Man arrested in Toomer’s Corner tree poisonings

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An Alabama man has been arrested in connection to the poisoning of Auburn’s famed Toomer’s Corner oak trees, WTVM in Auburn is reporting.

According to the television station, 62-year-old Harvey Almorn Updyke of Dadeville, Ala., was arrested Wednesday night and has been charged with one count of first-degree criminal mischief, a Class C felony that carries a punishment of one to 10 years.

Updyke is currently being held on a $50,000 bond.

Police were first alerted to the possibility that the Toomer oaks had been poisoned when a caller to the Finebaum Show claimed he had spread a herbicide on the soil around the trees a week after Auburn’s Iron Bowl win over Alabama last year.  The caller gave his name as “Al from Dadeville” and ended his call with “Roll Damn Tide”.

Auburn police began the initial investigation in late January, and were later joined by the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Department.  At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson refused to confirm that the Finebaum caller prompted the probe, and warned fans against exacting revenge for the act of a lone nut case.

“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to jeopardize the investigation and I don’t want to fuel the fires even further,” Dawson said. “I want to caution all the Auburn fans to act with the class we always act with.

“This is the exception rather than the rule. This is a person who obviously has problems to do something like this. So we want to use caution and let the justice system takes its course.”

Alabama athletic director Mal Moore had already decried the desecration of his rival school’s sacred landmark.

“It’s an awful act, a terrible thing to do,” Moore said in a statement Wednesday. “A lot of what makes our two programs so special is our many unique traditions. So, hearing this about Toomer’s Corner is upsetting to me in several ways. I certainly hope that whomever is responsible is held accountable.”

University experts, with the help of officials from several different agencies — for example, soil samples were tested at Mississippi State — are doing everything in their power to save the 130-year-old trees, although all evidence points to them fighting a losing battle.

“Spike 80 is an herbicide that is usually used for total vegetation control,” said Stephen Enloe, an assistant professor of agronomy and soil at Auburn. “It’s very good at what it does and that is kill all plants. This herbicide is really active on plants that are actively growing.”

Police believe Updyke acted alone and are not actively seeking any additional suspects. To view the reactions of the act, CLICK HERE.

UPDATED 6:37 p.m. ET: The kind folks at NBC would like us to pass this video along for you all. Judging by the comment thread on this story, this is a pretty big deal.

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Tom Herman says ideal Texas schedule would include Texas A&M rivalry

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Let’s face it. Until the day comes when Texas and Texas A&M get back on the same football field for a regular season game, this topic is never going to die. In the latest example of proving you can set your offseason calendar to the moment anyone from Texas or Texas A&M merely mentions the dormant rivalry, Longhorns head coach Tom Herman suggested reviving the rivalry with the Aggies would be a part of his ideal football schedule in Austin.

“In my perfect world, you would play one big-time Power 5 [non-conference] opponent,” Herman said in SiriusXM ESPNU Radio interview with Andy Staples and Rick Neuheisel this week. “To me, there’s a very logical one an hour-and-a-half east of us.”

Herman was clearly referring to Texas A&M when mentioning a logical option just 90 minutes east of Austin. Herman also expressed a desire to be able to play a true rivalry game at home in an alternating series similar to other Big 12 schools like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State playing each other and Iowa State playing in-state Big Ten rival Iowa. Texas A&M would fit that bill Herman is trying to address.

Of course, this is all the same old stuff we have been talking about since Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC and the rivalry was put on ice after the 2011 season. Fans of both schools appear to have a much greater desire for the series to be revived, and coaches who have come and gone make it a routine to sound off on wanting to play their old rival to win fans over. But the fact remains the powers that be at both Texas and Texas A&M are standing firm on not wanting to play the other school again, even if there is a hint there are higher-ups who would be interested in seeing the series continue.

Both the big 12 and SEC require their members to schedule one game against another power conference opponent in non-conference play. It seems to be a perfect way for the rivalry to resume for both the Longhorns and Aggies. Instead, both schools continue to line up non-conference schedules without including the other, as is the case now through 2020 for sure, and likely for years beyond that with other matchups against power conference teams already lined up for years.

Larry Fedora says war on football could lead to downfall of country

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It’s not very often when a head coach can lose on a conference’s media day, but UNC head coach Larry Fedora went down swinging on Wednesday. On the first day of the ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte, North Carolina, Fedora stood firm on some interesting takes on the current state of the game and how it could lead to the downfall of the country. He also suggested there is no connection to playing football and CTE.

It was a doozy of an afternoon for the head coach of the Tar Heels.

“Our game is under attack,” Fedora suggested when discussing new rules being implemented into the game with the focus on improving the safety of players. “I fear that the game will be pushed so far from what we know that we won’t recognize it 10 years from now. And if it does, our country will go down too.”

