Report: Balmer paid for UNC DT Austin's trip to Cali

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Another day, and another chapter has been added to the summer soap opera that is the North Carolina football program.

The latest drama to come out of Chapel Hill involves a pair of former UNC players — Kentwan Balmer and Cam Thomas — and a current member of the Tar Heels who’s come to be the poster child for the NCAA’s investigation into players’ relationships with agentsMarvin Austin.

In what appears to have been a brief conversation with J.P. Giglio of the Raleigh News & Observer, Thomas, a rookie with the San Diego Chargers, admitted that Balmer paid for a trip he and Austin made to Proactive Sports Performance in California before the 2009 season.  “Twan paid for [the trip],” Thomas said before declining further comment.

Proactive Sports is located two miles from Pro Tect Management, an agency founded, owned and run by Gary Wichard, the agent whose long-time relationship with current UNC assistant John Blake seems to be near the heart of the NCAA’s current investigation.

Several of Wichard’s clients have trained at Proactive Sports prior to the draft in recent years; Balmer is currently represented by Wichard.

In addition to the most current allegation made against Balmer, the San Francisco 49ers lineman has also previously been accused of allowing Austin to use his automobile and stay in his home during the offseason  And, in what could either be merely a huge coincidence or yet another clue as to where this investigation is heading, Balmer was absent from 49ers’ training camp Monday and Tuesday to deal with what a source told PFT was “a family issue”.

Regardless, this is yet another chunk of bad news for the UNC football program.

As noted by the News & Observer, NCAA bylaws prohibit “preferential treatment, benefits or services because of the individual’s athletics reputation or skill or pay-back potential as a professional athlete, unless such treatment, benefits or services are specifically permitted under NCAA legislation.”

Balmer allegedly paying for the trips to California would be considered preferential treatment, a violation that UNC assistant athletic director Amy Herman said would be subject to “interpretative” punishment “based on the facts of the case.”

If Austin was deemed to have received illegal benefits, he could pay back the money he received and still retain eligibility, although he would still be subject to suspension if the amount was over $500.

However, when you consider the fact that Austin is also under scrutiny for a trip he took to South Beach this past Memorial Day, it’s looking more and more likely that Butch Davis will simply not be able to risk putting the talented lineman in uniform and on the field if those whole mess is not cleared up by the time the season rolls around.

And this is all without even mentioning the fact that the latest accusation happened before the start of the 2009 season, which would’ve made both Austin and Thomas ineligible.  For using ineligible players, UNC could be forced to vacate their eight wins.  And be subject to further punishment from the NCAA.

Is this Reggie Bush v2.0 in the making?  For UNC’s sake, they’d better hope that’s just anonymous NCAA hyperbole.

Oklahoma could pull off rare feat in 2019 NFL Draft

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On Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee, the NFL Draft will kick off a three-day event that bridges the gap between college football and the NFL on an annual basis. The Arizona Cardinals will have the No. 1 pick in the draft and there is a possibility Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray could be the top pick of the draft. If that proves to be the case, then the Sooners will pull off one of the rarest feats in the NFL Draft by having the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft two years in a row.

Last year saw Baker Mayfield leave Oklahoma to be the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft of the Cleveland Browns. If Murray is selected as the first player overall by the Cardinals (or any other team that moves up to the top spot), it will mark the first time since 1968 and 1969 when the top pick in the draft was selected out of the same school in consecutive seasons. USC’s Ron Yary was the top pick of the 1968 draft by the Minnesota Vikings, and running back O.J. Simpson was the top pick of the draft by the Buffalo Bills the following season. That remains the first and only time the top picks in consecutive drafts have come from the same school.

If Murray does go first overall, some history will also be made that will separate this feat from the one previously accomplished by USC. This would also mark the first time two Heisman Trophy winners from the same school have been selected with the top pick in the draft in consecutive seasons. Granted, it hasn’t been too often the same school had back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners, to begin with, not to mention having two within the same four or five-year period, but it’s been a good couple of years for the Sooners with Mayfield and Murray.

It’s also worth a reminder both Mayfield and Murray were transfer players as well, adding another layer to the improbability of the rare milestone Oklahoma is potentially in line to pull off this week. Naturally, this would be quite a piece of recruiting propaganda for Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, who was named head coach of the Sooners just two years ago following the retirement of Bob Stoops.

Greg Sankey affirms support for 4-team playoff format

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The College Football Playoff was founded and remains controlled by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences. For those looking to move the 4-team format to eight, the thinking went that the old guard (emphasis on old) in the form of Mike SliveJim Delany and John Swofford would eventually move on, and their younger predecessors would see how much money could be made by expanding the playoff, and then expand the playoff.

Slive, of course, retired in 2015 (he passed away in 2018), Delany will step down next year, and Swofford is 70. After the ACC Network gets up and running later this year, perhaps he’ll step down, allowing three of the five big chairs — and, let’s be honest, the three biggest of the five big chairs — will have changed hands from the Playoff’s 2012 creation to negotiations for the second contract. (The current contract expires after the 2025 season.)

One problem, though: one of those predecessors likes the Playoff as is.

Speaking at an APSE event in Birmingham on Monday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey affirmed his support for the 4-team format.

The SEC is the least incentivized of the Power 5 conferences to change the status quo, because the status quo works for them. Along with the ACC, the SEC is the only conference to go 5-for-5 in placing teams in the field, and really the SEC is 6-for-5 given that Georgia and Alabama reached the Playoff in 2017, the only season to date in which one conference has occupied the four coveted spots.

The counter to this point is that it was the LSU vs. Alabama championship game that was the straw that killed the BCS’s back.

However, the counter to that counter was that Slive was on board to kill the BCS and berth the CFP. Never before in college football’s history of evolving postseason formats has change been brought against the SEC’s wishes, and that’s unlikely to change… now or in 2025.

North Carolina LB Kyle Wright plunges into transfer portal

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North Carolina linebacker Kyle Wright will leave Chapel Hill and pursue a graduate transfer, the player has announced.

“For the sake of having some dignity, I would like to announce that I will be entering the NCAA Transfer Portal,” he wrote on Twitter. “In doing so, I leave behind friendships and teammates that I will never forget. I appreciate you all.”

A Blythewood, S.C., native, Wright signed with North Carolina in 2018 and spent just one season in Chapel Hill. He appeared in four games, making one tackle against Georgia Tech, before using the year as a redshirt.

As an undergraduate transfer, Wright would have to sit out the 2019 campaign and compete in 2020 as a redshirt sophomore, barring a waiver.

Marshall, Western Michigan line up future series

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It’s been a long time since Marshall and Western Michigan were in the same conference, but the two will be reunited on the football field soon enough. No, we’re not talking about conference realignment, but future non-conference scheduling!

The two schools announced a future home-and-home series for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. Marshall will host the first game of the deal on Sept. 14, 2024. Western Michigan will host the second game on Sept. 6, 2025. The two schools have not squared off against each other since Marshall left the MAC for Conference USA in 2005, but Western Michigan leads the all-time series 22-12.

Western Michigan will also play Cincinnati in non-conference play in 2024 and will travel t two Big Ten opponents in 20205 (Michigan State and Illinois).

Marshall has road trips to Liberty and Virginia Tech scheduled in 2024 in addition to the new home game against the Broncos. In 2025, Marshall will host East Carolina a week after visiting Western Michigan.