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NCAA President Mark Emmert defends USC sanctions in deposition

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The NCAA is locked into serious legal challenges on a number of fronts but the most immediate threat to the organization has been unfolding in a Los Angeles courthouse the past few weeks. That’s the site of the latest lawsuit against the group, brought about by former USC assistant coach Todd McNair as part of his defamation case over a show cause he was handed by the Committee on Infractions eight years ago.

Despite numerous flaws in both the process and conclusion in punishing both the coach and the school, NCAA President Mark Emmert went on the defensive as part of a video deposition in the case in some of his most notable comments about the case in years.

“I have seen nothing that has convinced me that the Committee on Infractions or the appeals committee should have found any other answer in that case,” Emmert said, according to ESPN. “I don’t see anything that has convinced me that they erred in making that finding.”

The deposition was taped in Indianapolis last month after a long back-and-forth between lawyers from the NCAA and McNair over even interviewing Emmert. While he did add that there were issues involving a staffer sending emails to COI members, the testimony was otherwise straightforward for the man who took over the NCAA not long before the USC case came to a head. The Trojans were docked 30 scholarships and underwent a two-year bowl ban after being charged with a lack of institutional control while McNair served a one-year show cause.

The video was played in front of the jury this week as part of the trial that should wrap up sometime in the middle of May. McNair is slated to follow-up Emmert by taking the stand starting on Thursday afternoon as part of his nearly decade-long quest to clear his name.

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.

Ole Miss loses WR D.K. Metcalf for the season

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Ole Miss has lost standout wide receiver D.K. Metcalf for the season to a neck injury sustained during the Rebels’ win over Arkansas on Saturday. Rebels head coach Matt Luke made the announcement on Monday.

“(Metcalf) hurt his neck, and it’s worse than we originally thought,” Luke said. “He’ll be done for the season. Long-term, he’ll bounce back and he’ll be fine. We’ll make sure he gets the very best care.”

A sophomore from Oxford, Miss., Metcalf paired with junior A.J. Brown to give Ole Miss one of the best passing attacks in the SEC. While Brown leads the club in catches (50) and yards (650), Metcalf is the Rebels’ big play threat, hauling in 26 catches for 569 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. His 21.88 yards per reception average trails only Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy among all players with at least 25 grabs.

Metcalf posted two games of at least 100 receiving yards and a touchdown grab this season and provided Ole Miss’s only points in a 62-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama earlier this year, hauling in a 75-yard touchdown grab to open the scoring.

Dana Holgorsen calls fans rushing the field ‘very unprofessional’

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The war on fans rushing the field continued Monday. In addition to LSU getting a fine of $100,000 from the SEC for their fans rushing the field after the Tigers beat Georgia, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen shared his opinions on the matter just days after he experienced the same situation on the road at Iowa State.

Calling the action “very unprofessional,” Holgorsen said it was quite a hassle just getting his players off the field as Iowa State fans rushed the field to celebrate the big win over the Mountaineers.

To be fair, Holgorsen has a point. Fans rushing the field is a dangerous situation for any team, especially the road team, to be caught up in. The concerns extend to basketball as well, as similar concerns by Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski has long been speaking out against it. (Although, there are some rules that can be applied.) Storming the playing surface may be more of a hazard for opposing teams in basketball where the space is more condensed compared to a football field, but the dangers and hazards are the same for both sports.

Our job is to keep players safe,” Holgorsen explained, per a Des Moines Register report. “We didn’t have time to get (players) off the field. That was not good. No one was hurt that I’m aware of. It was dicey for a while.”

This video watching the Iowa State fans rushing the field after Saturday night’s win, handing West Virginia its first loss of the season, has someone commenting in the background there was a fight taking place on the field as fans lefts the stands.

At this time, Iowa State has not been penalized by the Big 12 for allowing fans to rush the field in such fashion. The Big 12 does not have a standardized penalty system for field and court rushings the way the SEC has, and each case is reviewed internally by the league office.