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SEC approves Alabama transfer Maurice Smith’s move on to Georgia

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Well would you look at that, adults acting like adults when it comes to what’s best for a graduated student-athlete.

The saga of Maurice Smith had grown more heated and contentious in recent days, with the Alabama defensive back wanting to transfer to Georgia but head coach Nick Saban steadfastly refusing to grant a release to another SEC program.  Wednesday, UA blinked and granted Smith a full release, including permission to move on to another team in the SEC.

However, the SEC still had to sign off on the move.  Friday, the conference did just that, announcing in a press release that Smith (take a deep breath) “has received a conditional waiver to Southeastern Conference rules that will permit Smith to transfer to the University of Georgia to pursue a graduate degree while having the option to complete his final year of athletic eligibility in either 2016 or 2017, with provisions dependent on the achievement of Smith’s stated academic objectives should he play in 2016.”

The conditional waiver comes with a couple of catches.

First, if Smith plays in 2016 and does not complete nine hours of coursework, he would be ineligible to play in the postseason, which would include the SEC championship game, a bowl game or the College Football Playoffs.  Secondly, if Smith does not earn his Master’s degree before the start of the 2018-19 academic year, UGA would be barred from seeking any other similar waiver until Smith either graduates or the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year, whichever comes first.

The SEC actually waived two of its bylaws in granting the waiver, one that requires a transfer to have two years of eligibility remaining — Smith has one, plus a redshirt available if necessary — and one that states intra-conference transfers must sit out a season of competition.

In a statement, commissioner Greg Sankey indicated Smith’s academic prowess at UA played a role in his decision to grant the waiver.  Here’s to guessing that the heat Saban and the Tide had taken played a role as well.

“The standard for granting waivers has been clear and compelling evidence that there is reason for allowing an exception to SEC rules,” Sankey said. “I found, among other contributing factors, that a student-athlete who graduates in three years and exhibits a strong commitment to his or her academic future provides compelling motivation to help them achieve their goals on and off the field.

“An institution has an obligation to provide opportunities for graduate student-athletes to earn a graduate degree. Similarly, student-athletes have accountability to the universities that are providing the educational opportunities they enjoy. Maurice has clearly and passionately stated his desire for a graduate degree in Public Health. The conditions of the waiver allow him to achieve that goal and provide the institution with greater incentive to make his educational interests a priority.”

Unless they win their respective divisions, Smith’s old and new teams will not meet on the field in 2016.

In the release, Sankey also indicated that, because the way the rule is currently constructed places “our coaches and administrators in untenable situations,” it is time to for the conference to address the graduate transfer rule.

After throwing and landing punches on Mizzou player, Alabama DL Raekwon Davis will lose playing time

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An on-field incident in Week 7 will cost Raekwon Davis on the field in the future.  Just when and how much remains to be seen.

During Alabama’s romp over Missouri this past weekend, the defensive lineman was caught by the all-seeing television broadcast eye punching (x3) Mizzou offensive lineman Kevin Pendleton.  Not only did the cameras catch him, but so did the officiating crew, who flagged Davis for unsportsmanlike conduct.

While Davis very publicly apologized to Pendelton, and the human punching bag very graciously accepted…

… there will be, after Nick Saban spoke with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey about the incident, playing-time repercussions for the lineman.

“We will have him do some things and I think it should affect his playing time in the future,” the head coach said.

Again, just what effect specifically the incident will have on Davis on the field is unclear.

Davis is currently sixth on the Crimson Tide with 27 tackles while his three tackles for loss are tied for sixth.  Alabama will face rival Tennessee, coming off a huge upset of then-No. 21 Auburn this past weekend, in Knoxville this coming Saturday.

Report: Bryan Harsin, Boise State closing in on contract amendment

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Bryan Harsin and Boise State are closing in on a contract amendment to keep the coach in Broncos colors moving forward, according to a report from the Idaho Statesman.

The amendment has already been agreed upon by both sides and now just needs approval by the Idaho State Board of Education, which should come Thursday.

The new deal isn’t necessarily an extension, it just adds on terms to his existing one — which runs through the next five years and automatically extends by one year each time the Broncos win eight games. And it isn’t a raise, either. His salary is set to remain at $1.65 million this season and $1.75 million next.

But it does add a bunch of new clauses.

