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Bristol game could be worth over $4 million each to Vols, Hokies

Battle at Bristol

As expected, there are quite a few zeros involved in the decision to hold a football game at a NASCAR racetrack.

By way of an open records request, Evan Woodbery of the Knoxville News Sentinel obtained a copy of the contract agreed upon by Tennessee and Virginia Tech for the 2016 game at Bristol Motor Speedway.

According to that contract, each school will receive an allotment of 40,000 tickets.  If each school sells all of its allotted tickets, they would receive $4 million apiece.  The guarantee drops to $3.75 million if 32,500 tickets are sold, $3.5 million for 25,000 sold.

Given the proximity of both campuses to the neutral site game — each is a roughly two-hour drive to Bristol, Tennessee — both schools are expected to sell out of the tickets allocated to them.

Additionally, each school would receive an additional $300,000 apiece if the game is a sellout.  The official capacity at BMS is 160,000.  If the game is shy of a sellout, there are also bonuses for a crowd of 132,500-plus ($200,000) and 125,000-132,499 ($100,000).

BMS, which as stated in the contract reserves the right to sell alcohol during the game, has purchased an insurance policy that would guarantee each team would receive $4 million should the game be canceled “due to unsafe field conditions, logistical concerns, or errors on the part of BMS in preparation for the game.”  If the game were to be cancelled due to “acts of God or natural disaster,” BMS reserves the right to withhold one-third of the $4 million guaranteed to each team.

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Real grass played role in LaDainian Tomlinson picking TCU

LaDainian Tomlinson AP

You hear all kinds of reasons why a recruit picks a certain school or crosses others off his list, and you’ll certainly hear more with National Signing Day right around the corner.  Never once can I recall having heard of a playing surface being a significant factor… until now.

In an interview with KTCK-AM 1310 The Ticket, LaDainian Tomlinson was asked about the recruiting process and how he ended up at TCU. First, Tomlinson explained how Texas A&M never offering him a scholarship even as they wanted him to visit led him to very nearly sign with North Texas.

He didn’t land at UNT, obviously, as he ultimately signed with TCU. What exactly, in part, led him to the Horned Frogs over the Mean Green, and Baylor too? Allow Tomlinson to explain, as transcribed by the Dallas Morning News.

“TCU was a place that allowed me to stay close to my family. My mother was in Fort Worth at the time. I really needed to stay close to home, so it really came down to TCU, North Texas and Baylor, honestly. At the end of the day, TCU was probably the best place for me because they played on grass. Even in high school, I thought about this stuff. … I said, ‘Grass would be better than turf.’ North Texas had turf and even Baylor had turf.”

So there you have it: mom plus real grass equaled TCU in Tomlinson’s equation.  It takes all kinds, as the saying goes.

Whatever the ultimate trigger was, it was a boon for TCU football.

In the 31 years prior to Tomlinson’s arrival in 1997, TCU played in two bowl games.  During Tomlinson’s four seasons with the Horned Frogs, they played in three.  In 2000, Tomlinson’s last season as well as the program’s last without Gary Patterson as head coach, the Horned Frogs won 10 games, the first time that had happened since 1938.

Individually, Tomlinson set the FBS single-game rushing record with a 406-yard performance in a 1999 game against UTEP, a mark that stood until Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon broke it with 408 yards in November of last year.  One week later, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine shattered that record with his 427-yard effort.

A decade and half finishing off a career with 5,387 yards and 56 touchdowns, Tomlinson was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2014.

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Knee surgery likely won’t keep Michigan’s Jake Butt out of spring ball

Jake Butt

For the second time in less than a year, Jake Butt has undergone a surgical procedure.  This one, though, is decidedly less significant than the first.

A team spokesperson confirmed to mlive.com that the tight end underwent microscopic surgery on his knee earlier this month.  It’s the same knee in which Butt suffered a torn ACL last February.

The procedure, which was deemed minor, is not expected to keep Butt out (get it?) of spring practice a month or two down the road.

The ACL injury cost him the first two games of the 2014 season, while a suspension cost him another.  In the nine games in which he did play, Butt caught nine passes for 211 yards, totals that were both third on the team.  His two touchdown receptions were tied for second.

