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It’s Time – Again – For The SEC To Create A Uniform Drug Policy

Recently, a commenter on this site wrote something to this effect under one of our stories: “No one does ‘I told you so’s’ like Pennington.”

First, get ready for another one.  Second, I think it’s actually a positive that we here at MrSEC.com are so often in a position to actually say “we told you so.”  But on to the point of this post…

On February 1st, 2011, we stated that the SEC should make three moves to improve its renegade reputation.  (And, yes, we know, some of you don’t care about the league’s reputation.  Here’s guessing those who say that aren’t SEC presidents… or actual attendees of those schools, for that matter.)  Our three suggested actions:

1.  Outlaw oversigning.  –  Done.  Just a few months later the SEC did indeed create a soft 25-man cap on football signees.

2.  Create one uniform drug policy.  — More on this one in a second.

3.  Prevent players dismissed from one SEC program from transferring to another SEC school. — This would simply show more decorum and respect between partner institutions.  If Cam Newton, for example, could not abide by the loose rules set by Urban Meyer at Florida, then Florida should not have had to compete against him at a rival school.  Athletes would still have a shot at a second-chance at about 110 other FBS football schools and at more than 300 other D-I basketball schools.

For now, let’s focus on Point Two.  That the one that’s in the national spotlight today, more than a year after we mentioned it.  And Syracuse University’s basketball program has put the issue in said spotlight.

In case you missed it, yesterday it was reported via Yahoo! Sports that at least 10 SU basketball players tested positive for banned substances over the past decade, but the school chose to ignore its own drug policy by not counting all of the positive tests.

The school continued to play athletes who should have been suspended, according to its own university policy.  With the NCAA beginning to sniff around on the matter, the school released a statement yesterday:


“We self-reported issues with drug testing to the NCAA, and there is currently an ongoing inquiry.  The inquiry does not involve any current SU student-athletes.  To ensure the integrity of the ongoing process, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Integrity.  That’s some funny word choice, right there.  And it gets to the heart of the matter.

Media types often roll their eyes when they hear of a failed drug test leading to a player’s suspension.  That’s because we’ve all heard of star athletes getting the ol’ “look the other way” treatment over failed marijuana tests — or worse — while some third-string fullback gets the heave-ho for his failed test.

Nick Saban has said the media is often too cynical.  The Syracuse situation is why the media is often cynical.  Another reason for pessimism right here in the ol’ SEC?  There’s no uniform drug policy in existence.

Several schools have a three-strikes policy for drug tests.  Florida has a five-strike policy.  Some schools test more often than others.  Some ignore a first failed test while others — Georgia and Kentucky — hand out immediate suspensions.

There’s too much gray area there for a league that prides itself on having a level playing field for all its member institutions.

Mike Slive has overseen an incredible run in the SEC.  He’s made the league money with barrier-busting TV contracts and he’s cleaned up the league’s image a bit with a signing cap and a push for multi-year athletic scholarships.

We believe he should now steer the SEC’s presidents toward the creation of one, uniform drug policy for all 14 new members.  Lord knows the league has the television revenue to cover the costs.

Obviously, Slive doesn’t want to go campus to campus collecting urine, blood and hair samples.  And school presidents want to be able to police their own campuses.  Trouble is — in light of the Syracuse investigation (and you can bet others are coming) — we can’t trust them to properly police themselves because they have a vested interest in keeping athletes on the field, winning games, and making more money.

Quite simply, Slive and the SEC presidents should farm out school drug testing to a single independent company.  There are companies who handle drug testing for companies nationwide and it shouldn’t be hard to find one to handle 14 high-profile schools.

That company would administer the drug tests and provide a report back to the league office.  A first failed test would result in a warning.  A second would lead to a suspension covering 25% of the remaining season.  A third, a 50% of the remaining season.  A fourth, automatic dismissal.

The schools would be required to pay for their own testing.  A third-party company would handle the testing.  The league office would dole out the penalties — which would all be spelled out in advance — and hear appeals.

