Once again, the biggest track in NASCAR is embracing the state’s love of college football, although this time with an individual outside of its boundaries.
According to Patrick Magee of the Sun Herald, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze will serve as the driver of the pace car for the May 3 race at Talladega Superspeedway. To say that Freeze, who is good friends with NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick, is excited about the opportunity to lead the 43 stock cars to the green flag at 120 mph would be an understatement.
“I am so jacked about that,” Freeze said according to Magee. “You have no idea, man. I love golf, fishing and NASCAR outside of my job and my family. That’s the three things I spend time doing.”
Freeze will be somewhat returning the favor to one driver in the field as Magee writes that “Stenhouse spoke to the Ole Miss football team prior to the 31-17 victory over Mississippi State on Nov. 29 in Oxford and helped Freeze lead the team onto the field.” The photo in the upper right of the post shows Stenhouse, left in the white jacket, running alongside Freeze in leading the Rebels out prior to the Egg Bowl.
Freeze’s appearance in a couple of months continues a Talladega tradition that’s grown over the years.
In 2014, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn served in the same capacity as his SEC West counterpart will this year. During the 2013 May race, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron served as the pace-car driver as well. In 2012, Alabama legend Bear Bryant rode shotgun at the spring race.
And, while I’m here and given the subject matter, I’ll remind you that you can keep abreast of all of the latest racing news at both NASCARTalk and MotorSportsTalk. One other reminder? NASCAR will return to NBC Sports with the telecast of the race at the famed Daytona International Speedway Fourth of July weekend.
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The same FCS program has double-dipped in the NCAA transfer portal, FBS division, in bulking up the talent on its football roster.
Monday afternoon, Albany announced via social media that running back Alex James and fullback Max Anthony have officially signed with the program. James, a redshirt junior, comes to Albany from Coastal Carolina, Anthony, a fifth-year senior, from Rutgers.
As both players come to the Great Danes from the FBS ranks, they will each be eligible to play immediately in 2019.
The past two seasons for the Chanticleers, James has rushed for 475 yards and seven touchdowns on 114 carries. He also caught 16 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.
Anthony had started six of the 27 games in which he played for the Scarlet Knights.
A sweeping college hoops scandal that’s engulfed the sport has now touched its gridiron counterpart.
Marty Blazer, a Pittsburgh financial advisor-turned government informant after pleading guilty to securities fraud charges, took the witness stand Tuesday in the college basketball fraud trial and levied some potentially explosive allegations. As part of his testimony, Blazer alleged that, between 2000-14, he paid football players from, among others, Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Pitt. The payments, some of which were in the thousands of dollars, were aimed at convincing the player to remain in college and not enter the NFL draft in the hopes that they would retain him as their financial adviser when they did turn pro.
The names of specific players were, for the most part, not mentioned by Blazer.
The most damning of the accusations made by Blazer seems to involve Penn State during the Joe Paterno era. Specifically, Blazer alleges that he paid the father of then-Penn State player Aaron Maybin $10,000, with the payment being made at the behest of an unnamed Paterno assistant coach.
If accurate, the NCAA would consider such an arrangement a major infraction. It’s unclear what, if any, action The Association will take on the football side of the accusations made under oath.
Requests for comment from each of the football programs mentioned in Blazer’s testimony have not yet been met with a response.
You can go ahead and add Kentucky to the burgeoning list of FBS schools that have lost signal-callers to the infamous portal.
On his personal Twitter account Tuesday morning, Kentucky’s Gunnar Hoak wrote that, “[a]fter much thought and consideration, I have decided to put my name in the NCAA transfer portal.” As Hoak is set to graduate from UK very early next month, the quarterback would be eligible to play immediately at another FBS program immediately in 2019.
As an added bonus for whichever school he ultimately chooses, Hoak has two seasons of eligibility available.
After losing out in the quarterback competition that ended in summer camp, Hoak spent the 2018 season as starter Terry Wilson‘s primary backup. In that role, Hoak completed 13 of his 26 passes for 167 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Coming out of high school in Dublin, Ohio, Hoak was a three-star 2016 signee.
Jonathan Taylor is on track to be one of the most prolific running backs in college football history, but, this spring, he’ll be giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “on track.”
Wisconsin confirmed Tuesday that the Badgers running back will run in at least three meets with the UW track & field team this spring. Taylor will make his collegiate track debut this weekend at the Penn Relays. Additionally, he’ll run in the university’s Alumni Classic May 3 and the Big Ten Championships May 10-12.
Taylor will be running a leg of the 4×100-meter relay team, and would run in the NCAA prelims as well if they qualify.
Taylor, one of a handful of preseason Heisman Trophy favorites, is no stranger to the track as he won a pair of New Jersey state high school titles in the 100-meter dash.
As a true freshman in 2017, his 1,977 yards were third nationally. This past season, he led the country in rushing with 2,194 yards. If Taylor were to rush for at least 2,235 yards in 2018 — five players in FBS history have surpassed that total in college football history, most recently San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny in 2017 — he would break Donnel Pumphrey‘s all-time record of 6,405 career rushing yards.