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Mackey Award announces three finalists

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The John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation’s top tight end, announced its three finalists on Tuesday.

Juniors Eric Ebron of North Carolina, Nick O’Leary of Florida State and Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington were determined by confidential balloting of the John Mackey Award Selection Committee. The winner will be announced on Dec. 11 and presented with the trophy on Dec. 12.

Ebron leads North Carolina with 50 catches for 774 yards and three touchdowns this season. The athletic junior is considered a potential first round pick in the next NFL draft.

O’Leary has 27 catches for 457 yards and seven scores while averaging a healthy 16.9 yards per catch. He’s one of the main weapons in Florida State’s explosive offense that is high-rated in several categories.

Seferian-Jenkins has 31 catches for 361 yards and six scores. He was also a finalist for the award last season.

Ole Miss to suspend assistants, reduce scholarships in response to NCAA Notice of Allegations

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 25:  Head coach Hugh Freeze of the Mississippi Rebels reacts to a call during the game against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on October 25, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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A day after Baylor fired Art Briles and a day before Memorial Day weekend, Ole Miss has released its long-awaited response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations.

The 52-page document details the breadth and nature of violations committed by the Rebels’ football program. A sizable chunk of the 13 violations pertaining to football occurred under the four-year watch of current head coach Hugh Freeze.

Current assistant coaches Chris Kiffin (defensive line), Derrick Nix (running backs), Maurice Harris (tight ends) and Matt Luke (offensive line) were named in the report. Most of the violations come in the forms of paid cell phone bills, comped hotel stays, paid ACT prep courses and free loaner vehicles.

Many of the violations are downright silly.

The most serious allegation comes from the Houston Nutt era, when assistant coach Chris Vaughn and operations assistant David Saunders arranged for three future Rebels to commit ACT fraud. Vaughn was fired from his assistant coaching job at Texas due to his involvement in this case.

Ole Miss requested to exclude the Laremy Tunsil NFL Draft night fiasco from this summer’s report since those allegations are still being investigated, and the NCAA granted that request.

Ole Miss has released this graphic detailing the scope and timeline of the case. The Rebels submitted its NOA response on April 21, and the NCAA has 60 days to submit its rebuttal. The two parties will then appear before the Committee on Infractions, who will then have around six weeks to release their verdict. A rough timeline would have the case wrapped up in full by October.

Ole Miss graphic

Ole Miss has also self-imposed the following penalties, plus a fine of nearly $160,000:

Those sanctions are just a baseline punishment. The NCAA can — and likely will — argue to increase them during the Committee on Infractions hearing later this year.

Ole Miss has suspended two unnamed assistants from recruiting.

Art Briles’ daughter calls firing ‘outrageous’ and ‘disgusting’ in Facebook post

WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 06:  Head coach Art Briles of the Baylor Bears during play against the Northwestern State Demons at McLane Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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In times like these, you can’t expect the family members of coaches fired at the end of a whirlwind scandal to remain impartial. But you can hope they at least stay off social media.

Alas, Staley Lebby could not do that. Lebby is doubly affected by today’s news that Baylor has fired head coach Art Briles as Briles’ daughter and wife of the Bears’ running backs coach Jeff Lebby.

In a Facebook diatribe, Lebby called the firing “outrageous” and “the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen.”

She writes:

I just stop crying long enough to be able to write this but this is all I will say on this outrageous situation – anyone who knows my dad knows he is a man of incredible character & Faith. He is one of the most giving & unselfish people I’ve ever been around.

He has been through so much in his life and has always been a fighter – he’s done everything the right way & for the right reasons. He has always wanted to take over programs that were suffering, like he once did, to take them to the top, which he has done at multiple places.

He wanted to be successful for his parents and make them proud. He has worked his ass off in his 40 years of coaching to get where he is today. He has NEVER been fired, his character has NEVER been questioned and he has NEVER been going to do anything unethically. 

He has always been a players coach & wanted nothing but the best for every single one of them.  He has only kept coaching as long as he has to build a sturdy foundation for his kids & grandkids.  

I guess a man that has resurrected your program and made you a top 10 program wasn’t worth fighting for or defending. The easy way out was taken. He will get to tell his side of the story to gain his name back –  the truth will be told and he will keep fighting the good fight. We aren’t backing down & throwing in the towel. When times are tough the tough will survive. Thanks for all the messages and texts and support – means a lot to us all. 

I will never wear a Baylor tshirt.

Georgia raises ticket prices following Kirby Smart hire

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 28: A general view of the Sanford Stadium before the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the LSU Tigers on September 28, 2013 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Running a college athletics department is only getting more expensive, so attending a college football game will only get more expensive. Or, at least attending a Georgia game will.

Bulldogs president Jere Morehead and athletics director Greg McGarity revealed Thursday per-seat donations would rise an average of 17 percent for priority season ticket holders beginning in the 2017 season.

“It’s in anticipation of things that are ahead,” McGarity told the Athens Banner-Herald.

Cost-of-attendance scholarships bumped that line item up $766,000, and other costs across the department added an additional $5.3 million to the budget. All this while Georgia is building a new indoor facility and replacing Mark Richt and his staff while hiring Kirby Smart and his new staff.

“Those projects are going to be expensive,” Morehead said. “The cost of operating our athletic program each year continues to rise particularly as you look at the enhancements that are being provided to our student-athletes and to the support that we’re providing our student-athletes.”

The bump in prices will raise an extra $2.5 million for Georgia, and represents the first time Bulldogs fans have been asked to ante up since 2005.

“We wanted to be respectable in the increase to not price people out of a certain area but we did feel like we needed to make an adjustment,” said McGarity. “We want to continue to encourage people to come to games. We’ve got our work cut out to make sure (that happens).”

Ohio State to host Tulane in 2018

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 6:  The Ohio State Buckeyes kickoff to the Virginia Tech Hokies at Ohio Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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The Fighting Frites are heading to the Horseshoe.

Ohio State and Tulane announced a one-time game to be played in Columbus on Sept. 22, 2018.

“Tulane enhances and completes a non-conference schedule in 2018 that already includes Power 5 conference teams TCU and Oregon State,” Ohio State deputy AD Martin Jarmond said in a statement. “The Green Wave is part of a fine American Athletic Conference, which produced a New Year’s Day 6 bowl winner last year [Houston over Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl], so its first trip to Ohio Stadium should be exciting for our students and fans.”

The two teams have never met previously. Tulane last faced a Big Ten team on Sept. 27, 2014, a 31-6 loss at Rutgers. Ohio State last faced an American Athletic Conference program in the 2014 opener, a 34-17 Buckeyes win over Navy in Annapolis, Md.

We are excited for the opportunity to play Ohio State, one of the premier programs in the country,” Tulane executive associate athletics director Brandon Macneill said in a statement.  “Our coaching staff and players, along with our fans are eager to play against the very best and this should be a great game.  There will be a significant number of Tulanians from around the country joining us at the Horseshoe.”

Adding Tulane completes Ohio State’s 2018 non-conference schedule; the Buckeyes host Oregon State on Sept. 1 and visit TCU on Sept. 15. Tulane still lacks two games for 2018 but is slated to visit Georgia Tech on Sept. 8.