We called for this last February.  Now a major school is in hot water thanks to this very issue little more than a year later.  Suddenly the national media is starting to pay attention, calling for a uniform NCAA plan.

Better to lead the pack than to follow it.

Slive and the SEC presidents should make a uniform drug policy this year’s oversigning.  They should do so before it’s an SEC school that’s caught protecting star players from its own drug policy.  After all, just how proud do you think the Big East and ACC are today?

Congrats, Syracuse.  You embarrassed yourself and two conferences.

It’s time for Slive and the presidents to act before someone embarrasses the SEC.

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Meyer Looking At Two Aides From UF

WKMG-TV in Orlando reported before Urban Meyer’s acceptance of the Ohio State job that he would make a run at two Florida staff members once he finally admitted he was taking the job.  The station said strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti and linebackers coach DJ Durkin would be at the top of the list.

Today The Columbus Dispatch says Meyer is indeed eyeballing two UF aides, but it lists receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill as a Meyer target along with Marotti, not Durkin. 

Hill is an interesting choice for Meyer.  Taking over a program that’s currently awaiting NCAA sentencing on two fronts, one might think he would steer clear of anyone with any smudge of trouble on his resume.  But Hill was named in Yahoo! Sports’ report on Miami booster Nevin Shapiro earlier this year.  Florida backed him in full and Shapiro’s allegations could be poppycock, but it’s worth noting just the same.

UF athletic director Jeremy Foley told The Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi on WYGM-AM 740 earlier this week that he didn’t think Meyer would take any Gator assistants to Columbus.

“I don’t think so.  He and I talked the other day and he didn’t mention that,” Foley said.  “He and I talked the morning before his press conference and I wished him well, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”

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Report: NCAA Digging Deeper Into Kiffin’s Year At UT

Just a couple of months ago, the Tennessee athletic department got the news it had been hoping for when the NCAA accepted its self-imposed sanctions and decided not pile on more penalties.

So much for sighing with relief.

Yahoo! Sports reported last night that former Tennessee assistant coach Willie Mack Garza wired $1,500 to street-agent Willie Lyles in order to fund an unofficial recruiting trip by Lache Seastrunk and his mother in 2009.

As you likely know, Seastrunk and Lyles are at the center of Oregon’s current NCAA mess.  LSU coaches have also been questioned about their connections to Lyles.

Garza — the coach in question — left Tennessee with Lane Kiffin just one year after arriving in Knoxville.  Just prior to the start of this season, Garza resigned his position on Southern Cal’s staff saying that he had “some personal issues unrelated to USC that I need to address.”

Those issues apparently relate to Tennessee instead of Southern Cal.

Lyles used the money allegedly sent to him by Garza to pay for plane tickets from Texas to Knoxville for both Seastrunk and his mother.  Lyles informed the NCAA of the payment last month.

And here’s the worrisome part for Tennessee — Lyles also told Yahoo! Sports that NCAA investigators were conducting a wide-ranging look into Tennessee recruiting practices.

“We are aware of the situation as is the conference office,” a UT spokesperson said.  “We’ve been verbally contacted by the NCAA enforcement staff regarding a recruiting issue in 2009 related to the former coaching staff and a student-athlete who never attended Tennessee.  We believe, as does the conference office, that this matter is not subject to the repeat offender provision.”

Judging from recent NCAA rulings — including those at UT this summer — it’s certainly possible that Garza or any other coaches involved in illegal recruiting activities would be punished more harshly than the school.  Especially since those coaches are two years removed from Tennessee and the NCAA has already conducted one investigation into their actions.

However, as we say in every one of these cases… when the NCAA arrives on your campus, it’s never a good thing.  There’s absolutely no telling where an investigation can lead.

This has to be particularly troubling for Derek Dooley.  The second-year Volunteer coach admitted this summer that recruits had been worried about the black cloud hanging over the UT program since his arrival.  Now, just as it appeared that cloud had dissipated, a new one has blown in.

One has to wonder if Tennessee will ever finish paying for the hire of Kiffin.

