CFB Playoff championship game crew working together for first time tonight

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The football postseason, both in college bowl games and the NFL playoffs, has been full of officiating controversies. With any luck, Monday night’s College Football Playoff national championship game will buck the trend with Ohio State and Oregon vying for the national championship. We can only hope to avoid a controversial call that sways the momentum of the game from one side to the other.

Tonight’s officials will come from the Big 12. It will be the first time the eight-man officiating crew selected for the game will be working together, according to The Dallas Morning News. College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock called it an all-star crew hand-picked by Big 12 officiating supervisor Walt Anderson, so we should be able to rest easily, right?

Wrong.

All-star crews may sound like a good idea in concept, with the intention of attempting to put the best possible officials on the field to ensure the highest integrity of the game. However, just like an actual team playing the game, an all-star crew of officials can at times lack the consistency and cohesiveness of a crew that has been working together all season long. When a crew works together, they know how each member of the team operates, and what areas of the field the rest of the crew will be responsible for covering during a play. While we think an all-star crew of officials will above such simple mistakes, it is not something that should be taken for granted.

So cross your fingers, college football fans, and let’s hope we do not see college football’s equivalent of a Dez Bryant catch Monday night in Bryant’s home stadium.

Agent tweeted of March dinners with four current Longhorns

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And the plot thickens.  Or the ship gets deeper.  One of the two.

Tuesday brought word that Texas was facing NCAA scrutiny after it self-reported a pair of current but unnamed Longhorns had meals paid for by an NFL agent, a bylaw no-no.  Now, as first reported by Orangebloods.com and subsequently confirmed by the Austin American-Statesman, it’s been found that a St. Louis-based agent, Justin Bingman, tweeted back in March of having dinners with four Longhorn football players.

And, unbelievably, Bingman tweeted them out by name at the time: defensive end Cedric Reed, defensive tackle Desmond Jackson and linebackers Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks (pictured), all between March 22 and March 24. The tweets have since been deleted, but, through the magic of copy-and-paste, the American-Statesman has saved them for posterity’s sake:

“Just had a great dinner with @Ced_Reed88 He and his dad are great guys!” Bingman tweeted on March 22.

“Had dinner with @TexasBoy99tank and his Dad last night. They are both great guys and looking forward to the next time,” he tweeted about Jackson on March 23.

The next day, Bingman tweeted, “Had dinner with @SteveBigMoney33 last night, MLB for Texas. We all had a great time with many stories. #Longhorns”

Bingman’s next tweet read: “Just had dinner with a great young man that is going to do great this year for Texas @JHicks_3 #Longhorns #LonghornsNation”

Bingman, incidentally, is the agent for former UT offensive lineman Mason Walters.  All four of the players mentioned by Bingman are seniors.

While Bingman acknowledged having dinner with the four players, it’s unknown who paid for the meals. If it’s the agent in all four cases, all four players could face anywhere from a one-game suspension after making restitution in the form of a charitable donation all the way up to (unlikely) having their eligibility stripped. It could also be a case where the UT compliance department is already aware of the four dinners and have determined that only two players had theirs paid for by the agent.

And, hopefully, none of the four pull/pulled a Dez Bryant and make/made the situation exponentially worse than what it is for all involved.

Regardless, it’ll be an issue first-year head coach Charlie Strong would prefer not to deal with during his first Big 12 Media Days next week.

Academic fraud the focus of latest SI installment on OSU

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As we wade our way into Day 2 of the Sports Illustrated expose’ on the Oklahoma State football program, the focus has shifted from alleged illicit payments to players to the seedy side of the college classroom.

The tone for the latest installment from SI was set in the fifth paragraph — following what was a very Les Miles-like anecdote involving Les Miles — and was presented thusly:

…it is not surprising that 13 Cowboys who played between 2000 and ’11 told SI that they participated in some form of academic misconduct, and 16 others were named by teammates as also having had schoolwork done for them. Players said that they routinely had their coursework completed by tutors or university staff members, that they were provided with answers to exams before taking them, and that they received passing grades despite doing little or no work. Players also allege that the academic counselor for football scheduled them in classes with exceptionally lax professors and pigeonholed them into majors without consulting them. “The philosophy, the main focus [of the program], was to keep [the best players] eligible through any means necessary,” says Fath’ Carter, a safety from 2000 to ’03. “The goal was not to educate but to get them the passing grades they needed to keep playing. That’s the only thing it was about.”

Here are a handful of the accusations made and takeaways from the portion of the expose’ released Wednesday morning:

