Bill O'Brien

NCAA to reduce scholarship sanctions on Penn State

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Penn State’s — and state lawmakers’ — prolonged fight with the NCAA over historic sanctions levied on the football program is about to bear some fruit.

The NCAA announced Tuesday that, “[d]ue to Penn State University’s continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity,” its executive committee has agreed to gradually restore scholarships the football program had lost in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. The move to restore scholarships, arguably the most crippling of the sanctions, was based on a recommendation by George Mitchell, who had been hired by the NCAA as an independent “integrity monitor.”.

The original sanctions called for a cap of 15 scholarships beginning in 2013 and running through 2016; the NCAA limit at the FBS level is 15.  Additionally, whereas FBS programs are permitted 85 scholarship players, the Nittany Lions would be allowed just 65.

The new directive from the NCAA, however, will allow Penn State to increase by five its scholarships in 2014, increasing to the full allotment of 25 the following year.  The program will be back up to its full allotment of 85 scholarship players beginning in 2016 — at least two full years ahead of what the original sanctions had called for — after moving to 75 in 2014 and 80 in 2015.

“The decision is the result of a thoughtful and deliberative process to ensure we reached the most appropriate outcome,” said Rita Hartung Cheng, who chaired the recent Executive Committee meetings regarding Senator Mitchell’s annual report and chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. “During our discussions, we had the benefit of engaging with Senator Mitchell’s expert perspective and the views of our Big Ten colleagues.”

Other sanctions, including a four-year bowl ban and $60 million fine, remain in place, although the press release stated that the NCAA “may consider additional mitigation of the postseason ban in the future depending upon Penn State’s continued progress.”

Even if the bowl ban remains in place, the restoring of scholarships is by far the biggest win for the football program in general and head coach Bill O’Brien specifically.  That specific sanction has crippled O’Brien and his coaching staff on the recruiting trail; the additional scholarships will now allow the program to make bigger inroads in the recruiting game, the lifeblood of any program, and begin scaling back its “run-on” program beginning as early as this recruiting cycle.

O’Brien has been a big part of the progress over the past couple of years as Penn State continues to climb out of the hole created by the Sandusky scandal.  That progress was noted by embattled NCAA president Mark Emmert.

“The goal has always been to ensure the university reinforces clear expectations and a daily mindset within athletics that the highest priority must be placed on educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” said Emmert in a statement. “The Executive Committee’s decision to restore the football scholarships provides additional education opportunities and is an important recognition of Penn State’s progress.”

Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett was happy with the NCAA’s decision.

“I am pleased that the NCAA is recognizing the important changes and reforms that the university has undertaken and will continue to make moving forward,” he said.

Louisville RB L.J. Scott reportedly transfers to Eastern Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 30:  L.J. Scott #27 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates after a first down in the second quarter against the Florida State Seminoles during their game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 30, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Louisville running back L.J. Scott has transferred to Eastern Kentucky, according to a report Sunday from Kennedy Hardman of WTVQ in Lexington, Ky.

The school has not announced Scott’s arrival, but Hardman reports Scott is already enrolled in classes at EKU.

Scott was a reserve runner in his first two seasons at Louisville and fell out of favor in Bobby Petrino‘s offense in 2016. He carried 29 times for 201 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman in 2014 and rushed 39 times for 180 yards and four scores in 2015. His numbers dipped dramatically in 2016, though, totaling only three rushes for 15 yards. Scott battled a hamstring injury during the season but saw his usage dip even before the ailment popped up.

Scott will have one year to compete for the Colonels.

Not to be confused with the Michigan State running back of the same name, Scott was a consensus 3-star recruit when he signed with the Cardinals out of Harding, Ohio, in 2014.

Baylor and Houston lighting up the skies for recruiting purposes

Photo credit: Matt Rhule
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New Baylor head coach Matt Rhule is absolutely loving being in charge of a football program that has its own stadium to call home. The look on Rhule’s face as he walked on to Baylor’s football turf and soaked it all in after years as the head coach of Temple and having to share space in an NFL venue said it all. It did not take long for Rhule and his staff in Waco to find a way to show off the stadium and the atmosphere either, as Baylor has been lighting the stadium Baylor green for recruiting visits since Rhule’s arrival.

