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Jalen Hurd’s mom, stepdad address RB’s decision to transfer from Vols

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One of the more stunning personnel developments of the 2016 season unfolded Monday, with Tennessee ultimately confirming speculation that Jalen Hurd had decided to transfer from the Vols.  No reason was given for the unexpected and abrupt departure, although some had opined that the running back had been benched and that triggered his decision to abruptly leave with a month left in the regular season.

On social media Tuesday, Hurd’s stepfather, Arthur Smotherman, vehemently denied that the junior had been benched at any point in the season.  He also lashed out at the media, criticizing them for “[assuming] something is going on and they don’t know the truth so they begin a rumor.”

From The Tennessean:

The problem with the media is this, they assume something is going on and they don’t know the truth so they begin a rumor,” Arthur Smotherman said. “And the problem with fans are, they don’t get the truth, so they just take off with it. So, half of you on here have been saying, ‘Jalen needed to quit anyway because he got benched by the coaches, nobody wanted him there.’ That’s not true.”

At this moment, you guys need to know Jalen was never benched,” Arthur Smotherman said. “If you need to ask anybody on the inside resources, ask (Tennessee running backs) coach (Robert) Gillespie … him and coach Gillespie had a great relationship all the way til the day that Jalen decided he was leaving … coach Gillespie will tell you that Jalen was always a warrior and always gave his all on the field. So you can say what you want about him, that’s fine. But that rumor that he was benched and he’s just mad because (Alvin) Kamara and (John) Kelly had taken over, that’s not true.

In a Facebook post, Tara Smotherman, Hurd’s mother, indicated that she didn’t necessarily agree with her son’s decision to transfer but supported him regardless.

While it was not my choice for Jalen to leave Tennessee (and we were adamant about this), this is a decision that he put a lot of thought into and certainly did not take lightly. It is not my place to discuss his business and the reasons that he’s decided to transfer, but at the end of the day, he believed that it was best for everyone. People are mad, hurt and very upset, and I understand that. Yet, the reality is if you don’t know what he has been through or what he is going through now, then it is very easy to speculate & judge, make up lies & rumors, or heaven forbid, actually believe them.

Jalen has chosen a different path. We don’t always agree with our children’s decisions, but nevertheless, you love and support them through it all no matter what. Thank you to all of our family, friends and Vol supporters that were so kind to us today. We are so thankful and appreciative to the University of Tennessee, the coaching staff and the wonderful fans for all the love and support throughout the years. Many blessings and much success to you all.

Hurd currently leads the Vols in rushing with 451 yards.  He did not play in the Texas A&M game in Week 6 after what his stepfather claimed was a concussion sustained the week before against Georgia; the team had never mentioned such an injury publicly.  In what turned out to be his last game as a Vol, Hurd didn’t play in the second half of last week’s loss to South Carolina because of an unspecified injury.

At the time of his departure, Hurd was 445 yards away from breaking Travis Henry‘s school record for career rushing yards.  Instead, his 2,634 yards leaves him sixth place all-time.

Miami All-American, NFL Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy dead at 48

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One of the most physically-gifted and talented players in the history of Miami Hurricanes football is gone way, way too soon.

The Orlando Police Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Cortez Kennedy passed away earlier today.  He was just 48 years old.

No cause of death has been determined, with the OPD stating that “at this time there is nothing suspicious to report but we are conducting an investigation regarding his unattended passing.”

After starting his collegiate playing career at the junior college level, Kennedy moved on to the University of Miami, earning All-American honors in 1989.  In 2004, he was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The third overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft, Kennedy spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Seattle Seahawks.  In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Not surprisingly, Kennedy’s sudden passing has brought an outpouring of emotion from those connected to the football program.

LSU RB Lanard Fournette arrested for illegal gambling at Baton Rouge casino

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The younger brother of Leonard Fournette has finally made a name for himself, albeit for all of the wrong reasons.

