Category Archives: The NCAA

If you’re not stretching the boundaries, you ain’t tryin’.

Andy Staples suggests a unique defense Ole Miss could resort to if the Tunsil situation gets sticky:

No one from Ole Miss is talking beyond a generic statement released early Friday morning. Athletic director Ross Bjork has not responded to text messages from SI.com. But if Ole Miss officials were thinking ahead, they could have used a federal court ruling from the previous year to justify giving Tunsil money above tuition, room and board. On Aug. 8, 2014, Judge Claudia Wilken ruled against the NCAA in a case brought by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon. One of the stipulations in Wilken’s ruling was that schools were no longer allowed to make rules that capped scholarships below the actual cost-of-attendance figure the schools reported to the federal government. This meant that schools could offer the difference between tuition, room and board and the actual cost of attendance as a cash stipend. In the case of Ole Miss, that amount is $4,500. But here’s the catch. Schools didn’t start offering those stipends until the 2015–16 school year. Yet because they had to comply with the federal court ruling, they could provide up to that amount for an athlete using the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund. This is a pool of cash—which also has its roots in a federal lawsuit—available to schools to use when players face a sudden need. The usual example here is the cost of traveling home to a family member’s funeral. Recently, schools have also used this fund to purchase disability and/or loss-of-value insurance policies for their best football and basketball players.

In the 2014–15 academic year, when those texts were allegedly sent, a school could have used money from the SAF to pay a player up to the difference between his scholarship and the actual cost of attendance. In that case, Ole Miss could have given Tunsil up to $4,500. This window closed when the Rebels began to offer cost-of-attendance stipends, but it was open during the dates in question, according to people with knowledge of the NCAA’s compliance interpretations at the time.

This explanation would only be accepted if Ole Miss documented all payments to Tunsil as such when they happened. SEC schools are required to log all their SAF disbursements with the conference office. If there’s a record of those payments to Tunsil, voila. The Rebels were simply complying with the court’s ruling. This wouldn’t satisfy rival fans and coaches who thirst for NCAA-related blood to be spilled in Oxford, but it would keep the wolves at bay in this particular instance.  [Emphasis added.]

Admittedly, the odds on that are slight, at best.  But, damn, would that raise more than a few eyebrows if Freeze were really thinking that far ahead?  I suspect even Jim Harbaugh would tip his cap to that kind of envelope pushing.

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Filed under SEC Football, The NCAA

“I have no way of handling surprise amounts.”

Somehow, I don’t think Hugh Freeze will be extending the same gracious invitation to the world today.

In what has to be a first, last night there was some actual real-time drama that took place during an NFL Draft show.

An anonymous hacker used the night of the NFL draft to try to take down Laremy Tunsil and the Ole Miss football program.

Moments before the draft began a video of Tunsil smoking out of a bong fashioned out of a gas mask was posted onto his Twitter account. When it had done its damage, moving Tunsil out of the top 10 entirely and to the Miami Dolphins on No. 13, the hacker started on Tunsil’s Instagram account.

There they posted screenshots of alleged text messages between Tunsil and John Miller, assistant athletic director for football operations, in which Tunsil asks for money to pay rent and also for his mother’s $305 electric and water bill. In reference to the former, Miller makes a reference to “Barney.” Barner (sic) Farrar is Ole Miss’ assistant athletic director for high school and junior colleges.

“I made a mistake,” Tunsil said in a press conference. “That happened.”

Pressed if that meant he had taken money from a coach, Tunsil said, ‘I’d have to say yeah.’

I’d have to say that’s not good.  And I’d have to say this sure must have been awkward:

Coach Hugh Freeze was in the green room with Tunsil and fellow NFL first-round picks from Ole Miss, Laquon Treadwell (23rd overall to the Minnesota Vikings) and Robert Nkemdiche (29th overall to the Arizona Cardinals).

Talk about your “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” moment.

No comment was forthcoming from the usually chatty freeze.  As for the school,

Ole Miss released a statement late Thursday night that said it was aware of the reports and, “Like we do whenever an allegation is brought to our attention or a potential violation is self-discovered, we will aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC.”

Yeah, sure.

A few thoughts on the situation:

  • It’s easy to mock Tunsil, I suppose, but as a Georgia fan who suffered through the Green and Gurley debacles, I don’t have the heart to do so, especially in the case of a kid who was by most accounts NFL-ready after his freshman year having to beg for table scraps to keep the water on for his mom.  In a fairer world, none of these kids would have ever had a problem with bending NCAA amateurism rules for a few bucks.
  • On the other hand, given Freeze’s previous sanctimony on the subject, Ole Miss deserves all the questioning and finger-pointing that is being and will continue to be directed its way.
  • What in the world was Jimmy Sexton thinking, letting Tunsil speak to the media last night?
  • All of that being said, and even with the NCAA already being in Oxford Town looking over the operation, so to speak, we’re a long way from seeing the hammer drop.  First off, while Tunsil said plenty last night, the NCAA can’t compel him to say any more, or provide any other information.  He’s in the NFL now, so he’s not touchable.  Miller and Ferrar are probably going to be scapegoated and cut loose at the earliest possible time, likely to be painted as rogue actors in this play.  That leaves Ross Bjork, the AD, to tap dance around institutional control claims, but to date he’s proved himself to be fairly adept.  Certainly he’s no Greg McGarity.
  • What’s the over/under on the number of FOIA requests that hit Ole Miss today?  And is that higher or lower than the number of times rival coaches use this as an issue with which to hammer Freeze on the recruiting trail?
  • Back to Tunsil – if you’re interested in whether he has a claim against the person who hacked his accounts and publicized what he posted, you might want to read this.
  • You know who’s relieved about this story dropping last night?  Nick Saban, who saw his own bad story – one that should have been a huge one last night and today – buried under Tunsil’s.  (Think there’s any chance Sexton suggested the timing?  Eh, nah.)

