Brendan Gibbons

Feds probing Michigan’s response to 2009 rape allegations

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A story that Michigan hopes will quickly fade into the background simply won’t.  If anything, it continues to do nothing but grow in size and scope.

According to the Detroit News, an arm of the United State Department of Education, the Office for Civil Rights, has launched an investigation into the university’s handling of and response to an alleged rape in 2009.  The victim in the alleged rape was a UM student while the alleged attacker was former Wolverines kicker Brendan Gibbons.

While Gibbons was arrested in connection to the alleged rape, he was never formally charged.

Two formal complaints filed with the Department of Education prompted the investigation.  Thus far, the timeline of the university’s response to the alleged incident has raised questions as to the handling of the situation. with some hinting of a coverup on behalf of the storied football program.  Head coach Brady Hoke released a statement earlier this month defending the “character… integrity” of the program and the university, but questions still remain as to why it took four years for Gibbons to be expelled.

According to the Michigan Daily report, revised university policies related to sexual misconduct on campus led to review of various allegations, including the case involving Gibbons. This revised policy ultimately led to the school’s decision to expel Gibbons.

Nov. 20 of last year, Gibbons was informed via a letter from the university that it had been determined there is a “preponderance of evidence” to suggest he committed sexual misconduct.  Three days later, Gibbons played in Michigan’s three-point loss to Iowa.  Gibbons did not play in the regular-season finale against Ohio State due to what was described as a muscle pull.  Hoke announced Dec. 23 that Gibbons would not travel with the team for the Wolverines’ Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl game against Kansas State due to a family matter.

Three days prior to Hoke’s revelation, Gibbons was notified by the school that he had been expelled.  Questions of when Hoke and the football program became aware of the issue surrounding Gibbons have swirled of late, although Hoke, when asked that question directly, cited privacy laws in declining to answer.  In his statement defending the UM athletic department, Hoke said that “while I would like to be more forthcoming, I can’t provide any details due to federal privacy laws and University policies.”

One of the complaints that prompted the DOE probe came from blogger Douglas Smith, who received the following response from the federal agency:

“[The Office for Civil Rights] has determined it is appropriate to proceed to investigation on the following issue: that the university failed to promptly and equitably respond to complaints, reports and/or incidents of sexual violence of which it had notice, and, as a result, students were subjected to a sexually hostile environment.”

For its part, the university said in a statement that it is proud of its policy in regards to matters such as these and that it is fully cooperating with the DOE.

“We’re very proud of our student sexual misconduct policy, our prevention efforts and our programs to support survivors of sexual misconduct,” UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said according to the Press. “We will fully cooperate with the Department of Education and we believe that a review of our policy, programs and investigations will conclude that the University of Michigan is doing what it should in this important area.”

Tennessee adds future home-and-home with BYU

KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 10: Rajion Neal #20 of the Tennessee Volunteers runs into the end zone with an eight-yard touchdown reception in the first overtime against the Missouri Tigers at Neyland Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Missouri won 51-48 in four overtimes. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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At the moment, BYU is looking at one hellacious start to the 2019 season.

Thursday afternoon, BYU announced tat it has added a future home-and-home series with Tennessee.  The Volunteers will serve as the host for a Sept. 7, 2019, matchup at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, with the second game set for Sept. 1 or 2, 2023, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.

The 2019 game will mark the first-ever meeting between the two football programs.

“There’s something about those orange and white checkerboard end zones that shouts ‘Tradition!’,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said in a statement. “When the opportunity to play a series with Tennessee presented itself, we didn’t blink. They’re a storied football program with a winning tradition, national championships, a classic stadium, incredible fans and hall of fame coaches.

“It will be a great experience to visit SEC country and play in Neyland Stadium, and later host Tennessee in Provo.”

BYU will kick off the 2019 season against Utah, followed by games against Tennessee, USC and Washington the next three weeks.  They also have a pair of mid-October games against Washington State and Boise State.

UT’s other non-conference games that season include Georgia State, Chattanooga and UAB.

Fighting Illini live up to nickname as Lovie Smith calls early end to practice amidst fisticuffs

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 01: Head coach Lovie Smith of the Illinois Fighting Illini looks over the field against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Illinois 31-16. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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Lovie Smith is not a big fan of fighting amongst his Illinois players, a lesson he shared with his aptly nicknamed Fighting Illini squad Wednesday evening.

According to the Decatur Herald & Review, Illinois’ spring practice session yesterday came to an abrupt and premature end after a fight between players broke out.  The names of those involved in the fisticuffs are not known as the media hadn’t been permitted to view practice.

From the Herald & Review‘s report:

…a source said Smith wanted to send a strong message about how he hates fighting and considers it an inexcusable transgression that robs the rest of the team of a chance to concentrate on getting better.

The field was cleared at about 5:35 p.m., nearly an hour before practice was scheduled to end. The players were sent to the locker room and the field was quickly cleared of equipment. Reporters were told there would be no interviews and were told to vacate the Memorial Stadium facility.

The Illini, which finished 3-9 in their first season under Smith last year, kicked off spring practice feb. 14 and will conclude it March 10 with the annual spring game.

Andy Dodd tweets decision to transfer from LSU

BATON ROUGE, LA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Fans sit in the rain during the Auburn Tigers against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on September 21, 2013 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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With spring practice getting set to kick of en masse all across the country, there’s more of the expected personnel attrition settling in and coming to light.

On his Twitter account Wednesday, Andy Dodd announced that it is in his “best interest” to transfer from LSU and continue playing college football elsewhere. “This decision was not an easy one, but it is what’s best for me moving forward,” the offensive lineman wrote.

Dodd was a three-star member of the Tigers’ 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 17 guard in the country.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, the lineman played in eight games the next two seasons. He played in six games, with one start, in 2016.

Auburn adds FCS starting lineman as graduate transfer

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 12: Running back Peyton Barber #25 of the Auburn Tigers dives for the end zone during overtime in their game against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks on September 12, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers defeated the Jacksonville State Gamecocks 27-20. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Another graduate transfer has made a move, albeit with a slightly different bent than most others.

Auburn confirmed Wednesday that Casey Dunn has been added to Gus Malzahn‘s football roster.  The center comes to The Plains as a graduate transfer, which makes him eligible for the 2017 season.

He also comes to Auburn from Jacksonville State, an FCS school that would’ve made him immediately eligible aside from the grad transfer exception.  Oh, and his new position coach is excited to have him in the personnel fold as well.

The past two seasons, Dunn was an FCS All-American.  While Dunn comes to the Tigers as a center who started 27 games at that position for the Gamecocks, he could play anywhere along the interior of the Tigers’ offensive line.

Malzahn is also very familiar with Dunn’s talent as the lineman started for the JSU squad that took him to overtime in 2015.