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Maty Mauk
Associated Press

Eastern Kentucky confirms addition of ex-Mizzou QB Maty Mauk

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It’s official: Maty Mauk will attempt to rehabilitate his flailing career — and battered public image — at a lower level of football.

Following up on reports that surfaced earlier in the week, an Eastern Kentucky official has confirmed to Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Mauk has signed an athletic grant-in-aid agreement with the FCS school. Mauk will be eligible to play immediately in 2016, his final season of eligibility.

Matter writes that Mauk will “likely compete with senior quarterback Bennie Coney, a returning starter who set several team records last season.”

Given how the first three years of his career went, it’s borderline amazing Mauk’s even getting another shot at a starting job at any level.

In late January, Mauk was dismissed by Mizzou, three days after he was suspended when a video showing a person who appeared to be Mauk snorting what appeared to be a line of cocaine.  That marked Mauk’s third suspension in four months.

Mauk was suspended in late September of las year for violating unspecified team rules.  After missing four games, he was reinstated.  Less than a week after his reinstatement, he was suspended for the remainder of the 2015 season.  That suspension allegedly stemmed from an off-campus incident involving the player and an unidentified male outside of a downtown Columbia drinking establishment.

In late December, new Mizzou head coach Barry Odom reinstated Mauk before being forced to dismiss the quarterback a month later.

Mauk was the starting quarterback on the Tigers’ 2014 SEC East title squad after starting a handful of games for the 2013 East title team.  He attempted just 110 passes in that truncated 2015 season that again saw him begin the year as the starting quarterback.

Report: SEC gives thumbs up to Travonte Valentine’s 2016 return to LSU

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Les Miles, head coach of the LSU Tigers, reacts during the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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It appears one obstacle in Travonte Valentine‘s journey back to Baton Rouge has been removed.

Citing an unidentified source, Ross Dellenger of the Baton Rouge Advocate has reported that LSU has “received assurances from the Southeastern Conference this week that Valentine would be eligible for the 2016 season if he did, in fact, rejoin the program.” The conference’s decision comes a couple of weeks after it was reported that Valentine’s return to the Tigers was a serious possibility.

Like one of his former teammates, Valentine will need to get his academic house in order — although that won’t be as stringent as it could be. From Dellenger:

Valentine still needs to complete 13 hours of course work over the summer to qualify, another source confirmed. The 6-foot-3, 345-pounder has spent the last year at two junior colleges – Arizona Western and, currently, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

If he does return to LSU, the 6-foot-3, 345-pounder isn’t obligated to meet the normal requirements for junior college transfers. He can use an “exception” because he’s returning to his original school, according to NCAA rules.

Should Valentine ultimately return to Baton Rouge, it’d be the continuation of a lengthy — and bumpy — odyssey.

After signing with the Tigers in February of 2014, Valentine dealt with NCAA Clearinghouse issues — the player said another SEC program was the root cause — that forced him to miss the start of summer camp his true freshman season. While he was ultimately cleared to practice, he was not permitted to play in any games because of the lingering academic issues.

Then in April of last year, head coach Les Miles confirmed that Valentine had been suspended, with the specific reason being, again, academics.  At the time of his departure from the program, it was reported that Valentine, in addition to the academic issues, had failed multiple drug tests.

In January, Valentine expressed hope that Miles would give him another shot with his football team.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class, Valentine was rated as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Florida. He had been expected to be an immediate contributor to LSU’s line rotation.

Rutgers caught copying Michigan’s social media strategy

Gary Nova, Joe Bolden, Jake Ryan
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Some say imitation is the cheapest form of flattery. Others simply call it plagiarism. New Rutgers head coach Chris Ash and the Rutgers staff got called out for taking a page out of the Michigan recruiting playbook and executing it a little too closely.

A year ago, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh shared a birthday greeting to recruit Lavert Hill. Someone in the Michigan graphic arts department caught a glimpse of what Rutgers was planning to do, and it looked strikingly similar. Perhaps it was too similar to be a complete coincidence.

Yep, that looks like a direct copy and paste of a social networking strategy. Now, it should be said ideas and social media concepts are copied all the time in sports, and it is all about establishing a connection with recruits and players. If it worked for Michigan, others will surely see that and look to emulate the success where it can. This is juts how this stuff works.

Of course, given how Rutgers is trying to play up a “Jersey Strong” campaign, it should be no surprise those at Rutgers are lacking for original ideas.

Tennessee vs. Appalachian State moves to Thursday night

Butch Jones
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Fans of Tennessee and Appalachian State will not have to wait as long as they expected for their 2016 season opener. The Vols and Mountaineers have moved their season-opening date up two days to a Thursday night. The game, originally scheduled for Saturday, September 3, will now be played on Thursday, September 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on SEC Network.

“The conference approached me during our recent athletics director meetings in Jacksonville about a request they had received from ESPN to move our season-opening game to Thursday night on the SEC Network,” Tennessee Athletics Director Dave Hart said in a released statement. “I visited with Butch Jones about it upon my return to gauge his interest prior to my conversations with appropriate campus personnel. He was very interested in making the change.”

This will mark the first time since 1938 the Vols will host a Thursday football game. Tennessee defeated Kentucky in a Thanksgiving game that season. The last time Tennessee played a home opener on a Thursday was in 1896. You remember that one, right?

The decision to move the game to a Thursday night timeslot helps move Tennessee’s home game out of the shadows of what is going to be one massive Saturday of college football. The Labor Day weekend is jammed with great contests, and moving a game to a Thursday night helps get the Vols, one of the potentially trendy preseason picks, some extra exposure. The Thursday line-up is becoming more crowded though, with South Carolina facing Vanderbilt on ESPN that same night. It feels kind of strange seeing a move like this to put two games involving SEC teams up against one another on that Thursday night, but I’m not ESPN’s program director.

Northwestern football hopes to return to Wrigley Field soon

Illinois v Northwestern
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By most accounts, the meeting between Northwestern and Illinois in historic Wrigley Field was either a home run buzz event or a sacrifice fly due to having to play by adjusted Wrigley Field rules. No matter the downsides to take from that unique matchup between the Wildcats and Illini in 2010, Northwestern wants to make it happen again soon.

Teddy Greenstein of The Chicago Tribune spoke with Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips this week about the possibility of returning to Wrigley, and he seems optimistic it will happen again. The question is when it may be possible to set another game in stone to be played in the aging baseball venue.

We’re anxious to get something done,” Phillips said. “I’m close with those guys. I talk to (Cubs Chairman) Tom (Ricketts) all the time. Everyone is motivated to do it. It’s really on their timeline.”

As noted by Greenstein in his original report, Northwestern and the Cubs previously agreed to stage five football game sin Wrigley Field in 2013, but no definite dates were set with that original agreement. The Cubs know they would have to make some adjustments in order to make college football a more enjoyable experience, having learned the lessons of what is and what is not working a few years ago.

“We would move the dugout top, and that would allow us to put a 12-foot perimeter around the whole field,” Cubs president Crane Kenney said in 2013. That would certainly be a good place to start, and perhaps would help eliminate the need for both teams to play going the same way on the field in the future, as they did in 2010.

Northwestern and Illinois played each other in Soldier Field last fall, and will do so again in the more traditional football stadium in 2017 and 2019. These are home games for the Illini, who just hired former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith this offseason.