A&M up in arms over Buffalo Bills fans’ ’12th Man’ petition

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Not surprisingly, Texas A&M is hyper-protective of its — trademarked, it should be noted — well-known “12th Man” phrase. The university has vigorously entered into numerous legal squabbles since the moniker was trademarked in the early nineties, including with a pair of NFL clubs: the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills.

A&M ultimately reached a licensing agreement — i.e. licensing fees — with both teams. The latter team, however, is in a roundabout way connected to the latest case of what the SEC program considers trademark infringement.

As you may or may not know, the Buffalo Bills are currently seeking a new owner and could (maybe, but hopefully not) be heading out of Western New York. In an effort to prevent the iconic local franchise from ditching the area, the co-founders of a website at one time titled “12thManThunder.com” — including a double amputee — started a campaign to raise awareness for their cause.

What they raised was the ire of A&M instead. From the Buffalo News:

One of targets is Charles “Chuckie” Sonntag, a double amputee and cancer survivor. He co-founded 12thManThunder.com website to keep the Bills in Buffalo. Texas A&M owns the rights to the term “the 12th man.” Sonntag, who overcame cancer last year, has suffered since childhood from polyostotic fibrous dysplasia, also known as Albright’s disease, He lost his left arm 20 years ago, and his left leg was amputated in March.

“My experience has proven two things: a handicapped person can accomplish just about anything – and Texas A&M will sue just about anybody,” Sonntag said.

The university, which has a $5 billion endowment, was notified by an attorney of Sonntag’s disabilities, but that hasn’t stopped it from playing hardball – and potentially threatening Sonntag, who lives on an $825-a-month Social Security check. Sonntag came up with the idea of starting the website to rally fan support to keep the Bills here after learning of Ralph Wilson’s death. His website associates are three friends: Charles Pellien, Anthony Lynch and Paul Roorda. Since the website was launched, more than 10,000 fans have signed a petition to keep the Bills in Buffalo.

The website has since changed its name to BillsFanThunder.com, but the university, through its attorneys, is still threatening legal action as it doesn’t feel the group has acted with the requisite expediency.

“They said stop using it immediately. I tried to but it takes time. I have one arm, also, so I’m working over my phone because I couldn’t afford the computer service that month,” Sonntag said. “We’ve tried to do it as quickly as possible, but it’s hard to change a group name on Facebook. It’s very time-consuming.”

An A&M spokesperson told the News that this issue has been ongoing for weeks and intimated that it needs to be resolved sooner or later… or else.

“We have been negotiating about a turnover date for several weeks. When it became apparent they would not make that change, we gave them a deadline of last Friday to respond. The domain name still needs to be transferred from their ownership. It is still redirecting to their website. Their use of social media is still in question.”

To that, Sonntag responded…

“I didn’t know they own the name, because I see it all over. It’s on the Bills Wall of Fame. Why would they single out a disabled man?”

When this latest 12th Man pissing match will ultimately be resolved is unclear. What is clear is that this likely won’t be the last time the Aggies, rightly, protect that phrase like you would a newborn.

Pair of Alabama defenders undergo surgery after Tide’s spring game

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Alabama’s spring game wrapped up on Saturday and with it, the last of the Crimson Tide’s spring practices. While that means the coaching staff is free to fly across the country to visit recruits during the evaluation period, it also results in several players going under the knife to correct injuries in order to be back by fall camp.

Two of those players are starting cornerback Anthony Averett and (likely starting) linebacker Christian Miller, both of whom underwent sports hernia surgery this week according to AL.com.

The report states that Averett played with the hernia most of last season while the Tide marched their way to the national title game. Miller was one of the stars of the show on Saturday during Alabama’s spring game, recording two sacks while dealing with the injury.

Both are expected to be fully healthy for camp in August as Nick Saban and company vie for yet another conference title and berth in the College Football Playoff.

SEC commissioner hints at review of rules regarding alcohol sales in football stadiums

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The prohibition of alcohol at football stadiums has undergone one interesting about-face in college athletics the past 15 years or so. While various suite levels at stadiums across the country have generally had access to a few adult beverages, there’s been some very large programs that have opened up the taps in the general seating areas the last few years.

