

Last September, I suspended five players for a reported sexual assault. When law enforcement authorities the following month declined to file any charges, the university reinstated those players. At the time, I was congratulated by our athletic director for my handling of this issue and promised that I would remain the head football coach in 2017.

But university officials soon conducted their own inquiry and in December resuspended the five players and suspended five more — again, even though prosecutors had determined there was no basis for formal charges.

Members of our Football Leadership Group and others on the team felt strongly that administration officials had overstepped their authority and that the accused players were treated unfairly and denied protection under due process. To amplify their argument and shine light on what players felt was a flawed and unjust process by the university, the team voted to boycott the Holiday Bowl.

It was a decision that moved us directly into the national spotlight. Unfortunately, some misunderstood or misinterpreted the players’ decision to boycott the Holiday Bowl. They felt that our team and coaches were condoning or downplaying sexual misconduct or assault. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In light of this new report, are there things I would have done differently? Certainly. First and foremost, I would have remained on campus with my team and coaches rather than attend a Holiday Bowl news conference in San Diego. I’m confident that my presence would have better directed the conversation with our players and that I could have steered them toward something other than a decision to boycott the game.

 I also would have refrained from using social media to state my support of the team’s decision. This was too complex and important an issue to address in a 140-character message. It generated more questions than it answered and likely created more problems than it solved.
Claeys was 11-8 in his one and a half seasons as Minnesota’s head coach, his first head coaching job. Assuming he does not get hired in the next week and a half, the 2017 season will be Claeys’s first out of the game since launching his career as a student trainer at Kansas in the early ’90’s.

Kirk Ferentz and wife donate $1 million to Iowa children’s hospital

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Kirk Ferentz may be the but of a bunch of contract-related jokes, but no one jokes about the man’s character.

And for good reason.

The University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital announced Wednesday that Kirk and his wife Mary have donated $1 million to create the Savvy Ferentz Program in Neonatal Research, which will aim to improve the survival rate for premature babies. The Ferentzes made the donation in honor of their granddaughter Savvy, who was born in 2014 at 22 weeks gestation.

“We knew Savvy was born too early,” Mary said in a statement. “We also knew they do extraordinary things at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital that would give her a fighting chance. We were thankful we had that.”

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital claims higher survival rates for infants born at 24- and 25-weeks than the average U.S. hospital, and the Ferentzes hope their donation will further increase those rates.

“The University of Iowa has long been a leader in neonatal research and in providing high-level patient care, particularly to this most vulnerable population,” Iowa pediatrics professor Dr. Jeffrey L. Segar said. “This gift from the Ferentzes will help us capitalize on our strengths, advance our research, and, most important, make an impact on the lives of many Iowa children and their families, now and far into the future. We are deeply grateful for their support.”

Kirk Ferentz will begin his 19th season as Iowa’s head coach next Saturday against Wyoming (noon ET, BTN).

Texas TE Andrew Beck now out for entire 2017 season

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As it turns out, it’s much worse than originally thought for one playing member of the Texas football program.

Nearly a week ago, Andrew Beck went down during practice with what was later diagnosed to be a broken foot.  At the time, it was thought that the tight end would miss anywhere from 6-8 weeks, which would’ve put him back, at the latest, early October.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, however, and the Longhorns announced that Beck will be sidelined for the entire 2017 season because of the injury.  The senior will undergo surgery at some point this week to repair the damage.  He’s already undergone two previous foot surgeries and sat out the spring because of issues in that area.

The good news is that Beck has yet to use his redshirt season, which means he could return in 2018 as a fifth-year senior.

Beck started 13 games the past two seasons, including three in 2016.  Last season, he caught four passes for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Entering summer camp, he had been expected to be the Longhorns’ starter.

With Beck out, that onus will likely fall on Kendall Moore, a graduate transfer from Syracuse.