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Former Texas A&M linebacker alleges recruiting, practice violations by Jimbo Fisher’s staff

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Former Texas A&M linebacker Santino Marchiol revealed in June he intended to transfer to Arizona. The Aggies had hired a new coach, Jimbo Fisher, and the coach who recruited him, Kevin Sumlin, was now in Tucson. Marichol enrolled at Texas A&M in January of 2017 and redshirted his first season in College Station, meaning to make the move to Arizona, he’d have to sacrifice a season of eligibility unless the NCAA granted him a waiver.

And as Dan Wolken of USA Today details, Marichol tried a perhaps unprecedented path to gain immediate eligibility at Arizona: by alleging NCAA violations at his old school. According to Marichol, he was handed hundreds of dollars in cash by Aggies assistant Bradley Dale Peveto to host recruits on official visits:

On two separate weekends this spring, Marchiol told USA TODAY Sports, he was given hundreds of dollars in cash by linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto to entertain prospects on unofficial visits. Those recruiting visits occurred, he said, following the April 14 spring game with Zach Edwards, a three-star linebacker from Starkville, Mississippi, and the second weekend in June with four-star linebacker Christian Harris (now a Texas A&M verbal commitment) and Nakobe Dean from Horn Lake, Mississippi, ranked as the No. 1 inside linebacker in the country by Rivals.com.

While NCAA rules at the time allowed schools to give a student host $40 a day to entertain recruits during official visits, prospects must pay their own expenses for unofficial visits, meaning any money provided by coaches would be an NCAA rules violation. Recruits are allowed to take up to five all-expenses-paid official visits each, but many also add unofficial visits to see other schools or make additional visits to a favorite school. News accounts of the visits that Marchiol discussed indicate all were unofficial.

Marchiol describes being taken aback after the spring game when Peveto pulled him into a bathroom near the coaches’ offices and handed him $300.

“There were coaches having meetings in the other office, and he said, here, come in the bathroom real quick because he’d just asked me to host the recruit,” Marchiol said. “So I went in the bathroom and it was just me and him in there, and he’s like, ‘Take this, if you need any more just text me and make sure they have a good time.’ ”

On the second occasion, Marchiol said, the money exchange took place in the bathroom at Razzoo’s Cajun Cafe in College Station, a restaurant where the team frequently takes recruits to eat. Marchiol said he received $400 in cash from Peveto and  that a teammate Marchiol identified in his waiver request was handed another $300 during the exchange.

“You know how you tip people in Vegas? He had the cash in his hand and he like handed it to us like, here (with a handshake),” Marchiol said.

But that wasn’t the only way in which current Aggies coaches have skirted NCAA rules, according to Marichol. Over this summer, Aggies defensive coordinator Mike Elko directed players to spend time at the football facility working on football activities far beyond the allowable levels as permitted by the NCAA.

When Texas A&M’s players returned after Memorial Day weekend, defensive coordinator Mike Elko brought his players into a meeting and made clear what he expected of them: “He said, ‘We’re going to have a lot of meetings and practices that aren’t technically required, but you guys have to be here because you’re way behind. We need to win,’ ” Marchiol said. 

Marichol said players were required to be at the facility from 9 a.m. until “well after” 6:30 p.m. four days a week through the summer and that coaches observed and instructed their 7-on-7 practices, with Elko demonstrating proper technique and alignment, as would be typical of a fall or spring practice but disallowed in the summer by NCAA bylaws.

Finally, Marichol said Aggies trainers mishandled an ankle injury he suffered in June.

Marchiol said he believes he was pushed to play through the injury because of a belief coaches frequently shared loudly with the players: The Aggies program had been like a country club under Sumlin. In fact, he said, everything in the message of Fisher and his assistants had been themed to demand more toughness, from the duration of workouts to the language coaches used on the field to players being told outright that highly rated recruits were coming to replace them.

Marichol is being represented by Thomas Mars, an Arkansas-based lawyer who represented Houston Nutt in his suit against Ole Miss. The NCAA does not comment on current or potential cases. A Texas A&M spokesperson said: “Texas A&M Athletics takes these allegations seriously, and we are reviewing the situation with the NCAA and the SEC Office.”

The Aggies open their first season under Fisher on Sept. 1 against Northwestern State (8:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).

In statement, AD John Cohen says Mississippi State is ‘disappointed’ in Mike Leach’s controversial tweet

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Mississippi State has officially responded publicly to the brouhaha kicked up by their new head football coach.

Last Thursday, Mike Leach sent out a tweet in which he apologized for anyone he offended in a previous tweet.  In the controversial tweet in question, the caption read “After 2 weeks of quarantine with her husband, Gertrude decided to knit him a scarf..”  The picture attached to it?  An elderly woman knitting a noose.

