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Urban Meyer to remain as Ohio State’s head coach, but suspended for first three games without pay

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Exactly three weeks after being forced to the sidelines, Urban Meyer is back.  Eventually.

Following an executive session of its Board of Trustees that lasted nearly a dozen hours, Ohio State announced Wednesday night that Meyer will be retained as the Buckeyes’ head football coach.  However, Meyer will be suspended, without pay, for the first three games of the 2018 season.

The suspension means that Meyer will be sidelined for games against Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU.  He will be eligible to return for the Sept. 22 game against Tulane.

Meyer will also be suspended through Sept. 2.  That suspension will prevent the coach from taking part in the Buckeyes’ preparations for the season opener against the Beavers Sept. 1.  He will, however, be permitted to take part in all football activities leading up to the Rutgers and TCU games, including practices, player meetings, coaches meetings, etc.

Additionally, athletic director Gene Smith will serve a suspension from Aug. 31 through Sept. 16.  His suspension will be without pay as well.

The investigative team, which presented its findings to the university’s Board of Trustees informally Monday and then formally during the marathon executive session Wednesday, concluded that “[a}lthough Coach Meyer made significant misstatements about his knowledge of the 2015 events relating to Zach Smith and his former wife at the Big Ten Media Days, they were not part of a deliberate cover-up effort to keep Zach Smith on the coaching staff in the face of evidence of domestic violence by him that Athletic Director Smith and Coach Meyer credited.”

The report presented to the board, which consisted of 40 witness interviews and the review of “over 60,000 e-mails and 10,000 text messages,” also concluded that “Coach Meyer has ‘a sincere commitment to the Respect for Women core values that he espouses and tries to instill in his players.'”

From the report:

The Independent Counsel also concluded that Coach Meyer would not hesitate to terminate any coach if spousal abuse was established:

“We believe [Coach Meyer] as did Zach Smith, that if [Coach Meyer] ever came to learn or believe that Zach Smith had physically abused his wife, Coach Meyer would have fired Zach Smith or any other coach on the spot.

In a prepared statement before taking questions from the media, Meyer acknowledged that his loyalty to Earle Bruce, who Meyer considers the most influential male in his life after his father, impacted his judgment when it came to the assistant coach who is the grandson of the former OSU head football coach.

“I followed my heart and not my head,” Meyer stated. “I fell short in pursuing full information because at each juncture I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.

“As I reflect, my loyalty to his grandfather Earle Bruce, who was my mentor, likely impacted how I treated Zach over the years. I did not know everything about Zach Smith, what Zach Smith was doing and I am pleased that the report made this very clear.

“However, I should have demanded more from him and recognized red flags.”

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 announced the launching of an investigation into Meyer’s actions the day after the head coach’s leave was announced.

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.

Gene Smith confirmed in the press conference tonight that the university was not aware of Zach Smith’s off-field issues at Florida when he was hired by Meyer as wide receivers coach in December of 2011.  As a result of that, OSU is expected to revamp their hiring procedures and policies — and background checks — when it comes to prospective coaches.

In an Aug. 1 report that preceded Meyer’s initial leave of absence, Courtney Smith, the now-ex-wife of Zach Smith, claimed that Meyer’s wife, Shelley, was aware of the allegations that she was being abused by the then-OSU assistant coach.  Below is the text message exchange between Courtney Smith and Shelley Meyer in 2015:

Shelley: “I am with you! A lot of women stay hoping it will get better. I don’t blame you! But just want u to be safe. Do you have a restraining order? He scares me”
Courtney: “Restraining orders don’t do anything in Ohio-I tried to get protection order which is what started this whole investigation. And that should go through soon finally. It’s hard bc you have to prove immediate danger. Legal system is tough. Basically you have to prove he will kill u to get protective order”
Shelley: “Geesh! Even w the pics? Didn’t law enforcement come to your place ever??

During Wednesday night’s press conference, Meyer claimed that he was never aware of any text messages between his wife and his ex-assistant’s ex-wife “at the time.”

The findings of the investigation concluded with the following:

Although neither Urban Meyer nor Gene Smith condoned or covered up the alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, they failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith’s misconduct and retained an Assistant Coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes. Permitting such misconduct to continue is not consistent with the values of the University and reflects poorly on Coach Meyer, Athletic Director Smith, and the University. Their handling of this matter did not exhibit the kind of leadership and high standards that we expect of our Athletic Director, Head Coach, Assistant Coaches and all on the football staff.

While Meyer apologized to “Buckeye Nation” on at least three occasions — and apologized for the situation everyone found themselves in — he never apologized to Courtney Smith even as he was afforded the opportunity to do so by at least one reporter who mentioned her by name.  The lack of a public apology to the alleged victim, while multiple ones were made to the fanbase, has led to the national media blistering both the coach and the perceived “football-first” culture of the university.

In reports that preceded the official announcement, it was suggested that Meyer was balking at accepting a suspension; when asked if he thought he deserved to be suspended for three games, Meyer’s curt response did nothing to debunk the suggestions.

“I trust and support our president.”

“I know the impact that the events of the last three weeks have had on this institution – an institution that I love – and how challenging this has been for our community and our president, a man for whom I have great respect. And for that, I am deeply sorry,” Meyer said in a statement subsequently distributed by the school. “I am fully aware that I am ultimately responsible for this situation that has harmed the university as a whole, our Department of Athletics and our football program. I want to also apologize to Buckeye Nation.

“The suspensions are tough, but I fully accept them.”

Lawyers for Mark Dantonio seeking legal fees from former MSU recruiting director Curtis Blackwell

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Lawyers representing former Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio in a federal lawsuit filed by former Michigan State recruiting director Curtis Blackwell are seeking reimbursement for legal fees as the case appears to be heading for possible dismissal. According to Mlive.com, Dantonio’s legal team is seeking up to $214,153 to cover legal fees tied to the case.

