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SEC Headlines 1/10/2014

headlines-friSEC Football

1. Here’s why nothing has been announced between Penn State and James Franklin (and why Vanderbilt could still have a shot).

2. ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reports Franklin’s contract at Penn State should be finalized and approved on Saturday.

3. Kevin Scarbinsky writes that Alabama coach Nick Saban is smart to like Lane Kiffin.

4. Alabama director of player personnel Kevin Steele will reportedly leave to become Louisville’s defensive coordinator.

5. Gus Malzahn received an “A+” from Athlon Sports for his first-year coaching job at Auburn. How about the other first-year coaches?

6. Georgia secondary coach Scott Lakatos resigned for personal reasons, he announced Thursday.

SEC/NFL Draft

7. Four players are leaving Alabama early, including safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.

8. Tre Mason announced he’s leaving Auburn. He might be Auburn’s second best running back behind Bo Jackson, writes Scarbinsky.

9. That’s 23 players from the SEC who have announced they’re leaving for the NFL.

10. LSU offensive lineman Trai Turner is leaning toward returning to school, according to his high school coach.

11. Texas A&M received good news when offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi announced he’ll return for his senior season.

SEC Basketball

12. Arkansas has plenty to work on following its disappointing road loss at Texas A&M.

13. Changes are coming to LSU’s lineup as the Tigers try to break out of a two-game losing streak.

14. Florida coach Bill Donovan wants to see more intensity from his team.

15. The Gators have experienced plenty of success at home and fans have been there to see it.

16. Kentucky coach John Calipari has warned his team to be careful about slow starts.

17. It’s “50-50″ whether Tennessee freshman Robert Hubbs has season-ending shoulder surgery.

Extra

18. LeBron James texted Johnny Manziel weekly during the season as James helped mentor the former Texas A&M quarterback.

19. There are plenty of off-field questions, but Louisville brought back a winning coach by hiring Bobby Petrino.

20. Texas booster Red McCombs apologized for his public criticism of Texas coach Charlie Strong.

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Reports: Franklin To Pull Up Anchor, Leave Vanderbilt For Penn State

still-waiting-skeleton copyIt was fun while it lasted.

James Franklin’s impressive three-year run at Vanderbilt is apparently coming to an end as various sources report that the coach will soon officially be named the new coach at Penn State.  However.  Vandy defensive end Caleb Azubike spoke with Franklin today and he says his coach told him that no decision has yet been made and “he’s still pondering.”  And VandySports.com reports that “rumor is, Vanderbilt did in fact match Penn State’s offer that is north of $4 million a year.”

But as most outlets are calling this race in favor of PSU, just as we’ve been saying for weeks, the story is turning toward the sexual assault that allegedly took place inside Franlin’s VU football program.

If there was one school we thought would not hire Franklin, it was Penn State.  We were wrong.  Now stories like this are going to start bubbling up — “James Franklin could bring his own scandal baggage to Penn State.”  Donald Gilliland of PennLive.com writes:

 

“… that doesn’t mean Penn State wouldn’t find its brand associated once again in unflattering national headlines if it hires Franklin.  

Defense attorneys for one of the players in the case have explicitly asked for — and complained about not receiving — text messages between players and (the) Vanderbilt coaching staff regarding the incident as part of the discovery in the case.

What’s more, the defense attorneys also say they are preparing to subpoena Franklin in anticipation of his taking a coaching job elsewhere.  

‘We want to make sure if he takes a job outside of Nashville we can compel him as a witness if we desire him to be one,’ said Defense attorney Fletcher Long.”

 

Gilliland goes on to detail the rape allegations against four ex-Vandy football players and says Franklin’s “potential ongoing involvement in the court case itself could bring seriously unsavory details into association with the Penn State name.”  A name that’s already been dragged through the mud due to Jerry Sandusky’s sex scandal.  A scandal which resulted in NCAA sanctions, the destruction of Joe Paterno’s reputation, perhaps the old coach’s immediate decline in health and death, and all manner of other troubles.

So are we surprised at this hire?  No.  We’re shocked.  Then again, since when have schools ever cared much about reputations and black eyes?  Louisville just re-hired Bobby Petrino, proving that winning is truly the only thing that matters to most big-time programs.

