Sprints Thinks North Carolina and South Carolina Might Be the Beginning // 07.19.10

CAROLINAGATE

South Carolina gets its offseason controversy: An NCAA investigation
Looking at the Media Days schedule for Wednesday, I noticed that South Carolina was on the same day as Vanderbilt, Georgia and SEC West darkhorse Arkansas. When was the last time, I wondered, that Steve Spurrier has been so totally overshadowed on the day of his appearance at Media Days? So much for all that.

South Carolina TE Weslye Saunders is reportedly under investigation from the NCAA, with the dreaded word "agents" thrown in there for good measure.

"I'm not really sure what's going on right now in terms of who's in trouble and how much," Saunders said Sunday.

Another source who has visited with Saunders said Sunday the NCAA is interested in time Saunders spent with Austin in South Florida this spring and who paid for hotel rooms and travel.

Austin being UNC's Marvin Austin, one of the Tar Heels who has apparently drawn the interest of the NCAA. South Carolina Athletics Director Eric Hyman, your reaction?

"The NCAA has been in contact with us regarding a possible rules violation in one of our programs," the statement said. "We have and will continue to cooperate fully with their inquiry. We have confidence in our compliance program and will work with the NCAA to bring this matter to a resolution in a timely fashion."

Spurrier's reaction is, as you might expect, a classic:

"So if we have a player that accepts money, gifts from agents or whoever, they’ll be ineligible to play.

"We're not going to look the other way like possibly Southern California did. We’re going to abide by the rules."

Spurrier says that Saunders might not have done anything wrong, and that's true and perhaps plausible if you haven't called Saunders and been unable reach him in recent months.

Saunders' voicemail directs agents or financial advisers to contact his father, Barry, a news columnist with the Raleigh News & Observer. Barry Saunders declined to comment when reached by phone Sunday.

I don't call many NCAA football players, but I'm guessing this is not standard practice. You would think a journalist and his son would be smarter about this and avoid the "this won't get out" sentiment you often see in cases like this. Then again, otherwise smart people do odd or unintelligent things sometimes.

At the very least, this shows an attitude toward agents that isn't great for a player in any program. (And South Carolina coaches already had some concerns about Saunders' attitude generally.) I suppose the voice mail could be a relic of Saunders' considering the draft in January, but that also seems unlikely.

The State also points out that Saunders is currently listed at second on the depth chart. Just a guess that that won't be changing soon

If the story stops here -- though these stories usually don't stop here -- there's cause for both relief and concern in Columbia. For one thing, a trip this spring would likely not lead to any games being vacated, since the problem occurred after last season. On the other hand, if South Carolina coaches really think this is a special season in the making, they have to be very careful with playing Saunders while he's under investigation. The last thing you want to do at South Carolina is win the SEC East and then have it vacated by the NCAA. (Though, in fairness, that would be a very South Carolina thing to do.)

The other concern: roster attrition. I've said before that the Quintin Richardson surgery is not the end of the program's hopes for its best season with Spurrier as coach. Nor would it be if Saunders has to sit on the bench for part or all of the season. But when you take away Richardson and Saunders, things start to get questionable, especially when you combine the likely injuries that any program faces during the season.

Travis Haney makes a salient point
There's still a chance, however slight, that Saunders is not a target of the investigation.

It's unclear at this time whether Saunders is in trouble, or if the NCAA was inquiring solely about Austin.

Be that as it may, your team is still best advised to stay away from having "NCAA," "Investigation" and "agent" in the same sentence. (And there is the question of the plausibility of Saunders going on a trip with Austin in which Austin was getting paid by an agent and not getting some of the largess himself.) 

Person is more skeptical
He explicates Hyman's statement and dismisses "posters to gogamecocks.com or bloggers elsewhere suggesting that the NCAA only wanted to talk to Saunders about his friend, Marvin Austin," though he ignores that some MSM folks like Haney (whom I trust) say the same thing. The Blogs are the root of all evil -- but whatever.

He also sees the potential for Saunders to miss a game or two one way or another.

We might not know for a few weeks whether Saunders broke the rules or not. If the NCAA has not ruled on this before the Gamecocks’ Sept. 2 opener against Southern Miss, I don’t see how USC could allow Saunders to play and risk forfeiting any games Saunders played in if he is ultimately ruled ineligible.