A handful of Leach’s followers were offended by the tweet.  In response to Leach’s original tweet, Mississippi State football player Fabien Lovett wrote simply, “Wtf.” Lovett soon thereafter announced that he was entering the transfer portal; his father confirmed later that the tweet played a role.  Monday, one of Lovett’s, Brevyn Jones, announced that he too will be transferring.

In the midst of that social media maelstrom, Mississippi State had been largely silent.  Until now.  In a statement, MSU athletic director John Cohen expressed disappointment in Leach’s tweet.  He also stated that the university is confident that Leach has learned from what was described as a “misstep.”

Below is the statement, in its entirety.

No matter the context, for many Americans the image of a noose is never appropriate and that’s particularly true in the South and in Mississippi. Mississippi State University was disappointed in the use of such an image in a tweet by Coach Mike Leach. He removed the tweet and issued a public apology. The university is confident that  Coach Leach is moving quickly and sincerely past this unintended misstep and will provide the leadership for our student-athletes and excitement for our football program that our fans deserve and that our students and alumni will be proud to support.

To ensure that Leach has learned from his “misstep,” Mississippi State also announced the following steps it will take when it comes to its head football coach.

Cohen said that a plan is in place for Coach Leach to participate in additional listening sessions with student, alumni, and community groups and to provide the coach with opportunities to expand his cultural awareness of Mississippi. One of those opportunities will include a guided visit to the “Two Museums” – the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum – in Jackson as soon as restrictions from the current public health crisis will allow.

Arizona State LB Tyler Johnson returns from medical retirement

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Arizona State linebacker Tyler Johnson announced after the Sun Devils’ Sun Bowl win that he planned to retire from football for medical reasons. On Tuesday, Sun Devil Source reported Johnson has changed his mind.

A 6-foot-5, 258-pound junior defensive lineman, Johnson collected 22 tackles, 5.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 2019 while battling injuries throughout.

Johnson recorded four sacks in the final seven games of his redshirt freshman season of 2018.

Considered one of Arizona State’s best pass rushers when healthy, Johnson is expected to move from linebacker to defensive end as the Sun Devils move from a 3-3-5 to a 4-3 scheme.

 

Mike Gundy says season should start on time because ‘we need to run money’ through state of Oklahoma

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In arguing that coaches should get back to work on May 1 and the season should start on time, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy inadvertently argued that college football players are professional athletes. That, or indentured servants.

In an hourlong teleconference Tuesday that began with a 20-minute monologue, Gundy said, though he’s not 100 percent, the season should begin on time because players are young and, thus, “have the ability to fight this virus off” and because “we need to run money through the state of Oklahoma.”

He also said there are “too many people that are relying on” college football the sport not to be played.

Gundy floated the idea that games could be played without fans in the stands and students on campus.

Others can debate about Gundy’s thoughts on testing and antibodies and the ability of a 22-year-old to “fight off COVID-19” — though I’d add Boise assistant Zac Alley, a 26-year-old, said his bout with the disease was like breathing with a knife in his ribs — but I’d like to talk about the economic implications of Gundy’s comments.

Gundy is not wrong at all that plenty of families depend on college athletics to put food on the table and that Cowboy football is an important economic engine of the state of Oklahoma. He’s exactly right, of course.

But to argue that a college scholarship is appropriate compensation for risking exposure to the virus while fans and students remain home — “We’re trying to find a way to pay everybody’s salary and keep the economy going.” — then either the players deserve a cut of that economy, or they’re nothing more than indentured servants whose labor belongs to others.

“I’m not taking away from the danger of people getting sick,” Gundy said. “You have the virus, stay healthy, try to do what we can to help people that are sick, and we’re losing lives, which is just terrible. The second part of it is that we still have to schedule and continue to move forward as life goes on and help those people.”

Boise State assistant reveals bout with COVID-19

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Boise State assistant coach Zac Alley revealed to reporters on Tuesday that is among the 392,000 and counting Americans to test positive for COVID-19. And he said it was terrible.

“I had no symptoms, no anything, and in about a 24-hour period I went from 0 to 100,” Alley told the Idaho Press. “I just had some sharp pains in my chest and all that. It got to a point that night where I was pretty short of breath and couldn’t breathe, and thankfully my girlfriend was like ‘we’re going to the ER’. When we got there they were saying thank God you came in.

“Every breath was kind of like taking a knife and sticking it through your ribs.”

Alley, 26, is in his second year on Boise State’s staff, where he coaches the Broncos’ outside linebackers and co-coordinates the special teams. He spent his previous eight years at Clemson as an undergraduate and graduate assistant.

He said he and his girlfriend quarantined at home as all good citizens have, and the only place he’d ventured out was the grocery store, where he theorizes he contracted the coronavirus from a shopping cart.

“As a young healthy person I didn’t think it would affect me as drastically as it did,” Alley said. “I mean my health deteriorated so fast and really I didn’t show any traditional symptoms of what they were saying other than the shortness of breath.”

Alley spent one day at the hospital but was discharged the same day. He is now symptom free.

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