And to be fair to Franklin, if he’s not been involved in any kind of cover-up — and we continue to bet that he was not — he shouldn’t be penalized because of something four miscreants in his football program did.  He should be able to move elsewhere.  We just think Penn State — given all the circumstances — is the absolute oddest fit possible.

Now, Penn State will certainly get a man who knows how to recruit and who knows how to create “attitude” within his program.  Whether or not Franklin will like being compared to Joe Paterno at every turn, well, that remains to be seen.

For Vandy, it appears AD David Williams is about to be back in the coach search business.  As we wrote earlier this morning, thanks to Franklin and a newfound financial commitment to football at Vanderbilt, Williams has a better job to sell today than the one he offered Franklin three years ago.

Also, the Dores will have to work to hold together this year’s class of commitments, if/when Franklin does indeed officially take the Penn State job.

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Franklin-To-Penn State Rumors Continue To Heat Up (And Why We Think It Would Be Less Than A Perfect Marriage)

james-franklin-podiumYesterday, a number of Vanderbilt assistant coaches began following a number of Penn State recruits on Twitter.  All Hell broke loose soon after.

Now, Vandy’s coaches are following the recruits of other schools, too, but the timing of the PSU adds was interesting to say the least.  And that’s led to more reports that Franklin and his staff are the frontrunners to take over the Nittany Lion program.

USA Today reported yesterday afternoon that Vanderbilt’s coach “would be inclined to take the head coaching position at Penn State if offered.”  This from “a person familiar with his thinking,” which is a title we’ve never seen kicked around before.  Doesn’t mean that we doubt it, only that it’s a new way of saying, “someone close to the coach.”

We’ve stated our surprise with Penn State’s chutzpah in considering a coach who could possibly have his name dragged into an ongoing sexual assault case.  While Franklin likely had zip to do with any after-the-fact cover-ups by four then-VU players, it’s still a possibility that defense attorneys might call on Franklin for information.  USA Today makes mention of the situation as follows:

 

“This (Vandy) season was marred to some degree by an June incident in which four Vanderbilt players were charged with raping an unconscious 21-year-old at a dormitory and a fifth pleaded guilty to helping cover it up.  All five were dismissed from the team.

Franklin would take over a Penn State program still operating under scholarship limitations and other NCAA sanctions related to the Jerry Sanduscky scandal.”

 

For his part, Franklin remains mum on the topic of Penn State.  But back in Nashville, Commodore AD David Williams — who deserves a ridiculous amount of credit for unearthing Franklin in the first place — says he’ll “do everything I can to make sure” that Vandy’s coach remains Vandy’s coach:

 

“I expect James to be our football coach.  I’m planning on it.  We’re looking at facilities.  We’re working on some stuff.  I have all thoughts that he’s going to be our football coach.”

 

One Vandy student has also started a petition online at change.org begging Franklin to stay at the West End school.  Courtney Graziano ended her petition by writing:

 

“To Coach Franklin: I beg you to stay a Commodore

To Vanderbilt: PAY HIM WHATEVER HE WANTS”

 

So far 500 people have “signed” the online document.

And speaking of signatures, The Tennessean reports that (at least) a pair of Vanderbilt commitments might re-open their recruitment at the last minute should Franklin bolt.  Quarterback prospect KJ Carta-Samuels said, “I just don’t know (that) without Franklin if it’s the same family, the same vibe.”  And running back commitment Mikale Wilbon had this to say:

 

“I’ve been getting a lot of calls about that (from other schools).  If he does leave, I don’t know what I’m going to do.  It would stun me because when I committed last spring, he was telling me he wanted to make it into a dynasty there, like Nick Saban at Alabama, like Joe Paterno at Penn State.  If he winds up leaving, I don’t know.”