As a true freshman in 2013, Butt finished third on the team in receptions (20), yards (235) and touchdowns (two). Butt, a four-star member of UM’s 2013 recruiting class rated as the No. 5 tight end in the country, is expected to play a significant role in new head coach Jim Harbaugh‘s offense, which, at least at Stanford, had a tendency to feature the tight end position.

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Reports: Rutgers reinstates receiver Ruhann Peele

Ruhann Peele, Andrew Adams

(Alliteration, it’s fun for the whole family, especially in the offseason!)

In early November, Rutgers suspended Ruhann Peele for the remainder of the 2014 season following an off-field incident.  Nearly three months later, he’s back.

According to both nj.com and ScarletScuttlebutt.com, the wide receiver has been reinstated to the football program and can now resume participating in team activities.  RU has yet to announce public Peele’s status with the team.

In late August, Peele was arrested and charged with simple assault after it was alleged that he had pulled the hair of a female accuser and scratched her face.  That charge was dismissed in December after the alleged victim failed to show for a court appearance, which helped pave the way for Peele’s return.

Peele had not played the first nine games of the 2014 season because of an unspecified upper-body injury.  He was medically cleared prior to the 10th game, which triggered the suspension.

In 2013, Peele finished fifth on the team with 28 catches for 478 yards. He was third on the team that season when, due to injuries, he was moved from receiver to cornerback in late October for a handful of games.

Entering spring practice back in the good graces of the football program, the redshirt sophomore is expected to be a significant contributor in the passing game in 2014.

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Bret Bielema, Russell Wilson and a Dolphins interview

Penn State v Wisconsin Getty Images

I don’t even know where to start with this, but, well, let’s just dive right in.

Bret Bielema interviewed for the head-coaching job with the Miami Dolphins a couple of years ago. He has now confirmed as much publicly and willingly and openly, too. Guess that’s one place to start.

Unbeknownst to the public in general and the media specifically, Bielema interviewed in “the winter of 2012,” as ESPN.com put it, for that open South Florida NFL gig. At the time, Bielema was the head coach at Wisconsin and was coming off a Rose Bowl appearance following the 2011 college football season with transfer Russell Wilson as his starting quarterback.

It’s that Bielema/Wilson/Dolphin dynamic that’s so utterly fascinating, if for nothing more than, based on Beilema’s own words, he’d possibly be in the NFL right now if the pro folks in Miami had just heeded his sage draft plan.  The following is prefaced by the ESPN writer herself noting that “Bielema insists this is true,” so there’s that.  And this:

He is a day and a half into his meetings, and is mapping out his plans with the Dolphins’ brass. He promises them a Super Bowl ring within five years if they pick Wilson, his quarterback at Wisconsin, in the upcoming draft.

The idea of selecting a 5-10 quarterback in the second round, which is where Bielema thinks they need to, does not go over well. They think he’s crazy.

“One hundred percent,” Bielema says.

“They all looked at me like, ‘You can’t say that. That’s the difference between college and pro. He’s undersized. He can’t throw.’ I was like, ‘OK, all right,’ and I honestly, that day, kind of pulled myself out of it.”

Pulling out that time, Bielema remained at UW for one more season, after which he pulled up stakes in Madison and headed to Fayetteville for the head coaching job at Arkansas.

The lesson here? Bielema, as is the case with pretty much every other coach, is more than willing to listen to overtures. Oh, he’ll listen, as the 2014-15 coaching rumor mill hinted atvery strongly hinted at — when it came to the opening at Nebraska.  Talking publicly about being “right” on a Super Bowl-winning quarterback like Wilson just sets up NFL options for the future, too.

Just something to keep in mind on down the road, when the next few coaching carousels are spinning.

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LSU plans to pursue John Chavis’ buyout

John Chavis

When John Chavis left the LSU Tigers to become the defensive coordinator of the Texas A&M Aggies, he walked away from a $1.3 million contract.

Chavis reportedly wanted his annual salary increased to $1.7 million to make him, along with Auburn’s Will Muschamp, the nation’s highest paid defensive coordinator.

