Bill O’Brien still not happy with Penn State bowl ban

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Former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien is no longer under the governance of the NCAA, so he is as free as he has ever been to speak his mind about the situation Penn State’s football program is in. Speaking with NFL media at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday, O’Brien said it is ridiculous Penn State is currently serving a postseason ban.

“The fact that there is a bowl ban at Penn State, is ridiculous,” O’Brien said, according to the quote sheet provided by the Houston Texans. The quote came mixed in to a question about his decision to not leave Penn State without informing his players of the decision. O’Brien explained the team was on Christmas break because of the postseason ban, but he attempted to make contact with every player before leaving to be named the head coach of the Texans.

“I didn’t ever want to be somebody that just rode off in the middle night and never said a word,” O’Brien said. “I mean, I love those kids and had a great relationship with all those guys. I don’t know if I reached every one of them but I at least left a message for all of them.”

Penn State was issued a four-year postseason ban in the summer of 2012, just as O’Brien was getting prepped for his first season on the job in State College. The sentence was part of larger sanction parameters including a $60 million fine, significant reduction in football scholarships and the vacating of all wins dating back to the 1999 season. The landmark sanctions were dropped following the release of the Freeh Report, an investigative look at how the Jerry Sandusky crimes were handled by the university leadership in place, including former university president Graham Spanier and former head coach Joe Paterno. Penn State will enter the 2014 season, the first for new head coach James Franklin, with two full seasons remaining on the postseason ban.

The NCAA has already taken measures to restore football scholarships. Penn State jumped up to 20 available scholarships for the Class of 2014 and will return to the 25-scholarship limit in the Class of 2015. Penn State will be able to get back to a full-scholarship count by 2017. The decision to return scholarships was inspired by the latest annual report by George Mitchell to the NCAA, which complimented Penn State in acting on improvements within the structure of the university. If the NCAA is to make any other adjustments to the sanction terms in the event of another positive report from Mitchell later this year, a reduction in the postseason ban would appear to be the most likely possibility at this point.

Helmet sticker to Ben Jones of StateCollege.com.

Penn State trustee says he’s ‘running out of patience’ with ‘so-called victims’ of Jerry Sandusky

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With Baylor seemingly running away with the title of most embarrassing university in collegiate athletics, a Penn State trustee has said “hold my beer.”

Friday, former Penn State president Graham Spanier was found guilty on one count of endangering the welfare of children in a trial related to his role in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.  In an email to the Chronicle of Higher Education this week, PSU trustee Albert Lord had sharp words for the victims of Sandusky, who was found guilty on 45 of 48 child-sex abuse charges in June of 2012 and is currently serving a sentence of at least 30 years.

“Running out of sympathy for 35 yr old, so-called victims with 7 digit net worth,” the trustee wrote in a portion of the email. “Do not understand why they were so prominent in trial. As you learned, Graham Spanier never knew Sandusky abused anyone.”

Spanier was found not guilty on two other charges, a second count of child endangerment and one count of criminal conspiracy.

In a statement, the chairman of the school’s board of trustees, Ira Lubert, attempted to distance the body from Lord’s comments.

“Al Lord’s comments are personal and do not represent the opinions of the board or the university.”

Sun Belt commish issues statement on Arkansas gun law

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A highly-charged state law continues to garner the attention of the college football world.

Last week, the state of Arkansas legislature passed a law (House Bill 1249) that would allow concealed-carry handguns on publicly-owned property, which would include college sporting events.  A day later, and after realizing, amidst considerable controversy, the potential for alcohol-fueled fans to attend an SEC football game armed, the state’s senate voted to amend the law to exclude college sporting events.

The amendment still must pass through the House of Representatives, leading SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, with the University of Arkansas as a member of his conference, to release a statement Tuesday that was no doubt meant to apply pressure ahead of the vote.  Thursday, the Sun Belt’s commissioner, Karl Benson, followed suit out of concern for his membership, including Arkansas State in football.

During the last week I have followed closely the news articles regarding Arkansas House Bill 1249, and now also a potential amendment to what is now Act 562. Given that both the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Arkansas State University are members of the Sun Belt Conference — and as my colleague Greg Sankey of the Southeastern Conference has stated — I too support the Arkansas State Senate’s exemption in Senate Bill 724 that would prevent firearms from being allowed inside publicly funded stadiums and arenas in the State of Arkansas.

It’s unclear when the House will vote on the amendment.  Regardless of which version of thew law is finally agreed upon, it will go into effect Sept. 1.

Arkansas opens its 2017 season Sept. 2 against Florida A&M in Fayetteville.  Arkansas State’s home opener is a week later against the Miami (Fla.).

Foot injury could sideline Auburn’s Tashawn Manning for rest of spring

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After kicking cancer’s ass, this latest health issue hardly qualifies as a big deal.  Still, it’s a thing.

Tashawn Manning has been battling an unspecified foot injury of late, which has limited the defensive tackle’s availability for most of the first two-thirds of Auburn’s spring practice sessions.  With just five practices remaining, Manning could very well be sidelined for al of them.

“The problem is this is Day 9 and Saturday will be Day 11, so there’s a probability” that the player will not see the field for what remains of spring practice, Manning’s position coach, Rodney Garner, said according to al.com.

Around Thanksgiving of 2015, Manning, then an Auburn verbal commit, was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia.  In July of last year, he was finished with chemotherapy and declared cancer-free.

The defensive lineman didn’t play at all last season, instead taking online classes as he built up his strength as well as his weight after losing more than 60 pounds because of the chemo.  In January, he enrolled at AU and, two months later, was cleared to participate in the spring.

Suspended Mich. St. staffer receives one-MONTH contract extension

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A disturbing situation in East Lansing has added a head-scratching twist.

According to ESPN.com, and by way of a Freedom of Information request, Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell was on the receiving end of a one-month contract extension earlier this month.  Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance, was set to see his contract expire at the end of this week.

What makes this development noteworthy is that Blackwell has been indefinitely suspended by the Spartans since early February.

Around that time, it was confirmed by the university that three still-unnamed MSU football players had been suspended after allegations of sexual assault were made against them last month.  An unnamed football staffer was suspended at the time as well; that staffer was subsequently identified as Blackwell.

A police investigation, as well as a Title IX probe, into the allegations continue.  Blackwell is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault, but rather a non-sexual crime that’s connected to the investigation.

Mark Dantonio hadn’t spoken publicly about the allegations until earlier this week, and the head coach probably would’ve been better served to have kept it that way.