Stephen Morris

NCAA: Miami helped itself with self-imposed ban, cooperation

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In a recently-completed teleconference that was short on meat and long on, well, not a whole heck of a lot, there was one very obvious takeaway: Miami’s reaction and actions in the wake of allegations of a booster’s impermissible benefits went a long, long way with the NCAA.

The Committee on Infractions fielded questions from the media shortly after the release of sanctions imposed on the Hurricane football program, with a sizable chunk of the questions centering on the penalties imposed on The U — nine scholarships lost over three years, three-year probation, no further bowl ban chief among them — and how the committee settled on them.

Essentially, in a case described by committee chairperson Britton Banowsky as “among the most extraordinary in the history of the NCAA,” Miami’s cooperation throughout the investigation when combined with the self-imposed penalties led the committee to its decision.  The university had imposed a two-year bowl ban, which actually cost the football program three postseason appearances — and the money that comes along with it — as the Hurricanes would’ve represented the Coastal division in the ACC championship game.

It was intimated that the fact that UM’s self-imposed bowl ban cost them an ACC title game appearance kept the committee from tacking on an additional postseason-less year on the Hurricanes.  Banowsky went so far as to label the penalties Miami imposed on itself as “unprecedented.”

What many deemed as a “slap on the wrist” — those people fail to acknowledge the damage already done to the program over the past three years — came despite the committee’s own damning words.

While Miami lacked institutional control related to the conduct of the booster, it also lacked adequate policies and procedures for staff members to report potential violations without fear of consequence. Miami did not have the policies or monitoring systems to detect improper text messages and phone calls. Many staff members did not have basic knowledge of NCAA recruiting rules or felt comfortable breaking them, and the university did not have sufficient rules education in place. Had the university properly monitored its sports programs, especially the high-profile sports of football and men’s basketball, it may have identified risks sooner. The committee added that the failings of the university enabled a culture of noncompliance within the university and resulted in a lack of institutional control.

The elephant in the room, however, was the botched investigation.

A handful of NCAA enforcement personnel lost their jobs as a direct result of their actions in the Miami probe, actions that went against NCAA protocol in obtaining evidence and information.  Banowsky claimed during the teleconference that the missteps in the probe, which fell outside the COI’s purview, played no role in the level of sanctions that were handed down; most observers, however, feel the COI had no choice but to go “light” on the punitive measures because of how badly the investigation was handled.

Social media post indicates ex-Miami FB Walter Tucker’s headed to FIU

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 01:  Walter Tucker #44 of the Miami Hurricanes takes the field during a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels  at Sun Life Stadium on November 1, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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While Walter Tucker has left Miami, it doesn’t appear he’l be leaving the state of Florida.

On social media over the weekend, Walter Tucker, by way of Matt Porter of Palm Beach Post, has indicated that he will continue his collegiate playing career at FIU. That football program has not announced one way or the other the fullback’s connection to the football program.

In his Instagram post, Tucker, in addition to revealing his father has cancer, posted a photo of himself superimposed over FIU’s football stadium as well as the hashtags “#FIUNATION,” “#PANTHERNATION.” and “#PANTHERPRIDE.”

 

It’s unclear if Tucker would be eligible to play immediately in 2016 with the Panthers.

Tucker played in 32 games the past three seasons, mainly on special teams. He carried the ball three times for eight yards in 2015, and caught one pass for eight yards the year before.

In February, new Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt announced that Tucker had decided to transfer from The U.

Utah DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu transferring, reportedly visiting Nebraska over the weekend

Stevie Tu'ikolovatu
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A couple of months before the start of summer camp, Nebraska is in the market for some interior line help.

According to a report from HuskerOnline.com, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu visited Lincoln over the weekend as he continues his search for a new football home. Tu’ikolovatu had decided very recently to transfer out of the Utah football program.

Tu’ikolovatu would provide immediate help to the ‘Huskers as he would be coming in as a graduate transfer.

Last season with the Utes, Tu’ikolovatu played in all 13 games, starting two of those contests. His four fumble recoveries were tied for the lead in the Pac-12 and second nationally.

Pitt RB James Conner tweets his ‘body is clean of cancer’

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 20: Tailback James Conner #24 of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers runs with the ball against the University of Iowa Hawkeyes during a college football game at Heinz Field on September 20, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Hawkeyes defeated the Pitt Panthers 24-20. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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How about some excellent news for a change?

Late Monday afternoon, Pittsburgh running back James Conner tweeted out the words he’s been waiting months to say: “Just got the call that my body is clean of cancer!!!”  The news comes five months after Conner revealed that he had been diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his neck and chest.

It also comes less than two weeks after the back completed his chemotherapy treatments.

The treatment hadn’t kept Conner completely away from the Panthers, however, as the running back was seen on video working out with teammates last month while he has been doing some individuals drills since the start of spring practice this month.  He’s also gotten the “celebrity treatment” during his battle as the back threw out the first pitch at a Pittsburgh Pirates game and made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said earlier this offseason that he expects Conner to play in 2016.

As a sophomore, Conner was named the ACC’s Player of the Year in 2014.  He was fully expected to leave for the NFL following the 2015 season before the combination of a season-ending knee injury suffered in September and the cancer diagnosis prompted a return to Pitt.

UPDATED 7:47 p.m. ET:  Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi released a statement addressing Conner’s positive medical update.

Over the past six months, James Conner fought cancer the same way he plays football: relentlessly and without surrender. He has inspired and touched so many people in how he has handled this challenge. James is an incredibly special person, and I’m not even thinking about his football ability when I say that. Everyone at Pitt feels blessed to know him and we are tremendously thankful for the wonderful news he received today.

BC QB-turned-WR Troy Flutie charged with drunk driving

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Troy Flutie #16 of the Boston College Eagles makes a pass during the first quarter against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Alumni Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Thanks in very large part to his famous surname, this story will likely generate more headlines and attention than it would if it had involved a “normal” football player.

Be that as it may, Boston College’s Troy Flutie has found himself on the wrong side of the law, with the Metrowest Daily News reporting that the quarterback/wide receiver was arrested on multiple charges following a minor weekend car crash. Specifically, Flutie, the son of former BC wide receiver Darren Flutie and nephew of 1984 Heisman winner Doug Flutie, was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of liquor, possession of an open container of liquor while driving and being a person younger than 21 in possession of liquor. He was also issued a citation for a marked lanes violation.

The Daily News writes that, “[a]ccording to police, Flutie hit a curb, which led to his arrest.” No other details have been made available.

Flutie began his BC career as a quarterback and, after redshirting as a true freshman, played in eight games in 2015. He completed 24-of-49 passes for three touchdowns and an interception during his limited action.  Because of injuries at the position, Flutie was one of four Eagles quarterbacks to attempt at least 42 passes last season.

This spring, Flutie was moved to wide receiver.