Tulane suspends five players ahead of opener

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When Tulane takes the field against Jackson State next week, it’ll do so after taking a significant shot to its depth chart.

Head coach Curtis Johnson announced Saturday that four players — sophomore cornerback Jordan Batiste, senior linebacker Zach Davis, sophomore offensive tackle Todd Jacquet and junior walk-on offensive lineman Preston Paine  — have been suspended for the entire opener. Additionally, sophomore defensive end Royce LaFrance has been suspended for the first half.

Johnson would only say that “team policy, this and that” led to the punitive measures.

Batiste  started 10 games as a true freshman last season, while Jacquet (as a tight end) started three and LaFrance two.  Davis played in all 12 games as a backup linebacker.

Show me the money: Pac-12 seeking $750 million investment after bid book surfaces

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The Pac-12 hasn’t hired Jerry Maguire but they certainly are channelling their inner Rod Tidwell by asking others to show them the money.

Like, a lot of it.

According to an official investment bid book obtained by Sports Business Journal, the conference is seeking a whopping $750 million from investors as they go full steam ahead on a unique equity sale for the league’s media rights and TV networks. News of the plan first surfaced back in late December courtesy of the Oregonian but a skeptical $500 million figure was thrown around.

The Pac-12 appears to be nearly doubling down instead, seeking three-quarters of a billion in exchange for a stake in a new holding company controlling Pac-12 Networks and the conference’s other media rights.

“I would say that we’re, after today, just beyond exploring. We’re actively moving forward reviewing serious offers for this opportunity. And we heard from Joe Ravitch, co-founder of the Raine Group, today about the work they’ve done in recent weeks to find us potential partners,” Colorado chancellor Philip DiStefano said at the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament last week, confirming the process. “He told us that there’s significant interest for multiple parties. And we see this as a good sign in the process. And in the next month or two, Joe will be asking for more detailed, formal offers from these various groups. And when and if we reach a deal, as Larry pointed out, this would benefit the conference in a couple of ways.”

Needless to say, the moves are unprecedented in collegiate athletics and designed to help close the revenue gap a bit between the Pac-12 and their peers in the SEC and Big Ten. We’ll see what ultimately becomes of this plan but it’s not often one can own an actual slice of an athletic conference, much less a Power Five one.

Appalachian State suspends several players after video surfaces of fight over the weekend

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Head coaches are always worried about headlines this time of year because outside of those handful of ones about spring practice, chances are high that if somebody is writing about the program it’s because somebody did something wrong. Thanks to an assist from Reddit of all places though, that’s exactly what new Appalachian State head coach Eli Drinkwitz is dealing with.

As detailed by the Winston-Salem Journal, a video surfaced on the social media site in the AppState sub-reddit that apparently shows several football players involved in a fight at a house party. As one could guess from a thread labeled ‘St. Patrick’s day football team scuffle,’ this poses a bit of a discipline issue for the program and several players have been suspended this week as a result.

“We are aware of an incident involving our student-athletes,” a statement provided by the school read. “We are proactively handling matters, with some student-athletes being suspended from team activities pending further investigation of facts and details.”

The university is still trying to sort out what happened and the exact level of involvement from all the players but has gone ahead and suspended those involved from the Mountaineers football team. While the names of those suspended were not released by the school, they did confirm only that it was fewer than five players who will be away from the program until a final punishment is decided.

This probably isn’t the way that Drinkwitz imagined his first spring practice going with the Mountaineers but such is life for one of the Sun Belt’s top teams.

Three former Pac-12 refs blast Larry Scott in private letter over Woodie Dixon scandal

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Eventually, the Bad News Train tearing a hole up and down the West Coast will eventually come to a stop. Until that day arrives, though, that train just keeps on truckin’.

The latest incident arrives from the San Jose Mercury-News, where Jon Wilner — the Woodward to The Oregonian‘s Bernstein, with embattled commissioner Larry Scott serving as Richard Nixon in this metaphor — has the published a letter written by three former Pac-12 officials blasting the commissioner over his handling of the Pac-12’s officiating scandal.

As you’ll recall, last fall it was revealed that Pac-12 general counsel Woodie Dixon remotely intervened to incorrectly overturn a targeting call in favor of USC during the Trojans’ 3-point win over Washington State in late September. Scott said the incident was an isolated one and then triggered a comprehensive review of the league’s officiating process, but three refs have stepped forward to rebuke Scott, saying he’s looking at the wrong people.

The trio — Chuck CzubinFred Gallagher and Mack Gilchrist — have more than a century as Pac-12 refs between them, and in December they sent a letter to Scott and Pac-12 vice president of officiating David Coleman. They then sent the email to Wilner last month and to Pac-12 ADs Ray Anderson (Arizona State), Rob Mullens (Oregon), Scott Barnes (Oregon State), and Rick George (Colorado) three days after they sent it to Wilner; Wilner published it today. On the Dixon incident, the group writes:

Mr. Scott, you know from personal experience this is not the first time he has overstepped his bounds…. Woodie singlehandedly caused the exit of the former Supervisor of Officials, and it is well known that several years ago he wanted to fire the gentleman who is now your Replay Supervisor. After the latest incident there is no question the Conference was far more interested in covering this up and finding the source of the info, rather than dealing with Woodie. You did so by removing a very valuable training tool for IR (instant replay). In your blind and bumbled approach you hid our reports and grades. This info had previously been transparent, which allowed IR to confer within itself…. Instead of dropping the hammer on Woodie you dropped it on IR. 

The Pac-12 declined to comment on the letter, but Scott himself responded to Czubin, Gallagher and Gilchrist on March 5. “[W]e are always seeking new ways to improve our program, and have recently made the decision to hire an outside expert to initiate a review of our football officiating program. The review will include assessments of many of the areas you highlight in your letter, and will definitely take into account feedback from officials,” he wrote. The conference announced it had hired Sibson Consulting to examine its refereeing program on Feb. 23.

If further reporting details that Dixon has intervened on more games than just last year’s Wazzu-USC game and Scott was aware of it, it would call into question the integrity of Pac-12 football itself under Scott’s watch, and the commissioner’s tenure may then follow the footsteps of Nixon’s all the way out the door.

Injured former Southern WR Devon Gales lands job as Georgia HS coach

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Devon Gales is back in football. The Southern wide receiver, who was paralyzed during a 2015 game at Georgia, will join the staff as an assistant coach at Jefferson High School in Georgia, according WDUN-AM.

Gales has remained in Georgia since the injury, transferring from an Athens hospital to an Atlanta rehabilitation facility soon after the collision that left him unable to move his extremities. He was released from the hospital five months later, and Georgia fans helped fund a handicapped-accessible home for him and his family in Jefferson, Ga., a town 20 miles north of Athens, where the family has lived since July.

Gales spoke to the Jefferson High School senior class, which led Jefferson superintendent Dr. John Jackson to invite Gales to join the staff.

“It was brought to our attention upon meeting this wonderful family that Devon missed the game and practices and being part of a football team in the game he still loved so much,” Jefferson coach Gene Cathcart told WDUN. “Dr. John Jackson had the idea of getting him involved in our program in some way and how our young men would benefit from his living example, character, strength in facing adversity and perseverance.”