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Tennessee’s Couch Ruled Ineligible This Week, Future Uncertain

gfx - they said itTennessee will face Oregon Saturday without defensive lineman Maurice Couch.  Coach Butch Jones says Tennessee’s compliance department has declared the senior ineligible for the game.  

The announcement comes on the heels of a report from Yahoo! Sports alleging Couch and four former SEC players received improper extra benefits. In the case of Couch, the only active player mentioned, the claim is that he received four payments totaling $1,350.

Jones made the announcement Thursday night.

 

“As of right now, the situation with Mo Couch is we’ve declared him ineligible for this game. Right now our compliance group is currently in the process of working through all the details and logistics of the situation. That’s all we kind of know right now, but as of right now moving forward, he will not make the trip to Oregon.”

 

And what about his status for the rest of the season?

 

“All I can speak of right now is the present. and the present is he will not be accompanying us to Oregon.”

 

Tennessee is a four-touchdown underdog at Oregon tomorrow.  We’ll post our game predictions later today.

Update: Couch apologizes on Twitter.

 

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Ex-MSU Players To Work With School In Agent Investigation

mrsec-breaking-newsFormer Mississippi State footballers Fletcher Cox and Chad Bumphis — two players Yahoo! Sports alleges received money from agents/runners — will cooperate with the school’s own internal investigation. That according to CBSSports.com’s Jeremy Fowler who cites two unnamed sources.

Bumphis hung up on a reporter for The Jackson Clarion-Ledger when contacted about the story last evening.

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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:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Slive On Number Of SEC Schools: 12 “Ideal”, 14 “Cousin”, 16 “Distant Relative”

gfx - they said itWith a media concentration in Nashville this week for the SEC Tournament, commissioner Mike Slive is making the rounds and making news with a series of interviews.  He told Yahoo! Sports this week that the SEC Network would be formally announced in April and sat down yesterday for a brief interview with USA Today.  He was asked if further conference expansion was on the horizon.

 

“In some ways 12 is ideal but at least 14 is sort of a cousin of 12. Sixteen is a distant relative. We’re actually still in the process of absorbing both of these schools into our scheduling, particularly on the football side. It’s hard to absorb one, let alone two.

“There’s been some movement throughout the country but that doesn’t really affect us. Even when we were at 12 we weren’t looking. Both Texas A&M and Missouri came to us. If they hadn’t come to us, I’m not so sure we wouldn’t still be at 12.”

 

The long-time SEC commissioner, who turns 73 in July,  was also asked if he had any plans to retire. “I still have a lot of energy and feel good. I still get up at 4:45 in the morning. The other part of it is I don’t have a lot of hobbies. I enjoy what I do.”

 

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Mike Slive: “Formal Announcement About The SEC Network In Mid-April”

television-moneyThe SEC Network is coming soon – expect an announcement next month after basketball season is over.  That’s what SEC Commissioner Mike Slive tells Yahoo! Sports.

“Our focus for now is on our tournament and the NCAA tournament. We will make a formal announcement about the SEC Network in mid-April.”

The SEC has been renegotiating television rights ever since Missouri and Texas A&M joined the conference.  As we reported in December, once new media deals are finalized, SEC schools will likely bring in $30-35 million annually.  Last year, the average payout for the league’s schools was $20.1 million.

The new deal is expected to a partnership with an existing network. The Sports Business Journal reported in September that ESPN and the SEC were “nearing their final stages” of negotiations for an SEC channel.

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Report: Missouri’s Haith To Be Charged With Unethical Conduct

mrsec-breaking-newsMissouri basketball coach Frank Haith is expected to be charged with unethical conduct and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance, according to a CBSSports.com report.

Those charges are expected to be included in the NCAA’s notice of allegations regarding the Miami investigation.

Haith could be facing a multiple-year show-cause penalty. Former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl received a three-year show-cause penalty after he was charged with unethical conduct in 2011.

