Tide finds no violations in Calloway’s recruitment

46 Comments

Well, that was certainly fast.

A day after a “report” emerged that an Alabama supporter had “bought” the talents of UA signee Brent Calloway, the school has concluded its investigation.  Whether the SEC and/or NCAA sees this as the end of the saga remains to be seen.

According to both the Birmingham News and TideSports.com, a trip by school officials to Calloway’s hometown of Russellville Friday and subsequent interviews with those close to the linebacker resulted in UA finding no NCAA violations had occurred.  Thus, the school does not plan on filing a report with the NCAA.

At the center of the “controversy” created by Rivals.com‘s Auburn website is a man by the name of Darren Woodruff.  The website levied serious allegations earlier in the week that Woodruff, president of a chemical company and a self-professed Alabama supporter, had given a car to Calloway as well as cash to the recruit and at least one member of his family as an enticement to sign with UA.

Tide officials spoke with Woodruff during their trip to Russellville and uncovered several key distinctions regarding whether Woodruff is a “booster” or merely a really, really big fan of the football program.

Alabama learned that Woodruff drove Calloway to the majority of the school’s home football games in 2009, during his junior year, on unofficial visits. That could be considered an NCAA violation if Woodruff were found to be a representative of Alabama’s athletics interests.

But Alabama also learned that Woodruff is not a graduate of the school and has not donated money to the school’s athletics department or purchased season tickets. Any one of those characteristics could identify a person as a booster.

NCAA Bylaw 13.7.2.1 says a school may provide up to three complimentary passes to a home football game (as long as they’re in the general seating section) for a prospect on an unofficial visit and two guests.

In addition, Alabama learned that Woodruff’s relationship with Calloway began when Calloway transferred to Russellville High School for the ninth grade, which would predate Calloway’s status as a major college football prospect.

That can be an important distinction when the NCAA decides whether a contact made by an individual is impermissible.

NCAA Bylaw 13.1.2.2 lists exceptions to the general rule that prohibits recruiting contacts by a booster. One of those exceptions is an “established family friend or neighbor, it being understood that such contacts are not made for recruiting purposes and are not initiated by a member of the institution’s coaching staff.”

Woodruff himself spoke to TideSports.com, and reiterated what UA officials uncovered.

“I’m not an alumnus, I’ve never bought a ticket from them and I’ve never given them a dime of my money,” Woodruff told the website. “I attended games as a guest of Brent when he was a junior. I did it because he didn’t have a coach that would take him.”

Woodruff also shared an interesting tidbit that sheds some additional light on the motives behind his relationship with Calloway.

Calloway isn’t the only youth Woodruff has helped. Former Russellville student Aaron Hollingsworth, whose house burned down almost two years ago, currently lives with the Woodruffs. Hollingsworth is not a Russellville athlete and has no high school eligibility remaining.

“I’m just passionate about helping young people,” Woodruff said.

On the surface, and at least at the moment, this whole imbroglio seems to be nothing more than a website flinging mud in the general direction of their hated in-state rivals.  As far as Alabama is concerned, nothing has stuck that would constitute an NCAA violation.  As we said earlier, though, whether their conference or the governing body of collegiate athletics agrees that nothing impermissible occurred remains to be seen.

WATCH: 338-pound Wisconsin nose tackle nails beach backflip

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Yeah, this is absolutely fantastic. And extremely impressive.

Up until now, Olive Sagapolu has been mainly known to most nationally for his prowess on the football field. Entering his fourth-year season in Madison, Sagapolu has started 23 games during his time with the Badgers, including 10 in a 2017 season that saw him earn honorable mention All-Big Ten honors.

As it turns out, though, Sagapolu’s athleticism isn’t confined to merely on the field as, in this video sent out through UW’s official football Twitter account, the 6-2, 336-pound starting nose tackle lands a backflip on a beach in Hawaii.

To repeat: the man in that video weighs 336 pounds. 336 pounds.

Then again, it shouldn’t be all that surprising given the fact that Sagapolu spent a portion of his senior year at football powerhouse Mater Dei High School in California as a member of the varsity cheerleading squad. Seriously.

“In a way, (cheerleading) does help because it shows how athletic I can be and I’m getting,” Sagapolu said by way of 247Sports.com way back in August of 2015. “I mean, I’m about a 300-pound guy doing a backflip. You don’t really see that a lot. Doing these other kinds of tricks also helps with hand-eye coordination. It does help with football. …

“(People) were definitely surprised seeing me on the cheerleading team. They thought it was funny seeing… a big guy like me. For me, it is shocking to see the reaction from people’s faces. … Just the whole thing about cheerleading is very different from football. It was something I wanted to do for my senior year and have fun with it.”

Tennessee’s Will Ignont to have weed charge dismissed

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A legal journey for one Tennessee football player that began last year is coming to an end.

