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Mizzou officially appeals ‘unfair penalties’ levied by NCAA

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The appeals game for one SEC school is officially afoot.

In late January, the college football world in general and Missouri specifically were stunned when it was announced that the NCAA had imposed steep sanctions on three of the university’s sports programs, including football.  The sanctions stem from a former Mizzou tutor who The Association found violated “ethical conduct, academic misconduct and academic extra benefits rules when she completed academic work for 12 student-athletes.”

Nearly two months later, and with financial losses in the millions looming, Mizzou announced that, as expected, the university has officially appealed what it described as “overly-harsh sanctions” in a 64-page brief.  Per the brief, the university maintains that, one, the penalties handed down were contrary to NCAA case precedent; two, they were not supported, or appropriate, given the nature of the violations; and three, they could have a chilling effect on future NCAA enforcement processes.

Below is a statement from athletic director Jim Sterk issued through the university:

We believe that the penalties our programs received were a clear abuse of the Committee’s discretion based upon existing NCAA bylaws. Our staff and legal team have worked tirelessly to research and develop a well-written appeal that accurately reflects our position. We look forward to having the opportunity to meet face to face with the NCAA Appeals Committee later this year, and it is our sincere hope that at the end of this process, the penalties assessed are consistent with the nature of the violations and take into account our swift response. …

“A message is sent to the membership every time the NCAA Committee on Infractions adjudicates cases. In this instance, the message is loud and clear that neither proactive self-reporting nor exemplary cooperation is of any value to the committee. I am shocked this is the message the NCAA wants to send to its membership in today’s climate. …

“As the university prepared its vigorous response to these unfair penalties, the spirits of our student-athletes have been buoyed by the widespread support of our students, alumni, university supporters and our elected officials in Jefferson City and in Washington D.C. That unified support has been most gratifying for all of us associated with this great institution. We will continue to work diligently to make this situation right for our student-athletes, coaches and fans who are impacted by these penalties as they now stand.

In addition to a one-year postseason ban for the 2019 season, the football program was hit with a five-percent reduction in scholarships for the 2019-20 academic year as well as recruiting restrictions during the same timeframe.  Those include:

  • A seven-week ban on unofficial visits.
  • A 12.5 percent reduction in official visits.
  • A seven-week ban on recruiting communications.
  • A seven-week ban on all off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations.
  • A 12.5 percent reduction in recruiting-person or evaluation days.

Because of the appeal, Mizzou could play in a bowl game in 2019 if that process, which is expected to take up to a year if not longer, is still ongoing.

West Virginia RB Martell Pettaway opts for transfer to Middle Tennessee State

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A month after opting to leave the West Virginia Mountaineers football program, Martell Pettaway has found himself a new college home.

On his personal Twitter account Monday, Pettaway announced that he has decided to transfer to Middle Tennessee State. Pettaway’s decision to enter the NCAA transfer database to begin with was confirmed on Dec. 16 of last year.

As the running back left the West Virginia Mountaineers football team as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately at MTSU in 2020. This coming season will be his final year of eligibility.

During his time in God’s Country, Pettaway ran for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns on 217 carries. Most of that production (623 yards, six touchdowns) came in 2018. This past season, he carried the ball 27 times for 72 yards and two touchdowns; both of those scores came in the September win over Kansas.

Pettaway should have the opportunity to help the Blue Raiders immediately. This past season, sophomore quarterback Asher O’Hara was the team’s leading rusher with 1,044 yards. Senior Terelle West led all MTSU backs with 290 yards on the ground.

As a team, MTSU was fourth in Conference USA and 53rd nationally in averaging 171.9 yards rushing per game.

Clemson sees third player grad transfer out in less than a week

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For the third time in less than a week, the Clemson Tigers football program has fallen victim to the transfer portal.

First up was quarterback Chase Brice entering the NCAA transfer database late last week.  Next?  Defensive tackle Xavier Kelly hitting the portal over the weekend.  Monday, a Clemson Tigers football official confirmed that wide receiver T.J. Chase is portaling as well.

