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Report: Some Alabama players took (petty) cash for autographs in 2009

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Sports Illustrated has a long-form article out today about a minor league baseball player-turned-autograph fraudster and the criminal case therein. And part of that article dovetails onto the college football page.

As the excerpt explains below, the fraudster, Cliff Panezich, and his associate Adam Bollinger paid Alabama football standouts cornerback Marquis Johnson, defensive tackle Terrence Cody and cornerback Rod Woodson for autographs, while quarterback Greg McElroy, tight end Colin Peek and running back Ali Sharrief signed for free.

Panezich and Bollinger arrived in Tuscaloosa during winter break, when the football team wasn’t practicing, so finding players required improvisation. The first member of the Crimson Tide they say they encountered—and asked to sign, outside of a dorm—was cornerback Marquis Johnson. The two collectors had 40-odd white-paneled footballs, each emblazoned with Alabama’s logo, laid out in the rear bed of their SUV, and “[Johnson] signed a few,” Panezich says. “[He] talked about getting paid to do the rest. . . . We paid him up front and . . . he recruited everybody else to come and sign. He’d go into the dorm, grab a couple guys—$20, $30, $40, depending on who the player was—and they’d all come sign 40 team items.”

Panezich says Johnson was paid roughly $200, but “not everyone took money. [Defensive tackle] Terrence Cody was probably the biggest. He got paid to sign all the team stuff—and then we heard he was interested in making some more money. So he came out and signed a bunch of mini helmets that he inscribed, like 2X ALL-AMERICAN, or 2 BLOCKED FGS AGAINST TENNESSEE, very specific stuff.” Panezich recalls that they paid Cody around $400 total. (SI obtained cellphone video from Panezich that shows Johnson, fellow cornerback Rod Woodson and tight end Colin Peek autographing items; Panezich says that Peek, as well as running back Ali Sharrief and QB Greg McElroy, signed but declined compensation in order to comply with NCAA rules. Cody, through his agent, declined to comment. Says Johnson: “I never got paid. I don’t know [Panezich].” Woodson could not be reached for comment. When asked if the school had knowledge of the signings, an Alabama spokesman said, in part, “As part of our comprehensive compliance and education program, we routinely review all situations of potential concern and address matters such as these with all of our student-athletes.”)

The alleged signings took place in the break between the Crimson Tide’s SEC Championship victory over Florida and its BCS National Championship defeat of Texas.

Considering that the alleged NCAA violations occurred eight years ago, and that Johnny Manziel was suspended for all of one half for taking money for thousands of autographs during his career, the Tide’s 2009 national championship seems safe from here.

Reports indicate Florida State starting RT Josh Ball could be suspended for all of the 2018 season

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Florida State’s offensive line may have been dealt a rather significant blow a couple of months before summer camp kicks off.

In November of last year, reports surfaced that Sandra Sellers, an FSU student who dated Seminoles football player Josh Ball for a year and a half, had accused the offensive lineman of dating violence, including allegations that he physically attacked her on at least three occasions.  Tuesday, Warchant.com reported that, in connection to those allegations, Ball has been suspended from the university after a ruling by the school’s judicial panel.

At this point in time, it’s unclear how long Ball’s suspension will last.  According to a since-deleted social media post made by the alleged victim, however, Ball will miss the entire 2018 season.

From the Tallahassee Democrat:

Sellers posted to her public page on social media that she was happy the matter was concluded and that she will now be able to enjoy football season because she will not see Ball on the field.

“This long journey has finally come to an end!” Sellers wrote in the post that has since been deleted.

“After two long days of testifying and two agonizing weeks of waiting for this letter, it’s finally here. Thank you FSU for making campus a better place. Stand up for yourself and stand strong. God doesn’t put you through obstacles that you can’t learn and grow from.

“Thank you to all my family, friends and amazing boyfriend for having to hear about all these cases over and over again and consistently standing by me in my decision to continue to pursue charges. So cheers to finally being able to close this chapter of my life for good and to being able to enjoy football season, and not seeing him on the field!

Warchant.com notes that “Ball was not charged by the Tallahassee Police or the state attorney’s office following Sellers’ complaint” in connection to the allegations.

As of yet, neither the university nor the athletic department has confirmed Sellers’ version of Ball’s status with the team. Sellers’ attorney Leonardo Arias Vera told the Democrat he could not comment on the situation.

Ball started the last nine games of the 2017 season at left tackle for the Seminoles.  Exiting spring practice this year, and with last year’s starter Rick Leonard no longer around due to expired eligibility, the redshirt sophomore was penciled in as FSU’s starting right tackle.

