SI OSU Cover

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.”

Local Auburn man arrested after setting Toomer’s Corner oak tree on fire

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Fans of the Auburn Tigers roll trees at Toomer's Corner after defeating the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves 51-14.(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Police have identified and arrested a 29-year-old Auburn, Ala. man after he allegedly set fire to one of the oak trees at the famous Toomer’s Corner.

Fans traditionally celebrate a Tigers victory by “rolling” the trees with toilet paper and did so once again on Saturday night following an 18-13 victory over LSU. However, video surveillance showed a suspect lighting some of the paper on fire, setting the tree ablaze as he walked away.

The Auburn city police department, in a release obtained by USA Today, stated that “witnesses at Toomer’s Corner identified a suspect, who was immediately detained and taken into custody by police on an unrelated charge of public intoxication.” Several reports identified the suspect as Jochen Wiest.

Firefighters quickly responded to the fire and extinguished the burning tree but university officials are still evaluating the damage to the oaks.

“From the ground we can easily see damage to the leaves and base of the tree. It is significant,” Professor of Horticulture Gary Keever said in a statement released by the school. “I expect the foliage will continue to drop. The full extent of damage may not be known for several weeks. The best case scenario would be to see a flush of new growth next spring, but right now it’s too early to tell how the tree will respond.”

The incident is all the more emotional for Auburn fans given that the tradition had just been revived this season following a three-year absence as a result of an Alabama fan poisoning the oaks. Hopefully the area around Toomer’s Corner can recover in time for the Tigers’ next win, which might be as soon as Saturday when they host Louisiana-Monroe.

Notre Dame officially parts ways with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder

FILE - In an Aug. 29, 2014 file photo, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, right, talks with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder during practice during media day for a NCAA football team in South Bend, Ind. It was announced Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder following a 1-3 start. The school tweeted a new release saying VanGorder is being replaced by defensive analyst Greg Hudson.(AP Photo/Joe Raymond, File)
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Notre Dame has officially parted ways with embattled defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

“This is a difficult decision,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for Brian as both a person and football coach, but our defense simply isn’t where it should be and I believe this change is necessary for the best interest of our program and our student-athletes.”

Notre Dame has allowed 134 points through their first four games and are just 1-3 after extremely high preseason expectations. This was VanGorder’s third season in South Bend but the Irish have regressed significantly and ranked 101st in FBS scoring defense after Saturday’s home loss to Duke.

Defensive analyst Greg Hudson, a former Notre Dame linebacker who has served as defensive coordinator at Purdue, East Carolina and Minnesota, was elevated to fill VanGorder’s role.

“It’s never easy to make a change on your staff, but I’m confident in Greg’s ability to lead our defense,” Kelly added. “As a former player at Notre Dame and an experienced defensive coordinator, he not only understands the expectations necessary to compete at the highest level, but he’ll bring a fresh perspective to our sideline, practice field and meeting rooms.”

The move to make staff changes on the defensive side of the ball isn’t exactly surprising to Irish fans who have seen the team play this year but the timing is notable. Kelly remarked that the coaching was not the problem on defense after the loss to the Blue Devils but still opted to make a change on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if a very young defense will respond, and perhaps even rally, now that a big message has been sent.

Notre Dame plays Syracuse on Saturday at noon ET.

Florida International fires head coach Ron Turner after 10-30 run

HADLEY, MA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach Ron Turner of the FIU Golden Panthers looks on during the game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Hadley, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
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The firing season in college football is getting started earlier and earlier. Just ask Ron Turner.

The Florida International head coach was fired early Sunday in a move that was hardly surprising aside from its timing.

“I want to thank Coach Turner for his contributions to the FIU football program, most importantly his commitment to academics and community service,” athletic director Pete Garcia said in a short statement. “At this time Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Ron Cooper has been named interim head coach.”

Turner went 10-30 over four years at the school but was 0-4 to begin the season after a 53-14 loss to Central Florida last week. While he is far from the first coach fired in 2016, Turner did become the first head coach to be fired after the season got underway.

Cooper had a 45–55 record in nine seasons as a head coach at Eastern Michigan, Louisville and Alabama A&M. He was elevated to FIU’s defensive coordinator prior to the season and notably served as LSU’s defensive backs coach when Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu starred in Baton Rouge.

The Panthers are set to play local rival Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

LSU head coach Les Miles, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron fired

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers looks on during the game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The Mad Hatter is looking for a new gig.

LSU has fired head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the school announced on Sunday. The news was first reported by the Baton Rouge Advocate.

“Decisions like this are never easy ones to make,” athletic director Joe Alleva said in a statement. “Coach Miles has done a tremendous job here and he’s been a great ambassador for our University, which makes this even more difficult.

“However, it’s apparent in evaluating the program through the first month of the season that a change has to be made. Our commitment to excellence and competing at the highest level is unwavering, and our goals for the remainder of this season haven’t changed. We have an obligation to our student-athletes to put them in the best position to have success on the football field each week and we have great confidence that coach Orgeron will do just that.”

The move comes just hours after the Tigers lost to Auburn in the final seconds to drop to 2-2 after beginning the year as a trendy national championship pick and top five team in the polls.

Miles has been in Baton Rouge since 2005 and posted a 114–34 record at the school, including a national title in 2007 and a pair of SEC championships. He was nearly let go after the 2015 season but was retained following a huge wave of public support and potential implications with a large buyout.

Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron was named the interim head coach for the rest of the season. Former LSU quarterback and current tight ends coach Steve Ensminger is slated to become the new offensive coordinator, according to Fox Sports.