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LSU’s Shepard Hit With 3-Game Suspension

LSU receiver and playmaker Russell Shepard will serve a three-week suspension before returning to action when the Tigers visit West Virginia on September 24th.

The Tigers got past Oregon — and put 40 points on the board in the process — without their big-play threat.  He will now sit out LSU’s games with Northwestern State and Mississippi State.

Shepard was suspended for discussing an ongoing NCAA investigation with a teammate.  Most likely, after speaking with NCAA investigators about street agent Willie Lyles, Shepard was told not to detail what questions might be asked of others. 

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Bad News For Jefferson, Shepard At LSU (Updated)

LSU fans are dealing with some more bad news this evening… on two different fronts.

First, an eyewitness has told police that she saw LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson kick someone in the face during last Friday morning’s bar fight in Baton Rouge.

The 19-year-old woman told police that she also saw linebacker Josh Johns attack the man who was kicked by Jefferson.  Jefferson, Johns, and teammates Chris Davenport and Jarvis Landry were questioned by police on Wednesday.  Last night, police searched Jefferson’s apartment and left with 49 pairs of tennis shoes and a DNA swab from the quarterback’s mouth.

Police have said they expect to make arrests in the case when they complete their investigation.

LSU opens the season next Saturday against #3 Oregon. 

While the Tigers might not have the four players listed above, they’ll definitely be without wide receiver Russell Shepard.

Shepard’s eligibility has been in question for more than a month.  LSU and NCAA officials have been looking into his living arrangements.  But that investigation is not why he’ll miss next week’s game.

Glenn Guilbeau of The Shreveport Times explains:


“Shepard has been declared ineligible for violating NCAA rules because he discussed an upcoming NCAA inquiry with a teammate who was scheduled to be interviewed by an NCAA official, LSU associate athletic director Herb Vincent said.

The NCAA inquiry Vincent mentioned may refer to the NCAA official visiting the LSU campus in July to interview LSU coach Les Miles and members of his staff about their contacts with Houston-based high school football scout and recruiting service owner Willie Lyles, who has been the subject of NCAA investigations concerning Oregon and LSU.”


How appropriate that Lyles might be involved in this.  Think the folks televising the Tigers-Ducks game will have enough time to cover all of the issues, investigations, scandals, and suspensions facing LSU and Oregon in one pregame show?  They might need an extra 30 minutes of programming to report on all this nonsense.

LSU, meanwhile, will attempt to get Shepard reinstated, but Vincent said, “He is expected to miss a number of games until the reinstatement can be considered by the NCAA.”

Shepard was expected to be one LSU’s top offensive weapons this fall.


UPDATE – I don’t know that this should be considered good news, because a fight’s a fight and kicking someone in the head is still kicking someone in the head (if that actually happened), but two employees of Shady’s Bar in Baton Rouge say that one of the victims in last week’s brawl actually “threw the first punch” shortly after he’d been escorted outside the bar by staff.  According to these new witnesses, Andrew Lowery — also known as “the kicked in the head Marine” — was asked to leave the bar when he appeared to be harassing a young woman.  Within minutes of leaving the bar, he was in the middle of melee.

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Miles Not Worried About Shepard Probe

LSU’s football program was recently placed on probation for major violations committed a couple of years ago.  The NCAA has also visited Baton Rouge in recent weeks to discuss street-agent Willie Lyles.  And now the NCAA is looking into Russell Shepard’s living arrangements.

Not to worry.  At least according to Les Miles.

“There have been communications that would make it appear that it’s not very, very serious.  Oh, he’s fine.  No, he won’t have to sit out.  He’ll come to practice.  We wouldn’t expect there to be any issues there.”

That’s what Miles told the Baton Rouge Rotary Club yesterday afternoon.  If that doesn’t sound like a lot of information, here’s why: “We have a couple of NCAA investigations going on that I can’t talk about and won’t talk about.”

Ah.

The Shepard story broke during SEC Media Days.  Miles scratched the receiver from the speakers’ list saying that he had some personal matters to attend to back in Baton Rouge.

It’s been reported that Shepard moved in with his girlfriend this spring.  She has worked in the Tiger football office since before Shepard arrived on campus.

As Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett Louisiana points out, “It is against the rules (for student-athletes) to pocket the money (they are given for off-campus rent) and have the apartment paid for by a third party.”

So the NCAA continues to dig for dirt in a couple of areas at LSU.  Miles remains confident that there’s been no serious wrongdoing.  For Tiger fans, we hope the LSU compliance office is as buttoned up on Shepard and Lyles as they were on Akiem Hicks and DJ McCarthy.

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LSU Trying To Fend Off UT For A.D. Alleva

Reports from Louisiana suggest that Tennessee officials searching for a new athletic director have focused in on LSU AD Joe Alleva… and chancellor Michael Martin wants to keep him.

