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WOW Headlines – 10/17/12

Tennessee QB Tyler Bray says hate messages led him to vent on Twitter
South Carolina DT Kelcy Quarles could face discipline from SEC for punching LSU OL P.J. Lonergan during Saturday’s game
The family of ex-LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu says a Sports Illustrated story on him is “ridiculous”
Alabama QB A.J. McCarron says his injured knee felt “fine” after practice yesterday
South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier says he will get the ball to RB Marcus Lattimore more often against Florida on Saturday
Georgia LB Jarvis Jones is questionable for Saturday’s game with Kentucky
Tennessee OL Antonio Richardson on three SEC foes who’s beaten UT: “I think we were better than all three of them.”
Texas A&M S Steven Campbell is quitting football due to concussions and recurring headaches
Follow all the news from the SEC on MrSEC.com, twitter.com/mrsec, and on Facebook

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Report: NCAA “Expanding Inquiry” Into UK Hoops Signee Noel

Well, there’s bad news and then there’s bad news.  Bad news — for Kentucky faithful — is that the NCAA is reportedly expanding its investigation into top Wildcat basketball signee Nerlens Noel.  What’s make that news tougher to swallow is who’s reporting the story.  That would be Pete Thamel (peering over Noel’s shoulder at left), formerly of The New York Times, currently of SI.com, and regularly on the trail of John Calipari.

NCAA investigators have been snooping around the Noel case for a while now.  His academic record as he moved from one school to another has always been under the microscope.  So, too, have his contacts and his inner circle.  Now, “according to a person with knowledge of the NCAA inquiry,” the NCAA is asking more questions about how Noel paid to travel to his unofficial visits.

Thamel writes:

 

“What made the NCAA’s visit to Tilton (School) intriguing is that a senior Kentucky official, UK chief compliance officer Sandy Bell, accompanied (NCAA assistant directors of enforcement Cindi) Merrill and (Frank) Smith for the meeting. Bell didn’t ask many questions, according to the source, but did take notes and spoke up occasionally. The presence of two NCAA enforcement officials and Bell gives the appearance that this case has gone beyond the routine checking of top prospects, according to one former NCAA investigator.”

 

A “veteran compliance official” called the presence of Bell at the meeting “unusual but not incredibly unusual.”  It does suggest, however, that Noel’s presence on this year’s UK roster might still be in some doubt.  To what degree, only the NCAA knows.

Noel is expected to replace Anthony Davis’ as UK’s shot-blocking man in the middle this season.  And after this season he’s expected to be one of if not the #1 pick in the NBA draft come summer 2013.

Wildcat fans must already be murmuring (cursing, plotting) over the fact that Thamel’s first report for Sports Illustrated is once again focused on Calipari’s hoops program.  As someone who’s worked in the media for 20 years, I can tell you that most writers do not carry grudges, even though most fans believe all writers do.  In this case, though, even an outside observer like myself has to wonder how/why Thamel seems to be on a permanent UK basketball beat… while writing for The New York Times and now Sports Illustrated.

That said, whether Thamel has a vendetta against Kentucky’s coach or not, his report should be taken seriously by those in the Commonwealth.  After all, Kentucky’s top compliance officer took things seriously enough to hop a plane to New Hampshire and sit in as Noel’s situation was again given the once-over.

Which by now is more like a thrice-over.

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SI’s Staples: The Big 12 Should Let Mizzou Go To The SEC

Andy Staples of SI.com sounds fed up with a legal posturing and the resulting delays they cause in the current expansion/realignment game.  We feel ya.

In his latest column for Sports Illustrated’s online arm, Staples states that it’s time for the Big 12 to just let Missouri go to the SEC if it wants to go.  In fact, he’s for a full free agency period.  “If a school wants to move, let it move,” he writes.  “Let every school take the best conference deal it can get, sign some new media rights contracts and let the rest of us enjoy what’s left of this football season before the world changes next year.”

And what prompted this talk?  The slow dance Missouri and the SEC appear to be making toward one another:


“… the SEC isn’t going to just sniff the roses Mizzou sent, blush and invite the Tigers to share in its overflowing honey pot.  SEC presidents are as worried now about potential litigation from Big 12 leftovers as they were when they began their forbidden dance with Texas A&M this summer.  This is not a done deal yet.”

When the SEC accepted Texas A&M’s membership application unconditionally, it was widely speculated that the SEC must’ve gotten some assurance that the remaining Big 12 schools were no longer considering lawsuits.

But if you read this site everyday, you know that we did not share that view.  In fact, we wrote that Baylor president Kenneth Starr, specifically, could still attempt a lawsuit against the SEC even if the Big 12 managed to survive.  He could claim that by taking A&M, the SEC had harmed the Big 12… not killed, but harmed it.  Would he win such a suit?  He might not care.  The goal might be as simple as warning future deserters to think twice before attempting to tunnel out of Stalag (Big) 12.

