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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).

Kenny Dillingham out as Auburn offensive coordinator, Chad Morris could be in

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Florida State’s hiring of Mike Norvell looks like it could lead to some major changes at Auburn.

First, multiple outlets reported Monday morning that Kenny Dillingham is leaving Auburn to reunite with Norvell in Tallahassee; Norvell “discovered” the 29-year-old Dillingham while at Arizona State and brought him along to Memphis, so the move is anything but a surprise.

Furthermore, though, Dillingham’s departure could lead to Chad Morris‘s hiring on the Plains. According to Auburn Undercover, the former Arkansas head coach is the leading candidate, and a deal could be done this week.

Morris and head Tiger Gus Malzahn go back years, to when Morris, then a high school head coach struggling to fill Art Briles‘s shoes at Stephenville High School, trekked to Arkansas to sit at the feet of Malzahn, then building his reputation as a guru in Northwest Arkansas. The two have maintained a relationship ever since, and now that relationship could turn professional.

If and when Morris is hired, it will come with two interesting dynamics.

The first is recruiting, where Chad’s son Chandler Morris is a 4-star quarterback in the class of 2020. Auburn recruited Morris before he committed to Arkansas, then continued recruiting him when Chandler re-opened his recruitment following Dad’s firing. Chad accompanied Chandler during his first recruiting trip to Auburn, including a sit-down with the head coach — just like any dad would on a recruiting trip, only this dad was the head coach of one of Auburn’s direct competitor.

“You go in and you sit down and you get straight to the chase,” Chad Morris told ESPN over the summer. “A lot of it is roster talk more than anything. You talk about injuries and how they handle kids that get hurt, and how does that work. You deal with their trainers. It’s more, from my standpoint, how they go about the strength and conditioning, how they specialize in their quarterbacks and looking at the overall development of the coach. Is he an offensive-minded coach? Is he a defensive-minded coach? You talk strategy, you talk scheme, you talk offense with him. I don’t do a whole lot of talking. I do a lot of listening and let Chandler do a lot of the talking.”

Chandler visited Auburn during the Iron Bowl, and Auburn Undercover reported Chad accompanied him on that visit.

The second prong here is play-calling. The push-pull of the play sheet has been a constant source of palace intrigue during Malzahn’s seven seasons at Auburn, as it seems he’s always relinquishing or reclaiming play-calling duties depending on the results of the last drive.

Malzahn called plays during Dillingham’s one season on staff, which made sense because Dillingham is still in his 20s and had never coached in the SEC before, while Gus Malzahn is Gus Malzahn. But Chad Morris is not Kenny Dillingham. Remember, it was the hiring of Morris (and Brent Venables) that served as the turning point in Clemson’s rise from pretty good program to the nationally elite.

Would Gus keep play calling with Morris on staff or would he hand it over? It could be months before we know that answer, but we could know the answer of if Morris will join the Auburn staff within days.

Joe Burrow: I wanted to go to Nebraska, but they told me I wasn’t good enough

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The legend of Joe Burrow is well-told by now. A guy who barely got a scholarship at Ohio State, waited his turn, realized his turn wasn’t coming, re-invented himself at LSU, and is now bound for a Heisman Trophy. The adopted son of Louisiana has put together one of the best passing seasons in college football history — 77.9 percent completion (on pace to shatter Colt McCoy‘s single-season FBS record), 10.7 yards per attempt, 48 touchdowns against just six interceptions with a 201.47 efficiency rating (on pace to break Tua Tagovailoa‘s record) — while guiding the Bayou Bengals to the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff.

It’s a season they’ll remember forever in Louisiana, and one they’d like to forget in Nebraska.

During an interview with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi in Saturday’s edition of College GameDay, Burrow shared that he really wanted to be a Cornhusker all along.

“I had one offer after my junior year of high school, and it was my dad’s team. I wanted to go to Nebraska,” he said, via 247Sports. “They told me I wasn’t good enough.”

Burrow played high school football in Athens, Ohio, but he spent much of his youth in Lincoln, where his father, Joey Burrow, was an assistant coach. Joey played at Nebraska, and he coached Joe’s older brothers, Jamie and Dan Burrow, who were also Cornhuskers. Joey Burrow was on staff at Ohio U. during Joe’s high school years, and for a time his only FBS offer was from the hometown Bobcats, which he dubbed a “pity offer.”

He wanted more. He wanted Nebraska.

The good news for those in Huskerland is that Burrow was recruited during the Mike Riley era. This is all Riley’s fault, right? There’s no egg on Scott Frost‘s face, is there?

Oh, no.

UConn AD gives Randy Edsall a vote of confidence

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UConn is 6-30 in the 2.0 tenure of Randy Edsall, having gone 3-9 in 2017, 1-11 last year and 2-10 this. The program reportedly also has more than a dozen players in the transfer portal.

Needless to say, it’s not a good time in the annals of Husky football, but it’s also not a good time to make a coaching change. The program is short on cash and in the midst of transitioning from the American to life as an FBS independent, and AD David Benedict has no plans to add another major change on top of that. As he told the AP on Sunday:

“I’m not saying that everyone has to share the same opinion or have the same level of confidence in Coach Edsall that I do, but he has to be given the time to build the program and you can’t do it in three years,” he said. “Ultimately over the next three years, we’ll hopefully see our program become more and more competitive.”

As far as votes of confidence go, this is about the least confident you’ll ever see an AD be when he backs his coach.

But at the same time, it’s also one of the most concrete. Whereas most ADs will commit to backing their coach through the end of that season and the one following at the absolute most, Benedict seems to indicate Edsall will not only be back in 2020, but 2021 and ’22 as well.

LSU opens as double-digit favorites vs. Oklahoma; Ohio State slight underdog to Clemson

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While definitely subject to change, the initial wagering odds for the degenerates in the reading audience are out.

Earlier Sunday, and in a surprise to absolutely no one, the four semifinalists for the 2019 College Football Playoff were released.  LSU was given the No. 1 seed by the selection committee and will face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl.  No. 2 Ohio State, which came into Championship Saturday ranked first in the country, will square off with No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

According to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, LSU is a 7/5 favorite to win the 2019 national championship.  Clemson is next at 2/1, while Ohio State sits at 3/1.  Oklahoma, which won its way into the playoffs at the expense of Georgia, is a decided underdog at 16/1.

Speaking of underdogs, the SEC Tigers are currently listed as a 12½-point favorite in their matchup with the Sooners.  Despite being the higher seed, the Buckeyes have opened as a two-point underdog to the ACC Tigers.

The over/under for Ohio State-Clemson opened at 63; for LSU-Oklahoma, it’s at 75.

LSU and Oklahoma have squared off just twice previously, with the most recent matchup coming in 2004.  Clemson and Ohio State have met three times in their collective histories, the most recent meeting coming in the 2016 College Football Playoff — a 31-0 win for the Tigers.