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Utah announces record gift to fund Rice-Eccles Stadium expansion

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Friday was a great day for Utah football, and not because the Utes held their annual Red-White Game. The program announced a record gift of $17.5 million to fund a planned renovation and expansion of Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The donation comes from the family of Ken Garff, a Utes donor who opened his first car dealership in 1932 and whose family now owns 50 luxury dealerships nationwide, ranking among the top 10 nationally. Ken Garff died in 1997.

“The success of our student-athletes and our department relies on the extraordinary generosity of our supporters and the Garff Family has been instrumental in elevating Utah Athletics to unimaginable heights,” Utah AD Mark Harlan said in a statement. “This transformational commitment from the Garffs will impact thousands of student-athletes, staff, coaches and fans for years to come and we are forever grateful for their kindness and support of our University.”

The donation will fund roughly half of the fundraising portion of the project. With the Garffs’ $17.5 million, donors have now contributed $32 million of the necessary $35 million. The remaining $45 million of the $80 million project will come from various revenue streams accessible to the athletics department.

The renovation, announced last November, will update the only untouched portion of Rice-Eccles Stadium, which opened in 1998. The project will enclose the stadium’s south end zone, boost capacity from 45,807 to 51,444, install revenue-generating luxury boxes and seating, while also replacing the Utes’ locker rooms, coaches offices, training rooms, meeting spaces and all other types of space necessary to run a modern football program.

Construction will begin after the Utes’ final 2020 home game and is slated to be complete in time for the following season.

NCAA adjusts targeting, overtime rules

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The NCAA will tweak the targeting rules and has ended ultra-marathon overtime games, the organization announced on Tuesday.

The Playing Rules Oversight Panel on Monday will now require replay officials to either confirm or deny all targeting fouls called on the field. Any targeting foul that cannot be confirmed by video review will now be overturned. On the flip side, the NCAA has now approved a penalty system for repeat offenders, where all players who accrue three targeting fouls in the same season will now serve a 1-game suspension.

In the other major change to emerge Tuesday, the NCAA has officially ended any 7-overtime games. Spurred by the marathon LSU-Texas A&M game last November, all games that get beyond a fourth overtime will now see both teams alternate 2-point plays until one team converts and the other does not, rather than begin at the 25-yard line like any other overtime session. The first four overtime sessions will remain unchanged, where teams will be required to go for two after the second overtime. A mandatory 2-minute break will now be instituted after the second and fourth overtime sessions.

Finally, the NCAA also banned blind-side blocks, to be penalized with a 15-yard flag, and the 2-man wedge formation on all kickoffs.

Ohio State DL coach Larry Johnson denies facilitating player payment at Penn State

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The ongoing federal corruption case against College Basketball, Inc., took an unplanned-but-not-unexpected swerve into college football on Tuesday when a witness for the government said he facilitated payments for numerous college football players from 2000 through 2013.

Pittsburgh-based financial advisor Marty Blazer, who has already pleaded guilty to defrauding clients, is now testifying on behalf of the government during the New York-based trial, and said he paid players representing a handful of programs ranging from Alabama and Michigan to Northwestern and Pitt, funneling them funds ranging from three to five figures.

Blazer did not name names for any coaches on Tuesday, but he did name the name of a player — former Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin — which led anyone who follows college football to figure out his coach — former Penn State defensive line, and current Ohio State defensive line coach, Larry Johnson.

According to Blazer, Maybin was considering leaving school early to enter the 2009 draft when Johnson (without naming his name) arranged a meeting between himself, Blazer and Maybin’s father. There, Johnson got Blazer to give Maybin’s father $10,000, with the hope that the cash-in-hand would keep Aaron Maybin a Nittany Lion while ensuring the player would become a Blazer client when he eventually went pro.

Maybin, as we all know, entered the 2009 draft and was selected 11th overall. Blazer said Maybin’s father later returned the money.

Johnson was reached by Yahoo Sports on Tuesday and vehemently denied the accusation.

“That is not accurate at all,” Johnson said. “That is absolutely false. I would never, ever ask anybody to do that. That is not me.”

“Why is it that something like that comes out and nobody says anything to me?” Johnson Sr. said. “This is the first call I’ve gotten. All of a sudden this Marty Blazer guy can just say whatever he wants? That is absolutely amazing. Wow.”

Johnson coached Penn State’s defensive line from 1996 through 2013 and has been at Ohio State since 2014. The 67-year-old is generally regarded as one of the best defensive line coaches in college football, and while it’s unclear if the NCAA would even take an interest in the case, Johnson obviously wants to make sure the testimony of an admitted fraudster does not ruin his reputation.

Clemson lands No. 1 overall player in Class of 2020

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Clemson has managed to dominate college football without really dominating the college football recruiting rankings. Since 2015, the Tigers’ classes have ranked, in order, No. 9, No. 11, No. 16, No. 7 and No. 10, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Those are good classes, to be sure, but not necessarily great ones; they’re the type of classes you’d expect to lead to a team competing for ACC championships and New Year’s Six bowls, not beating Alabama in the national championship game twice in three years.

Clearly, Clemson’s coaches have cornered the market on finding a few great players and a bunch of really good ones, then developing them to all play like great players. The question then becomes: What happens if Clemson starts recruiting a bunch of great players? What happens if, in addition to playing like Alabama, Clemson started recruiting like Alabama?

We’re about to find out.

The Tigers on Tuesday landed Bryan Breese, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound defensive tackle from Damascus, Md., who happens to be the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2020, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

“At the end of this little run I was really between Clemson, Georgia and Penn State and over that last visit everyone talks about you’ll feel it and I didn’t understand that till the last visit and I got the feeling and knew where I was supposed to be,” Bresee told 247Sports.

But Tuesday’s news wasn’t just about Breese. He became Clemson’s first 5-star commitment of this class, joining a group of 11 4-stars that vaults the Tigers over Alabama for the No. 1 spot in the 2020 team rankings, with three less players on board than the Crimson Tide. Beyond Breese, Clemson is also favored to land 5-star quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, 5-star defensive end Jordan Burch and 5-star Myles Murphy, all of whom rank in the top 10 nationally, plus 5-star linebacker Antoine Sampah, who ranks No. 31 in the country.

If all that comes to pass, Clemson could follow one of the best seasons ever with one of the best recruiting classes ever.

“This class could be by far one of the best classes ever,” Bresee said. “I think definitely one of the best classes for Clemson.”

Transfers from Rutgers, Coastal Carolina land at same FCS school

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The same FCS program has double-dipped in the NCAA transfer portal, FBS division, in bulking up the talent on its football roster.

Monday afternoon, Albany announced via social media that running back Alex James and fullback Max Anthony have officially signed with the program.  James, a redshirt junior, comes to Albany from Coastal Carolina, Anthony, a fifth-year senior, from Rutgers.

As both players come to the Great Danes from the FBS ranks, they will each be eligible to play immediately in 2019.

The past two seasons for the Chanticleers, James has rushed for 475 yards and seven touchdowns on 114 carries.  He also caught 16 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Anthony had started six of the 27 games in which he played for the Scarlet Knights.