First of all, it would add a buyout on Harsin’s end for the first time in his five seasons as Boise State’s head coach. Should the coach leave for another school between now and Jan. 10, he would owe $300,000 to Boise State. The figure drops $50,000 each year thereafter.

Additionally, the amendment includes a slew of new incentives, including $10,000 for beating BYU and an extra five grand for doing so in Provo. Boise State hosts BYU on Nov. 3.

The amendment also allows Harsin to double-dip on his bonuses. For example, he could receive $75,000 for winning a Mountain West championship and $35,000 for taking Boise State to a bowl game. Under his existing contract, Harsin could only take the conference title bonus. On top of that, Harsin will also receive a $25,000 for winning six conference games, which then doubles to $50,000 for seven MW wins and $100,000 for eight.

Finally, the amendment changes the language on Harsin’s pool for his 10 assistant coaches. Previously, Harsin could allot up to $2.2 million for his 10 assistants; now the school must provide at least that amount.

Harsin is 46-14 as Boise State’s head coach (27-8 in MW play) with two conference championships, including a 4-2 overall mark this year

 

SEC will not levee punishments for Florida, Vanderbilt brouhaha

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The game between No. 11 Florida and Vanderbilt was exciting enough on its own. The Commodores jumped to a 21-3 lead but couldn’t hold it, and the Gators rallied for a 37-27 win, their 14th consecutive in Nashville. But the action when the clock was running was not the most entertaining thing to happen at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday. Not even close.

After Florida’s James Houston IV laid a de-cleating block — for which he was flagged for targeting and ejected from the game — upon Vanderbilt’s Dare Odeyingbo, who remained on the turf long after the hit. That drew Vandy head coach Derek Mason and defensive line coach C.J. Ah You to check on their player. While at midfield, someone from the Florida sideline said something to Mason, Mason said something back, and all of a sudden grown men were being restrained by other grown men.

Asked by ESPN’s Tom Luginbill at halftime what was said, Florida head coach Dan Mullen said the conversation would have to be referred to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and coordinator of football officials Steve Shaw.

But by the time the game ended, Mason and Mullen had calmed down, and the two head coaches exchanged a warm, lengthy embrace at midfield.

That hug-it-out mentality extended to their respective post-game press conferences.

“Derek’s a great, really close friend of mine,” Mullen said. “And I think, our sideline, we’ve got to make sure we’re cleaner in that situation and he probably thinks the same thing.”

On Monday, SEC spokesman Herb Vincent told The Tennessean that no punishment would be handed down to either side for the altercation, citing the cooler heads each side displayed after the game.

“Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were appropriately administered on the field by the officials,” Vincent told the paper. “Any discussion about decorum among the coaches will be handled privately between the conference office and the participating institutions. Both coaches appeared to put this issue behind them in their post-game midfield meeting and post-game comments.”

UConn releases update on hospitalized LB Eli Thomas

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On Wednesday, Connecticut linebacker Eli Thomas was rushed to a hospital before a team-wide weightlifting session. The school did not say why Thomas was hospitalized, only that he was in stable condition. UConn said in a release that it “will not share additional details at this time.”

Now, five days later, the school has revealed that Thomas suffered a stroke and that he is “making good progress” toward recovery.

“Thank you all for your love and well wishes for Eli,” Mary Beth Turner, Thomas’s mother, said. “TO say we are stunned by this turn of events is an understatement! A strong, healthy, 22-year-old man having a stroke is not anything we anticipated. However, Eli will fight back as he has with every challenge that has come his way with ‘Eli Style.'”

Turner’s statement begs the question why this healthy 22-year-old suffered a stroke. That detail was not revealed Monday, perhaps because it is not known at this time.

“Every day, you just never know what can happen,” UConn coach Randy Edsall. “Things like this are just very unfortunate. It’s one of those things where [you take it] one day at a time and do the very best you can every day because you just never know what can happen.”

A redshirt junior from Elmira, N.Y., Thomas first played at Lackawanna Community College in Scranton, Pa., before arriving at UConn in 2017. He sat out last season while rehabbing an ACL injury and collected 11 tackles, one TFL and one sack in four games as a linebacker and defensive end this season. He injured his neck in a Sept. 22 loss to Syracuse and missed the Huskies’ losses to Cincinnati and Memphis.

Thomas figures to miss UConn’s trip to No. 21 South Florida on Saturday as well.