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Urban Meyer investigation to be completed Sunday; report shared with Ohio State regents next week

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Around this time next week — or shortly thereafter — we should know whether or not Urban Meyer has a future as the head football coach at Ohio State.

In a statement released Friday evening, the university announced that the independent working group conducting the investigation into Meyer will wrap up its probe of the coach Sunday. That day falls directly in line with the expected 14-day timeline given by the university earlier this month.

Meyer’s fate won’t be known this weekend, however, as the investigators will compile a report based on the results of their investigation. When that report is complete, it will be shared with the university’s Board of Regents; the report is expected to reach the regents at some point next week.

From the university’s statement:

Following receipt, the working group will share the report with the Board of Trustees in an executive session to be held next week. As required by law, public notice of the meeting will be released at least 24 hours in advance. Following deliberations with the board, and appropriate time for consideration, President Michael V. Drake will announce his decision.

The decision will likely come down to either Meyer being fired or Meyer being suspended for X number of games to start the 2018 season, but staying on as the head coach. There’s a growing sense that there’s a much greater chance for the latter to happen than the former. Still, the board is expected to give significant weight to the investigative team’s findings, which will influence the direction in which the president goes.

Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 1 as questions into his handling of domestic abuse allegations made against his now-former assistant coach, Zach Smith, surfaced.  The university launched an investigation into Meyer’s actions the day after the head coach’s leave was announced.

Zach Smithfired by Meyer as OSU wide receivers coach July 23 in the wake of allegations that he abused his ex-wifeCourtney Smith, during their marriage, met with the investigative team on Tuesday of this week.  Courtney Smith, along with her attorneys, met with investigators the day before her ex-husband.

In a statement Aug. 3, Meyer claimed that he has “always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels.” Allegations of domestic abuse stemmed not only from Zach Smith’s time at OSU, but while he was on Meyer’s Florida staff in 2009 as well.

Meyer’s boss in Gainesville, former UF athletic director Jeremy Foleydeclined comment on that 2009 incident earlier this month.  Meyer’s current boss in Columbus, OSU athletic director Gene Smith, could also be in the university’s crosshairs as Zach Smith alleged that the AD contacted him about the allegations in October of 2015.

As of late last week, Gene Smith was on vacation but “available to speak with the investigative team.” Whether that happened or not hasn’t been confirmed either way.

Oregon lands commitment from nation’s No. 2 player

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Mario Cristobal got the biggest win of his Oregon head coaching tenure on Saturday, the Ducks don’t play again until New Year’s Eve.

Oregon landed the commitment of 5-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux on Saturday, a 6-foot-4, 239-pound defensive end out of Oaks Christian in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Thibodeaux announced his pledge on ESPN during halftime of Utah State’s New Mexico Bowl drubbing of North Texas.

Thibodeaux is rated the No. 1 player in ESPN’s rankings and No. 10 by Rivals and 247Sports. Those rankings put him at No. 2 in the 247Sports Composite rankings, trailing only IMG Academy defensive end Nolan Smith, a Georgia commit.

Oregon beat out Alabama, Florida and Florida State for Thibodeaux’s services.

“There were a lot of reasons why I chose Oregon,” Thibodeaux said, via 247Sports. “I have a great comfort level with the coaching staff and I know I can go in there and get developed. I’ve known coach (Keith) Heyward since I was just a freshman and I really like coach Joe (Salave’a, DL coach) a lot. He’s a great coach, one of the best coaches in the country and I can’t wait to learn from him.

Thibodeaux will be only the third 247Sports Composite top-2 player to sign with a Pac-12 school in the past decade, following USC’s Matt Barkley in 2009 and UCLA’s Jalean Phillips in 2017. As a cautionary tale for all in Eugene, neither player really lived up to his respective billing. Barkely did not lead USC back to the elite of college football and has thrown just 174 passes as a mid-round NFL draft pick, while Phillips is reportedly leaving the team after two seasons at UCLA.

With Thibodeaux now in the fold, Oregon’s 2019 class now ranks No. 5 nationally in the 247Sports Composite team rankings, a 20-man class that includes 11 4-stars and now a 12th blue chip player in Thibodeaux.

Morningside College claims first NAIA national title

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A 16-yard touchdown pass from Trent Solsma to Connor Niles with 1:29 remaining handed Morningside College its first NAIA national championship on Saturday, capping a 35-28 win over Benedictine in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Morningside College is located Sioux Falls, Iowa, while Benedictine College is in Atchison, Kan.

The Solsma-to-Niles connection was massive for Morningside. Solsma completed 19-of-36 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns and two interceptions, with the bulk of the damage going to Niles, who caught seven passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns.