In our view, the SEC’s decision to finally officially welcome A&M was based upon the league’s view that it could easily win any lawsuit Starr tossed out against it.

But if Missouri were to leave the Big 12, then all bets will be off.  Again.  Such a move cause Starr and others to dial up their lawyers.  The SEC may feel buttoned up with A&M, but not so buttoned up with A&M and Missouri.  Only Mike Slive and the SEC’s presidents know for sure.

The legal posturing is ridiculous, of course.  The ACC just raided the Big East.  The Big East is planning to grab schools from other conferences.  And Starr’s own Big 12 has stated — via interim commissioner Chuck Neinas — that it will go after any school it likes.

For some reason, the SEC appears to be the only league slowed by legal threats.  And Starr and Baylor appear to be the only school serious about filing lawsuits.

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Where Does Missouri Fit And Where Do Tiger Fans Want To Go?

Last summer, we dove into the expansion game with a series of reports called “Expounding on Expansion.”  We compared 18 different SEC schools in a number of categories — athletic budget, bowl and NCAA tourney bids over a 20-year period, academic rankings and AAU status, population base, television markets, etc.  We then ranked all 18 schools according to those hard and fast figures.

The number two school on our list of “good” expansion moves for the SEC was Texas A&M, just behind Texas.  And if there were a way to take points off for ego and an inability to get along with others, we have no doubt the Aggies would have bumped the Longhorns from the top spot.

Missouri — a school NO ONE was talking about as an SEC candidate last summer — came in right in the middle of our rankings.  The Tigers bring in everything that everyone has now come to realize matters: big TV markets, a big population base, solid athletics, and a good academic standard to please the presidents doing the voting.

But Missouri angled loudly for a Big Ten berth last year.  No wonder.  A university president would love to partner his institution with an academically-respected conference.  And for those who still don’t get it, the Big Ten’s various academic partnerships (learn more here) enable the average Big Ten school to grab about $500 million per year in research funding.  That’s about five times more cash than the biggest athletic budget in the nation.  So, yes, academics matter.

This summer, there are still many Mizzou fans and administrators who’d like to wait around for a Big Ten berth that may someday come.  Meanwhile, MU chancellor Brady Deaton is serving as the chair of the Big 12′s board of directors and he’s reportedly become the key man in trying to hold the Tigers’ current league together.  And at the same time, Deaton and the MU administration have supposedly been chatting with Mike Slive and the SEC, too… to the point that the school received an informal “if your league blows up, come join us” offer for SEC membership.  The Tiger fans on this site — probably because it’s a site covering the SEC — claim that the majority of Tiger fans want Mizzou to move South, not North in the expansion game.

As we’ve stated, if Missouri does eventually land an SEC bid, it would be the first school to enter the league without offering a full-throated “Hurrah!.”  See Texas A&M if you want an example of what a conference wants to hear from a potential new member.

Trying to gauge Mizzou’s interest in the SEC (and Big 12 and Big Ten) is tricky business.  Luckily, Mike Mitchell — my partner here at MrSEC.com — and our weekend and occasional “Overtime” contributor is a Show Me State product.  Asked why his home state seems so divided, Mike made it clear that that’s always been the nature of Missouri.

I asked him to put his thoughts — as a Missouri native and as someone who still lives part-time in that state — into a quickie post for the site.  Here’s his take on the mixed messages coming from the MU fanbase and administration:

 

Where does Missouri fit in all this expansion talk?  Just about anywhere.  And nowhere.  Maybe because it borders so many states (eight), there’s no consensus in Show-Me country where the Tigers fit best. 

Go to the western part of the state and the rivalry with Kansas dominates.  On the eastern side, Illinois is a natural rival.  Where I grew up in the Missouri bootheel, the television market features a CBS affiliate in Missouri, an ABC station in Illinois and the NBC affiliate broadcasts from Kentucky.  As a child, I watched a lot more Kentucky and SEC basketball games than I ever did of the Missouri Tigers and the old Big 8 (the Paducah, KY station used to pre-empt Saturday Night Live to show tape-delayed broadcasts from Rupp Arena).  In this part of the state, proximity to SEC country is closer than you think.  From the bootheel town of Sikeston – population of about 20,000 – you can be in Oxford, Mississippi just as fast as you can drive to Columbia, Missouri.

For that reason, I suspect many fans in southeast Missouri are sympathetic to a move to the SEC.  Ditto for the southwest part of the state where Springfield (the third largest market in the state after St. Louis and Kansas City) is only about 150 miles from Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

But go north of there and attitudes change. St. Louis media cover Illinois sports. Each year, Mizzou and Illinois play a basketball game in St. Louis.  The Illini represent Mizzou’s biggest non-conference rival.

