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In statement, Auburn labels report of academic impropriety ‘false… not supported by facts’

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Not surprisingly, and at least initially, Auburn is firing back at a damning report.

Wednesday, ESPN‘s Outside the Lines reported that a part-time academic support staff member took an online final exam for at least one football player from the 2015 Tigers football team. Neither the football player/players involved nor the academic support staffer have been identified.

As a result of the allegations, a law firm was hired by the university to investigate the alleged misconduct.

In an initial statement, AU labeled the accusations as “simply not true.” In a more extensive statement released later, the university doubled-down by labeling the report “false.” The qualifier “based on our review to date” was part of the release, it should be noted.

The statement further notes that the football player allegedly involved was a former AU football player who came back to school to finish his degree.  That player has denied the allegations.

Below is the school’s full statement, in its entirety:

The player for which we are conducting an investigation is not a member of the current team and was not a member of the team at the time of the allegation. He is a former player who came back to school to complete his degree. As you know from our statement he categorically denies the claim.

The allegation made in the ESPN story is false based on our review to date. The person making the accusation was a part-time employee placed on administrative leave in late August. She is making claims not supported by facts, and based on what ESPN told us this morning, before the story came out, she keeps changing her story. Neither she, her attorney, nor our investigation have produced anything to support her claims. Neither has ESPN.

It should also be noted that the accuser has signed thirty-eight bi-monthly time sheets during her part-time employment stating that she has no knowledge or has not witnessed or assisted a student-athlete in participating in academic dishonesty. She has also signed compliance forms indicating no knowledge of wrongdoing.

We have no reason to think the allegation about the former student is true.

Baylor fires back at former AD Ian McCaw after lobbing allegations in deposition

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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.

After inheriting only 38 scholarship players, David Beaty hopeful Kansas is up to 70 in 2018

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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.”

No kidding.

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.

Arkansas State’s Justice Hansen, Appalachian State’s Clifton Duck named Sun Belt preseason players of the year

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The SEC isn’t the only league in the South to release their preseason all-conference team on Friday as the Sun Belt named Arkansas State QB Justice Hansen and Appalachian State defensive back Clifton Duck as the preseason offensive and defensive players of the year for 2018.

Hansen is looking to repeat as Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year after winning the award at the end of last season after throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and accounting for 44 touchdowns with the Red Wolves. Duck had six interceptions last year to help pace the Mountaineers’ defense and is tied with fellow first-team selection Blace Brown (who plays at Troy) for the most in the nation the past two seasons with 11.

All told though, the Neal Brown’s Trojans had the most selections across the two All-Sun Belt preseason teams with 11 players earning a nod.

The full 2018 Preseason All-Sun Belt team is below:

First Team Offense

QB – Justice Hansen

RB – Jalin Moore (Appalachian State), Warren Wand (Arkansas State)

WR – Justin McInnis (Arkansas State), Penny Hart (Georgia State), Marcus Green (ULM)

TE – Collin Reed (Appalachian State)

OL – Victor Johnson (Appalachian State), Lanard Bonner (Arkansas State), Kevin Dotson (Louisiana), Tristan Crowder (Troy), Deontae Crumitie (Troy) 

First Team Defense

DL – Ronheen Bingham (Arkansas State), Logan Hunt (Georgia Southern), Hunter Reese (Troy), Trevon Sanders (Troy)

LB – Anthony Flory (Appalachian State), Michael Shaw (Georgia State), Tron Folsom (Troy)

DB – Clifton Duck, Justin Clifton (Arkansas State), Monquavion Brinson (Georgia Southern), Blace Brown

First Team Special Teams

K – Gavin Patterson (South Alabama)

P – Corliss Waitman (South Alabama)

RS – Marcus Green (ULM)

Second Team Offense

QB – Caleb Evans (ULM)

RB – Wesley Fields (Georgia Southern), Trey Ragas (Louisiana)

WR – RJ Turner (ULM), Jamarius Way (South Alabama), Deondre Douglas (Troy)

TE – Ellis Richardson (Georgia Southern)

OL – Jacob Still (Arkansas State), Curtis Rainey (Georgia Southern), Hunter Atkinson (Georgia State), Shamarious Gilmore (Georgia State), Aaron Brewer (Texas State)

Second Team Defense

DL – Myquon Stout (Appalachian State), Marterious Allen (Georgia State), Tyree Turner (South Alabama), Marcus Webb (Troy)

LB – Silas Kelly (Coastal Carolina), Bull Barge (South Alabama), Bryan London II (Texas State)

DB – Tae Hayes (Appalachian State), BJ Edmonds (Arkansas State), Marcus Jones (Troy), Cedarius Rookard (Troy)

Second Team Special Teams

K – Tyler Bass (Georgia Southern)

P – Cody Grace (Arkansas State)

RS – Marcus Jones (Troy)

Hotels, recruiting trips and meals among the things on the chopping block at New Mexico due to budget cuts

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Operating a Division I athletics program can be tough but few face the inherent hurdles of running a department quite like the two FBS schools in the state of New Mexico. For years the Aggies of New Mexico State have had one of the smallest budgets in the country and their rivals at New Mexico are not immune to the same challenges either. Case in point came this week as the Lobos moved to cut four sports on Thursday by a unanimous vote from the UNM Board of Regents.

While football was not on the chopping block for the school (it’s a required sport to remain in the Mountain West), the program itself is not immune to penny-pinching the department is facing in the near term. According to the Albuquerque Journal, this includes no longer staying at a hotel the nights before home games, a reduction in the recruiting budget for trips and a potential reduction in the number of meals the school provides to players.

“We are talking about football internally,” athletic director Eddie Nuñez said. “Football, as well as every other sport, is going to be held to the same accountability when it comes to managing their budgets.”

According to recent records, the football team spent a reported $8.3 million during the most recent fiscal year and failed to turn a profit. The Lobos will soon be reducing the total number of players on the team from 116 to 113 (there will remain 85 scholarships available) for both budgetary and Title IX reasons as well. While it was certainly not intended, the program did see some additional cost savings earlier this year when they suspended head coach Bob Davie without pay for 30 days.

Still, times are tough in the state and nobody knows that better than the athletic departments who are facing a money-crunch and trying to do what they can to dig themselves out of it.