In October of 2017, former UT running back John Kelly and current Vols linebacker Will Ignont (pictured, left) were cited for marijuana possession following a traffic stop. Kelly was the driver of the vehicle, Ignont a passenger.

Tuesday, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported, Ignont “received a pass disposition and will have his charge dismissed with court costs assessed.” Kelly, selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the 2018 NFL draft, pleaded guilty in the same court appearance.

Both Ignont and Kelly were suspended for the Kentucky game as a result of the incident, but returned the following week.

Ignont was a four-star member of the Vols’ 2017 recruiting class, rated as the No. 16 inside linebacker in the country. He played in six games as a true freshman and was credited with six tackles, one of which went for a loss.

Georgia third string QB Stetson Bennett considering transfer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Georgia lost quarterback Jacob Eason to a transfer, but gained a younger, more highly-regarded signal caller in Justin Fields with the 2018 recruiting class. With Fields on the roster and Jake Fromm not going anywhere, another Bulldog quarterback is considering leaving as well.

Stetson Bennett IV — who, outside of the current U.S. Attorney General, sports the best Southern name in circulation — has told Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart he might rather leave than spend his career as the No. 3 man in Athens.

“He’s looking at some different options,” Smart told the Macon Telegraph. “Stetson has done a tremendous job for us. We’re really excited what he has done for us. We’re exhausting every option to try to keep Stetson with us. We think he’s a very talented young man. I’ve spoke on behalf of that multiple times. We hope we keep him here. He has not made that decision yet.”

Listed at an even 6-foot-nothing and 172 pounds, Bennett was a successful quarterback at Pierce County High School and listed as a 2-star recruit before choosing to walk-on at Georgia rather than take scholarship offers from Group of 5 and FCS programs. Bennett redshirted as a freshman in 2017, sharing Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year honors with three other players.

Should Bennett transfer, his stature and walk-on status would draw easy comparisons to Baker Mayfield, which is ironic considering Bennett was tasked with mimicking the 2017 Heisman winner ahead of Georgia’s Rose Bowl win over Oklahoma.

Both of Bennett’s parents are Georgia graduates, so leaving would be a tough decision for the redshirt freshman.

“We need to keep Stetson there and help us,” Smart told the Telegraph. “We don’t really have many other guys to be honest. We have two young quarterbacks who will be walk-ons, who we think are good players. But we’ve invested a lot in Stetson with the development he took this spring, and with what he did in bowl practices. I’m excited to see what he can do. We’re encouraging him to stay so he gets that opportunity. I certainly respect what he has done this far for the University of Georgia and he’s a really good student as well. We’re selling him on the University of Georgia education.”

Tulane extends Willie Fritz through 2023

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Major news on the Kansas football front came down the pike Tuesday when Tulane announced it has extended head coach Willie Fritz through 2023.

Wait, what? Let’s back up a bit.

Kansas fired AD Sheahon Zenger on Monday, citing that a “change in leadership is necessary” because “progress in key areas has been elusive.” While Kansas chancellor Douglas Girod did not come out and say this move was related to football, he did feel the need to mention head coach David Beaty in his release announcing Zenger’s firing. “In addition, earlier today I spoke with Coach Beaty and shared my expectation that he will continue recruiting hard and getting his team ready for the season,” Girod said.

It doesn’t take Leonardo DiCaprio to read Girod’s thoughts here. Beaty is 3-33 in three seasons as KU’s head coach, including a 1-26 mark in Big 12 play. Coaches that average a win a year don’t typically last until Year 5. Just last year, Nebraska cleared out its AD so the new AD could fire the existing football coach and hire a new one, and it appears Kansas is headed down the same path later this year.

With Beaty apparently on his way out, I tweeted on Monday where Kansas should direct its incoming search.

Fritz-to-Kansas makes sense on a number of levels. Fritz is a proven program builder, a more-with-less guy that won at Blinn Junior College, Central Missouri, Sam Houston State, Georgia Southern and, now, Tulane. Overall, Fritz is 202-89-1 with two junior college national titles and conference championships in three separate leagues — all at places that have no business posting a collective .693 winning percentage. Simply put, Kansas is the rebuild job of the century, and there is not a more proven general contractor than Fritz.

And even better for Kansas, Fritz seems likely to take the job. He’s a Sunflower State native and at an age — 58 — where he’d likely take any Power 5 job offer that came his way, lest it be the last one.

All that said, it did not seem a coincidence that Tulane announced an extension for Fritz on Tuesday, who is 9-15 in two seasons with the Green Wave.

“I couldn’t be more excited with the direction in which our football program is headed,” Fritz said in a statement. “It is an absolute joy to coach at this institution. We have total buy-in from everyone on our staff to our administration, and I know we have a bright future.”

With Tulane being a private school, financial terms were not disclosed, but the key number will be the buyout.

Of course, Fritz could also pass on a potential Kansas offer. Or he may not get an offer. Or the job may not open at all. But even the prospect of an offer has already turned into a win for him.