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SEC Headlines 8/2/2011 Afternoon Edition

1. South Carolina assistant coach G.A. Mangus gets punished where it really hurts - in the wallet.

2. Breaking down the Florida linebacking corps.

3. The last 26 times LSU has appeared on an ESPN network, it has won the game.

4. “mark ingram glovs”(sic) and the T-Town Menswear controversy

5. Gene Stalling and Pat Dye get buried in sand together.

Extras

6. 10 of 29 Letter of Intent signees – no-shows.

7. Did you know?  Yahoo! Sports draws more unique visitors than ESPN.com.

8. Want to win at fantasy football?  Learn to manage risk.

9. Oklahoma fan and a Texas fan – both in the hospital with one in critical condition – after getting into a knife fight.

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More Aggie/Longhorn Angst

Mike Slive should just go ahead and pull the trigger.  After all, with rumors swirling of a potential Texas A&M move to the SEC we’re forced to cover the Aggies as though they are already the league’s 13th member.

As you know by now, Texas’ new partnership with ESPN — the Longhorn Network — has threatened to disturb the Big 12′s tenuous peace.  A&M and other league schools are worried about Texas using the network as a recruiting tool.  They’re also worried about UT putting league games on the network.

A&M officials stoked the flames of discontent yesterday during Big 12 Media Days in Dallas.  According to Jason King of Yahoo! Sports, Texas A&M would not allow Aggie football coach Mike Sherman to speak on camera with reporters from the Longhorn Network.

When asked to talk about his rival’s new toy, Sherman said: “I’m not talking about it.  I’m not talking about it.  I have enough on my plate getting my team ready to play.”

Yep.  That sounds like one big happy family.

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Yahoo’s Wetzel Tweets About LSU, Lyles

Earlier today we told you that ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program reviewed the video and DVDs LSU purchased for $6,000 from Willie Lyles and found that much of the video was old or of poor quality.  In fact, some players featured on the DVDs were already playing college football when LSU received the video.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports has also pointed out — via Twitter — something regarding Lyles and LSU that seems to have been forgotten by many:


“As Yahoo reported weeks ago, LSU paid for CA, KS Juco package, but per Will Lyles: ‘all they wanted to discuss was Texas high schools.’”


No doubt Tiger fans will discredit Wetzel and Lyles.  That’s really standard operating procedure when someone points out something negative about a team (whether the something pointed out is true or not). 

But the problems for LSU are as follows:


1.  The NCAA is already asking questions about Lyles.

2.  The NCAA is already asking questions to LSU about Lyles.

3.  The NCAA watches ESPN just like the rest of America, so they will likely ask why LSU paid $6,000 for bum DVDs.

4.  NCAA officials can read the Lyles quotes just as easily as you can.  They also can compare those quotes to what LSU officials have said.


None of this means LSU is guilty of a thing, mind you.  That’s not the point here.  The point is that LSU — by having any connection to Lyles at all — is under the microscope.  And that’s not a place where you ever want to be.

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Kanter Hurts Watching UK Play

The chances of Enes Kanter being cleared to play college basketball were slim.  That’s why the vast majority of colleges — and even prep schools — didn’t try to ink the big man from Turkey.

But John Calipari did try.  And he succeeded in getting him signed.  But he couldn’t get him cleared.

Kanter told Yahoo! Sports yesterday that not playing hurts him.

“I cry when I watch the game.  When I watch them play, I’m sad because I cannot help my teammates.  When I see them losing, it’s frustrating.”

As for the NCAA’s ruling, Kanter voices his displeasure with class.  “They’re just trying to do their job, but I think they’re wrong.  I didn’t want to be a professional.  That’s why I came here.”

“(International players) should come over here because basketball, education and everything is two times better.  But after they heard about me, they’re going to be scared and say, ‘Enes could not play so maybe we can’t play.”


Three quick points:

1.  As we’ve said before, we would have liked for the NCAA to have given Kanter’s family a chance to pay back the money they made from a European club team… thus allowing Kanter to play college ball.

2.  When he’s snapped up in the NBA draft this year, he’ll be able to dry his tears with hundred dollar bills.

3.  Does it make us xenophobic to say that in the long run, the college game might be better off by not bringing in even more one-and-doners — in this case — one-and-doners from overseas?

