Report: Air Force’s football and athletics culture requires a deeper investigation

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Disturbing findings within the Air Force athletics culture will lead to a more thorough examination of the program, including the football team. An investigative report by The Gazette found Air Force cadet athletes violated the academy’s honor code by committing sexual assaults, drug use, cheating and more. At the same time, an apparent concern over winning football games and raising more money from alumni donors took preference over taking action against the student-athletes. Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson informed The Gazette the Inspector General has been requested to conduct a deeper investigation of the athletic department.

The biggest part of the report centers around a wild party from 2011, which resulted in the probing of 32 cadets. The party reportedly involved to rampant drug use and alleged date rape drinks leading to sexual intercourse. Half of those questioned (16) about the activities at the party were members of the Air Force football team. Three of the 32 questioned cadets would later be court-martialed, sentenced and discharged, including a pair of football players. Two more football players received administrative punishment and were dismissed. Air Force’s athletic director, Hans Mueh, claimed to not know anything about the 2011 investigation conducted by the Office of Special Investigations until after Air Force played in the 2011 Military Bowl in Washington D.C. (a 42-41 loss to Toledo). The football players involved with the questioning in the investigation played in that bowl game.

Another investigation into activities of football players was later labeled a success by OSI. According to the report, OSI special agent Brandon Enos helped lead Operation Gridiron at the United States Air Force Academy, which identified and removed a total of 18 football players from the program as a result of their involvement in various drug-related use and distribution and sexual assaults.

The damage does not end there for Air Force, at least as far as football is concerned. More details from the investigative report suggest Air Force allowed students to enroll at the academy that did not meet the honor code, many coming after 2008 following the hiring of head coach Troy Calhoun. Calhoun is among the highest paid employee at Air Force. Mueh again falls under scrutiny for allowing standards to be lowered in athletics with regard to the honor code.

There is also the connection to Lt. General Mike Gould, who was in his position during the time of much of the reported misconduct at Air Force. According to the report, Gould emailed instructions to someone tied to a raid on Air Force dorms for suspected drug use demanding a short report lacking enough details to avoid an increased concern to the Pentagon. Why is this rather significant?

And now the College Football Playoff has its first scandal in need of addressing. That is important on a smaller scale though, of course. For now, the concern needs to be placed on the Air Force athletics department. This comes at a time when the actions within the nation’s military has fallen under tighter scrutiny in recent years with issues like hazing and sexual assault. All services and academies continue to face their issues and sometimes ripping off the band-aid is what is needed for sweeping changes to be made.

You can read the entire investigative report for more information and details regarding various concerns within the Air Force athletics community.

Gary Pinkel undergoing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for a second time

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Former Missouri and Toledo head coach Gary Pinkel revealed in a TV interview on Sunday night that he is once again undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I’m doing good. I had to get treatment again for the first time in four years. My cancer came out of remission, and so I had treatment last month. I’m doing fine,” Pinkel told KMIZ. “With my type of lymphoma, you’ll never be healed. But that’s kind of why I retired when I did – I just wanted to not go back and regret working 85 hours a week, 35 weeks out of the year when I could be doing other things with my family and my eight grandkids.”

Pinkel was originally diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in May of 2015 and stepped down after that season. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that begins in the lymph nodes and then spreads throughout the body.

“You keep battling it. I’m going to battle it, Pinkel said. “I’ve got a very positive approach to it, and I’m around a lot of good people that are helping me. There’s a lot of people out there with a lot worse cancers than Gary Pinkel has, and so prayers to all of them.”

Since retiring, Pinkel has used his time as a fundraiser for Missouri and also running the GP M.A.D.E. Foundation, which supports children with cancer and also provides mentoring for at-need kids.

Pinkel, 63, was 191-110-3 as a head coach at two schools over 25 seasons.

 

Former Bengals offensive coordinator reportedly joining Florida support staff

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Former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese is joining Florida’s staff as an analyst, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Andy Benoit.

