Butch Jones

Recruits are buying Butch Jones’ message at Tennessee

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With just over a week until signing day, Rivals’ top five recruiting classes are as follows: Alabama, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Florida State.

One of these things is not like the others.

Tennessee hasn’t played in a bowl game, let alone contended for a BCS bowl, since 2010. The Vols haven’t won eight or more games, or been ranked in the final AP poll, since 2007, when they went 10-4 under Phillip Fulmer.

But recruits are nonetheless buying into the sales pitches of Butch Jones and his coaching staff — case in point, four-star running back Derrell Scott committing to the Vols on Monday over South Carolina, a program that’s won 11 games in each of the last three seasons, as well as Florida.

“They didn’t have their best year, but everybody fought and played hard,” Scott told Go Vols Xtra. “That showed a lot to me.”

Tennessee’s fourth-ranked class features two five-star commits, 15 four stars and 16 three stars. A year ago, Tennessee signed five four-star recruits and 15 three stars.

Jones didn’t have a ton to work with in his first year at Tennessee, though a 23-21 win over South Carolina stood out. The Vols suffered a heartbreaking loss to Georgia, too, though weren’t competitive against Oregon, Alabama, Mizzou or Auburn.

It’s worth noting elite recruiting classes aren’t guaranteed to turn into on-field success. But with Tennessee, Ole Miss and even Kentucky putting together highly-ranked recruiting classes and Mizzou winning a dozen games last season, the SEC is getting awfully strong beneath its upper echelon.

Federal lawsuit accuses Vols of ‘deliberate indifference’ toward sex assaults by football players

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 30: Butch Jones the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers watches the action during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Late last month, Florida State settled a lawsuit with a former student who alleged she’d been raped by a member of the Seminoles football program.  Two weeks later, it’s Tennessee that now finds itself under the ever-growing spotlight of sexual assaults on college campuses.

In a Title IX lawsuit filed by six UT students in federal court in Nashville Tuesday, it’s alleged, The Tennessean writes, that the university “has created a student culture that enables sexual assaults by student-athletes, especially football players, and then uses an unusual, legalistic adjudication process that is biased against victims who step forward.” Four former Volunteer student-athletes, including three football players, were identified by name in the lawsuit as having sexually assaulted the alleged victims — former basketball player Yemi Makanjuola, former football players A.J. Johnson, Michael Williams and Riyahd Jones.

A fifth UT student-athlete is identified in the lawsuit only as a current football player named “John Doe.”  One of the plaintiffs alleges that she was raped by a non-football player, also identified as a “John Doe,” at a football team party.

None of the six women involved in the suit are named.

One of the most damning portions of the lawsuit alleges that top UT officials, including current head football coach Butch Jones, were aware of incidents of sexual assault involving football players but were “indifferent” to the allegations.

UT administration (Chancellor Jimmy Cheek), athletic department (Vice Chancellor and Athletics Director) Dave Hart and football coach (Butch Jones) were personally aware (as ‘appropriate persons’ under Title IX) and had actual notice of previous sexual assaults and rapes by football players, yet acted with deliberate indifference to the serious risks of sexual assaults and failed to take corrective actions.

Additionally, the Associated Press wrote, “Tim Rogers, a former vice chancellor for student life, stepped down in 2013 ‘in protest over the violation of Title IX and the UT administration’s and athletic department’s deliberate indifference to the clear and present danger of sexual assaults by UT athletes.'”

It’s further alleged in the suit that a former UT football player, Drae Bowles, was assaulted by his Vols teammates after he had “taken Plaintiff Doe IV to the hospital the night of her assault and who had supported her decision to report the incident to the authorities.” Shortly after that November of 2014 attack, which came one day after Plaintiff Doe IV was allegedly raped, Bowles transferred out of the football program and continued his playing career at Chattanooga.

Eight months later, it was confirmed that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) had launched an investigation into a lengthy list of sexual assault allegations at UT, a handful of which involved football players.

Following an investigation by local law enforcement that began in November of 2014, Williams, a then-current UT cornerback, and Johnson, a star linebacker who had just completed his senior season, were indicted in mid-February of last year by a Knox County grand jury on two counts each of aggravated rape.  Both pleaded not guilty a month later, although Johnson had already seen his invitation to the NFL combine rescinded while it was reported in June that the Vols had “moved on” from Williams.

According to reports that surfaced in mid-November, a 19-year-old UT student claimed that Johnson and Williams raped her at the former’s residence in a Knoxville apartment complex. The unnamed woman claimed that the assault lasted 45 minutes, and occurred during the course of a party being held following UT’s win over Kentucky.  Another 19-year-old woman claimed she was sexually assaulted at the same location around the same time by Williams.

The first woman was treated at the UT Medical Center. The second alleged victim declined treatment and headed back to her home in Florida. She also initially declined to pursue charges despite claims of being sexually assaulted, but did cooperate with the grand jury.

Then, in late April of last year, reports surfaced that wide receiver Von Pearson was a suspect in the investigation of an alleged rape.  Pearson has been indefinitely suspended by his head coach, and in August it was announced that Pearson would not face charges.

Those are the three that have been well-publicized and chronicled; according to The Tennessean at the time, however, there were three other Vols football players who were on the roster in 2014 who had been accused of sexual assault.

In April of 2013, running back Marlin Lane, whose eligibility expired after the 2014 season, was on the receiving end of what turned out to be a two-month suspension that was attributed to “disciplinary reasons.” The paper writes that “Lane… was named as a suspect in the rape of an 18-year-old high school student in Lane’s dorm room on April 9, 2013,” four days before his suspension. No charges were filed after the alleged victim declined to pursue the case.