One of Dantonio’s lawyers, Thomas Kienbaum, is optimistic his client will receive reimbursement but does not expect a full compensation.

“Have I ever gotten anything close to what I think this judge will award? Nope, never,” Kienbaum said, according to the MLive.com report. “I’ve never asked for anything close to this, never been an occasion for it.”

Blackwell filed a lawsuit against Dantonio and Michigan State University in Nov. 2018 on the claim a contract not being renewed was a violation of the contract. Blackwell also claimed Dantonio and the program were guilty of various NCAA violations connected to recruiting and job placement opportunities for recruits. Dantonio resigned as head coach of the program shortly after the lawsuit documents were submitted. Blackwell later filed another lawsuit piling on the program and Dantonio once again.

In March of this year, a federal judge has recommended the original lawsuit be tossed due to a belief Blackwell’s lawyers were misusing the court process to harass defendants, including Dantonio.

Penn State WR Mac Hippenhammer enters transfer portal

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Another Penn State wide receiver is entering the transfer portal. Mac Hippenhammer, who was not named on Penn State’s spring football roster, has reportedly entered his name to the NCAA transfer portal.

By entering the transfer portal, Hippoenhammer is free to communicate with any other college football program interested in recruiting him to their program. Hippenhammer may also withdraw his name from the portal and stay at Penn State, but Penn State is no longer obligated to reserve his scholarship spot in the program.

Hippenhammer’s future at Penn State as a football player appeared to be going in the opposite direction as he has been focusing more on playing baseball. Hippenhammer did not participate in spring football practices in 2019 so he could participate in Penn State’s baseball season. He once again shifted his spring focus to baseball this spring before college baseball was shut down. This is why some of Hippenhammer’s transfer options may be slanted more toward baseball, one of the sports that was shut down by the NCAA this spring due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In 10 games in 2019, Hippenhammer caught one pass for 15 yards and returned two punts for 13 yards. Hippenhammer was a three-star addition of Penn State’s Class of 2017. He will still have one year of eligibility for football, although the NCAA tacking on an extra year of college eligibility for baseball would give Hippenhammer two years on the baseball diamond.

Penn State is already facing a bit of a questionable situation at wide receiver in 2020 following the early departure of KJ Hamler to the NFL and the transfer of Justin Shorter to Florida.

Alabama’s use of Apple Watches during coronavirus pandemic under scrutiny

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The NCAA recently made a decision to allow strength and conditioning coaches to distribute workouts to players while they are isolated away from their respective programs. But Alabama’s use of Apple watches to monitor the players is drawing some eyes from around the SEC and beyond with everyone trying to figure out whether or not Alabama is in violation of any NCAA rules.

According to a report from Mark Schlabach of ESPN, the SEC is in the process of checking in on the use of the smartwatches at Alabama. The Athletic reports Alabama has been in constant communication with the SEC regarding the manner, according to a statement shared by a university spokesperson;

“The SEC is aware that Alabama provided Apple Watches to some of our student-athletes,” Alabama senior associate AD for compliance Matt Self said in a statement. “We are in constant communication with the SEC discussing the appropriate manner in which to utilize these and any other resources to provide for the health and well-being of our student-athletes during this crisis.”

Alabama set players up with the smartwatches as part of the program setup by strength and conditioning coaches David Ballou and Matt Rhea. The watches include workouts and apps to help players stay in as best in shape as possible during these unique times in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The NCAA recently allowed for such workouts to be distributed to players with the stipulation that coaches were not permitted to monitor those workouts. The only member of Alabama’s staff reportedly observing the information from the watches has been Alabama’s director of sports medicine, Jeff Allen.

So why all the fuss about Alabama’s smartwatches? It seems to be a lack of uniformity in interpreting the NCAA regulations.

The NCAA has certainly been more accommodating and understanding with the situation hitting every facet of the sports world right now, so it remains to be seen if the NCAA would step on Alabama to investigate this issue before the SEC makes any kind of decision first. For now, at least, Alabama players can continue using those Apple Watches.

If Alabama is given confirmation their use of smartwatches during this time is permissible, it won’t take long for other schools to follow in Alabama’s footsteps and send out smartwatches to their players as quickly as possible.

As college football coaches preach staying home, Dabo Swinney was flying on vacation

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As more and more college football coaches are putting out public service announcements about the severity of the coronavirus, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, the eternal optimist, is not bashful about taking his family on vacation with a private jet. And he may be doing so again around Easter.

Speaking to members of the media on Friday, Swinney spread his usual positive message in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Swinney remains as confident as possible in suggesting college football’s 2020 season will manage to kick off as currently scheduled. Swinney’s proclamation college football will be unaffected in the fall came in the most patriotic way imaginable.

“I don’t have any doubt. I have zero doubt that we’re going to be playing and the stands are going to be packed,” Swinney said. “I’ve got one plan, and that’s to get the Tigers ready to play in late August, early September.”

Perhaps that sense of security is what has allowed Swinney to keep on living some parts of his life as if nothing has changed. For example, going on vacation with the family. Swinney said his family flew to Florida recently on a private plane, and he is contemplating flying again next week for Easter.

“The plane was sanitized,” Swinney said. “We don’t have any concern.”

It must be nice to live such a lifestyle right now.

The state of South Carolina is one of the few remaining states with no state-wide stay-home order in place (Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa have no orders in place), but it is one of four states with stay-home orders in place in parts of the state (Utah, Wyoming, and Oklahoma). As of now, Charleston and Columbia are the two major locations in the state with stay-home orders in play, with Charleston enacting its order on March 26 and Columbia following three days later on March 29.

The ACC suspended all athletic activities in mid-March.