When LSU brass decided that wasn’t going to happen, Chavis refused to sign a new contract. Instead, Texas A&M stepped up to the plate and lured him away to College Station.

Whether or not Texas A&M matched Chavis’ asking price, the assistant coach won’t see the full amount of his contract next season due to a buyout in his previous contract with LSU.

Chavis owes LSU $400,00 as part of the provision, according to The Shreveport Times‘ Glenn Guilbeau. The school intends to pursue the money it is owed.

“I’m not sure if we’ll get it, but we’re going to try to get it,” LSU board member Ronald Anderson told Guilbeau. “That was part of his contract. It’s his obligation.”

Whether or not LSU receives the payment may determine the future of former defensive line coach Brick Haley. Haley is currently on staff, but he was replaced by Ed Orgeron. Unlike Chavis, Haley signed a new contract offered after the season. However, his status along with the $450,000 contract remain uncertain until Chavis’ situation is finalized.

Haley is currently serving as a staff “intern.”

“I’m told that by June, if he decides to stay, they’ll decide what he’ll be doing and that title would change,” Anderson said.

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Former Crimson Tide safety takes shot at LSU’s new defensive coordinator

HaHa Clinton-Dix

You can take the football player out of Alabama, but you can’t take the Crimson Tide out of the football player.

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix left Alabama as a highly decorated safety before becoming the 21st pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 2014 NFL draft.

The safety didn’t take to Twitter Friday to rip the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions or even the Minnesota Vikings, though.

Clinton-Dix’s contempt for the rival LSU Tigers remains strong, and he made sure to point out what type of hire the program made when Kevin Steele was named its new offensive coordinator.

The game Clinton-Dix referred to was the 2012 Orange Bowl. Steele was the defensive coordinator of the Clemson Tigers at the time. His defense surrendered 595 total yards to the West Virginia Mountaineers on their way to scoring 70 points.

The embarrassing performance eventually cost Steele his job.

Despite the pitiful performance and being a few years removed from defensive coordinator duties, LSU head coach Les Miles was excited about Steele’s inclusion to his coaching staff.

“He has a great defensive mind and he’s an outstanding recruiter,” Miles said when the hire was officially announced, per ESPN. “He knows our players and our system and his knowledge of the SEC and the SEC Western Division makes him a great fit. We are very excited the Kevin will be joining our staff.”

Miles and LSU might be excited about the hire, but Clinton-Dix obviously thinks it’s a joke.

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Texas Tech cancels spring game, caters schedule to QB Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes

The spring game is an annual tradition in college football.

However, Kliff Kingsbury and his Texas Tech Red Raiders were forced to change up their spring schedule due to a couple of factors.

First, the Red Raiders won’t hold a spring game this year, according to the team’s official site.

“Due to the replacement of seating inside Jones AT&T Stadium, the annual Spring Game has been cancelled and there will be no other open practice opportunities for fans in Lubbock,” the statement read.

Also, the team will accommodate its projected starter at quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who is also a member of the baseball team.

“Individual practices dates will be determined on a week-by-week basis in order to accommodate sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ baseball schedule, the school announced. “Mahomes will pitch and play in the outfield for the preseason No. 5 Texas Tech Baseball team this spring.”

Mahomes started the final four games of the 2014 campaign, and the freshman’s performance was impressive. The two-sport star passed for 1,428 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions during that stretch.

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Iowa WR breaks Odell Beckham’s Guinness world record

Iowa v Minnesota Getty Images

Iowa’s Tevaun Smith didn’t just one-up New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. a day after he set a world record. The junior from Toronto, Canada easily surpassed Beckham’s mark and caught nearly as many one-handed passes in a minute than he did all season.

Beckham originally set the record Thursday by making 33 catches without a drop in 60 seconds. Smith, who caught 43 passes for 596 yards last season, decided he was up to the task with 41 one-handed snags.

The Iowa Hawkeyes athletic department recorded the record-breaking event, via ESPN:

After being challenged, Beckham will surely attempt to break the new record.

“The type of person I am, I love breaking records, no matter what it is,” Beckham said Thursday in an interview with CBS New York. “I look forward to breaking and going above and beyond what somebody else has done.”