Monday afternoon, WAFB-TV reported, LSU running back Lanard Fournette was arrested on a charge of using a fake ID to gamble at a Baton Rouge casino this past weekend.  The 20-year-old Fournette was subsequently released on a $1,000 bond.

The Baton Rouge Advocate has obtained some of the details  led up to the arrest of the redshirt sophomore.

Fournette… was arrested Monday after surveillance video showed and casino personnel confirmed he gained access to the gaming floor Saturday with a different ID than his own driver’s license, according to his arrest report.

Security video showed Fournette playing at a “craps table” for 16 minutes around 1:30 p.m., before walking to the player’s services counter. Fournette then allegedly presented his real ID to the cashier for a cash withdrawal, who determined his accurate age and contacted security, the report says.

Fournette, of Slidell, was detained at the casino, but left before the officer’s arrival, the report says. When casino security asked Fournette about the incident, Fournette said he used another person’s ID to enter the casino, the report says.

Head coach Ed Orgeron is aware of the incident and any discipline will be handled internally.

A three-star 2015 signee, Fournette took a redshirt his true freshman season.  In three games last year, he ran for 13 yards on five carries.

Fournette’s older brother was the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft following an Al-American career at LSU.

Ex-South Carolina QB signs Cal financial aid agreement

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It’s now officially official.

Just a day after Brandon McIlwain indicated on social media that he would be transferring to Cal, the Golden Bears acknowledged in a release that the quarterback “has signed a financial aid agreement and will join the school’s football program.”  Additionally, the football team confirmed that the two-sport student-athlete is expected to play baseball for the university as well.

In late February, McIlwain announced that he would be transferring from South Carolina.  The true sophomore will not play for the football Bears in the upcoming season, but will have three years of eligibility at his disposal after that.

“We’re excited that Brandon has decided to enroll at Cal and become a member of both our football and baseball programs,” a statement from head coach Justin Wilcox began. “We’re looking forward to his contributions and having him join the competition in our quarterback room.”

“I am excited to develop under the incredible coaching staff at Cal,” McIlwain said in his statement. “The Golden Bears have a great quarterback history. In addition, I am equally excited about returning to the Bay Area and taking advantage of the university’s amazing education.”

As a true freshman last season, McIlwain started three of the 12 games in which he played.  In that time, he completed 62-of-118 passes for 600 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception, while he added 127 yards and another two scores on the ground.

The emergence of fellow freshman Jake Bentley midway through the season, however, left McIlwain with no clear football path to a starting job.

Title IX probe into sexual assault allegations involving three Michigan State football players completed

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The Title IX investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving playing members of the Michigan State football team has ended, the Associated Press and other media outlets are reporting.

In early February, three unidentified football players as well as a football staffer were suspended amidst allegations that a sexual assault took place on January 16 at an on-campus apartment complex.  As a result of the allegations, a Title IX investigation into the alleged incident commenced in early February and lasted a little over three months.

That investigation was headed by Rebecca Veidlinger, an independent Title IX consultant and Ann Arbor attorney who previously worked in MSU’s Title IX office.  Because of federal privacy laws, the university will not release the findings of Veidlinger’s probe.

As for the next step in the process? Mlive.com explains.

Speaking generally about Title IX investigations, [university spokesperson Jason] Cody said there are two possible outcomes at the conclusion of an investigation. If no university policy violation is found, then the matter would be closed. If a policy violation was found, the case would then be sent to the school’s student conduct system.

The student conduct system could then levy any sanction ranging from a warning or probation to suspension or expulsion.

The alleged sexual assault has spawned three separate investigations, including the recently-completed Title IX probe.  A criminal investigation conducted by campus police led to requests for four arrest warrants to be issued, although the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office has thus far declined to act.  Additionally, the university has hired an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the football program and its handling of the allegations.

Thus far, the names of the players allegedly involved in the assault have not been released.  The suspended staffer was subsequently identified as Curtis Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance.  Blackwell, who is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault but rather a non-sexual crime after the fact, has received a pair of one-month contract extensions since his suspension was levied.