Which is clearly in South Carolina's best interest, as well as the best interests of UNC if their players are involved, etc. But it also is clear that the NCAA needs to move quickly on this one. It's not just a retroactive investigation, a la Reggie Bush, where only the past is at issue. This is a future issue for players and coaches at the involved schools; both UNC and South Carolina are given their best odds for a league championship in years, and it would be suicidal for them to play possibly ineligible players. Some North Carolina fans are already considering the merits of benching those involved. (HT: Tomahawk Nation) On the other hand, it could be harder for either to win if the players are eligible but can't play anyway.

This could be a doozy -- and that could be a good thing
The Saunders questions would seem to support something else that started generating some buzz over the weekend: The idea that the UNC investigation is a wide-ranging inquiry.

I have a source who tells me that Austin was only 1 of 13 players who have been interviewed -- this is far reaching. And it does not only extend to a number of players. The same source tells me that there are a lot of agents that may have dirty hands, including both NFLPA Certified Advisors and marketing agents. Some are being examined more than others.

It is apparently beyond just in-person meetings, rent payments, and travel expenses. We are potentially talking about all expenses paid trips to South Beach, exorbitant amounts of money dropped on accessories, and there are rumors of players driving around in Bentleys. [Emphasis in original.]

I hope the agents involved get annihilated by the proper authorities if this is the case. Until agents face penalties from whatever governing entities have jurisdiction, this isn't going to stop. College kids will be college kids and listen to anyone that promises them millions of dollars; the so-called adults in this situation should know better. (HT: Roll Bama Roll)

NBC: 'At least two more programs'
In fact, if everything that's being reported is true, this has a good chance of being the broadest NCAA investigation in recent memory and could mark a turning point in the Association's efforts to keep agents out of the game. Then again, this is the NCAA, so ...

Thus far, it's student-athletes from North Carolina and South Carolina who have publicly been fingered as being of interest to the NCAA; according to a source, there's the possibility that the names of at least two more prominent Div. 1-A schools could be made public over the next few days/weeks in relation to an NCAA investigation that has the potential to reach much, much further than its limited public scope right now.

Person also says in the blog post linked above that other schools might be involved.

With both of the schools we know about being in the Southeast, it's not a wild leap in logic to assume that other SEC or ACC programs could also be in the cross-hairs. And if the effort is not an organized initiative by the schools, there's no way to tell who's next. One or two "name" programs is all this needs to go supernova. (HT: RBR)

Pete Carroll agrees with you, sir
Riffing on a Gentry Estes tweet, outsidethesidelines highlights how difficult this is getting to be for colleges.

You don't necessarily have to pull a [Southern Cal] and just completely ignore anything and everything for things like this to happen. ...

And, of course, for many college players -- a significant percentage of which have known nothing but abject poverty -- it's a hard proposition to turn down, regardless of the potential consequences if you or your program gets caught.

The problem is that the knowledge of programs (or see-no-evil approach of Southern California) only helps when it comes to future sanctions -- i.e., loss of scholarships, bowl bids, etc. Which means fans of UNC, South Carolina and other teams involved best hope the spring trip is all that's here, and any issues were not something that the NCAA could look at and plausibly decide coaches knew about.

GEORGIAPOCALYPSE

Greg McGarity gets an endorsement he might not want
I'm not sure that Vince Dooley is a good supporter to have or not, given that Michael Adams is the UGA president. It should make McGarity something approaching a slam-dunk candidate, but Michael Adams. (For those who don't know, the relationship between Adams and Dooley was at one point best described as "nonexistent." I am in no position to know if it's improved or not.)

"I hope he’s strongly considered," Dooley said. "He would do a great job as Georgia’s athletic director. That would make sense. It’s a good fit."

None of which will matter to Adams if McGarity is seen as "the Dooley candidate." Not that he should be, or that this should be important. Again: Michael Adams is the UGA president.

More Evans-Fuhrmann text messages
This is getting close to Houston Nutt levels. But I think it's about time to move on from this story now.

And there's still a month and a half to go
The Mayor looks back over the SEC since the end of the last regular season. It should be noted that the major things keep getting progressively worse: Florida loses then regains its iconic football coach; Georgia loses its athletics director after he ALLEGEDLY decides to imbibe and drive; Tennessee has several players involved in a brawl that includes beating a police officer half to death; Vanderbilt loses it coach; South Carolina is under investigation ...

At this point, I expect the next headline to be "Asteroid wipes out Ole Miss athletics department."

OTHER NEWS

The Golden Eagles are very excited about playing South Carolina
And I mean, very excited. Like, more excited than anyone has ever been about playing South Carolina. South Carolina.