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FCS coaches not sure Vernon Adams can transition from EWU to Oregon

Eastern Washington v Washington Getty Images

There is very little Vernon Adams can prove with another year at Eastern Washington.

During his time as a member of the Eagles, the quarterback has proved he’s one of the elite players at the FCS level of play, and he helped lead his team to three straight playoff appearances.

In 37 career games, Adams threw for 10,438 yards, 110 touchdowns and 31 interceptions. Plus, the quarterback ran for 1,232 yards and 11 more touchdowns.

However, none of this means he’s ready to make the leap from the FCS level to play for the Oregon Ducks, who just played in a national championship game.

Adams is still entertaining the idea of transferring, though, as he prepares to visit Eugene this weekend.

“I’m not saying I’m leaving Eastern, but I’m just going to check it out and see what they have to say,” Adams told The Spokesman-Review‘s Jim Allen.

FCS coaches believe Adams can play at the level, but it may not be the right time for the quarterback to make the move.

“If I was advising him, I’d say he should stay,” Sam Houston State’s K.C. Keeler told The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

Keeler once coached Joe Flacco at Delaware before eventually becoming the Bearkats’ head coach. Sam Houston State even faced Eastern Washington to open its 2014 campaign.

“I walked out of that saying I don’t think I’ll see a better quarterback in the country and in my time coaching, I can’t list a whole lot better than I just saw,” Keeler said. “I have no reservation saying he’ll go into the Oregon locker room and that he’ll be as talented as anybody. It’s just there are a lot of things that go into being a starting quarterback.

“I’m disappointed he’s leaving because I think what players have to understand is bigger is not better, better is better. He’s developed an unbelievable following at Eastern Washington and I’d be disappointed he’s leaving our level. I’m not excited that he’s trying to bump up to a higher level. The more he plays, the better he’s going to get, and I don’t know if that’s the situation at Oregon.”

One obstacle Adams will face if he does decide to transfer is waiting to become part of the Ducks program until this summer. The quarterback is on track to graduate in June, which means he wouldn’t be able to participate in Oregon’s spring ball.

“I think there’s a real risk for Vernon Adams to do that,” former Oregon receivers coach and current Montana coach Robin Pflugrad said. “Can Vernon Adams do it? I’m a firm believer he can having seen him and having watched him from afar. It’s just going to be a totally different challenge for him and some of that is mental.”

The coaches were in agreement on one thing. If Adams does transfer to Oregon, they’ll be rooting for him to succeed.

“We’d cheer for him and a lot more than when he was playing against us, too,” Montana State’s Rob Ash said.

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Touted 2014 JUCO transfer leaving K-State for EKU

With National Signing Day five days away, here’s your daily reminder that recruiting hype doesn’t necessarily translate into on-field success.

D’Vonta Derricott was a four-star JUCO member of Kansas State’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 3 outside linebacker prospect coming from that level of football. Derricott never saw the field in 2014, taking a redshirt for his first season in Manhattan.

As it turns out, Derricott won’t ever see the field for K-State as he has decided to transfer, announcing via Twitter Thursday that he’s moving on to Eastern Kentucky.  According to the Manhattan Mercury, Derricott had been removed from K-State’s Alamo Bowl roster, although head coach Bill Snyder seemed to indicate that the door was at least slightly open for a return.

Because EKU plays at the FCS level, the linebacker will be eligible to play immediately in 2015. Counting this season, he will have two years of eligibility remaining.

(Photo credit: Kansas State athletics)

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Two more opt to transfer from Michigan

Michigan v Nebraska Getty Images

The work week began with word that a Michigan player has decided to leave Ann Arbor.  As it turns out, it’ll end the same way.  Times two.

First off, on Instagram Friday, Russell Bellomy announced that he will transfer out of the UM football program. In a very heartfelt statement, the quarterback asked that “you respect my decision and support me in whatever I do.”

Below is the statement, in its entirety.

“To those of you that know me well, I always try my hardest never to get emotional; however, I write this with a heavy heart. My heart is packed full of experiences, acquaintances and irreplaceable memories that I will reminisce on for the rest of my life. I love each and every one of my teammates, both former and present, and I hope y’all know that every day I busted my butt for you and the benefit of UM.