RB Jawon Hamilton transferring from UCF to FCS James Madison

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For the second time this offseason, UCF and new head coach Josh Heupel have a seen a running back depart the football program.

In January, Cordarrian Richardson decided to transfer to Texas A&M, a move he still plans to make despite some uncertainty of late.  On Instagram four months later, former teammate and backfield mate Jawon Hamilton made a similar move, revealing on the social media website that he’ll be transferring from the Knights.

Not only that, but the back revealed his transfer destination in the missive — FCS powerhouse James Madison.

Because of the move down a level, Hamilton will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.  He’ll be a redshirt sophomore this coming season.

God’s Plan ☝🏾 #GoDukes🐶💛💜

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As a true freshman in 2016, Hamilton led the Knights with 495 yards on the ground. A knee injury sustained in the second game of the 2017 season sidelined Hamilton for the remainder of the year.

The Orlando Sentinel wrote that Hamilton “missed all of spring practice after being suspended by [former head coach Scott] Frost’s staff for an undisclosed violation of team rules” and “[t]he suspension continued” under Heupel.

Florida, USF schedule three-game series, including one in Tampa

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When it comes to scheduling arrangements involving a Power Five and Group of Five program, this is certainly an interesting one.

Both Florida and USF announced Tuesday a future series between the two schools.  As part of the three-game series, the Bulls will travel to Gainesville’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for two of the matchups — Sept. 17, 2022, and Sept. 6, 2025.  In between is the interesting aspect as the Gators will make the trek south to play at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 9, 2023.

That latter game will mark the first time ever the two teams will square off in Tampa.

“We are very excited for our program and our fans to add three games against the University of Florida to our schedule,” a statement from USF athletic director Mark Harlan began. “I would like to thank Coach Strong for his desire to play a challenging non-conference schedule and the leadership at Florida for their partnership in making this happen. We are committed to scheduling opponents that our fans are excited to see the Bulls compete against and Florida certainly ranks very high on that list.”

“This is a unique scheduling opportunity that allows us to get three games against a quality FBS opponent, with two at home and one in a great venue in Tampa,” Harlan’s UF counterpart, Scott Stricklin, said in his statement. “A lot of Gator fans will have the opportunity to attend that game and we are looking forward to being able to play a regular-season game in central Florida.”

The two teams have met just once previously. In Week 2 of the 2010 season, the Gators dropped the Bulls 38-14 in The Swamp in what turned out to be Urban Meyer‘s final season with the program.

Charlie Strong, the current USF head coach, was in his first season in the same job at Louisville that year after spending the previous seven seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Gators.  UF’s current head coach, Dan Mullen, spent four years as Meyer’s offensive coordinator before taking over at Mississippi State in 2009.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to host South Florida twice in The Swamp and also play them in Raymond James Stadium,” Mullen said. “The Tampa/St. Petersburg area is an important recruiting footprint for us and our players will love playing another game in an NFL stadium.”

Alabama continues to block grad transfer Brandon Kennedy

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Continued kudos, Alabama.

Earlier this month, Brandon Kennedy opted to leave Alabama as a graduate transfer.  The offensive lineman, as it turns out, is interested in a transfer to Alabama rivals Auburn and Tennessee; as has been the case in the pastor not — Kennedy has been barred by UA from transferring to any other school in the conference despite the fact that he’s a graduate transfer.

Kennedy, a graduate transfer, appealed the initial decision that blocked him from an intra-conference move.  In a stunning turn of events, that initial appeal has been denied by the university.

Al.com writes that “[t]he next step for Kennedy, who graduated in December, is an in-person hearing with Alabama’s appeal board.” As noted by the website, Kennedy graduated from the university in December, which makes him a graduate transfer.

When that in-person hearing in front of Alabama’s appeals board will take place for the student-athlete who has already graduated is unclear.

Kennedy, prior to becoming a graduate transfer, served as the Crimson’s Tide backup center in 2017, his redshirt sophomore season.  After graduating in December, Kennedy exited spring practice this year as the defending national champion’s likely No. 2 center.

As a graduate transfer, Kennedy would have a two-year eligibility clock that begins immediately with the 2018 season even if he stays in the FBS.

On a completely related note…

Since last summer, at least two players have transferred within the SEC. In June of 2017, running back David Williams moved from South Carolina to Arkansas. Earlier this month, defensive back Nick Harvey left Texas A&M and chose South Carolina over, among others, Auburn and Tennessee.

Both Williams and Harvey left their former schools as graduate transfers.

Kudos, Alabama.  Still.