Some of what Fedora said is not an original thought. With more and more rules being changed or added to the game at all levels of the game, including the NFL, it is clear the sport of football is being changed in dramatic ways that would leave some from a former era hanging their heads. Of course, players from previous eras were not able to compete in a time when medical advancements and research were on par with what is available today. Still, Fedora seemed to take up a stand on this topic as well by suggesting he does not think it has definitely been proven that playing football causes CTE. Fedora said he believes the CTE data has been put out as fact and it has swayed some people away from football entirely.

It may be unwise to suggest there is a stone-cold fact that indisputably links football to CTE, but more and more research is connecting the dots fairly strongly. A report from the New York Times last summer showed 110 of 111 brains of former NFL players had symptoms of CTE. The study comprised of 202 former football players from various levels of the game. The link between playing football and CTE has been strong enough to have the NFL begin modifying its procedures and regulations, and more and more colleges and conferences are addressing these concerns as well. Still, Fedora is taking up his side in the so-called war on football.

Let’s be crystal clear here; playing football significantly increases the risk a player will experience CTE in their life. There is no disputing that. And no, if football is changed for the benefit of player safety, it will have zero impact on the country as a whole.

Fedora also raised some eyebrows for his comments about why football is part of what makes the United States so great, which he defended by sharing a comment he received from a former military general. After his initial media session at the ACC media day event, Fedora later gathered a handful of selected media members to clarify his comments. But rather than change one word in his statement to make himself look better, Fedora held firm with his comments.

Fedora is coming off a 3-9 season in Chapel Hill, and he may be on one of the hottest seats the ACC has to offer this fall. Starting the year off sounding like a cranky old-school football meathead may not be the best way to get the new season started for Fedora, but he’s all in on the idea that the decline of football will inevitably lead to the fall of the entire country.

If Fedora doesn’t make UNC great again, he may be taking his war on football to the unemployment line.

Delaware new home for Penn State transfer Andre Robinson

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More than seven months after leaving Penn State, Andre Robinson has found his landing spot.

The mother of the running back confirmed to PennLive.com that her son has transferred to Delaware to continue his collegiate playing career.  As the Blue Hens play at the FCS level, Robinson will be eligible to play immediately for the program.

Including this season, Robinson will have two years of eligibility remaining.

“All parties are excited for this opportunity for continuing his education and playing football for Delaware, the mom, Jennifer Mellinger, told the website in a portion of a statement.

Robinson was a four-star member of Penn State’s 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 20 running back in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Pennsylvania.

A redshirt sophomore, Robinson was third among Nittany Lions running backs this past season with 55 yards and one touchdown on the ground in 2017.  He finished the PSU portion of his playing career with 196 yards and six touchdowns on 30 carries.

While he ‘expects him to,’ Nick Saban has ‘no idea’ if Jalen Hurts will be on Alabama roster for opener

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Let the quarterback intrigue at Alabama commence in earnest.  Or continue, as the case may be.

During his appearance at the podium for SEC Media Days Wednesday, Nick Saban did his level best to deflect any talk of a quarterback controversy in Tuscaloosa, stating only that the battle for the starting job between two-year starter Jalen Hurts and national championship game hero Tua Tagovailoa is ongoing and will be rejoined when summer camp kicks off early next month.  Saban, though, welcomed even more scrutiny of the Crimson Tide’s quarterback situation be declining to state with any degree of certainty that Hurts will be on the roster when the defending national champs open their defense of its title against Louisville in the opener in Orlando.

From al.com:

I have no idea,” Saban said. “I expect him to be there. I think it’s our job to give both players a very fair opportunity to have a chance to win the job at their position. … We’ll create a role for one or both of those guys on our team and they’ll all have to make a decision based on what that outcome is as to what their future is at Alabama. We certainly want every player to stay at the University of Alabama and graduate. Jalen has a great opportunity to do that in December so we are hopeful he will stay there and be a graduate regardless of his circumstances as a player. But that’s not to minimize his chances of making a starter or making a great contribution to our team in some way even if he isn’t the starter.

Hurts’ father made headlines in April when he stated that, if his son lost his starting job, “he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.” A month later, Tagovailoa admitted in an interview that he would’ve transferred from the Tide if he hadn’t gotten to play in the College Football Playoff title game.

Not long after Averion Hurts‘ claims, Saban stated that he had a “very positive meeting” with the player’s father, adding that he didn’t “think there’s an issue or a problem from my standpoint.”

Because of a hand injury suffered early on and a subsequent surgery, Tagovailoa was very limited throughout spring practice earlier this year.  Hurts, meanwhile, took the majority of snaps in Tagovailoa’s absence, although he did incur the wrath of Saban during an uneven spring-game performance.