“I do not know for sure that Tennessee has talked to Joe, but I understand they are interested in him,” Martin told The Shreveport Times.  “I know Joe has done a remarkable job at LSU under some difficult circumstances with the economy.  I think we’re always concerned about any of our people being scouted by another institution.  I’m hoping we don’t have to confront this one.  On the positive side, it’s always a good sign when another institution looks at our folks.”

Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett Louisiana says via Twitter that “Two Tennessee sources are saying Joe Alleva has shaken hands on it and will be announced as new Tenn. AD on Wednesday.”

Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek has been looking for a proven, seated athletic director to replace Mike Hamilton.  Alleva — who came to LSU from Duke in 2008 — certainly has experience.  But if he’s leaving Baton Rouge from Knoxville, he’ll also be taking some NCAA baggage with him.  LSU was just placed on probation in football and the NCAA recently returned to the Tigers’ campus to ask questions about street agent Willie Lyles.

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LSU Working To Finalize New Deal For Miles

A new seven-year contract for LSU football coach Les Miles could be formally approved sometime in September… after first being announced back in January.  The end of the NCAA’s investigation into LSU’s handling of the Akiem Hicks affair should allow the school to now move forward with Miles’ deal.

“Since Les has a contract and a compensation increase will not be forthcoming in an extended contract, haste has not been a concern,” chancellor Michael Martin told The Baton Rouge Advocate.  Miles’ current deal guarantees him more than $3.75 million per year and runs through December of 2012.

If the NCAA investigation into LSU was part of the holdup in inking the new pact, the Tiger brass might want to wait and see if investigators have any more questions regarding Willie Lyles and his ties to Miles’ program.  Just as the door closed on the Hicks affair, it was learned that LSU had recently been visited by the NCAA because of Lyles.

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Miles At The Podium

Here’s a rundown of LSU coach Les Miles’ comments:

* Miles said his team is “very ambitious” and has “a tremendous mindset.”

* Miles said Steve Kragthorpe has helped Jordan Jefferson.  “He’s at the best position that he has been in… listening and taking coaching.  He’s been well-coached, but there’s another way to say it and describe it and it might get out of his hand and it might give him the ability to anticipate the throw better.  And it appears to me that that’s happening.”

* Miles mentioned Russell Shepard as being a good player at receiver… further nixing the rumors of a Shepard suspension.

* Miles delivering a long introductory comment as he does each year. 

* Miles said Ryan Baker could provide good leadership from the linebacker spot.  He believes he has guys who are ready to step up into leadership roles.

* Asked about the 25-man signing cap, Miles said: “As long as we’re all in the same position, I think that 25 is something that we can do and I don’t think there’s any real issue there.”  Spoken like a man who’s recruiting in a state with a deep talent base.  (But we still agree with him.)

* No one’s going toward the ESPN, Willie Lyles stuff.

* Miles said LSU has looked at tape of Oregon’s game with Auburn.  Of course.

* Asked when he first knew of Willie Lyles, Miles said, “I can’t really comment.  I’m kind of prohibited from commenting on Willie Lyles.  The only thing I can tell you is that we look for film and video anywhere we can find it. … That’s really all I can say.”

* Asked about Zach Mettenberger, Miles suggested that Jarrett Lee is still the #2 quarterback.  “We will play that guy that gives the greatest opportunity for victory and right now I believe that that’d be Jefferson.”

* Asked if the thinks the Lyles-ESPN report will pass muster with the NCAA, the coach said, “All I can tell you is we’re gonna cooperate fully and I can’t really make much more comment than that.”

* Miles isn’t worried about his team looking ahead to the Alabama game.  “Well we play Oregon in the first game and we play six games on the road. … It’s very easy not to look ahead.  I promise.”

* Asked about Shepard not being at Media Days, Miles said: “There were some things that Russell had to take care of back in Baton Rouge.”

* Miles on messageboard heat that Jefferson gets: “I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a messageboard.  I’ve certainly instructed my team to avoid the internet.  Those people that sign their names ‘Slick Willie’ don’t necessarily have legitimate opinions.”  Funny that he used the name “Willie” right there.

* Asked about the amusing video featuring him playing basketball against his young kids, the coach said he defended his seven-year-old daughter “extremely well.”  He added, “I didn’t think that this was gonna be as big a deal — kinda like eating grass — but really it was a family outing.”

* Miles was asked if Shepard’s absence has anything to do with a compliance issue involving off-campus housing.  “I don’t know exactly the specifics of that.  Only thing I can tell you is that this was an issue where there were some things he needed to handle in his personal life that needed an immediate resolution.  That’s why he’s not with us.”

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Miles Says Lyles Video Was Helpful

LSU’s Les Miles told a Tiger booster club last night that the much-discussed DVDs his program bought from Willie Lyles did have value:


“What I need to have is film.  Because we make all the decisions ourselves on whether the guy’s good enough to play, nobody else.  As long as they give us the video, that’s all we need.”