From West Virginia to Texas to Ohio State, more and more programs are selling beer and/or liquor across the board and raking in hundreds of thousands (if not millions) in added revenue while doing so. One conference that isn’t jumping in on that trend however has been the SEC, which has numerous restrictions on where those types of beverages can be sold. That may be about to change in the near future however according to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.

“At some point, I’m relatively certain, there will be further review of the prohibition,” said Sankey on Monday, per The Tuscaloosa News. “That doesn’t predict any outcome.”

While you may think that the league is close to opening the floodgates on alcohol being served at stadiums across the conference, you probably shouldn’t jump to any conclusions on the matter as Sankey seemed to hold his ground and stand firm on keeping things as is right now.

“The conference has a policy that says that we’re not selling alcohol in the general seating area,” he added. “Now, you can agree or disagree with that policy, but that’s the policy. The basis for changing that or maintaining it is one that’s developed in the conversation.

“I think we were at like 98 percent ticket sales in football… So is that one-percent margin a trade that we’re going to make?”

It’s no secret that of-age fans can easily find a few beverages at SEC tailgates prior to games nowadays but it seems momentum is slowing building in the conference to allow fans to buy some during a game. It might not happen anytime in the very near future but the conversation is certainly going to keep popping up each year with many more schools across the country jumping in on this trend.

QB Malik Zaire reportedly sets timetable for transfer decision while adding Harvard to the mix

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While we don’t yet know where former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire is transferring to, we might have an idea of when he plans on making a move this offseason.

Per Orangebloods.com’s Anwar Richardson, the signal-caller has zeroed in on the end of May for an announcement on his new school in a timetable that coincides with the Irish’s graduation ceremonies. Perhaps just as interesting is the fact that there may also be a new school in the mix and it’s known for being a powerhouse of a different kind away from the gridiron.

“In addition, I was told a new school is in the mix. Zaire is still considering Texas, Wisconsin and Florida, and the grad transfer quarterback has added Harvard to his short list. It remains unclear how serious Zaire is about playing Ivy League football. If he does go that route, Harvard would be his landing spot.”

The Ivy League power is an interesting new destination for Zaire and could be a pretty good backup option given what’s going on at his other finalists.

While Texas and Wisconsin are both on his shortlist, both the Longhorns and Badgers return their starting quarterbacks from last season in Shane Buechele and Alex Hornibrook. Richardson reports that Zaire wants to start in 2017 and not hold a clipboard but he is still keeping his options opens when it comes to the thin depth charts at the position in both Austin and Madison.

Complicating things is Florida, which should be a prime landing spot for Zaire were it not for an SEC rule passed last year that is preventing him from transferring him there this offseason. The league is set to talk about changes to that rule at their spring meetings in Destin, Fla. but it remains unclear if the QB will wait and see before making a decision (and it’s entirely possible the SEC keeps things as they are).

Either way, the former Irish starter does not appear to be lacking options when it comes to the graduate transfer market.

Tennessee hires College Football Playoff CFO for administrative role

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Tennessee might not be a favorite to make the College Football Playoff in 2017 but the school is doing their best to bring a little bit of the sport’s postseason to Knoxville.

Athletic director John Currie announced on Tuesday that the Vols would be hiring the College Football Playoff’s Chief Financial Officer Reid Sigmon as Tennessee’s new Executive Associate Athletics Director and Chief Operating Officer. The hire isn’t too surprising considering the two worked together for several years at Kansas State in very similar roles.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I welcome Reid Sigmon to the Tennessee Athletics family,” Currie said in a statement. “He has earned national credibility as part of a visionary leadership group creating the College Football Playoff organization for the last four years, and his tremendous integrity and understanding of college athletics make him a perfect addition to our Tennessee leadership team.”

Sigmon served in a variety of roles in college athletics as well as the NFL before eventually landing with the College Football Playoff. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that he starts at Tennessee on May 15 with a salary of $285,000 per year.