Zampese spent the 2016-17 seasons as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator after serving 13 seasons as Marvin Lewis‘s quarterbacks coach. Cincinnati went 13-18-1 in Zampese’s two seasons running the offense, which is why he spent 2018 as the Cleveland Browns’ quarterbacks coach and the first part of 2019 as the offensive coordinator for the AAF’s Atlanta Legends.

He is the son of former Chargers, Rams, Cowboys and Patriots offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese.

It is not immediately known what the younger Zampese’s role will be with the Gators, but his experience indicates he’ll work with Dan Mullen and coordinators John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales to develop Florida’s offensive plan and help Brian Johnson tutor the quarterbacks, or perhaps use his coordinator experience to self-scout Florida’s offense and scout Florida’s future opponents.

Arizona launched hostile workplace probe following sexual harassment claims against Wildcat football players

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Arizona launched a hostile workplace investigation into its football program following multiple claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment made by multiple female equipment managers against multiple former Wildcat football players, the program confirmed to the Tucson Daily Star.

Lawyers representing the university did not say when the probe took place, but did say it was sparked by two complaints made by female equipment mangers. From the paper:

In 2014, two UA students who worked as equipment managers separately reported incidents involving nonconsensual sex with football players. In August of that year, police were told that a 21-year-old woman working for the athletic department had sex at least twice with three UA football players while the she was heavily intoxicated. One of the players recorded at least one of the encounters and showed it to other students, the report said.

The woman told police that she lost her job after the recording was released, according to the report.

….

While investigating the woman’s claim, UA’s Title IX office approached former manager Jacquelyn Hinek, who had quit her job months before, citing pervasive sexual harassment. After speaking to UA investigators, Hinek told Tucson police that she had been sexually assaulted in April 2013 by several men associated with the football team while at an off-campus party. She said the incident was recorded on a cell phone and later shown to other students. 

“The Office of Institutional Equity conducted a thorough review of the football equipment manager program and there were no findings of sex discrimination as a result of that investigation,” UA spokesman Chris Sigurdson told the paper via email.

The probe was one of three major investigations into the football program.

Arizona is currently being sued for Title IX violations by an alleged victim of former Wildcats running back Orlando Bradford, whom the victim says hit, choked and imprisoned her over a 2-day period in September 2016. Bradford is currently serving a 5-year prison sentence, but the Title IX suit seeks to depose a number of key figures within the football program, including former head coach Rich Rodriguez, who himself was the subject of a hostile workplace investigation in 2017. Allegations of sexual harassment made by his former assistant led to his dismissal last January. Rodriguez has denied any sexual harassment claims, arguing instead they were an extortion attempt against him.

In total, Arizona said it investigated 27 athletes or athletic department employees for sexual harassment, sexual assault or domestic violence from 2012 through ’17 (the period coinciding with Rodriguez’s hiring and firing), eight of them involving the football program.

UConn reportedly looking to keep football program in FBS, not FCS

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All the reporting that came out since the bombshell reports saying Connecticut is looking to leave the American Athletic Conference to rejoin the non-football Big East have confirmed that, yes, this is really happening, likely in time for the 2020-21 athletic year. The reporting has also said that UConn’s soon-to-be-homeless football program will not drop down to FCS, but instead join a different conference or try to make it as an FBS independent.

On Saturday, Stadium’s Brett McMurphy tweeted that UConn has determined it will not return to FCS, where the program competed for most of its history before joining the then-power conference Big East in 2004.

On Sunday morning, NCAA.com’s Andy Katz followed with a note saying it looked like the Huskies will try to make a go of it as an independent, writing that UConn will attempt to schedule neighbors like UMass (a fellow independent), Boston College, Syracuse and Rutgers while honoring existing contracts for home-and-homes with Duke, Illinois, NC State and others.

For a check in with someone who might actually know something, let’s see what Huskies head coach Randy Edsall has to say.

Oh, well.

Either way, it sounds like the train is moving and we could hear something official sooner rather than later.