According to the CBS Sports report, Haith will be charged with unethical conduct because the NCAA did not believe his story that payments to his assistants intended for camp money did not end up being paid to former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, who made the allegations to Yahoo! Sports in August 2011. A payment was made to Shapiro’s mother, who confirmed the payment to the NCAA, according to a CBS source.

Haith and those involved in the case will have up to 90 days to respond in writing before a hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions. The notice of allegations was expected to be released as early as Tuesday but could be delayed another week or two because of procedural questions, according to CBS Sports.

Haith is in his second season at Missouri, which has a 13-4 record and is coming off an 83-52 loss at Florida on Saturday. Haith led Missouri to a 30-5 record and a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament last season before the Tigers were upset in the first round by 15-seed Norfolk State.

How will this news affect the rest of Missouri’s season? Discuss on the new MrSEC Google+ Community.

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UF O-Coordinator Pease Interested In The UK Job? Muschamp Would Be OK With That

Brent Pease hasn’t had the best of years leading Florida’s offense for the first time this season.  The Gators have lost only one game in 2012, but UF’s defense deserves the largest share of credit for that achievement.  After Saturday’s 14-7 win over Missouri, Will Muschamp even promised fans that a more explosive offense is still to come somewhere down the line.

But according to Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports and a story we linked you to yesterday, Pease would still like to be considered for the head coaching slot now open at Kentucky, where he served as offensive coordinator in 2001 and 2002 (much to ex-Cat quarterback Jared Lorenzen’s chagrin).

In September, Pease had some flattering things to say about Lexington.  Asked if he would be supportive of his first-year coordinator moving to UK if offered, Muschamp said yesterday:

 

“Brent is certainly an outstanding football coach.  Any opportunity he has as a head coach I know that I will fully endorse that as well as Jeremy Foley our athletic director, and our president.  He is a really good football coach and that goes for any of our coaches.  If they have an opportunity to be a head coach, I am all for it.”

 

Pease came to Florida from Boise State this past offseason.

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Uh-Oh, LSU Officials Will Catch Hell Over This One

We’re not going to get too deep into this one.  We already talk sports around here and that means anything we write is going to viewed as “controversial” by someone out there.  So adding politics 0r religion to that mix?  Nope, no need to tackle that.

Instead, we’ll just send you over to Yahoo! Sports and their story of how a group of Christian Tiger fans who paint their bodies in school colors and also adorn their chests with crosses had said crosses photoshopped out in a photo sent out by the school in a campus-wide email.

No doubt the school was trying to be PC and would have also photoshooped out Stars of David or Muslim crescents painted on fans’ chests.  But Louisiana is in the Bible Belt, my friends.  And taking crosses out of that photo?  Well, I’m just glad I’m not having to man the phones in the LSU chancellor’s office today.

Here’s the story.

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De’Vinner Opens Up Further About Redmond And MSU Booster

Byron De’Vinner called into a syndicated radio show in Mississippi yesterday to clear his name.  In doing so, he also said that a Mississippi State booster — who’s been disassociated from the school — had paid at least $200 to Bulldog freshman defensive back Will Redmond.  (Redmond, for the record, has not played this season.)

Now De’Vinner has opened up to Yahoo! Sports and Pat Forde claiming that the MSU booster “made cash payments to a recruit and arranged for complimentary lodging and meals for De’Vinner, who was Redmond’s 7-on-7 coach.  He even provided hotel bills and other documentation to Yahoo! Sports to attempt to prove his claims:

 

“In an interview with Y! Sports, Nashville-based seven-on-seven coach Byron De’Vinner – recipient of the lodging and meals – explained in detail how former Mississippi State booster Robert Denton Herring broke multiple NCAA rules in 2011 and ’12 in an effort to land Memphis East High School defensive back Will Redmond.

De’Vinner said he also told his story to NCAA enforcement representatives, who have been investigating the allegations jointly with Mississippi State’s compliance department over the course of several months. In July the school sent Herring, who lives in Roswell, Ga., a letter informing him that he had been disassociated from the athletic program for “impermissible contact” with a recruit. In August, Bulldogs assistant coach Angelo Mirando resigned for what the school termed “unforeseen personal issues,” but sources told Y! Sports that his resignation was because of the NCAA inquiry. De’Vinner said Mirando introduced Redmond to Herring, but that the coach and booster both wanted De’Vinner “to take the fall” for their relationship.

