While details are scant, it appears another, some would say unexpected, football program could find itself — as neutered as they are — in the NCAA crosshairs.
First reported by Scott Garrard of 1280 the Zone in Salt Lake City and subsequently confirmed by ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, the BYU athletic department is investigating allegations that Cougar football players were on the receiving end of impermissible benefits. No specific players have been connected to the allegations, although one former staff member — Duane Busby, who left as Director of Football Operations in late March after 19 years with the program — has been mentioned in connection to what’s for now merely speculation.
That speculation includes the unnamed players receiving, the SBNation.com website Vanquish the Foe writes, “free or discounted housing, iPads, and free meals.” The Salt Lake Tribune wrote that Busby “provided heavily discounted or rent-free housing, free meals and other gifts to selected players he favored, mostly offensive players and skill players.”
The only statement from the school on the developments is that “BYU is aware of the allegations and has been conducting a thorough review of the matter.”
The next step will be for BYU, at the conclusion of its internal probe, to send those findings, along with any self-imposed sanctions, to the NCAA. What The Association decides to do will depend on what’s contained in the report.
UPDATED 6:09 p.m. ET: From the Provo Daily Herald, addressing former BYU wide receiver Cody Hoffman:
On 1280 the Zone radio station, Scott Garrard played a clip with an interview with Cody Hoffman’s manager, Sam Leaf, in which Leaf confirmed that Hoffman had been contacted “a couple of months ago” by BYU and asked to come in to answer some questions about possible improper benefits being given to certain players.
Leaf said Hoffman refused, saying he was focused on moving on to the NFL. Leaf said he was confident that Hoffman had not received anything illegal but Leaf had no comment when asked if Hoffman had heard of others who were involved.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban may be the most powerful person within the Alabama sports department, but even he has a boss. Now, he will have a new boss.
Alabama Director of Athletics Bill Battle is stepping down into retirement from his current position, although he will remain active in the university as a special assistant to university president Stuart Bell. Battle has been fighting through health issues and completed treatment for cancer last summer. His vacant spot in the athletics department will be filled by Arizona Athletics Director Greg Byrne. A formal announcement has not been made as of yet, but multiple reports have confirmed the pending Byrne hiring. (UPDATE: Alabama has since formally announced the hiring of Byrne)
”Bill has done a tremendous job as director of athletics, and has accomplished so much during his career,” Bell said, according to the Associated Press. ”His business expertise, coupled with his coaching experience and his strong understanding of the role an athletic department has in the daily fabric of a university, has allowed us to achieve the great successes we have enjoyed during his tenure. We are blessed to have the continued benefit of his counsel.”
The hiring of Byrne takes Alabama outside its own foundation to bring in an outsider to lead the sports department. Byrne is an Idaho native who has worked in an administrative role in two SEC schools, so he will be familiar with the landscape the conference has to offer. Byrne was the athletics director of Mississippi State from 2008 through 2010 before moving to Arizona for the past six years. At Mississippi State, Byrne hired football coach Dan Mullen. Byrne also held an associate AD role at Kentucky, where he directed development and fundraising efforts for the Wildcats.
It’s not yet Signing Day, but Notre Dame has already secured a major commitment for what Brian Kelly hopes is a major bounce-back 2017 season.
Offensive lineman Quenton Nelson announced Sunday he is returning for his senior season. “Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out,” Nelson wrote in an Instagram post. “I’m right behind you Coach.”
Nelson, who hails from “Westeros, GOT,” according to his Twitter bio, is a two-year starter at guard for the Irish. Notre Dame finished tied for 62nd nationally in yards per carry this season, but ranked eighth in that same metric a year ago en route to earning a finalist not for the inaugural Joe Moore Award — given to the nation’s best offensive line unit — and a Fiesta Bowl appearance.
Former California head coach Sonny Dykes is set to join TCU’s staff in a to-be-determined role, multiple outlets reported Sunday evening. Jeremy Clark of TCU’s 247 site broke the news.
Dykes, of course, was the head coach of the Golden Bears through last Sunday, when the school abruptly fired him. He was 19-30 in four seasons with Cal.
With Doug Meacham off to Kansas and Sonny Cumbie running the show for the Horned Frogs’ offense, Dykes is a natural fit to slide in and assist Cumbie. Dykes was an offensive assistant of Mike Leach at Texas Tech from 2000-06, and Cumbie played for the Red Raiders as a quarterback from 2000-04. Sharing the same first name can’t hurt, either.
Chip Long is off to call plays at Notre Dame, and now Tigers head coach Mike Norvell has moved his remaining staff up a line.
The Tigers announced Sunday associate head coach/running backs coach Darrell Dickey has been bumped to offensive coordinator, Kenny Dillingham, who spent last season as a graduate assistant working with the quarterbacks, is now the full-time quarterbacks coach, and offensive line coach Ryan Silverfield has added a run game coordinator title.
“The interest generated by our opening was remarkable,” Norvell saida. “But after the process of visiting with a number of coaches and coordinators from a variety of schools and just about every conference across college football, I feel the best option to continue our high standard of offensive success is to promote from within our staff. Our players have done a great job in adjusting to the offensive system we brought here this past season, and I believe next season, we have a chance to build off what we did as a unit. With these changes, as well as Coach (wide receivers coach David) Johnson and myself, I feel like we will continue to have one of the top offensive staffs in the country.”
Dickey has spent the last five seasons on staff at Memphis, serving as offensive coordinator and running backs coach for Justin Fuente before he left for Virginia Tech. Dickey is best known for his run of four consecutive Sun Belt championships from 2001-04 as the head coach at North Texas.
“Coach Dickey brings a wealth of experience coordinating explosive offensive units and I believe that with the offensive staff we have in place, the brightest days ahead for this Memphis Tigers’ offense. Darrell does a tremendous job of leading men and developing relationships not only with players, but also with everyone associated with our program. He has done an outstanding job over the last five years here in Memphis developing a running backs group that I believe is one of the most dynamic in the country.”
Memphis finished the 2016 season ranked 33rd nationally in yards per play and tied for 15th in scoring despite losing first-round pick Paxton Lynch at quarterback.