Report: Air Force’s football and athletics culture requires a deeper investigation

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Disturbing findings within the Air Force athletics culture will lead to a more thorough examination of the program, including the football team. An investigative report by The Gazette found Air Force cadet athletes violated the academy’s honor code by committing sexual assaults, drug use, cheating and more. At the same time, an apparent concern over winning football games and raising more money from alumni donors took preference over taking action against the student-athletes. Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson informed The Gazette the Inspector General has been requested to conduct a deeper investigation of the athletic department.

The biggest part of the report centers around a wild party from 2011, which resulted in the probing of 32 cadets. The party reportedly involved to rampant drug use and alleged date rape drinks leading to sexual intercourse. Half of those questioned (16) about the activities at the party were members of the Air Force football team. Three of the 32 questioned cadets would later be court-martialed, sentenced and discharged, including a pair of football players. Two more football players received administrative punishment and were dismissed. Air Force’s athletic director, Hans Mueh, claimed to not know anything about the 2011 investigation conducted by the Office of Special Investigations until after Air Force played in the 2011 Military Bowl in Washington D.C. (a 42-41 loss to Toledo). The football players involved with the questioning in the investigation played in that bowl game.

Another investigation into activities of football players was later labeled a success by OSI. According to the report, OSI special agent Brandon Enos helped lead Operation Gridiron at the United States Air Force Academy, which identified and removed a total of 18 football players from the program as a result of their involvement in various drug-related use and distribution and sexual assaults.

The damage does not end there for Air Force, at least as far as football is concerned. More details from the investigative report suggest Air Force allowed students to enroll at the academy that did not meet the honor code, many coming after 2008 following the hiring of head coach Troy Calhoun. Calhoun is among the highest paid employee at Air Force. Mueh again falls under scrutiny for allowing standards to be lowered in athletics with regard to the honor code.

There is also the connection to Lt. General Mike Gould, who was in his position during the time of much of the reported misconduct at Air Force. According to the report, Gould emailed instructions to someone tied to a raid on Air Force dorms for suspected drug use demanding a short report lacking enough details to avoid an increased concern to the Pentagon. Why is this rather significant?

And now the College Football Playoff has its first scandal in need of addressing. That is important on a smaller scale though, of course. For now, the concern needs to be placed on the Air Force athletics department. This comes at a time when the actions within the nation’s military has fallen under tighter scrutiny in recent years with issues like hazing and sexual assault. All services and academies continue to face their issues and sometimes ripping off the band-aid is what is needed for sweeping changes to be made.

You can read the entire investigative report for more information and details regarding various concerns within the Air Force athletics community.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, C Zach Shackelford in concussion protocol

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Texas has lost two straight upset bids in strikingly similar fashion: true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger leads a potential-game winning drive, scrambles, hits his head on the turf and ends the possession in a puzzling throw.

The first came in last week’s loss to No. 10 Oklahoma. Trailing 29-24 late in the fourth quarter, scrambled for two yards to the Texas-48 yard line but hit his head on the Cotton Bowl turf and was forced to leave the game for five plays. Shane Buechele pushed the Longhorns to the Oklahoma 31, but he was replaced after a sack and Ehlinger ended up throwing the ball away on 4th-and-13 from the OU 34 with two minutes to play. That, as they say, was that.

Fast forward to Saturday and Texas was trailing No. 11 Oklahoma State 13-10 in overtime when Ehlinger opened the possession with a scramble that again saw the back of his head bang against the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium turf. He stayed in the game this time, but ended the game on a puzzling (to say the least) interception to absolutely no one on 3rd-and-4 from the OSU 6.

While Ehlinger was not evaluated for a concussion during the game, he did not practice Sunday and head coach Tom Herman said Monday that Ehlinger and center Zach Shackelford are in concussion protocol.

Complicating matters for Texas is that sophomore back-up Shane Buechele is playing on a gimpy ankle that kept him out against San Jose State and Kansas State that Herman said will not improve as the season goes on.