It has become apparent that “Baylor Lit” is Rhule’s go-to catchphrase any time he receives positive recruiting news for the program, like a player committing to the university. Coaches are not allowed to directly and publicly comment on recruits before they are enrolled, so many coaches have taken to Twitter with a brief catchphrase to let their followers know something good just happened. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, for example, would say “Yessir!” on his Twitter account.

Because ideas are stolen all the time around college football, Houston appears to have been inspired by Baylor and is lighting their stadium red for similar purposes.

And because College Football Twitter will never let such a thing slide, the jokes have been running wild between fans of the schools.

There are some other schools I’d be curious to see duplicate this light show exhibition. Maybe Middle Tennessee could light the sky blue? Notre Dame could provide a golden shine to the sky. Syracuse plays in a dome, unfortunately, but an orange-lit sky would be cool to see. And of course, Hawaii could go with a full spectrum of the colors of the rainbow.

What I am trying to say is, lighting the sky in your team’s colors is cool and more schools should give it a try.

Helmet sticker to Reddit.

Newly hired David Reaves placed on administrative leave by Oregon following DUI arrest

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 6: Close-up of the Oregon Ducks 'Liquid Metal' helmet during the the game between the Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies on October 6, 2012 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won the game 52-21. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Oregon co-offensive coordinator David Reaves was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with DUII, reckless driving and reckless endangerment. In response to the arrest, Oregon has placed Reaves on administrative leave and is already moving to terminate his contract.

According to a report from The Oregonian, Reaves was pulled over at 2:12 a.m. in Eugene. Suspected of being impaired while operating the vehicle, and following an on-scene investigation, Reaves was charged and booked into a county jail at 5:18 a.m. He was released from jail later Sunday morning. There was an adult passenger in the car.

“University of Oregon assistant football coach David Reaves was arrested last night and charged with Driving Under the Influence by members of the Eugene Police Department,” a statement from Oregon director of athletics Rob Mullens said. “Reaves has been placed on administrative leave and the process to terminate his employment with cause has commenced. The University has high standards for the conduct of employees and is addressing this matter with the utmost of seriousness.”

Reaves was hired specifically to coach tight ends and take on the role of passing game coordinator while he and Mario Cristobal shared the role of offensive coordinator.

Reaves was hired by Oregon just five days ago to join the coaching staff assembled by new head coach Willie Taggart. For Taggart, this is just the latest in a bizarre sequence of events since being hired away by USF to take on the head coaching responsibility at Oregon. Taggart’s strength coach Irele Oderinde has already been suspended by the university after multiple Oregon football players were hospitalized following offseason workouts. All players that were receiving treatment have since been released from the hospital.

Ex-Nittany Lion DT Kam Carter joins Pitt as JUCO transfer

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 19:  James Conner #24 celebrates his touchdown with head coach Pat Narduzzi of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the first quarter against the Duke Blue Devils at Heinz Field on November 19, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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What was once Penn State’s is not Pitt’s. Former Nittany Lion Kam Carter has announced, via Twitter, he will transfer to Pitt, where he will be eligible to play right away in 2017.

Carter will be a junior college transfer, which is why he will be eligible to play right away this upcoming college football season. Carter was dismissed by Penn State last spring for a violation of team rules. The former four-star recruit continued his football career at East Mississippi Community College for the 2016 season with the hope of returning to a FBS program this year. That will be the case after Pitt started to show some interest in him as an option earlier this month. Carter made an official visit to Pitt this weekend and did not head home before giving head coach Pat Narduzzi the good news.

The addition of Carter to the Pitt roster could pay immediate dividends this fall. With defensive tackles Tyrique Jarrett and Shakir Soto no longer in the fold, Carter has an excellent opportunity to slide right into a key role on a Pitt defense that has plenty of room for improvement in 2017.

Just as a reminder, Carter and his new teammates head to Happy Valley to face Penn State on September 9. It is the second of a four-game series between the in-state rivals.