The game started with a Shaefer Schuetz 26-yard touchdown pass for Benedictine, as the Ravens held leads of 7-0, 14-7 and 20-14 — all in the first half. But the Morningside defense stepped up in the second half, allowing the Mustangs to take control of the game with two Solsma touchdown passes, the first an 80-yarder to Niles, then a 19-yard score to Reid Jurgensmeier, putting Morningside in front 28-20 at the 9:53 mark of the third quarter.

Benedictine forged the game’s third tie with a 1-yard Frank Trent rush with 5:49 remaining in the fourth quarter, then had a chance to take the lead again after forcing a Morningside punt, but a holding call killed the Ravens’ drive and then disaster struck when a botched punt snap handed Morningside the ball at the Benedictine 18-yard line with two minutes remaining. On a 3rd-and-8 from the 16, Solsma found Niles for the winning score.

“It was going to him no matter what,” Solsma said. “He’s made big plays his entire career. This was no different.”

Niles’ catch, the last of his career, saw him finish with 6,175 career receiving yards, the most in NAIA history.

“I just remember catching it and then going to my knees,” Niles said. “After that, it was all cameras and teammates mobbing me. This is absolutely amazing.”

Morningside had been on the cusp of their first national title for the majority of the decade; the Mustangs lost the NAIA title game in 2012 and then fell in the NAIA semifinals in four of the past five seasons. The semifinal round saw Morningside avenge its 2016 and ’17 playoff losses to the University of Saint Francis — who would go on to win those seasons’ national titles — in a 34-28 overtime thriller.

“I’ve been motivated to not let this season end,” Morningside head coach Steve Ryan said. “The toughest part for me was that, at the end of the night, the year would be over. I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished. It ended the way we were hoping … I’m ecstatic.”

Report: Former No. 1 recruit Jaelan Phillips leaves team at UCLA

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UCLA linebacker Jaelan Phillips has left the team and is unlikely to return, according to a report from BruinReportOnline.

Phillips, a Redlands, Calif., native, was the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2017, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He enrolled in January of that year but has yet to make an impact one would expect of the top overall player in his class. He started his first game as a Bruin as well as three more in 2017 and finished the year with 21 tackles, seven TFLs and 3.5 sacks.

He appeared in just four games as a sophomore, posting 20 tackles with one sack, while battling a number of injuries.

According to the report, Phillips is considering quitting football altogether, but if he does transfer and play elsewhere — he would have two years of eligibility remaining — it would be at a school that offers a music production/technology degree, which UCLA does not.

 

Valdosta State wins fourth Division II national championship in thriller

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The best game you (probably) didn’t see on Saturday went down in McKinney, Texas, where Valdosta State (Ga.) took down Ferris State (Mich.) in a thrilling Division II National Championship.

In a back-and-forth game that saw the lead change hands seven times in the second and third quarters, Valdosta State seemingly seized control when Rogan Wells hit Travis Taylor for a 1-yard touchdown toss, handing the Blazers a 42-31 lead with 4:25 left in the third quarter.

Ferris State pulled back within 42-38 by the end of the third quarter, though, through this acrobatic touchdown grab by Keyondre Craig.

Wells’ fifth touchdown pass of the game put Valdosta State in front 49-38 with 11:36 to play, but a Ferris State field goal cut the lead back to single digits, and then a turnover on downs at the Ferris State 34 gave the Bulldogs a chance to send the game to overtime. A 5-play, 66-yard drive gave Ferris State the touchdown it needed with 40 seconds left, but the requisite 2-point try was no good.

“When I saw the ball high and wide, that was a great feeling,” Valdosta head coach Kerwin Bell told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“This was the first one we pulled out (this season) — 0-for-1,” Ferris State head coach Tony Annese told the Detroit Free Press afterward. “In the end, I told them it was my fault we lost because we probably should have had a better two-point conversion play.”

Valdosta State’s defense held, and the 49-47 win gave the program its fourth Division II national championship.

Wells earned MVP honors for Valdosta State, hitting 19-of-31 passes for 349 yards and five touchdowns. Ferris State’s Jayru Campbell — winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy, Division II’s Heisman Trophy equivalent — completed 10-of-18 passes for 99 yards with a touchdown and an interception while posting a game-high 22 carries for 122 yards and a score.

Valdosta State, picked fifth in the Gulf South Conference in preseason, completed the first undefeated season in school history at 14-0. The national title is Valdosta’s first since 2012; the Blazers also won national titles in 2004 and 2007.