“I will receive my degree at the end of this semester and have decided to sign my release that enables me to play my 5th year as a graduate student at another university. I pray that you respect my decision and support me in whatever I do, because this was not an easy process. I am forever grateful to have attended and played for UM and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. “For I know the plans I have for you…” #GoBlueAlways”

As noted in the statement, Bellomy will be a graduate transfer, which means he would be eligible to play in 2015 if he decides to move on to an FBS program. The release granted by Michigan, which Bellomy showed on his social media post, allows him to transfer to any school not on the Wolverines’ schedule.

Russell Bellomy Release

Bellomy, a three-star member of the Wolverines’ 2011 recruiting class, played in six games during his time at UM, completing 4-of-23 passes for 46 yards and four interceptions.  Three of those interceptions came in a 23-9 loss to Nebraska in October of 2012, a game in which he was forced into action because of an elbow injury to starter Denard Robinson.

A short time later, teammate and defensive end-turned-tight end Keith Heitzman did the same thing as Bellomy, and on the same website to boot.

“The past few years have been an unforgettable journey full of ever lasting memories, both exciting and saddening. I have experienced the spoils of winning and the heartbreak of losing. I have always blamed my struggles on external factors and never realized that all of this was part of the process of becoming a Michigan man. It has been the most challenging yet rewarding 4 years of my life and for that I will be forever grateful.

“However, this moment right now has manifested itself into the toughest experience as of yet. I have signed my release form allowing me to talk with other schools for the potential to transfer. As of right now I will leave this great institution in the spring with a degree in hand and friendships that will last a lifetime. I have to make the best possible decision for me, therefore, I feel like I need to explore my options. I have to thank all the fans for their continued support through the turbulent times over these past few years and promise that Michigan is destined for greatness in the future. #forevergoblue”

Last season, Heitzman caught two passes for 32 yards and a touchdown in playing in all 12 games.  Heitzman was a three-star member of UM’s 2011 recruiting class, and will be eligible to play immediately at an FBS school because he will be a grad transfer.

Monday, it was reported that running back Justice Hayes would be leaving as a graduate transfer. Prior to that, and between the firing of Brady Hoke and the hiring of Jim Harbaugh, linebacker Michael Ferns and offensive lineman Kyle Bosch left the program as well. Both of those players ultimately landed at West Virginia.

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Report: Clancy Pendergast is front-runner for Utah DC job

California v Washington State Getty Images

After a year away from the game, it appears Clancy Pendergast could be back in it if he so desires.  Reportedly.

Accord to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News*, Pendergast has emerged as the front-runner for the defensive coordinator job at Utah.  The Utes have been without a coordinator on that side of the ball for well over a month after Kalani Sitake left for the same post at Oregon State.

Pendergast was last on the sidelines as the coordinator at USC in 2013, his lone season with the Trojans.  He wasn’t retained as part of Steve Sarkisian‘s new coaching staff.  For the three years before that, he served in the same position at Cal.

Prior to that, Pendergast had spent 15 seasons as an assistant at the NFL level.  During his stint as coordinator with Arizona (2004-08), the Cardinals earned the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl berth following the 2008 season.

As LSU searched for its new coordinator, Pendergast was interviewed as a potential replacement for John Chavis before hiring Kevin Steele away from Alabama.

(*Yes, I’m well aware of all y’all’s feelings toward Mr. Wolf.  Please, save yourself the breath and keystrokes.  Thanks in advance.)

 

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Brady Hoke reportedly not in the mix for CMU job

Brady Hoke AP

We still don’t know who will be Central Michigan’s next head football coach.  We can, though, apparently cross off one of the rumored candidates for the job of the school’s coaching to-do list.

Citing an individual with knowledge of the discussions, Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press is reporting that Brady Hoke is not in the mix for the CMU job.  Snyder writes “[t]hough CMU considered Hoke… it was not a fit* between the two sides.”

Hoke, of course, was fired as Michigan’s head coach in early December. Prior to his time at UM (2011-14) and San Diego State (2009-10), Hoke served as the head coach at Ball State of the MAC from 2004-08.

