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Amidst turbulent offseason, Mark Dantonio releases statement

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To say that the Michigan State football program, coming off a three-win season on the field that was its worst in more than 20 years, is having a rough offseason off of it wouldn’t do it justice.

Earlier this monthThiyo Lukusa, the projected starter at right tackle, announced that he was leaving not only the football team but the sport, citing a loss of love and passion for the game.  Not long after, Jon Reschke, a likely starter at linebacker, announced his decision to transfer from the Spartans after making “an insensitive and totally regrettable comment involving a former teammate.”

Most notably — and disturbingly — three unidentified football players as well as a football staffer were suspended amidst sexual assault allegations, with tandem police and Title IX investigations casting a cloud over the program.

Noticeably absent amidst that maelstrom? Head coach Mark Dantonio, who has not permitted reporters to cover spring practice sessions that kicked off this past weekend and didn’t conduct a press conference previewing the spring agenda as had been the case every other year he’d been on the job since taking control in late November of 2006.  In fact, the coach hadn’t spoken publicly since National Signing Day the first part of the month.

Tuesday, that changed somewhat as Dantonio released a statement through the university which, in part, states that his program  is “extremely concerned about” the allegations and they are “taking [them] very seriously.” “When the time is appropriate, I will be able to answer questions regarding our program and discuss our team,” the coach said, adding, “At this point in time, we have to respect the process of the investigations for everyone involved.”

Below is the text of Dantonio’s statement, in its entirety.

With spring practice beginning last weekend and preparation for a new season underway, I feel it’s important to reinforce the core values and beliefs that have built and defined this program during my time at MSU.

“Since arriving here 11 years ago, my passion has been to lead a program that fosters a culture of integrity, respect and accountability, both on and off the field. That will never change. I have high standards for the program and expect all of our players and staff to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects the values and principles of Michigan State University. Our goal is to develop young men of character who graduate and make a positive impact on society.

“Regarding the ongoing investigations taking place within our program, the allegations are something we’re extremely concerned about and taking very seriously. We took immediate action by suspending those involved as soon as we were notified of the situation. Our action is separate from the ongoing criminal and administrative investigations. Those processes will determine if a crime has been committed and also if any university policy has been violated.

“(Athletic director) Mark Hollis and the university administration have set forth expectations for this program that I fully support, and we have gone to great lengths to consistently educate all members of the football program on our standards of conduct. I expect all members of the football program to live up to those standards, and I’m doing everything necessary to help throughout this difficult process.

“When the time is appropriate, I will be able to answer questions regarding our program and discuss our team. At this point in time, we have to respect the process of the investigations for everyone involved.

Report: North Texas adds FCS running back transfer

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North Texas is adding running back Loren Easly to the roster, according to a message posted to his Twitter account Saturday.

Easly spent the past two seasons at Stephen F. Austin, a member of the FCS Southland Conference. A Houston native, he appeared in 20 games over two seasons as a Lumberjack, carrying 213 times for 1,256 yards with 11 touchdowns while adding 17 catches for 139 yards.

Denton Record-Chronicle reporter Brett Vito confirmed the transfer on his Twitter account.

As an interdivisional transfer, Easly will be able to play immediately with two seasons of eligibility remaining.

He would join a backfield led by rising senior Jeffrey Wilson, who paced the Mean Green with 936 yards and 14 touchdowns on 169 carries in 2016.

Kansas AD Sheahon Zenger signs extension, vows to fix football

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Kansas athletics director Sheahon Zenger has signed an extension to remain on the job through the 2020-21 academic year, the school announced Sunday.

Zenger has been on the job since 2011, meaning the new deal will take him past the decade mark in Lawrence.

“Since Sheahon’s arrival in Jan. 2011, Kansas Athletics has enjoyed success on and off the field,” Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a statement. “I am confident that under Sheahon’s leadership Athletics will experience even more success in the coming years.”

Zenger did not hire Bill Self, but he did hire Charlie Weis, which cost KU more than $5.6 million in buyout money after he was fired for going 6-22 leading the Jayhawks from 2012-14.

David Beaty was since hired to run the program, who has infused an outlook brighter than his 2-22 record would suggest.

Zenger said the new contract will allow him to fix football. Via the Kansas City Star:

Under Zenger’s watch, KU has most notably added numerous construction projects, including Rock Chalk Park and the DeBruce Center, which houses the original rules of basketball. He has spoken previously about completing those ventures to “clear the deck” financially so focus could be placed on football and Memorial Stadium renovations — two things he now says are “really the top priorities for me in the next four years.”

“We want it to be a place that people just love to come to,” Zenger said of Memorial Stadium. “We have such history there. I think it’s the greatest setting in the nation for college football. We just need to get it to the point where it’s a place that’s just revered.”

The extension includes a raise from a base salary of $619,000 to $700,000.

Alleged victim of Tennessee WR Josh Smith threatens $3 million civil suit

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Earlier this month, Tennessee wide receiver Josh Smith was charged with domestic assault following an incident at an off-campus house with his roommate. Now, the roommate is seeking damages of $875,000. If that sum is not paid, then the alleged victim may bring a $3 million civil suit to the court.

According to Jimmy Hyams of WNML, Kennedy Foster suffered a broken nose, broken teeth and damage to his eyes and right ear in the incident earlier this month that led to the charges filed against Smith. Foster sent a settlement demand letter to the attorney representing Smith.

“I’m not accusing him (Foster) of extortion, but that’s what it looks like,’’ Smith’s attorney, Keith Stewart said according to Hyams. “Given my understanding that Mr. Foster’s attempts to press charges against Malcolm Stokes were unsuccessful, it seems his motives are clear.’’

“I think when the truth comes out, Josh will be exonerated,” Stewart said of his client.

The deadline for paying the settlement demand is set for May 30 (tomorrow) by 5:00 p.m. and is to be delivered in the form of a cashier’s check along with a letter of apology for the incident. If the Smith family does not pay the requested sum, the legal team for Foster will move forward with a $1.5 million lawsuit seeking compensatory damages and a $1.5 million lawsuit for punitive damages. How either will hold up in court remains to be seen.

How some college football teams are recognizing Memorial Day on Twitter

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It’s not Memorial Day until the social media teams at college football programs start pumping out branded Memorial Day messages on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. As expected, teams and conferences are busy at pumping out the social media content for their followers today. Here is a sampling of what has been seen so far.

If you have not already done so, please take a few minutes to read John’s annual Memorial Day post.