The fact that some of the video showed players already enrolled at other schools is a bit odd, but it could just be that LSU paid for poor quality video and information.  Or the school might be willing to pay for any video at all, not caring about quality. 

Still, Miles will be asked about those DVDs and his connection to Lyles again and again at Media Days today.

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Miles Heading To Bristol As LSU/ESPN Spar

Two days ago, ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” program reported that a review of 32 DVDs purchased by LSU from Willie Lyles turned up outdated, poor quality, bootlegged video.  In other words, it’s unlikely a major college football program could have had much use for that type of video of prospects.

Twitter lit up:


“So now ESPN.com is evaluating the quality of the videos purchased by LSU.  Wow.  They need to report the news, not make the news.”


A fan letting off steam, right?  Wrong.  That was the from the Twitter feed of Herb Vincent, LSU’s associate vice chancellor for university relations and senior associate athletics director.

And we thought players should have their Twitter privileges stricken.  This is the second time in a couple of weeks that an SEC athletics official has used to Twitter to whine about media coverage.

In the old days, athletic departments would put out a well-worded statement free of emotion to refute news reports they believed to be phony.  Now emotional associate ADs and PR men can let loose immediately.

There are two problems with Vincent’s tweet:


1.  While ESPN did look at the quality of the video, it also discovered that some players on the tape were already playing college ball when LSU received the DVDs.  That makes them more than a little useless.  Vincent — not surprisingly — didn’t comment on that fact.

2.  The idea that ESPN should “report the news, not make the news” is the oldest line in the book from people under investigation.  I wonder if Vincent — or the many LSU fans who’ve praised his comments on messageboards — would offer the same defense for Auburn if ESPN dug up some dirt on Cam Newton?  Come to think of it, TigerDroppings.com has had a few million links to SportsByBrooks.com’s investigations into Newton. 


Investigative reporting is fine and dandy as long as it’s someone else who is being investigated.  When you’re the guy under the microscope, then reporters just need to sit back and write whatever school officials and coaches tell them to write.

Amid all of this furor between LSU and ESPN, Les Miles is scheduled to travel to Bristol next Tuesday to go through the network’s “car wash” and appear on many of its radio and television programs.

Question is, with ESPN a partner of the SEC — and I don’t hear Vincent or LSU complaining about the millions they receive from ESPN each year — will the network try to pin Miles to the wall with questions about Lyles?

It’s hard to imagine they’d push too hard.  It’s also likely that Miles would simply point out that LSU is cooperating with the NCAA and that he can’t say anymore.

For that reason, we expect the issue to come up once per show, but we don’t think Miles will be grilled on the topic or over his answers.

Still, it will make for an interesting day on Tuesday for LSU’s coach.  Wonder if Vincent will be sitting next to his keyboard ready to tweet at the first sign of trouble.

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NCAA About To Close Previous Investigation Into LSU

The NCAA will hold a teleconference today at 3pm ET to discuss its committee on infractions’ decision regarding LSU.

No, not regarding LSU and Willie Lyles.  Regarding LSU and Akiem Hicks.

For those who don’t remember, the juco D-line transfer Hicks never played a game for the Tigers and left the school after the fall of 2009.  The assistant coach who recruited him — DJ McCarthy — was forced out about the same time.  LSU self-imposed sanctions on itself for violations tied to Hicks’ recruitment, transportation and living arrangements.  Among the sanctions – the school docked itself two scholarships for the 2011-12 recruiting season.

In December of last year the NCAA sent a “notice of violations” to the Tiger athletic department and asked the school to follow up on questions regarding the seven primary allegations.

The school sent in a 126-page response in March.

Today, LSU will learn if the NCAA has accepted its self-imposed sanctions or if it will require more self-flagellation on the part of the Tiger football program.

This case is in no way tied to the Lyles issue… which had a new set of NCAA investigators on the Baton Rouge campus earlier this month.

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Miles Talks About Lyles’ Situation At LSU

“I think it’s fundamental.  I think it’s necessary.  We’re going to comply.  We’re going to be very cooperative.  That’s really all I can say.”

When that’s the lead quote from Les Miles following a discussion of the Willie Lyles situation last night… it tells you that the coach kept his lips buttoned on the subject.  Miles spoke to reporters prior to meeting with a Tiger booster club in New Orleans.

Asked if he’s worried the NCAA’s investigation into the alleged street-agent might distract his team from its opener against Oregon — a team that might also be distracted by an NCAA investigation into Lyles — Miles said: “I worry about distractions that are wide in scope.  That’s just one of them.”

In Glenn Guilbeau’s piece for Gannett Louisiana, Miles goes on to discuss the high expectations for his Tiger team this year.

Thanks to the Lyles-related questions the NCAA is asking both Oregon and LSU, we at MrSEC.com believe it’s time to officially dub the teams’ September 3rd opener at Cowboys Stadium the “Willie Bowl.”

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