Academic fraud the focus of latest SI installment on OSU

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As we wade our way into Day 2 of the Sports Illustrated expose’ on the Oklahoma State football program, the focus has shifted from alleged illicit payments to players to the seedy side of the college classroom.

The tone for the latest installment from SI was set in the fifth paragraph — following what was a very Les Miles-like anecdote involving Les Miles — and was presented thusly:

…it is not surprising that 13 Cowboys who played between 2000 and ’11 told SI that they participated in some form of academic misconduct, and 16 others were named by teammates as also having had schoolwork done for them. Players said that they routinely had their coursework completed by tutors or university staff members, that they were provided with answers to exams before taking them, and that they received passing grades despite doing little or no work. Players also allege that the academic counselor for football scheduled them in classes with exceptionally lax professors and pigeonholed them into majors without consulting them. “The philosophy, the main focus [of the program], was to keep [the best players] eligible through any means necessary,” says Fath’ Carter, a safety from 2000 to ’03. “The goal was not to educate but to get them the passing grades they needed to keep playing. That’s the only thing it was about.”

Here are a handful of the accusations made and takeaways from the portion of the expose’ released Wednesday morning:

  • The 13 players who, on the record, alleged academic work was done for them or received grades they didn’t deserve are: defensive back Fath’ Carter (2000 to ’03), wide receiver William Cole (2007 to ’08), defensive back Calvin Mickens (2005 to ’07), defensive tackle Larry Brown (2005 and ’06), offensive lineman Jonathan Cruz (2002), linebacker LeRon Furr (2009 to ’10), defensive tackle Brad Girtman (2003 and ’04), safety Chris Massey (1999 to 2002) defensive end T.J. Minor (2005 and ’06), linebacker Marcus Richardson (2007), running back Herschel Sims (2011), wide receiver Artrell Woods (2006 to ’08) and defensive back Thomas Wright (2002 to ’04).
  • Tutors assigned to the players would not just assist, but would actually write an entire paper.  Woods claimed that he never wrote a single paper during his three years at OSU. “If your teacher told you to write a paper about your favorite Chinese place, all [the tutor] would ask is, ‘What’s your favorite Chinese place? That’s it. They’d do the rest,” quarterback Andre McGill (2000-01) said.  McGill denies ever receiving improper academic assistance.
  • Multiple players claimed that many of their teammates were functionally illiterate yet remained eligible.  Famously, former NFL star Dexter Manley came out in 1989 and revealed that he was functionally illiterate, never able to read above the second-grade level for most of his life.  Manley was also an ex-Oklahoma State defensive lineman, playing at the school in the late seventies.
  • Several former teammates and two former assistant coaches alleged that All-American wide receiver Dez Bryant had the majority of his classwork done for him by tutors.  Those were obviously intelligent tutors as the current Dallas Cowboys receiver was named second-team All-Academic Big 12 following the 2008 season. “You didn’t have no choice but to laugh at it,” former OSU safety Victor Johnson said of Bryant’s academic honor.  SI.com also wrote that “Bryant would not go to class unless shepherded, often by a football staff member.”
  • An assistant professor assigned to the library, who was also an academic advisor to athletes for a three-year period a decade ago, would do assignments for players after they were dropped off, with the players picking up the completed work a few days later.  The professor, Ronald Keys, “told SI that he never did work for athletes but sometimes helped them with reference questions.”
  • Carter claimed that he and another teammate took two classes together, taught by the same instructor, and received A’s despite neither doing any classwork nor actually attending the class.  The teammate, Tatum Bell, denied Carter’s claims and stated to SI that he received C’s and D’s for those classes.
  • Terry Henley, an academic adviser for football since 2000 and a central focus of the latest installment. denied there was any widespread or rampant academic fraud, saying “there was never any pressure [to cheat].” He did allow, though, that “no, he didn’t promote academics.”  The “he” to whom Henley referred is former OSU and current LSU head coach Les Miles.

With that segue to Miles, it brings us to what will likely be one of the most talked-about items ripped from the latest release.  While we mentioned how SI set the academic tenor in the fifth paragraph, here’s what, in part, preceded it:

Shortly after Les Miles took over as Oklahoma State’s football coach in December 2000, he introduced an exhortation that he would use often at the end of team meetings during his four years in Stillwater. “Academics first,” Miles would say. “Football second.”

Miles’s words encapsulated one of the central pillars in the mythos of major-college football: that nothing, not even wins and losses, takes precedence over educating young athletes. The reality is that when jobs and money are at stake, priorities quickly skew.

As Miles said, “Academics first,” he would hold up two fingers. And as he said, “Football second,” he would hold up one.

Oh, Les.  The madcap Mad Hatter strikes again.

For his part, Miles claimed the gesture was a “moment of humor,” reiterating that “I always said, and I always meant, that academics was the most important thing.”

One final takeaway from the academic portion of the program: OSU football has seen just over 50 percent of its players graduate since 2003.  If there was such rampant academic fraud, shouldn’t that number be appreciably higher?