About four hours west in Kansas City, the rivalry is different but the passions are even deeper.  Disagreements between Missouri and Kansas go back to Civil War days and William Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence.  On the football field, the Missouri-Kansas game is the oldest major college rivalry west of the Mississippi. I suspect many fans on the western side of the state are more interested in preserving an old rivalry than expanding to new territory. 

I was in college at the University of Missouri in 1985 when the St. Louis Cardinals played the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.  Because Columbia is roughly equidistant from the two cities, Sports Illustrated sent a writer to campus.  I recall a quote from a sociology professor who said something to the effect that, “St. Louis looks to the east.  Kansas City looks to the west.” It’s as true today as it was then.

The baseball teams remind me of another complicating factor in all of this: Unlike many SEC states where professional sports only arrived in recent decades, Missouri is dominated by pro sports teams. Both Kansas City and St. Louis have MLB and NFL teams.   The Cardinals have been a part of the National League since 1892.  If there’s a fan base in Missouri that can rival the passion of SEC football fans, that’s the group. In St. Louis, college sports receive second tier status. The Cardinals consume much of the media oxygen.

If you’re expecting consensus from the Missouri crowd on what conference is best, you’re going to be disappointed.  For reasons of history, culture and geography, it’s a divided state on so many issues.  Always has been and, I suspect, always will be.

 

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LSU Lands SI Cover

Fresh off a 40-27 win over Oregon on Saturday, the LSU Tigers will be featured on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated.

“It’s Go Time” is the headline and that gives us another reason to link to this.

Normally, we would say beware of the SI cover jinx.  But if Les Miles Tigers’ can overcome all the off-field drama of the past month and still whip Oregon, they got no need to worry about a jinx.  What’s one more headache?

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SEC Headlines 9/3/2011 Part One

Utah State – Auburn

1. Starting quarterback Barrett Trotter is now  a big man on campus.

Kent St. – Alabama

2. This is the second time Nick Saban has faced his alma mater.

BYU – Ole Miss

3. Transfer quarterback Barry Brunetti makes his first career start this afternoon.

Montana – Tennessee

4. Back for his second season as head coach, Derek Dooley is now getting the chance to focus on football.

East Carolina – South Carolina

5. Expect a lot of attention on Conner Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney.

 Florida Atlantic – Florida

6. Will Muschamp emphasizes big-play ratio and turnover ratio.

Missouri State- Arkansas

7. Expect a strong performance from the Arkansas defense.

Elon – Vanderbilt

8. No time for jitters for first-year head coach James Franklin.

Boise State – Georgia

9. D.J. Shockley recalls the last time these two teams met back in 2005. The roles have reversed.

Oregon-LSU

10. Dennis Dodd: “The loser of the first top-five opener on a neutral field in 27 years isn’t necessarily out of the national championship race. But history tells us they’re not exactly in the mix either.”

Picks

11. Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated likes Oregon over LSU and Georgia to upset Boise State.

12. One writer picks the SEC to sweep on Saturday, with the exception of Ole Miss.

 Extra

13. From breakfast to a late-night snack, a Saturday meal plan for a college football junkie.

 

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SEC Headlines – 8/18/11 Part One

1.  Florida’s players say there’s no internal strife in Gainesville this year.

2.  The spread-option may be gone, but the Wildcat lives on at UF.

3.  The strength and conditioning coach for the Gator basketball team has left for a job with the San Antonio Spurs.

4.  Georgia has lost another body in Jakar Hamilton, but at least the Dawgs have built some depth at safety.

5.  Isaiah Crowell is closer to returning to action than Richard Samuel.

6.  Egads!  UGA’s not in the Sports Illustrated’s preseason Top 25.

7.  Kentucky quarterback Morgan Newton is listening to advice from ex-QBs Tee Martin and Andre Woodson.

8.  Learning Rick Minter’s new defense is “an upper-level course.”

9.  UK hoopster Darius Miller and Team USA moved to 5-0 in the World University Game yesterday.

10.  South Carolina quarterback candidate Connor Shaw looked good in last night’s scrimmage, until he dislocated his thumb.

11.  True freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had a pair of sacks, a forced fumble and a touchdown. 

12.  Tennessee has plenty of options in its secondary.

13.  Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox says freshman Curt Maggitt is “a linebacker and he’s pass-rusher.”  And he admits there aren’t too many guys like that.

14.  Vol strength coach Ron McKeefery wants the weight room “to be the nerve center of the entire operation.”

15.  Receiver Jordan Matthews brings big play potential to Vanderbilt’s offense.

16.  James Franklin says his players must treat football like a job.  “They’re going to have to wake up every single morning and go earn it.”