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Mallett And Newton Going In Different Directions

When the 2010 college football season began, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett was the A-1 NFL quarterback prospect in the SEC.  Cam Newton was just another guy.

Fast-forward a few months and things have flip-flopped.  Now Newton’s draft stock is soaring while Mallett’s is in decline.  The ex-Razorback, sadly, hasn’t helped his own cause while Newton has.

Mallett has announced that he will throw at the NFL combine this week, but that he’ll hold off and do a number of other conditioning-type drills on the Arkansas campus.  Lots of players do that.  Scouts and GMs just don’t like it.  And Mallett needs to be winning people over right now.

For months there have been rumors of marijuana and cocaine use by the former Hog QB.  Yesterday, former St. Louis Rams and Carolina Panthers executive Tony Softli said in his new radio gig that “heavy rumors of drug use and possible addiction kept (Mallett) from coming out for the 2010 draft.”

Ouch.

Mallett needs to do himself a favor and do anything and everything that scouts ask him to do.  First, he’ll need to be open and honest with league execs when they ask him about drug use and perceived leadership issues in interview sessions.  If he’s evasive or shows anger, Mallett’s stock could really plummet.  Second, he needs to do the drills scouts ask him to do.  When your stock is rising, you can set the schedule.  When it’s not, you need to win some people over.  Mallett needs to win some people over.  If NFL GMs say, “Jump,” Mallett should say, “How high?”

Newton, meanwhile, has aced the run-up to the combine.  His decision to hold a media-only workout — at first criticized — turned out to be a brilliant move.  According to ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, the skills Newton displayed in San Diego will have scouts drooling at the combine in Indianapolis.  And Newton plans to participate fully in Indy. 

For Newton, his size, strength and skills will all go into the plus column.  Now he just has to ace the interviews.  For starters, he might want to tone down the bravado.

This week, Peter King of SI.com reported that Newton told him in a phone interview: “I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon.”  He sees himself as an icon?

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports also chatted with Newton and asked him about the fact that he played just one year as a starter in college.  “I’m aware of that statement,” Newton said.  “I don’t want to sound arrogant but I did something in one year people couldn’t do in their whole collegiate careers.  We had a chance go do something great and we did it.”

Good thing he doesn’t want to sound arrogant.

At least Newton has his body on his side.  He’s working from a position of strength and needs to avoid undercutting his own draft stock with his mouth.

Mallett needs to get himself back into the race.  He needs to show off skills — all of them — and use his mouth to explain away the fears many teams have about him.

Newton’s stock is great.  Mallett’s stock is not.  Who would have seen that coming back in August of 2010?

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More Auburn Off-The-Field News

Over the weekend, it was reported in a tweet — there’s a reason I don’t believe “tweeted” reports — that Auburn had hired former chairman of the NCAA Infractions Committee Gene Marsh.

According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports, Auburn “intend 2 fight it all the way.”  Meaning the Cam Newton allegations, of course.

But according to Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News, Auburn has not hired Marsh. 

You take your pick.  Do you trust a tweet?  Or a man who doesn’t limit himself to 140-character bursts?

In other off-field news, Auburn does not have any avenue for appeal regarding the one-half suspensions handed down to Mike Blanc and Michael Goggans for tossing punches in Saturday’s win over Georgia.

When you throw a punch, you’re automatically ejected and you automatically sit for the next half.  In Auburn’s case, their two defensive linemen will miss the first half of the Iron Bowl a week from Friday.

There is no appeals process at the SEC or NCAA level.

Lesson?  Don’t throw punches.

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Auburn: No Comment On Newton’s Status

Asked this afternoon if Cam Newton would play for Auburn tomorrow, athletic director Jay Jacobs said: “We’re not commenting.”

Other reports have said that Newton is still on track to play tomorrow, but Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports tweeted this afternoon that the NCAA has now informed Auburn of a potential eligibility issue with regards to the Tigers’ star quarterback.

Stay tuned…

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