"Let's pretend this is Williams Brice Stadium," the voice of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles yelled, referring to the home of South Carolina, USM's opening football opponent this season.

"I want all of you on your feet," he continued. "Let's pretend our Southern Miss football team is coming out of the tunnel to play South Carolina in front of a national audience on ESPN."

The more than 500 black-and-gold clad USM fans rose to their feet as Cox took to the mic again: "And here come your Southern Miss Golden Eagles and your coach Laryyy Feeeedoraaa!"

They do realize that it will take a lot more than 500 people to even be heard in Williams-Brice, right? I don't know how large Southern Miss' stadium is, but the WB holds well more than 80,000 people. In any case ...

At that -- perfectly on cue -- fans burst into a roar as the Golden Eagles coach raced from the side of the stage and up to the podium.

"Yeahhhhhhh!" Fedora screamed into the microphone, with fans stomping, clamping and yelling.

What makes this great is that the setting is supposedly the "Mississippi Trade Mart in downtown Jackson," which I can only assume looks exactly as it sounds it would look. That, and the fact that being this excited to play South Carolina says quite a bit about your program's status. Or your mental stability. I haven't decided which.

Then again, they can all probably find seats
South Carolina season ticket sales are down, as are several other places' figures; Georgia has slashed its price the donation needed for first-time buyers by 90 percent in two years, Clemson has seen a double-digit slide in sales and Tennessee ...

Tennessee is doing this
I'll just let the athletics department tell you in their own words.

Tennessee Athletics invites fans to "Meet Your Seats on the Road" in Nashville, Chattanooga, and the Tri-Cities and will also host a "Meet Your Seats" event in Neyland Stadium on a Saturday for fans not living in one of those three areas.

Over the next several weeks, fans will be able to take a first-hand look at season ticket opportunities in Neyland Stadium through interaction with Tennessee Athletic Department staff and the technology of Skype which will allow customers to view their potential seats through live video streaming at the stadium.

I'm speechless.

LSU fullback suspended
Dominique Allen is out "indefinitely." In the current SEC offseason, this seems almost mundane.

Probation and fine for Arrest No. 28
Frankie Hammond Jr. gets his sentence for his DUI. Hammond's license was also suspended, though there is apparently no truth to rumors that that was a prelude to his transferring to Georgia.

Tim Tebow's tears are now on an EA Sports cover
Just not the real one. Like Lieser, I think this is the kind of thing Tebow would probably laugh at. Or not care about, since he's likely going to be a millionaire in a few years.

Mullen's fire likely to go unstoked
Dan Mullen says his goals are an SEC championship and makes a promise that he best hope doesn't become his Saban quote in the future.

"That's going to be our goal -- (those were) our expectations for last season and really, that's our expectation for this season and will be 10 years from now when I'm the coach here."

Ten years is a long time for Urban Meyer's esophagus to remain calm and for other schools to ignore a Mississippi State coach that actually does win in Atlanta, but we'll see. If Mullen is successful enough to be in Starkville for 10 years, he might have to turn down many millions of dollars to do so.

Meanwhile, we have an admission that should surprise almost no one re: the attendance at State's spring game.

"If Dan had not taken a knee in the fourth quarter of the Egg Bowl last year, I'm pretty sure we would have had another 700 people at the spring game this year," Stricklin said, referencing the spring game's attendance of 34,127 that mirrored the Egg Bowl score of 41-27.

You mean, spring game attendance figures are not on the up-and-up? I'm shocked!

There are many reasons for this
But maybe one of them is that there are probably too many rules.

There are more than 400 pages dedicated to secondary violations in the NCAA rules manual, with thousands of interpretations.

Again, these are supposed to be minor things. So you have 400 pages of minor things that programs can do wrong?

I think secondaries ought to be punished as long as they're on the books. But maybe there should be fewer of them on the books. For example: Why not allow schools to recreate a gameday-like environment for recruits? Wouldn't the atmosphere of a game be something that a student going to play football for a team ought to know?

Rich Brooks still doesn't care what anyone thinks
The Lexington Herald-Leader has a nice piece on Brooks in retirement. Yes, he's still willing to tell you exactly what he thinks.