No matter, Texas will face a hungry Baylor team on Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU) that nearly completed a comeback against No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday night.

Tennessee OG Jack Jones retires due to neck injury

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The playing career of Tennessee offensive guard Jack Jones has come to an unfortunate end. On Monday, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones announced Jones was stepping away from football as injury concerns with his neck continue to interfere with playing.

Jones played in the season opener against Georgia Tech in Atlanta but has essentially been out of action for the entire season after that. After consulting with doctors, Jones came to the decision to step away from football as it became clear playing football would only put his long-term health in jeopardy.

The loss of Jones leaves Tennessee’s offensive line depth thin down the stretch. It could be quite a bumpy finish to what has already been a turbulent season in Knoxville.

Urban Meyer may have successfully talked his way out of a night trap at Iowa

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Sitting from his office in Columbus, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has been able to see just how dangerous a night game at Iowa can be. Last season, Iowa upset Michigan with the first loss suffered by the Wolverines setting off a wild finale to the Big Ten season. Earlier this season, a night game at Iowa nearly caught Penn State before the Nittany Lions managed to get out of Kinnick Stadium with a last-second victory. Knowing the history of Kinnick Stadium at night, Meyer may have managed to successfully lobby himself from having to play a night game at Iowa.

Big Ten kickoff times for Week 10 have started to come together on Monday, with Minnesota announcing it will host Michigan in primetime on FOX. The decision to have the Gophers and Wolverines in primetime was a tad puzzling considering two of the other game son the Big Ten schedule that day. Penn State is playing at Michigan State and Ohio State is playing — you guessed it — at Iowa.

The Buckeyes will be playing at either noon or 3:30 p.m. eastern on November 4, with the Nittany Lions and Spartans likely to be slotted in the other timeslot. The speculation is the 3:30 p.m. ET slot will be reserved for the winner of this week’s Ohio State-Penn State matchup, as the game will likely begin to take more weight in the College Football Playoff picture on top of the Big Ten championship hunt.

Meyer addressed concerns about playing so many road games at night this season, and perhaps the conference is responding to his concerns. Ohio State has already played four primetime games, including three on the road (Indiana, Rutgers, Nebraska). If not for the World Series coverage this weekend, odds are good the home game against Penn State would have been a lock for primetime as well. Ohio State also played a primetime game earlier this year against Oklahoma. But Meyer’s chief concern was playing so many night games on the road, as it becomes quite tiresome for players.

Was Meyer looking forward all along to prevent Ohio State from having to play a night game at Iowa? Regardless of the motive, the Buckeyes will not have to test the fates under the lights at Kinnick Stadium in two weeks.

Michigan’s Lavert Hill apologizes for one-finger salute to Penn State crowd

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Over the weekend, Tennessee’s Rashaan Gaulden flipped a double-bird to fans at Alabama after the Vols scored a touchdown. It has quickly become one of the top images from the weekend, and Gauldin has apologized for his obscene gesture to the Alabama faithful. On Monday, another player on the road who decided to flip off the home fans has now apologized for his actions.

Michigan’s Lavert Hill was seen offering a one-finger salute to fans at Penn State after Michigan had suffered a 42-13 loss at Beaver Stadium. The image of Hill gesturing to the fans made the rounds, and now Hill has offered his own apology in a brief statement.

“I sincerely regret my inappropriate gesture at the end of Saturday’s football game. I let my emotions get the best of me and learned a valuable lesson,” Hill said in his statement. “I am truly sorry for this offensive gesture and vow that it will not happen again.”

Hill had committed to Penn State during the recruiting process before flipping to stay in state with the Wolverines. It was a rough night for former Penn State commits playing in a Michigan uniform on Saturday. Kicker Quinn Nordin, who committed to Penn State with an airplane music video but flipped to Michigan after Jim Harbaugh slept over has been rock solid with his kicking this season, but he missed his first kick Saturday night for an extra point.