Chris Ash adds another assistant to Rutgers staff

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It was a busy day on the assistant hiring front for Chris Ash.

Earlier Thursday, Rutgers confirmed that Noah Joseph had been hired as co-defensive coordinator as well as safeties coach.  Not long after, the football program again confirmed that Cory Robinson has been hired by Ash as well.

Robinson will serve as passing-game coordinator for the Scarlet Knights as well as cornerbacks coach.

“We are excited to have Cory and his family join our program,” said Ash in a statement. “Cory is a fast-rising young coach that will bring tremendous energy and passion to our defense. We look forward to having him develop and mentor our corners.”

Robinson spent the past two seasons as a cornerbacks coach, at Temple in 2017 and Toledo the year before.  Those were his first two years as an on-field assistant at the FBS level.

UCLA reportedly nabs Boston College offensive line coach

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UCLA head coach Chip Kelly may have his offensive line coach. According to multiple reports on Thursday, UCLA will add Justin Frye to the coaching staff to fill the vacancy at offensive line coach. Football Scoop was among the first to report the news, and Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated has also reported the same development via Twitter.

Frye served as the offensive line coach at Boston College, where the Eagles have established themselves with a strong running game behind an improved offensive line. Frye will be expected to produce similar results with the Bruins as Kelly looks to bring the program up to a conference championship pedigree as quickly as possible.

Phil Trautwein was recently named as a new member of the Yale coaching staff in the Ivy League, where he was to be the offensive line coach. Now, he will instead return to Boston College, where his coaching career started. Trautwein was a graduate assistant at Boston College from 2013 through 2015 before spending two seasons as a special teams coordinator and tight ends coach at Davidson. The former NFL player and Florida Gator spent four seasons in the NFL with brief stops with the St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers.

UCLA’s previous offensive line coach, Hank Fraley, has moved on to the NFL to coach the position with the Detroit Lions.

SEC rolls out four-day media day schedule

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The SEC may be packing up their media day extravaganza and moving from Alabama to Atlanta, but this year’s media day schedule shows the SEC will still carefully roll out plenty of storylines over the course of a four-day love fest for the conference.

The SEC is setting up shop at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, which feels like a great landing spot for the new media day fun for the SEC. The conference has established Atlanta as a destination point for the end of the regular season and the city just played host to the first College Football Playoff national championship game between two teams from the same conference, the SEC (Alabama and Georgia). So why not kickstart a new football season with the media in Atlanta too?

New Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher will be the headline act for the first of the four media days for the SEC. Fisher will make his SEC Media Days debut as head coach of the Aggies on Monday, July 16. Other coaches speaking that day will be LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops. Day 2 will be an interesting one with Georgia’s Kirby Smart in the spotlight coming off the SEC championship last fall and new Florida head coach Dan Mullen addresses the media for the first time as the Gators coach, although the former Mississippi State head coach is no stranger to the SEC media day circuit by now. Day 2 will also be the first SEC Media Day introduction for new Arkansas head coach Chad Morris and second-year Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke (Luke took over as head coach in Oxford after SEC Media Days last summer following the removal of Hugh Freeze not long after media days).

But when is Alabama head coach Nick Saban speaking, you ask? Day 3 (Wed., July 18 for those keeping track). Saban headlines the third day of the media day event for the SEC. Two other coaches speaking that day will be new head coaches in the SEC with former Saban assistant Jeremy Pruitt representing Tennessee and Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State stepping to the SEC podium for the first time. Missouri’s Barry Odom is also scheduled on day three. Day 4 will feature Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp, and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason.

Player representatives for each school in addition to any other speakers will be announced at a later time.

Report: Ex-South Alabama coach Joey Jones heading to Mississippi State

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After stepping down from his position as head coach at South Alabama, Joey Jones will remain in the coaching game this fall. According to a report from Steve Robertson of 247 Sports, Jones will join the Mississippi State coaching staff and serve as the special teams coordinator for head coach Joe Moorhead.

Jones was the head coach of the upstart South Alabama program from 2008 through 2017. As head coach of the Jaguars, Jones was 52-50 and the program played in two bowl games. Among the highlights for Jones during his time at South Alabama, ironically, was a 21-20 upset victory over Mississippi State to open the 2016 season. South Alabama was a four-touchdown underdog against the Bulldogs and survived for an upset win after Mississippi State kicker missed an extra point attempt. Mississippi State held leads of 17-0 and 20-7 in the game before letting it slip away.

The hiring of Jones continues a trend for Moorhead in building his first coaching staff with the Bulldogs. Although Moorhead has his own experience as a head coach prior to his arrival at Mississippi State, Moorhead has been building his coaching staff with assistants with previous head coaching experience as well. Tight ends coach Mark Hudspeth and quarterback coach Andrew Breiner each bring head coaching experience to the program that, in theory, will make for a more competent coaching staff on the sidelines this fall and moving forward.

Jones will replace Scott Fountain, who left Mississippi State for Georgia amid the coaching carousel this offseason.