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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Maryland stays in house by naming Damon Evans as AD

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The University of Maryland has its new athletics director, and the school didn’t have to look very far to find it. Damon Eaves has been named the school’s new athletics director after previously filling the role as an acting AD since April.

“Throughout his tenure here, Damon has demonstrated visionary, transparent, compassionate and ethical leadership,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh said in a released statement. “The candidates invited for interviews had impressive credentials and accomplishments. In the end, a senior leadership search is not only about capabilities. It is also about institutional fit and interpersonal trust and chemistry. In Damon, the University​ of Maryland​ has the right person at the right time.”

Eaves will now officially replace former AD Kevin Anderson, who resigned from the position in April after a six-month sabbatical. Eaves had previously worked at Maryland as the school’s chief financial officer and was among the likely top candidates for the job at Maryland. A search firm was hired by Maryland to assist in the search for a new AD at a reported cost of $100,000.

While the top priorities for Eave sin his new position will likely center on the current state of the basketball program, one might wonder what this new hire could end up meaning for the football program. Maryland is still a few years away from being able to take advantage of a full Big Ten revenue share (which reportedly paid out over $50 million to Michigan and other Big Ten programs for the past year), and football head coach D.J. Durkin is entering his third season on the sidelines. After going 6-7 in his first season, Durkin coached Maryland to a record of 4-8 in 2017. Durkin is currently signed to a five-year deal that has already been extended to six years per the terms of the contract.

Unless this season is a complete disaster, Durkin’s job security is nothing to be concerned about now that a new AD is installed on a permanent basis.

Temple’s on-campus stadium proposal to be delayed

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A stadium proposal for Temple University will not be filed this June, putting the future of a potential on-campus football home for the Owls on the sidelines for a little bit longer.

According to a report from The Temple News, the proposal for the on-campus athletic venue did not achieve its goal of obtaining enough support from the surrounding community in order to move forward with the plan. This was likely to be expected after the stadium plans stalled during a city council meeting earlier this year. This occurred shortly after protestors interrupted a town hall meeting about the project the previous week.

“We’re not there yet,” Temple Vice President of Public Affairs Bill Bergman said in the report. “We continue to work with neighbors, talk to neighbors. We’re really looking at what we need to do this summer.”

The stadium has failed to generate the kind of community support Temple was hoping to have as concerns about what the stadium will do to the community have been heated. Residents do not seem to have the positive vibes about a stadium that will play home to Temple football that the university officials have envisioned. To some, the construction of a football stadium that would also host other events seems like wasteful spending with resources that could be used in other ways.

Temple is currently playing home games at Lincoln Financial Field, home to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. The lease agreement for Temple runs through the end of the 2019 season. If Temple cannot get moving on their on-campus stadium plan, the Owls may have to look into an extension on the lease. Temple will have little problem getting an extension, but the university would probably prefer not to have to lock into an extended lease if playing on campus becomes a viable option.

Central Michigan TE Logan Hessbrook awarded scholarship at softball game

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Central Michigan’s football program held a fun softball game over the weekend, pitting coaches against seniors. CMU head coach John Bonamego used the opportunity to award a well-deserved scholarship to tight end Logan Hessbrook.

Central Michigan shared the moment with a quick video clip on Twitter, accompanied by a pair of interviews with the newly awarded scholarship player and the head coach.

Hessbrook was CMU’s sixth-leading receiver in 2017 with 132 yards on 10 receptions in three games. The majority of that production came in games against FCS Rhode Island and Big 12 doormat Kansas. With last year’s top tight end Tyler Conklin having graduated and moved on from the program, Hessbrook could be in line for a much more pivotal role in the offense this fall.

The Ithaca, Michigan native has worked hard since joining the Chippewas however, and now his commitment and dedication to the program has paid off with a scholarship.

UNLV bringing all-you-can-eat ticket packages to college football

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It’s a tremendous challenge getting fans to come out to the stadium these days. When (nearly) every game is on TV, why go to the stadium when you have to miss out on the six other games on TV plus you have to deal with spotty in-stadium plus having to fight through traffic and parking and obnoxious fans to your left and right — and, oh yeah, you still have to pay for your tickets and concessions on top of all that.

UNLV has now eliminated one of those objections.

Borrowing a page from baseball, the Rebels have introduced an all-you-can-eat ticket package. For just $79, fans get tickets to UNLV’s games against UTEP (Sept. 8), Fresno State (Nov. 3) and Nevada (Nov. 24) while gaining access to all the hot dogs, nachos, popcorn and soft drinks they can stomach.

“It’s a great way for your family to enjoy first-class entertainment and create a memory for an affordable price,” UNLV athletics director Desiree Reed-Francois told the Las Vegas Sun.

Season ticket holders will also have the option of adding the all-you-can-eat option for $30 a ticket — which works out to $5 per ticket per game.

The move feels more like a promotion that will keep on-the-fence ticket buyers in the stadium rather than brining new people out, but Reed-Francois is determined to increase attendance as UNLV plays its penultimate season in the 47-year-old Sam Boyd Stadium. The Rebels drew 17,449 fans per game to the 35,000-seat stadium.

“I’m told all of the time that this isn’t a football town,” she said. “We’ll flip that (opinion). There’s an opportunity for football in this town.”