Vanessa Brown, Redmond’s mother, declined comment to Yahoo! Sports Wednesday morning. Attempts to reach Herring and Mirando were unsuccessful. Herring has not cooperated with investigators from both the NCAA and Mississippi State.”

 

It gets worse for State as De’Vinner also claimed that fellow Memphis prospect Sheldon Dawson — who signed with Georgia — was questioned by the NCAA about MSU’s recruitment of him.  Also, “a source with knowledge of the investigation said the NCAA contacted nearly a dozen players who were recruited by Mississippi State.”

If those “nearly a dozen” players weren’t offered illegal benefits, no problem.  But the fact that the NCAA has spoken with that many MSU recruits should be worrisome to folks in Starkville.

On the positive side, De’Vinner told Yahoo! Sports that he believed Mirando to be the only State coach who was aware of Herring’s actions.  Herring had not previously been named as the booster in question.

De’Vinner also admitted to receiving clothes and gear from several schools other than MSU:

 

“If me getting gear from schools when I work a camp is a violation, then everything’s a violation. … Do I have a relationship with coaches at virtually every school?  Yeah, I do.

I’m the scapegoat for everything that’s going on. … I’m telling the truth.”

 

Whether De’Vinner is telling the truth or not, the more he talks, the more all those coaches he has a relationship with are puckering up a bit.

Forde’s piece is a long one and we’ve only given you a taste of it.  Click above to read the piece in its entirety.

Update: De’Vinner tells the Clarion-Ledger in a phone interview this morning that Herring attempted to persuade “at least 10″ recruits to attend MSU.

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FBI Investigating AU’s Ward In Point-Shaving Case

So much for sitting down to watch a little of the SEC Tournament.

Yahoo! Sports is reporting that suspended Auburn point guard Varez Ward is currently under investigation by federal authorities as part of an ongoing probe into point-shaving.

Pssssssssssssssssssssssss.

That’s the air coming out of the SEC tourney balloon in New Orleans.  Mike Slive, you’ve got a new crisis to handle.  Auburn fans, well, get ready for another scandal and wall-to-wall news coverage.

Charles Robinson reports that:

“Three sources with knowledge of the case said the FBI has been investigating Ward since late February after he and guard Chris Denson were suspended by the Tigers prior to a Feb. 25 home game against Arkansas.  Two sources said Denson was also questioned as part of the point-shaving investigation, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to the team after sitting out the loss to the Razorbacks.  The sources said additional players have been questioned in the case about whether Ward — who has not been with the team since being suspended — attempted to enlist them in a possible scheme.  The sources said at least two games are under scrutiny: a 68-50 loss to Alabama on Feb. 7 and a 56-53 loss to Arkansas on Jan. 25.”

Ward is a native of Montgomery and transferred into Barbee’s program after beginning his career at Texas.

Oddly enough, we earlier today linked you to a story from The Opelika-Auburn News in which Tony Barbee talked about the state of his program and the improvements made since his first season.  Whether it’s his fault or not, the words “point-shaving scandal” will be attached to his squad until the FBI’s investigation into Ward concludes… and perhaps even after depending on what they find.

ESPN has not always rushed to report stories broken first by other parties — namely Yahoo! Sports which is becoming the sports version of Woodward and Bernstein at this point.  With ESPN partnering with the league — via it’s “SEC Network” syndication package — to air this week’s tournament, it will be interesting to see and hear just how much time the network dedicates to covering this new hurricane-sized cloud that hangs over Auburn and the Southeastern Conference.

All that said, Tiger fans are well aware that accusations don’t always result in players being found guilty when it comes to buzz-creating scandals.  But when you add the words “point-shaving” and “FBI” together, there aren’t a whole lot of reasons to expect a positive outcome in this one.

The folks at the Federal Bureau of Investigation don’t need Danny Sheridan to come forward with a bag man to help them with their work.

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