In February of last year, Riyahd Jones, who was on the team in 2014, was named as a suspect in a sexual assault that was reported to the Knoxville police. The Tennessean writes that “[n]o charges have been filed, and police have declined to provide a copy of the full police report, saying that the district attorney’s office could still decide to pursue charges.  Ultimately, the alleged victim declined to pursue charges in the case.

In September of 2014, an unnamed football player was named in the sexual assault of a female freshman student.  An internal investigation found that no sexual assault had occurred and that instead the sex was consensual.  He remained on the team and in good standing.

In response to the federal lawsuit, the university released the following statement:

Like the many other college campuses facing the challenges of sexual assault, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has devoted significant time and energy to provide a safe environment for our students, to educate and raise awareness about sexual assault, and to encourage students to come forward and report sexual assault. When the University receives a report of sexual assault, we offer care and support to the person who came forward and work to investigate and resolve the matter in a timely, thorough, and equitable manner. When warranted, the University takes disciplinary action but will not do so in a manner that violates state law or the constitutional due process rights of our students.

“In the situations identified in the lawsuit filed today; the University acted lawfully and in good faith, and we expect a court to agree. Any assertion that we do not take sexual assault seriously enough is simply not true. To claim that we have allowed a culture to exist contrary to our institutional commitment to providing a safe environment for our students or that we do not support those who report sexual assault is just false. The University will provide a detailed response to the lawsuit and looks forward to doing so at the appropriate time, and in the proper manner.

Ron English one of four added to San Jose State staff

DEKALB, IL - OCTOBER 26: Head coach Ron English of the Eastern Michigan Eagles leads his team onto the field before a game against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Brigham Field on October 26, 2013 in DeKalb, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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In a move that’s been more than two years in the making, Ron English is officially back in the coaching profession at the collegiate level.

In a press release that confirmed the reports that surfaced late last month, San Jose State announced that English was one of four additions made to Ron Caragher‘s Spartans coaching staff.  As expected, English will serve as Caragher’s defensive coordinator.

This marks English’s first job since controversy marked the end of his last.

Eastern Michigan announced Nov. 8, 2013, one day before its game with in-state rival Western Michigan, that English had been fired as its head football coach.  A day later, athlete director Heather Lyle alluded to a tape of English using “wholly inappropriate language” in a team meeting that had been brought to her attention and triggered the dismissal.

English subsequently apologized for losing his poise and using “homosexual slurs” in the meeting.  In his mea culpa, English added that he is looking “forward to continuing a career that has been marked by molding men of integrity, passion, and intensity for 21 years.”

Unfortunately for the coach, that continuation took a two-year hiatus as he was sidelined for both the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

English spent nearly five full seasons as EMU’s head coach (2009-13).  Prior to that, he was the defensive coordinator at Louisville (2008) and Michigan (2006-07).

“I’m excited about the new defensive staff members we added to our program,” the coach said in a statement. “Ron English has experience as a coordinator at the Division I level and as a head coach at Eastern Michigan. His experience and success in coaching will be a great addition.”

English becomes the replacement for Greg Robinson, who announced his retirement as SJSU’s coordinator this past December.  Like English, Robinson was also a former Michigan coordinator.

In addition to English, the hirings of Arnold Ale as linebackers coach, Will Harris as defensive backs coach and Barry Sacks as defensive line coach were announced as well. Ale is a former teammate of Caragher’s at UCLA, while Sacks spent the past two seasons at New Mexico.

Report: NCAA finds 13 violations against Ole Miss football, nine under Hugh Freeze

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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When word first broke of NCAA violations against Ole Miss, word from the Rebels’ football program was one of caution, for it was uncertain how many were targeted against football versus women’s basketball and track and field.

It appears we now know.

On Tuesday evening, the Associated Press reported the NCAA levied 13 allegations out of a possible 28 against the Ole Miss football team, nine of which occurred under the watch of head coach Hugh Freeze. However, it appears the most serious violations were either already know or took place during the Houston Nutt regime.

Included in the allegations are Laremy Tunsil‘s improper benefits, for which the left tackle already sat seven games. Also included are accusations former Nutt assistant David Saunders participated in a scheme to produce fraudulent test scores for recruits — the same allegations currently levied against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The remaining allegations, as detailed by the AP, include run-of-the-mill violations such as having the wrong people provide transportation on recruiting visits or assistant coaches making improper contact with recruits, many of which Ole Miss has already self-reported.

Half of all FBS signees lived between Texas and North Carolina

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 29: Johnny Jefferson #5 of the Baylor Bears carries while defended by Dominquie Green #26 and Des Lawrence #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the first half of the Russell Athletic Bowl game at Orlando Citrus Bowl on December 29, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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ESPN recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton provided a massive public service through his Twitter account on Tuesday, releasing a data dump of fascinating information about the signing class of 2016.

In short, Texas was the most popular breeding ground for FBS prospects, but half of all signees came from a clean sweep from Texas, across the Gulf of Mexico to Florida and up to North Carolina.

The Lone Star State produced 359 players, with nearly half of those heading to Power 5 institutions. In fact, Hamilton reports, 72 of 128 FBS programs and 38 of 64 Power 5’s signed at least one player from Texas.

Florida trailed with 327 players, followed by California with 248 players and Georgia with 225. For what it’s worth, Ohio was not included in the study.

Data dump, begin!