 

Meanwhile, at least one columnist covering Penn State has made it clear that he believes Franklin should not be the next Nittany Lion coach.  Franklin would be wise to consider the rationale behind the column from PennLive.com’s David Jones:

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Vandy’s Franklin A Wanted Man, Even In Some Places We Wouldn’t Have Expected

James-Franklin-contemplativeWhen it comes to interviewees for head coaching jobs, no one in the country is more sought after at this moment than Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.  We’re talking about a Stage 5, Gruden-level feeding frenzy.  And why not?  The Commodores’ coach just wrapped up back-to-back 9-4 seasons, he’s won 16 of his last 20 games, and he’s taken to Vandy to three bowl games, winning two of them.  Short of walking across the Cumberland River, Franklin has proven about all a man can prove at what had been the SEC’s traditional cellar-dweller.

That’s why he’s on Penn State’s short list.  That’s why the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins have reportedly asked for permission to speak with him.  It’s why the Houston Texans did speak to him (reportedly) and why the Tennessee Titans might check to see if he’d be interested in moving a couple of miles across town.

The NFL thing seems a bit farfetched as the two biggest pluses for the young coach are his infectious enthusiasm and his recruiting ability.  And recruiting doesn’t help a whole bunch in the pro game.  That’s not to say Franklin can’t X and O with the best of them, but it’s his attitude — which he’s instilled into Vanderbilt’s program — that’s drawn raves from pundits and wowed some NFL owners.

Today the NFL Network reported that the Washington Redskins plan to meet with Franklin, “likely” this week.  He is believed to have met with Penn State officials yesterday.  There the Pennsylvania native is on a short list that includes two former Nittany Lion players-turned-coaches: Mike Munchak and Larry Johnson.

For his part, Franklin has remained mum at every turn.  Asked by The Tennessean for an interview yesterday he simply texted back: “Excited about going to LA, we can talk later.”  Franklin will be a part of ESPN’s coverage of tonight’s Auburn/Florida State BCS Championship Game.

Tennessean reporter Jeff Lockridge tweeted today that co-defensive coordinator Brent Pry has pulled out of the Georgia Southern head coaching search:

 

2014-01-06 02.53.21 pm

 

Whether that means Pry will stay at Vandy or move with Franklin to the pros or — more likely — Penn State remains to be seen.

The one surprising point in the Penn State/Franklin talk is the lack of talk regarding the ongoing court cases of four former VU players arrested for sexual assault.  As noted previously, defense attorneys for one of the accused requested that the Nashville DA send them transcripts of all phone and/or text conversations between the players and their coaches — including Franklin — on the night of the alleged rape.

As we’ve stated repeatedly, we don’t believe for a second that Franklin helped his players cover up such a heinous act.  However.  If you’re Penn State University can you really afford to ignore the possibility — no matter how small — that Franklin might have helped cover up some portion of something?

David Jones of PennLive.com is the only columnist to broach the topic to date, writing:

 

“But a rape case involving four of his former players at Vanderbilt is ongoing.  Though Franklin has, to this point, been cleared by police and the local DA of any wrongdoing including involvement in a cover-up of any type, the trial is still pending.”

 

Left unwritten is the fact that PSU just went through a massive beatdown at the hands of the justice system, the NCAA, and the public at large for a widespread cover-up of former assistant Jerry Sandusky’s own sex crimes against young boys.

For that reason, if there were one job in America this writer would have automatically ruled out as a potential landing spot for Franklin… it would have been PSU.  So much for that.

Perhaps the folks at Penn State feel they can put up with one or two uncomfortable questions at an introductory press conference if it means introducing the right guy.  Perhaps they feel completely at ease with Franklin’s assurances that there are no skeletons in his closet when it comes to the sexual assault case involving his ex-players.

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Vanderbilt Wins Bowl Game But Will Coach James Franklin Return?

postgame-links-150x1501Vanderbilt 41 – Houston 24. Video Highlights

1. Vanderbilt wins the game but will the Commodores lose their coach? James Franklin reportedly interviewing with Penn State and requests to interview with NFL’s Browns and Redskins. Also a report out that Franklin will interview with Detroit Lions. Franklin reportedly one of Penn State’s top three candidates.

2. Jeremy Fowler on head coach opening at Louisville with Charlie Strong off to Texas: “If Vanderbilt’s James Franklin is still on the board after 1,234 NFL or college interviews, he’s worth the first call. Make him say no.”

3. First back-to-back nine win seasons in Vanderbilt history.  SEC now 7-2 in bowl games.

4, Vanderbilt defense gives up 24 points in third quarter – shuts out the Cougars the rest of the way.

