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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.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

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When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.

Shaq Wiggins opts for Tennessee after leaving Louisville

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After a couple of years away, Shaq Wiggins is back in the SEC.

The defensive back took to his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon to announce that he “will continue to finish my career at the University of Tennessee.”  The move to Rocky Top comes a little over a month after he decided to transfer from Louisville.

As a graduate transfer, the defensive back will be able to play for the Vols in 2017.

The transfer to UT continues Wiggins’ well-traveled collegiate career.

In early May of 2014, Georgia announced that Wiggins had decided to transfer from the Bulldogs; later that month, he followed former UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to the U of L. With Grantham departing this offseason for the same job at Mississippi State, it was thought that, after a successful appeal of an initial barring, the Bulldogs would be a potential landing spot for Wiggins.

Wiggins started at corner for the Cardinals in 2015, earning honorable mention All-ACC honors. Injuries plagued him throughout the 2016 season.