The CMU job came open Jan. 22 when Dan Enos abruptly stepped down to become the offensive coordinator at Arkansas. The Chips are currently the only FBS team without a head coach.

Athletic director Dave Heeke stated that he would employ a search firm to aid in the search and would like a replacement in place by signing day Feb. 4; that seems highly unlikely, although not impossible.

Aside from Hoke, other rumored candidates have included Detroit Lions special teams coordinator John Bonamego, Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, Ferris State head coach Tony Annese, Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal and Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks among many, many others.

(*Allow me to get ahead of this: In the comments section, feel free, if it makes you feel better, to let the hefty jokes rain down like beads at Mardi Gras.)

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Title run to net OSU $3 million bump in merchandise royalties

American Money AP

Ohio State’s run to the College Football Playoff championship will have a trickle-down effect economically for the university as a whole.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, OSU officials expect to see an increase of $3 million over last year’s figures when it comes to the sale of licensed merchandise. While the paper writes that “[t]he percentage gain isn’t close to what OSU saw in 2002 when the Buckeyes beat Miami for the national crown, when royalties doubled to $5 million that year over the year before,” it is a figure that will benefit many.

Oddly enough, the greatest financial benefit won’t end up in the athletic department coffers. From the Dispatch:

For every dollar that goes into the licensing office, 55 cents goes to academic affairs, which handles scholarships, libraries, ongoing programs and the university’s 14 college units; 15 cents goes to the athletics department; 15 cents goes to the alumni association; and 15 cents goes to the student life program and its 1,000 student organizations.

That means that just $450,000 or so will go to the athletic department, while the remaining $2.55 million will be directed toward entities that benefit the present and past student populations.

The title run will also continue benefiting small businesses that sell Buckeye gear.

“People were energized long before the game, and people are still coming through the door,” Lori Leavitt Watson, vice president of one such business, told the Dispatch. “This has legs for us.

“What that (championship) does is people are willing to spend money. We had two people call and say they had planned on restringing their flag poles in the spring, but now? Nope. ‘We’re going to do it now, and we want that flag right now.'”

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Arian Foster says he accepted ’40, 50 grand’ from Vols boosters

Tennessee v South Carolina Getty Images

It’s not exactly a shock that Arian Foster stated during an interview Friday that he had accepted money from boosters during his time playing running back at Tennessee; in a documentary that aired in 2013, Foster acknowledged as much.

This time around, though, Foster got into specific dollar amounts, which always piques the interest of some.

During the radio interview with Dan LeBatard Thursday, the current Houston Texans running back was asked about receiving what would be impermissible cash benefits from UT boosters while he was a player.  From the Knoxville News:

“You have people help you out here and there,” Foster said Thursday on the Dan LeBatard show. “Boosters and alumni and ex-players, they all know how it is, man. It’s hard living check to check when you don’t have enough money to go out to the movies or any kind of leisure activity. And you’re not allowed to get a job. Especially when I was in college, they were a lot more stringent on those rules, so at any given chance I got the opportunity, I took a free handout. Absolutely.”

LeBatard pushed Foster for an exact dollar figure. Foster guessed that it was “40, 50 grand throughout my entire career.”

Foster was in Knoxville from 2004-08. His coach during that time was Phillip Fulmer, who released a statement after Foster’s comments in the 2013 documentary became public.

“As the head coach at Tennessee for 17 years, I took great pride in having a program that was NCAA compliant, as did our staff and administration,” Fulmer said at the time. “If we knew of a violation, big or small, we reported it.”

Foster’s comments come amidst a push, especially amongst the Power Five conferences, to put some of the billions of dollars the sports makes back into the pockets of the players in the form of bridging the cost-of-attendance gap. They also come one day after Seattle Seahawk defensive end Michael Bennett called the NCAA “one of the biggest scams in America.”

UPDATED 3:04 p.m. ET: That certainly didn’t take long.

Shortly after we posted the above, UT fans took to Twitter to blast Foster for his admissions during the radio interview yesterday.  At first Foster took this tack…

… and then, as the rhetoric from the other side began to ratchet up, he changed course…

… and ultimately landed here:

Grab your popcorn and head on over to Foster’s Twitter feed HERE.  This could be fun for an hour or two.

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