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UPDATE:  The NFL thinks Ole Miss has a “culture”.  Not in a good sense…

The hot rumor as Thursday approached was that the several teams, including the Chargers at No. 3, coveted Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley over Tunsil. Multiple sources told The MMQB that Tunsil’s off-field behavior was becoming increasingly worrisome and reason for some teams to remove him from their draft boards altogether. Much of it had to do with the culture at Mississippi, sources say. The football program was served in January with notice of allegations of a number of NCAA violations. Last season Tunsil was suspended seven games for receiving impermissible benefits, and at the combine in February teammate Robert Nkemdiche said Tunsil had been with him when Nkemdiche fell out a hotel window. Then, two days before the draft, Tunsil’s stepfather filed a lawsuit against him for “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” stemming from a dispute last June. For a player pegged as a potential No. 1 pick, there were enough problems surrounding Tunsil to turn some teams away.

And this is, hands down, the best summary of the surreal evening:

Asked again if there had been an exchange of money, Tunsil then responded matter-of-factly, “I have to say yeah.” A further question about whether he’d met with the NCAA was being posed when Milam appeared from behind a curtain, cutting the session short. “He’s got no more comments. Thank you guys so much,” she said, tapping the offensive lineman on the shoulder, whisking him away and leaving media as baffled as Tunsil apparently had been.

“There’s no way I heard that correctly,” a reporter in the front row said. “There’s no f—ing way that just happened.”

Just a reminder that Jimmy Sexton, who, by the way you shouldn’t forget, represents both Tunsil and Freeze, didn’t exactly have a good night.

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Filed under SEC Football, Social Media Is The Devil's Playground, The NCAA

Chaos!

Department of Justice 1, SEC 0.

Guess Kirby’d better get his satellite camp plans dusted off.  You know Bert’s raring to go.

Oh, and I hope Hugh Freeze posts his teary farewell to his family as he hits the road to do his job.  Oh, the humanity!

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UPDATE:  The SEC prepares to unleash itself upon an unsuspecting world.

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UPDATE #2:  Of course…

I’d love to hear somebody in the media ask Greg Sankey about that.

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Filed under Recruiting, The NCAA

One is more than none.

Let’s say for the sake of argument you think the satellite camp ban was enacted in haste by the NCAA and does in fact interfere with some recruits’ ability to be seen by football programs.  Let’s say even further that if you’re a student-athlete, you’re probably more sensitive to the issue than, say, Greg Sankey.

If so, the make up of the bunch on the NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors reviewing the ban today ought to give you the warm and fuzzies:  Twenty chief executive officers, one director of athletics, one senior woman administrator, one faculty athletics representative and – wait for it – one student-athlete.

Ain’t having a real voice in governance grand?

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Filed under The NCAA

The NCAA’s easy nobility

Ooh, look who’s taking a stand!

The NCAA Board of Governors on Wednesday took steps to protect participants and spectators from discrimination at NCAA events.

At its quarterly meeting in Indianapolis, the board adopted a new requirement for sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events in all divisions — from the Men’s and Women’s Final Fours to educational events such as leadership development conferences — to demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.

The board’s decision integrates the new requirement into the bidding process for championships, adding it to information already required that outlines available access for people with disabilities and details on playing and practice facilities.

Don’t go too far out on a limb there, folks.  Now, the announcement does go on to mention previous bans – “The Association now prohibits championships events with predetermined sites in states where governments display the Confederate battle flag, and prohibits NCAA members from hosting championships events if their school nicknames use Native American imagery that is considered abusive and offensive.” – but doesn’t explicitly call for one in this instance.  So all we really know for sure at this point is that if you want to bid for a championship event, you’ll have to let the NCAA know who can pee in which bathroom in your venue.

That’s bold.  Just ask chair of the Board of Governors Kirk Schulz.

Schulz, in a story by USA TODAY Sports focused on tensions between religious schools with anti-gay policies, said the NCAA is a “powerful bully pulpit” and that the organization “does need to take some stands.”

You know what else could use a stand by the NCAA?  How about not tolerating schools that are serial enablers of physical abusers?  You know where you could start with that, right, Kirk?