  • The 13 players who, on the record, alleged academic work was done for them or received grades they didn’t deserve are: defensive back Fath’ Carter (2000 to ’03), wide receiver William Cole (2007 to ’08), defensive back Calvin Mickens (2005 to ’07), defensive tackle Larry Brown (2005 and ’06), offensive lineman Jonathan Cruz (2002), linebacker LeRon Furr (2009 to ’10), defensive tackle Brad Girtman (2003 and ’04), safety Chris Massey (1999 to 2002) defensive end T.J. Minor (2005 and ’06), linebacker Marcus Richardson (2007), running back Herschel Sims (2011), wide receiver Artrell Woods (2006 to ’08) and defensive back Thomas Wright (2002 to ’04).
  • Tutors assigned to the players would not just assist, but would actually write an entire paper.  Woods claimed that he never wrote a single paper during his three years at OSU. “If your teacher told you to write a paper about your favorite Chinese place, all [the tutor] would ask is, ‘What’s your favorite Chinese place? That’s it. They’d do the rest,” quarterback Andre McGill (2000-01) said.  McGill denies ever receiving improper academic assistance.
  • Multiple players claimed that many of their teammates were functionally illiterate yet remained eligible.  Famously, former NFL star Dexter Manley came out in 1989 and revealed that he was functionally illiterate, never able to read above the second-grade level for most of his life.  Manley was also an ex-Oklahoma State defensive lineman, playing at the school in the late seventies.
  • Several former teammates and two former assistant coaches alleged that All-American wide receiver Dez Bryant had the majority of his classwork done for him by tutors.  Those were obviously intelligent tutors as the current Dallas Cowboys receiver was named second-team All-Academic Big 12 following the 2008 season. “You didn’t have no choice but to laugh at it,” former OSU safety Victor Johnson said of Bryant’s academic honor.  SI.com also wrote that “Bryant would not go to class unless shepherded, often by a football staff member.”
  • An assistant professor assigned to the library, who was also an academic advisor to athletes for a three-year period a decade ago, would do assignments for players after they were dropped off, with the players picking up the completed work a few days later.  The professor, Ronald Keys, “told SI that he never did work for athletes but sometimes helped them with reference questions.”
  • Carter claimed that he and another teammate took two classes together, taught by the same instructor, and received A’s despite neither doing any classwork nor actually attending the class.  The teammate, Tatum Bell, denied Carter’s claims and stated to SI that he received C’s and D’s for those classes.
  • Terry Henley, an academic adviser for football since 2000 and a central focus of the latest installment. denied there was any widespread or rampant academic fraud, saying “there was never any pressure [to cheat].” He did allow, though, that “no, he didn’t promote academics.”  The “he” to whom Henley referred is former OSU and current LSU head coach Les Miles.

With that segue to Miles, it brings us to what will likely be one of the most talked-about items ripped from the latest release.  While we mentioned how SI set the academic tenor in the fifth paragraph, here’s what, in part, preceded it:

Shortly after Les Miles took over as Oklahoma State’s football coach in December 2000, he introduced an exhortation that he would use often at the end of team meetings during his four years in Stillwater. “Academics first,” Miles would say. “Football second.”

Miles’s words encapsulated one of the central pillars in the mythos of major-college football: that nothing, not even wins and losses, takes precedence over educating young athletes. The reality is that when jobs and money are at stake, priorities quickly skew.

As Miles said, “Academics first,” he would hold up two fingers. And as he said, “Football second,” he would hold up one.

Oh, Les.  The madcap Mad Hatter strikes again.

For his part, Miles claimed the gesture was a “moment of humor,” reiterating that “I always said, and I always meant, that academics was the most important thing.”

One final takeaway from the academic portion of the program: OSU football has seen just over 50 percent of its players graduate since 2003.  If there was such rampant academic fraud, shouldn’t that number be appreciably higher?

SMU looking into Deion Sanders Jr.’s Lil Wayne backstage visit

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Dez Bryant lying to the NCAA regarding an innocuous meeting he had with Deion Sanders in 2009 effectively cost the former Oklahoma State wide receiver the remainder of his collegiate career.

Now Prime Time is once again connected to a situation that may or may not constitute an NCAA violation (more than likely the latter), although this one hits a little closer to home.

Last week, photos appeared on social media websites of SMU wide receiver Deion Sanders Jr. and some of his teammates hanging out backstage with rapper Lil’ Wayne.  The father of the SMU receiver told Adam Lawson of the Valley Morning Star that “his son was being investigated because ‘they’re trying to say (he) got into the concert because (he’s) an SMU player.’”  The elder Sanders went on to explain that Lil’ Wayne is one of his best friends.

While the former Florida State star claimed that the NCAA is investigating his son, his son’s school claims otherwise.

Lil Wayne“It’s not the NCAA. It’s our compliance office. Just doing their due diligence,” SMU official Brad Sutton said via text message when asked about who was probing what. “We don’t expect to find anything amiss, but it’s our responsibility to check stuff like this out.”

What SMU will likely find is that Sanders Jr. and his teammates were backstage because of who the former’s father is, not because they’re Mustang football players.

Sanders Jr. enrolled at SMU this past January after spending one season at the prep school Atlanta Sports Academy.  He’s expected to see time this season as a slot receiver.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Dallas Morning News)

(Photo courtesy of Deion Sanders’ Twitter account)

Wednesday offseason one-liners

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Some links from around college football on a Wednesday… 

— Man, BYU cannot catch a break with injuries.

— USF’s receiver unit is going through more attrition.

— One of the four ex-Vanderbilt players connected to a rape case has pleaded not guilty.

— Former Oklahoma State and current Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has some strong words for the NCAA.

— A reserve Duke offensive lineman is out for the year with an ankle injury.

Dan Wetzel writes that Brian Kelly has unfinished business at Notre Dame.

— Ohio State is picking up the pace to catch the SEC, Pat Forde writes.

— Apparently, Jadeveon Clowney didn’t give his full effort and was a bit out of shape last year. Okay then.

Kevin Sumlin knows how to coach around distractions. Because he’s done before at Oklahoma.