Given the current climate both politically and sports-wise, this may have come at a good time for everyone.
On September 30, 1967, Nate Northington played for the Kentucky Wildcats in a game against the Ole Miss Rebels at the old Stoll Field in Lexington. It was a historic moment as it marked the first time that an African-American played for one SEC team against another team from the conference.
One week before, against the Indiana Hoosiers, the cornerback broke the SEC color barrier by playing against the Big Ten school.
Northington breaking the SEC vs. SEC color barrier was tinged with sadness, however, as Greg Page, a fellow African-American who signed with UK in 1966 along with Northington, died exactly one day before the Ole Miss game from a neck injury he had sustained during a drill in a late-August practice.
“The seeds of change planted by these men and so many others have blossomed today into hundreds of opportunities in every SEC sport and in the academic programs of our universities,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey in a statement. “Those who endured in the early moments of change serve as reminders of our mutual responsibility to support opportunities for today’s young people, make certain we foster their education and graduation, and bring together our communities through our universities and athletics programs.”
The anniversary of the groundbreaking integration will be commemorated throughout the league in Week 5. From the conference’s release:
The Southeastern Conference will commemorate the event with a one-minute video message that will air during every SEC football game on CBS and all ESPN platforms on Saturday. The video, titled “Together, It Just Means More,” will include a tribute to Northington as well as Vanderbilt’s Perry Wallace. who broke the color-barrier in SEC men’s basketball the same year, plus imagery from all 14 institutions.
It has been a pretty slow offseason in college football overall but one of the bigger stories of the past few months had to come back in May when Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich tweeted (and later deleted) a photo of some recruiting mail from Oregon State aimed at current Rainbow Warriors players. The minor scandal over a Pac-12 school trying to poach a few players so early into Beavers head coach Jonathan Smith‘s tenure was obviously quite the black mark and also had the added layer of several of his new assistants at one time having been coaches at Hawaii.
Now we know exactly what kind of NCAA violations the school committed and spoiler alert, it’s quite minor. Per The Oregonian, the program self-reported a secondary violation as a result of the mailings and were barred by the NCAA from “recruiting the unnamed player in question should he elect to transfer.”
“We initiated a self-report to the NCAA once we learned the inadvertent mistake was made,” Oregon State associate athletic director of communications Steve Fenk said in a statement to the paper. “We admit and understand that what we did was an unintentional violation. The punishment fits. We didn’t try to do anything covert. It was an honest mistake that we took responsibility for.”
No harm no foul all things considered but the whole incident makes that trip to Hawaii for Oregon State in 2019 a lot more interesting now.
It was quite the week for Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke. First he faced the firing squad of media members at SEC Media Days in Atlanta and then he shuffled off to attend the school’s hearing in front of the NCAA Infraction Appeals Committee on Wednesday.
Per the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the Rebels are hoping for a decision on reducing their bowl ban and other restrictions at some point during this season:
(AD Ross) Bjork and football coach Matt Luke both said they expect the Infraction Appeals Committee to release its final decision, which will either confirm or revise the Committee on Infractions’ conclusions, sometime this fall. Bjork said Ole Miss has not been given a more specific timeline. The COI handed down penalties that included a two-year bowl ban, recruiting restrictions, financial penalties and probation for 21 allegations of violations.
But that’s not the only bit of news surrounding violations at the school this week.
Bjork confirmed to the paper that Ole Miss has self-reported a Level III violation to the SEC league office after a group of fans/boosters improperly contacted recruits through social media sometime late last year. The AD termed the behavior as “direct and deliberate,” resulting in the violation of NCAA rules limiting the contact with recruits. While that minor violation is unlikely to have any impact on the appeal, it’s notable because many of the initial major violations the school was hit for last year involved improper contact with boosters.
NCAA appeals in general are rarely successful so there’s still only a slim chance that the Rebels become eligible for a bowl game this year but until everything is exhausted in the process, Luke and the rest of the folks at Ole Miss can still hold out some hope that they might get a little relief come postseason time.
The war of words between Baylor and those who were fired and/or run out of town during the school’s sexual assault scandal is not ending any time soon.
Case in point came Friday as the university responded with a pointed statement directed at former athletic director Ian McCaw (now in the same job at Liberty) after he lobbed several accusations at the board and others in Waco of their handling of the matter. In a deposition for a lawsuit filed by several women against the school, McCaw claimed school officials had essentially “scapegoated” black football players and tried to pin the entire, decades-long scandal at the school on the football program.
Via Waco Tribune reporter Phillip Ericksen, Baylor has fired back after the deposition was made public and responded to most of the allegations by firmly denying them.
The back-and-forth between McCaw and Baylor also comes on the heels of former defensive coordinator Phil Bennett calling the entire university response “a fraud” and specifically noted errors committed by law firm Pepper Hamilton.
Needless to say, with multiple lawsuits still ongoing in various stages, things are still far from over when it comes to dealing with the aftershocks from the scandal that saw McCaw, former head coach Art Briles and many others lose their jobs. While Matt Rhule and the Bears football program may have done their best to move on, it’s pretty clear that we’re still years away from putting the entire matter in the rearview mirror.
If you had to pick the toughest program to win at the Power Five level, you would probably find near universal agreement that Kansas would be the place. Outside of that remarkable Orange Bowl run under Mark Mangino, the school has simply struggled to stay above water just about every season.
Such is the case with their current head coach in David Beaty, who is entering a critical year that could determine his job status for 2019 after going 3-33 at the school. As difficult as things have been on the field for him and his staff though, it’s been compounded by the fact that the Jayhawks have had their hands tied behind their backs as the result of a severe shortage of scholarship players.
As The Athletic detailed this week in a look into the program, Beaty incredibly inherited only 38 scholarship players from Charlie Weis. 38! The scholarship math thanks in part to the buyout-in-chief was even worse than what it looked like on the surface:
In the recruiting classes of 2012 and 2013, Weis and his staff brought in a combined 27 junior college transfers. Only two were academic qualifiers coming out of high school. Fourteen did not graduate, and 10 — including touted signees Marquel Combs, Chris Martin and Kevin Short — never saw the field. And then, by the end of 2014, they were all gone. So was Weis. Going into 2015, only 12 of Weis’ first 56 signees were still on the roster.
Even programs with NCAA sanctions are not in that kind of hole.
“We’ve had to be very creative since we’ve got here. I daresay this just may be the most creative staff in the history of the game,” Beaty said. “I’ve gotta laugh, because if I don’t, I’ll cry.”
Beaty hopes to have KU up to 70 scholarship players this season, still 15 short of the 85 that most of the teams he’ll be playing against. It’s been a struggle even to get to that kind of number which makes it even more likely the Jayhawks will struggle on the field once again in 2018.