17.  VU defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff — who served at Miami for the last three years — isn’t talking about the Yahoo! Sports report.

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Why All The Whining About (Potentially) Playing By Football’s Near-Standard Rules?

The SEC’s battle over oversigning is drawing more attention this morning.  From ESPN to Sports Illustrated to… you name it.  Everyone’s talking about the Coaches versus the Presidents down South.

By now you know very well that coaches don’t want to pass on the practice.  Prior to the SEC meetings, their talking points centered around how a new oversigning cap would hurt the quality of play in the SEC.  This week at the meetings, the talking points grew to include: “You’re hurting the kids!”

The fact that the talking points keep changing leaves us thinking that — for the most part — the real issue is simply this: SEC coaches don’t want to give up one of their roster-building tools.  Fair enough.

From Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier to Bobby Petrino and self-proclaimed “poster boy” Houston Nutt, these men have a vested interest in this and they’re trying to protect their way of doing business.

But why are others defending the practice?  Is it simply a case of “My coach says it, therefore I back him?” 

Saban attacked the media pretty good yesterday accusing them of driving the oversigning bus.  The media has certainly taken part in this sideshow, but it’s hardly controlled the issue.  Actually, it’s the fans — and in some cases leaders — of other conferences who’ve suggested and flat-out stated that the SEC is playing pretty loose with the oversigning loopholes.  If not for that fact, no one in the media would have ridden this topic very far at all.

But doesn’t it stand out to anyone that the SEC’s coaches are fighting to keep playing by a different set of rules?  They aren’t denying that they have an advantage.  They aren’t trying to explain away that advantage.  They’ve actually been playing up the potential loss of that advantage as some sort of doomsday scenario.

Do SEC followers really want to win by playing under a different set of rules? 

If so, then I guess most folks in favor of the SEC coaches on this one are also pro-Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire when it comes to getting into the Cooperstown.  Hey, baseball wasn’t testing for steroids when they were setting records so technically they were just taking advantage of a loophole in the system, like oversigning.  And we all loved watching them hit those home runs, just as we love signing 30 star players to our teams each February.  If a couple of guys took advantage of baseball’s “look the other way” policy/loophole to give themselves a leg up on their competition, so what?  Right?

We at MrSEC.com believe — as some league coaches do — that the conference should adopt a more hardline approach to its 28-man cap on signees per year.  No backcounting, no loopholes, just 28 signees per year.  We are not, however, in favor of going with a 25-man cap.

But if the league’s presidents vote to do just that — and amazingly that appears to be a real possibility tomorrow — there shouldn’t be too much wailing and weeping.  The SEC would still be playing by a set of rules easier than the Big Ten’s.  And most likely, other leagues would follow the SEC’s move.  (If not, the NCAA would likely create a new uniform code for everyone).

If the worst that happens is the SEC moves closer to the national norm on oversigning, it’s hard for us to see how there can be so much straight-faced whining from people associated with America’s most successful football conference.  Usually people complain when someone else plays by another set of rules… not when they themselves are forced to simply abide by the accepted standards of their industry. 

To be honest, we find it a little bit arrogant to say, “Yeah, we’ve got an advantage and we don’t want to give it up.”

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SEC Headlines – 5/18/11 Part One

1.  CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd believes a Facebook campaign to create an Auburn-Alabama preseason scrimmage for charity is a good idea.

2.  Ex-Michigan coach Lloyd Carr says the NCAA has got to improve its investigative powers.

3.  When it comes to Auburn booster Bobby Lowder, this writer believes “no one man should have that much power.”  (And we still say Lowder isn’t about to disappear from the scene entirely.)

4.  Onterio McCalebb is the sixth AU footballer to be arrested since February… the previous five were all dismissed.

5.  Sports Illustrated’s reporters discuss their cover story on the Tuscaloosa tornadoes here.

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SEC Headlines – 5/17/11

1.  The family of former Ole Miss player Bennie Abram has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school and 28 other parties today.

2.  Tornado-ravaged Tuscaloosa is featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week.

3.  Auburn is auctioning off Cam Newton’s pants from the BCS title game.

4.  In a preview of Auburn’s fall opponents Mississippi State is called “a team on the rise.”

5.  LSU fans have gobbled up an eye-popping 37,000 tickets to the Tigers’ opener at Cowboys Stadium against Oregon.

6.  Florida receiver Carlos Alvarez, Alabama D-lineman Marty Lyons, and Georgia defensive back Jake Scott have been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

7.  As we’ve noted for a while, the SEC spring meetings will likely feature a fight over the controversial practice of oversigning.

8.  When it came to playing for championships and starring in the classroom, there weren’t a lot of success stories this year.

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