Ohio State strips itself of five scholarships; facing failure to monitor charge

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After appearing in front of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions to answer allegations concerning players receiving impermissible benefits and Jim Tressel‘s cover-up, Ohio State uncovered further violations involving a booster paying players cash at a charity event as well as overpaying them for a job he provided.

The school announced Thursday that their joint investigation with the NCAA into the latest violations is complete and they have issued their response to a supplemental Notice of Allegations from the NCAA.  That supplemental notice contains two allegations not covered in the original NOA:

The first was related to the “extra benefits” violations discovered through a joint investigation with the NCAA and publicly announced by the university Sept. 1 and Oct. 3 involving Robert DiGeronimo, who at the time was a representative of the institution’s athletics interests (also known as a “booster”).  In February 2011, he arranged for cash payments of $200 each to four current or former student-athletes at an annual charity event for a nonprofit organization of which DiGeronimo was a board member. Additionally, the student-athletes attended the event without written approval from the athletics director or his designee. Further, DiGeronimo arranged for five student-athletes to be overcompensated by a total of $1,605 while they were employed by businesses owned and operated by the DiGeronimo family.

The second allegation asserts that the institution took insufficient action to monitor DiGeronimo, resulting in a “failure to monitor” allegation, primarily due to DiGeronimo’s overpayment to student-athlete employees and cash payments at the Cornerstone of Hope charitable event. This allegation only concerns a booster and does not relate to any of the issues discussed at the Aug. 12 Committee on Infractions hearing.

The “failure to monitor” charge is one step below the dreaded “lack of institutional control”, but serious in its own right and could lead to stiff sanctions for the football program.  One month ago, OSU president E. Gordon Gee remarked that the situation at the school does not represent “a systematic failure of compliance” and that they are “the poster child for compliance.”

Athletic director Gene Smith expressed deep regret that he didn’t “ensure the degree of monitoring our institution deserves and demands.”

“Over the past three months, our athletics department staff has continued to work cooperatively with the NCAA to conclude our inquiry into the remaining items related to our football program,” Smith said in a statement. “Throughout the entire process since we discovered possible infractions, the athletics department has consistently worked with the NCAA to investigate any allegation, take responsibility, self-report its findings to the NCAA in a transparent manner, and take necessary remediation steps. That is what we have done on this last open issue, and we accept that we should have done more to oversee Mr. DiGeronimo’s activities.

“We look forward to working with the staff and the Committee on Infractions to reach a timely resolution of the case. On a personal note, I deeply regret that I did not ensure the degree of monitoring our institution deserves and demands.”

As a result of these latest allegations, the Buckeyes have self-imposed a reduction in scholarships by a total of five over the next three years, commencing in 2012.  The NCAA can either agree with those sanctions or add to them.

OSU said in its release it “is hopeful that the Committee on Infractions will review these materials and render its final decision in the near future.”  The original timeline for a response from the NCAA was anywhere from 8-12 weeks from the mid-August hearing.  Obviously, the latest investigation pushed back that time frame.

Lack of class credits behind eligibility issue as Quintez Cephus returns to football practice at Wisconsin

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Now we officially know the rest of the story. How it will ultimately all play out, though, is decidedly uncertain.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced Monday that Quintez Cephus had been reinstated and is again a student in good standing at the school, two weeks after being found not guilty on a pair of sexual assault charges and almost immediately seeking reinstatement.  Initially, there was some uncertainty when it came to the wide receiver’s status with the football team; in a statement released a few hours after the reinstatement affirmation, UW confirmed that Cephus had indeed rejoined the Badgers team.

The school did note in that release, though, that they “are working through eligibility issues before he can participate in a game.” Wednesday, the same day Cephus returned to practice with the rest of his Badger teammates, Paul Chryst expounded on the eligibility issue, telling reporters that it revolves around the lack of class credits, which stemmed from his expulsion from the school before the spring semester this year ended.

At this point, whether the credit issue can be successfully navigated before the Badgers’ open the 2019 season the weekend after next remains to be seen.

Two days after very loudly proclaiming his innocence and announcing he was taking a leave of absence from the Wisconsin football team, Cephus was charged in late August of last year with felony sexual assault of an intoxicated victim and felony sexual assault.  The criminal complaint filed against him stated that he allegedly “sexually assaulted two drunken women at once in the bedroom of his apartment in April” of 2018.

It took a jury of his peers less than 45 minutes to acquit him on both of those counts earlier this month.