5. Vandy goes to running game in second half - 133 of 211 rushing yards came in third and fourth quarters.

6.  Vanderbilt seniors finish career with winning record.  Started off 2-10.

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Report: James Franklin Tops List Of Penn State Coaching Candidates

James-Franklin-contemplativeWith reports out that Penn State coach Bill O’Brien could be offered the job as the Houston Texans head coach as early as today, speculation has moved on to the next man in charge of the Nittany Lions program.  At the top of the list, according to one report, is Vanderbilt coach James Franklin.

Citing “knowledgeable sources within the program,” the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania says Franklin tops the list of potential candidates. David Jones also adds that “athletic director Dave Joyner has direct knowledge of Franklin through family members and third parties who are very impressed with him.”

Other factors working in Franklin’s favor according to Jones:

- He’s a college football coach, not a former NFL guy who wants to return to the professional ranks.

- He’s a motivator who can recruit.

- He’s got an offensive background that “would meld nicely in the tutelage of soph-to-be PSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg.”

Jones also notes that Penn State needs to act quickly should the University of Texas target Franklin because the Longhorns “certainly could outbid PSU with its deep pockets and unlimited athletic budget.”

The 8-4 Vanderbilt Commodores play Houston Saturday in the BBVAA Compass Bowl in Birmingham.  When asked about rumors regarding his status on Monday, Franklin simply stated, ““I love the Vandy fans. I love the Vandy nation. I love everything we’re doing,”

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SEC Headlines 10/29/2013

headlines-tueSEC Football

1. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Alabama has earned its No. 1 ranking the last two years.

2. A defensive assistant on Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron said “AJ’s special.”

3. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is confident his defense will be ready for Auburn’s offense.

4. Coaches are downplaying the return of Gus Malzahn to Arkansas.

5. Cornerback Jonathan Jones is preparing himself to help Auburn’s secondary.

6. Florida and Georgia are both down but they’re both in contention for the SEC East.

7. Florida freshman running back Kelvin Taylor will play more. Will Muschamp: “I think he’s done a nice job and deserves the opportunity.”

8. Here’s a look at the matchup between Florida and Georgia.

9. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops previews the Wildcats’ upcoming game against Alabama State.

10. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has a lot of respect for Steve Spurrier and the way he’s adapted in his career.

11. Expect Ole Miss freshman running back Mark Dodson to see more playing time moving forward.

12. After Tennessee called Alabama the “red team” last week, Tony Barnhart suggests UT shouldn’t have made AJ McCarron mad.

13.  Butch Jones is still waiting to hear from the NCAA regarding suspended D-lineman Maurice Couch.  Couch was the only active player among five SEC athletes dinged for taking extra benefits from agents/runners.

14. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel has looked better in 2013, according to Barrett Sallee.

15. Being conservative with a lead in the fourth quarter is natural.  It happened to Missouri last weekend.

16. Jadeveon Clowney said last year he “really didn’t practice real hard.” Clowney: “This year, I came in with a different mind-set.”

Injuries/Practice Reports

17. Georgia running back Todd Gurley looks fully healthy as he prepares to return against Florida.

18. Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell will be limited in practice but available this weekend.

19. Florida linebacker Ronald Powell should return to practice on Tuesday or Wednesday.

SEC Basketball

20. LSU is trying to make basketball more entertaining so fans will be more interested in attending games.

Extra

21. Penn State will pay $59.7 million to 26 Jerry Sandusky victims, the school announced.

22. Which college basketball coaches are on the hot seat entering the season? Gary Parrish takes a look.

23. Here’s a re-ranking of all 125 FBS college football teams. Heads up: Alabama is not No. 1.

24. Was Urban Meyer running up the score on Penn State last weekend? If he wasn’t then he should have, writes Dan Wetzel.

25. The NBA regular season begins tonight. Here are some burning questions as the season begins.

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Chill Out, Alabama Won’t Be Donning Black Jerseys This Year

Oh, my.  That got ugly fast.

The internet almost broke yesterday when the University of Alabama’s online store put up for sale a black-on-black Tide football jersey.  The description of the horrendous, tradition-crushing jersey said: “Designed in the same styling as the gear your favorite players will wear on the field in the 2013 Blackout Game.”