Matt Zenitz of al.com was the first to report the development.

According to 247Sports.com, Chase is on track to graduate in May.  That would give him immediate eligibility for what will be his final college football season in 2020.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2016 recruiting class, Chase was rated as the No. 43 receiver in the country.  He was also the No. 33 player regardless of position in the state of Florida.

During his time at Clemson, Chase caught 25 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns.  He set career-highs in 2018 in receptions (13), yards (101) and touchdowns (two).  This past season, in Clemson’s run to another College Football Playoff championship game, Chase caught seven passes for 70 yards.

The receiver-heavy talent at Clemson shows no signs of abating anytime soon.  Last month, the Tigers added a pair of four-star wide receivers to the roster.

Kerry Coombs officially returns to Ohio State as DC

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The Ohio State Buckeyes football program has, as expected, brought back a familiar coaching face.

Speculation has been growing of late that Ryan Day would be adding Kerry Coombs to his OSU staff. Monday afternoon, the Buckeyes confirmed that Coombs has indeed returned to the program as defensive coordinator.

Coombs will replace Jeff Hafley, who left last month to become the head coach at Boston College.

In January of 2018, Coombs left OSU to take a job with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.  Prior to that, he was on Urban Meyer‘s staff for six seasons.

“Kerry Coombs is the coach I was really hoping we could hire and bring back to Ohio State,” the Ohio State Buckeyes football head coach said in a statement. “He is an excellent coach and he has had two outstanding seasons in the NFL on Mike Vrabel’s staff with the Tennessee Titans.

“I’ve spent a season on staff with Kerry and I really like his coaching and knowledge of the game, but I also like that he knows Ohio State and he knows how to recruit to Ohio State. He’s recruited some of the players currently on the team and he coached a handful of Buckeye defensive backs who went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.”

All six seasons he was at OSU, Coombs was cornerbacks coach.  He was promoted in 2017 to assistant coordinator, defense. He was also special teams coordinator from 2013-17.

Five corners who had Coombs as their position coach  — Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby and Denzel Ward — went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.

Coombs, a longtime Ohioan, spent the past two seasons as the Titans’ cornerbacks coach.

This will mark the 58-year-old Coombs’ first job as defensive coordinator at any level of football.

Jalen Hurts to represent both Alabama and Oklahoma at Senior Bowl

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The departure of Jalen Hurts from Alabama to Oklahoma was nothing but class. Not surprisingly, his departure from the college game will be just as classy — with the help of all-star game officials and a helmet company.

In January of last year, Jalen Hurts announced that he would be transferring from Alabama to Oklahoma for his final season of collegiate eligibility.  At the time, Nick Saban lauded the quarterback for “[t]he way he managed [the 2018 season]… and I think he showed a tremendous amount of class.”

After leading Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff — and with Alabama sitting out the CFP for the first time ever — and being named as a Heisman Trophy finalist, Hurts saw his collegiate career end with a throttling at the hands of LSU.  As he gets set to embark on what he hopes will be a career in the NFL, Hurts will take a huge first step in that direction by competing in the Senior Bowl.

Traditionally, the all-star game, which is played in the state of Alabama, features players who wear the helmets of the school from which they came.  Hurts will do the same, albeit with a twist.

On one half of the helmet, Hurts will wear the Alabama shade of Crimson with his old No. 2 on the side.  The other half, Hurts will have the Crimson of Oklahoma with the OU logo on it.

Hurts was surprised with the helmet, specially-made by the Riddell company, at a press conference in Mobile Monday evening.

Riddell actually made two of the custom helmets.  One will be worn by Hurts during the game.  The other will be auctioned off, with the proceeds benefitting charity.

For those interested, the Senior Bowl will be played this coming Saturday.  Kickoff is set for 2:30 ET.  The game will be televised by the NFL Network.