Cephus was initially suspended by the Badgers football program before being expelled by the university last semester.  In October of last year, Cephus sued the University of Wisconsin-Madison in U.S. District Court, claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights.  That suit was dropped in March of this year.

In 2017, and despite missing the last five games because of a broken leg, Cephus led the run-centric Badgers in receiving touchdowns with six and yards per catch at 16.7.  His 501 receiving yards were good for second, while his 30 receptions were third on the team.  Because of the off-field situation that led to the suspension, Cephus didn’t play at all in 2018.

Including this season, Cephus has two years of eligibility he can use.

RB who transferred from UTEP to Georgia Southern this offseason reverses course, returns to Miners

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Who says you can’t go home again, even in the same offseason?

Joshua Fields left UTEP earlier this offseason and, in June of this year, enrolled in classes at Georgia Southern as he was set to continue his collegiate playing career with the Eagles. It was also reported that the running back would seek a waiver from the NCAA that would grant him immediate eligibility at the Sun Belt Conference school.

Fast-forward two months, though, and it’s now being reported that Fields has decided to reverse course and return to the Miners. That development came a couple of days after the Eagles confirmed in a statement that Fields was no longer a part of the program.

Joshua left the team early in camp. We wish him the best of luck moving forward.

According to the El Paso Times, Fields initially left the Miners because of a family member’s health issue, “but those circumstances changed and now he is back with his family in El Paso.” The Times also reports that Fields should be eligible to play for UTEP this season, presumably because he never attended classes at GSU despite enrolling at the university.

Clarification on his status could come as early as Thursday.

In 2017, Fields’ 362 yards rushing (on 89 carries) were tops on the Miners. According to the school at the time, Fields was the first true freshman to lead the team in rushing since 2013.

This past season, however, Fields’ production dipped to 57 yards on 31 attempts, which works out to just 1.8 yards per carry. That yards-per-attempt figure was the lowest among all FBS running backs with at least 30 carries last year.

Braden White named prestigious 12th Man at Texas A&M

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The 12th Man is a big, big deal at Texas A&M. In fact, it’s pretty much the brand of not just the football program, but the entire athletics department. Case in point, A&M’s athletics department website is 12thman.com.

For the uninitiated, in 1922 the Aggies found themselves short of players in a football game against Center College, the No. 1 team in the country at the time, after multiple players sustained injuries over the course of the game. Down to just 11 players, A&M student E. King Gill volunteered to suit up and stand on the sidelines in case the team needed him. Gill now has a statue outside of Kyle Field, and A&M’s student section is collectively referred to as the 12th Man.

As such, it’s a tremendous honor for an active Aggie player to be awarded the No. 12 and, after fullback Cullen Gillaspia donned the jersey for a record-tying 39 games, it’s time to hand it off to a new player.

On Tuesday, Jimbo Fisher awarded the No. 12 jersey to Braden White, a walk-on linebacker from Florence, Ala.

“I’m honored just to be able to represent this great university and everything about it,” White said. “It’s a true blessing.”

White is a redshirt junior who has checked all the boxes of a player who checks all the 12th Man boxes. He was named Defensive Scout Team MVP during his redshirt year of 2016 and was honored as the Top Conditioned Athlete at the Aggies’ 2018 team banquet. He has appeared in 18 career games, recording 16 career tackles playing primarily as a special teams contributor.

White will wear No. 12 for the first time next when Texas A&M — ranked, ironically, No. 12 in the preseason AP poll — hosts Texas State next Thursday night (8:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).

UConn begins building out independent schedules with BC home-and-home

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Until they tell us otherwise, Connecticut is going to try to make it as an FBS independent. This upcoming season will be the Huskies’ final one as a member of the American Athletic Conference, as the Huskies’ Olympic sports will return to the Big East and the football team will go it alone.

This will require lots (and lots and lots) of scheduling work, and quickly. As of now, the Huskies have four games on the schedule for a season that begins 12 months from now.

While it does nothing to help the 2020 slate, UConn began chipping away at the mountain in front of it on Wednesday by announcing a home-and-home with Boston College. The first game will be Oct. 29, 2022 in Storrs, with the return game going down Oct. 28, 2023 in Chestnut Hill.

The two programs have met 14 times previously; BC leads the series 12-0-2. The Eagles took the most recent meeting 39-16 in 2017.

Additionally, BC announced a 2023-28 home-and-home with Army and a Sept. 9, 2023 home game with Holy Cross.