Uh-oh.

 

bama-black-jersey

 

That thing is so ghastly — and impossible to read — that it’s actually silly.

The good news is that the school said it was working to correct the text.  As of 11am ET today, the black-on-black shirt is no longer on the Rolltide.com shop at all.

Good.

We realize that traditions are changing.  We know that players and recruits now dictate to schools what they will and will not wear.  We know that schools like Oregon never wear the same uniform combination twice.  And we also know that you can’t turn on a college football game without having to spend the first couple of minutes trying to figure out who it is that’s wearing black, “anthracite” or a candy-cane helmet.

Laughably, many schools say they’re expanding their brand by adding dozens of uniform options.  Most of the marketing books I’ve read would say just the opposite.  If you’re brand is everything, you have no brand.

So hopefully Alabama — one of the few remaining schools with an actual, honest-to-God, take-one-look-at-’em-and-you-know-’em brand — won’t be joining all those other schools that have decided to turn their uniform designs over to companies who are more concerned about creating a brand for themselves than for the schools that hired them.  How else can anyone explain this abomination?

Some day, we’ll all look back at this era of college football and view it as we now do 1970s and 1980s baseball uniforms.  Here’s praying that schools like Alabama, Texas and Penn State (even if their tradition is drab), won’t give into the temptation and yield to Nike, adidas, Under Armour or teenage prospects.

Black-on-black with crimson outlining?  Blech.

Update:  Back on the site and described as a “special-edition Nike Limited jersey.”

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The Morning After: SEC Players Implicated, SEC Fans Fret

mushroom-cloudWelcome to the new reality of college athletics.  In this reality, college athletics — the actual athletic events — are only background noise.  The focus instead is on scandal.  One after another.  Week after week.  School after school.

Penn State.

Oregon.

Miami.

Johnny Manziel.

Oklahoma State and Les Miles.

Alabama, Mississippi State and Tennessee players.

Agents.

Boosters.

Hostesses.

Saturday’s Alabama/Texas A&M clash might as well be hyped as Player Autographs versus Agent Money.

Enjoying it all?  I hope so because with more and more media there will be fewer and fewer secrets.  Some might think complete transparency is a good thing.  In theory, it probably is.  But this writer believes the fact that every $100 handshake — a practice that has gone on since the dawn of college sports — is now going to be uncovered by a website or just a guy with a cell phone camera and a Twitter account, will serve as the death blow for college athletics as we’ve known them.

The NCAA is a doomed organization, but not through any fault of its own.  If everyone has boosters who cheat or players who take money from agents — and they do — then everyone must go on probation or be stripped of wins.  With more and more schools in the NCAA hoosegow, who’ll be left to play the games?

Some of you are likely thinking, “What kind of nimrod believes it’s better if we don’t know about rule-breaking?”  But the point is this: If every jaywalker in New York City was cited or arrested Barney Fife-style, think of the backlog of cases in NYC courts.

Another example: The police in your state know that they can’t catch all speeders.  So they catch a few and hope that the randomness of their ticket-writing scares other drivers into slowing down.  Until now, that’s basically been the NCAA’s plan, too.

Now, however, the NCAA is going to be forced to act again and again by enterprising reporters… or by angry fans with internet access.  Think Alabama and Auburn backers haven’t mastered the art of mudslinging and scandal-finding?

This won’t end well, folks.  We are headed toward the day — and we’ve written this on other occasions — when college sports teams are basically semi-pro squads, complete with bi-weekly paychecks and sponsor logos on helmets and jerseys.  Schools will use them for marketing purposes and the rules will be relaxed to 19th Century Tombstone, Arizona standards.

What we’ve watched and enjoyed for generations is dying.  An omnipresent media will kill it by exposing every toe that goes over an NCAA line.

 

Here’s a quick wrap on what’s being said this AM:

*  As you know, Yahoo! Sports has revealed that five SEC players received extra benefits (cash) from agents/runners between September of 2011 and December of 2012.  Those players documented — key word — to have received cash were ex-Alabama offensive lineman DJ Fluker, ex-Mississippi State defensive lineman Fletcher Cox and ex-receiver Chad Bumphis, ex-Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and current Vol defensive defensive lineman Maurice Couch.