"Money has to be invested in the football program for the program to reach the next level; I just believe that," he said. "At Oregon, we did it on a little bit of a shoestring budget at first, then the money started to roll in and we had major improvements in our facilities. We ultimately won the Pac-10 championship, and now Oregon has some of the nation's best facilities. Kentucky facilities are not bad, but the stadium needs to be brought into the level of the other stadiums you compete in. That brings in more revenue from sky boxes and things of that nature."

I'm sure Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart is so happy that Rich Brooks is speaking his mind.

"I love Rich's passion for college football and for wanting Kentucky football to be better," Barnhart said. "He certainly left the program in much better shape than when he found it. The reality is we've tried to address a lot of different things. We've done plenty of upgrades debt-free, without adding any debt to the university. Now for us to make the next leap, there are things we need to do, and we're aware of that. We don't want to be second-rate when it comes to facilities. We're taking somewhat of a methodical approach, but believe me, we're working on it. It's a marathon, not a sprint."

In other words: Leave me alone, old man. But the best thing about the article is that it shows us Brooks is still tweeting. And those tweets range from the tales of a folksy outdoorsman ...

Going fly fishing in a small stream and thunder heads are moving in. Played 27 holes and was 7 over.less than a minute ago via Echofon

 

... to the introspective and haunting thoughts of a man returning home.

My old school in Alleghany has burned and only a shell is left. Things are pretty run down.less than a minute ago via Echofon

 

Marcus Lattimore has so much to learn
The most hyped Gamecock recruit in -- well, ever, really -- clearly has not studied the tradition of his new school much.

"I’ve got a great offensive line, and we’re going to do well this year," Lattimore said. "We can win an SEC championship. I truly believe that."

First of all, if the school has a great offensive line, then the NCAA should begin an immediate investigation to make sure the players are in fact the same ones that were there last year. Secondly, winning an SEC championship should not be something predicted at South Carolina until it happens.

Jay Jacobs not fond of Tommy Tuberville's job, Auburn making its own decisions
If there's any doubt about whether Tommy Tuberville left Auburn on good terms, look at the third sentence in Jay Jacobs' answer to the question of whether Gene Chizik's first season vindicated Jacobs.

Like I told that football team that Thursday night after Tommy (Tuberville) quit was that I was going to hire the best coach for them. ... But Gene and his staff are building this program back up, but we're still a couple signing classes away from getting the quality of athletes that we need to have to get back to Atlanta. ... He stuck to his plan and we're just building this thing back a brick at a time.

There's no doubt that Auburn was dropping off a bit at the end of Tuberville's tenure, but it's not like he left a smoking crater in the Greater Opelika Metro Area, either. "Building this thing back a brick at a time" seems overly negative.

Jacobs also basically says that Auburn won't play a sport if other teams in the SEC don't also play it, which seems to outsource important decisions, which I guess is a natural thing for the Auburn athletics department considering how long Bobby Lowder ran things.

But no, there's no plans to add wrestling. Nobody in the Southeastern Conference I know is considering it. And there are no plans for men's soccer, even though there are some teams in the ACC that have men's soccer. I don't know of anybody in the SEC that does. Our No. 1 goal is to win SEC championships, so we want to compete at the highest level in the SEC in the sports that our sister institutions have.

Well, no one else in the SEC plays men's soccer except South Carolina and Kentucky. Details details.

Kentucky administrator you've never heard of going to Oregon
Rob Mullens will be the athletics director for the Ducks.

I like it
I'm generally not a fan of the head-coach-in-waiting trend, but if it makes things easier for Ray Tanner and lines up a great coach to lead South Carolina after he retires, I'm for it.

Not SEC or football, but still important
Thoughts and prayers for Dean Smith.

So glad we don't have to deal with this
An intriguing look into the economic issues in the new Pac-12, and why aligning the new divisions will force the league to deal with revenue sharing. Which the SEC already has for whenever realignment talk emerges again.

Coug Center points out the complex nature of the negotiations.

Schools fighting for certain alignments or ways of scheduling could band together in the voting and hold veto power (California schools, perhaps). While not likely, it's impossible to tell what's going to happen in conference meetings that are shaping up to be fairly volatile.

The view from Los Angeles
Complete with "ESPN hates the Pac-10" and "the NCAA wants to destroy Southern Cal" conspiracy theories, but still a pretty good analysis.

And another one's gone ...
Then again, I'm sure Lane Kiffin is just happy to have the logos and colors in the newspaper, right?

Notre Dame throws down the offseason mayhem gauntlet
Nine football players arrested on alcohol charges, though this could still be well shy of the final number from Tennessee for the Bar Knoxville throwdown.

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