There has been no shortage of notable numbers associated with Baylor football the past several years. For example, Art Briles’ team averaged 52.4 points per game in 2013. The Bears amassed 645 rushing yards in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl.

Today it’s time to focus on another number that’s turning one of college football’s purported feel-good stories into a human tragedy.

That number is nine. As in, at least nine women have reported to police they were raped or assaulted by Baylor football players since 2009.

One is too many. Nine is unconscionable. Especially when you realize most of those attacks could have been avoided.

Just when I thought there was nothing to add to the Shawn Oakman story, Mandel manages to find something that makes Baylor look even worse.

Earlier this month, Waco police arrested Bears All-American defensive end Shawn Oakman on one count of sexual assault. The alleged April 3 incident involving a Baylor student took place several months after his last college game. Thus, one might suggest it unfair to tie that event to Briles’ program.

Except that earlier this week, Texas-based reporter Alex Dunlap uncovered a January 2013 police report in which a woman identified as Oakman’s ex-girlfriend accused him of assault. She described the lineman — then listed at 6-foot-9, 270 pounds — lifting her by the armpits and shoving her into brick walls and cabinets. The woman did not want to press charges, and the outside world knew nothing of it.

Worth noting, that alleged incident occurred less than a year after Oakman’s dismissal from his original school, Penn State, following a misdemeanor charge for getting physical with a convenience store clerk. If Briles was made aware of that initial Baylor incident — Dunlap reported that he was, but that’s not yet been confirmed — Oakman, who redshirted during the 2012 season, never should have played a down for Baylor, much less remained in town three years later to allegedly sexually assault a student.

I think it’s time to stop making jokes about Second Chance U.  Baylor makes Auburn look like Zero Tolerance U by comparison.  But I digress.  The real question here is how Mark Emmert could fall all over himself looking for ways to hang Penn State over Sandusky’s egregious misconduct and yet turn a blind eye to what’s happening in Waco.  And before you say that’s not his place, kindly remember this post of mine that looks prescient here.  Bottom line:  you break something, you own it.  Unless you’re the NCAA and hope simply that nobody notices the broken crockery you swept under the rug.

 

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Filed under The NCAA

Now you’ve really done it.

Serious question for you:  is there an organization out there that does a better job of stepping in its own shit than the NCAA does?

The United States Department of Justice has begun an informal inquiry into the topic of satellite camps by calling college football coaches, conference commissioners and college administrators, two people with knowledge of the matter told USA TODAY Sports.

I bet those are some fun conversations.  I wonder what they’re talking about.

The DOJ’s interest, according to one of the people who spoke to USA TODAY Sports, is based on whether an NCAA ban of satellite camps — a term used to describe off-campus coaching clinics attended by prospective student-athletes — could jeopardize or lessen opportunities for youth players to be seen or have access to college football coaches.

If I’m in college athletics, a standard of “jeopardize or lessen opportunities for youth players” would scare the bejeezus out of me.  What if, say, the DOJ decided to look at the number of scholarships handed out – or, more to the point, not handed out – in non-revenue sports in the same light?

Needless to say, that Board of Directors’ vote on Thursday just got a lot more interesting.

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Filed under The NCAA

Six degrees of Bert

It turns out that the idea of aggressively pursuing satellite camping didn’t spring unbidden from the mind of Jim Harbaugh like some sort of college football Athena.  Nah, there was a lot of begettin’ before he got started.

No one voting on the ban apparently thought of the potential consequences for recruits if Group of Five coaches weren’t allowed to work Power 5 camps—something both groups want—so it would not be the least bit shocking if the ban gets tossed. The leagues that want a ban would then be asked to go back and write a more carefully worded rule.

If that happens, the coaches who were planning satellite camps will probably reinstate those plans. That includes Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who planned to have coaches work camps at Florida International, Rutgers and a few other schools. The Razorbacks also had preliminary plans to hold a camp at Cowboys Stadium. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is an Arkansas alumnus. “I was shocked by [the ruling] the other day,” Bielema told Jack Arute and me Friday on SiriusXM’s College Sports Nation. “We were ready to rock ‘n’ roll. I was kind of in favor of them.”

Bielema also provided a little backstory for how the satellite camp issue has evolved. If you’ve been reading this space, you already know the first Power 5 staff to think of teaming with a lower-level school in a recruit-rich state was Oklahoma State’s, which partnered with Division III power Mary Hardin-Baylor to work camps in Texas. It was Bielema who took brochures from those camps to the SEC’s spring meetings in Destin, Fla., a few years ago to let conference coaches know about the practice. (Given Arkansas’s location, Bielema’s intent was likely to convince the SEC to change its rule so Razorbacks coaches could fan out.) At the time, James Franklin was the coach at Vanderbilt. The next year, he had moved to Penn State. Franklin’s Nittany Lions staff began working camps in Georgia and Florida. When Jim Harbaugh arrived at Michigan, he saw what the Penn State coaches were doing and decided to build on it.

And here we are.

Yep.

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Filed under Bert... uh... Bret Bielema, Recruiting, SEC Football, The NCAA