*  Columnist Kevin Scarbinsky wonders if Fluker could be Alabama’s version of Reggie Bush, leading to the loss of a pair of BCS titles.

*  Anyone remember Fluker tweeting in April: “Yea I took $ n college so wat. I did wat i had to do. Agents was tryin to pimp me to I pimped them. Cast da 1st stone.”  At the time, his agent claimed Fluker’s Twitter account was hacked.  Uh-huh.  You can be sure that there will be plenty of angry Tide fans ready to “cast da 1st stone” at Fluker’s noggin if his decision to accept cash hurts their program.

*  Nick Saban said yesterday taht he would handle the Fluker allegations appropriately.  When pressed for answers on the Fluker topic, Saban grew angry and left his presser with the words: “I appreciate your interest in the game.”

The runner in this case is ex-Alabama defensive lineman Luther Davis.  Yahoo! Sports has records suggesting that Davis funneled at least $45,000 to the five players implicated.

Some Alabama players are defending the school’s compliance department.

Here’s the breakdown of the Yahoo! story from a Mississippi State perspective.

Ex-Bulldog Bumphis hung up on a reporter from The Jackson Clarion-Ledger when contacted last night about his involvement in the story.

Here’s a look at things from a Tennessee perspective.  Associate AD Jimmy Stanton said: “We are aware of the article and are examining all of the relevant facts, and we will not comment further.”  UT coach Butch Jones has said that Couch probably won’t play against Oregon on Saturday.  (In reality, there’s little chance he’ll ever play again for Tennessee.)

 

Here are some quickie thoughts on the report and its fallout:

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Could The NCAA Drop The Hammer On Manziel Even If No Money Changed Hands?

rule-book-holyEarlier this week, we pointed out that while lots of people are drawing Cam Newton/Johnny Manziel comparisons, their two sagas differ in a couple of ways.  First, the investigation into Newton opened midseason and didn’t become public until November.  Second, there was a loophole for Newton to fit through.  That loophole has since been closed and would not be available for Manziel.

Or would it?

Tony Barnhart lays out the differences and the similarities between the two cases at CBSSports.com today.  Regarding one of the similarities he writes:

 

“What if money changed hands for Manziel’s signature but it never touched Manziel’s hands?  What if it went to one of the ‘personal assistants’ who travel with him?  And what if Manziel didn’t know — or claims he didn’t know — that somebody else got money?

In that case, the NCAA might have to make yet another rule to cover this particular situation.  Now do you understand why the rule book is so thick?”

 

Everyone seems to have a different view on whether or not the Newton rule would apply to Manziel.  The view at MrSEC.com is that the above scenario would be covered by the rule that closed that loophole.

In January of 2012, the NCAA added the rule which expanded the definition of an agent.  Any third-party influence — like Newton’s father, Cecil, for instance — who markets an athlete for profit could cost the player his eligibility.  In addition to family members, contract advisors, financial advisors, marketing representatives, brand managers “or anyone who is employed by or associated with such persons” would be considered agents.

NCAA Bylaw 12 also states that “an agent is any individual who, directly or indirectly, represents or attempts to represent an individual for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation for financial gain.”

Let’s say that Manziel’s friend/handler Nate Fitch asked for cash for Manziel’s signature on memorabilia (as is being reported).  Fitch would clearly qualify as an agent as he quit school to help Manziel manage his schedule and fame.  He also would have attempted to represent the player for the purpose of making money off of his reputation.

But, would it matter — as Barnhart puts forth — if Fitch and Manziel both said that the quarterback didn’t profit from the attempted rule violation?  Knowing that the NCAA tends to make decisions on the fly, we at MrSEC.com aren’t sure that it would.  Southern Cal was smacked around based in large part on the word of a man who’s testimony wouldn’t have help up in an actual court of law.  The NCAA expanded its powers and jurisdiction in order to pile on Penn State a year ago.  So if the NCAA believes Manziel knew what Fitch was doing, the NCAA could punish Manziel.  Even if both parties say the player didn’t know about it and didn’t profit from it.

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