Auburn Archives

The new SEC Network: What We Should Expect

The new SEC Network was announced with all the bells and whistles that greets every ESPN announcement.

The deal, which is thought to be worth billions of dollars to the SEC, was not discussed by ESPN CEO John Skipper or SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, but is thought to be worth a heck of a lot more than the current 15-year, $2.25bn deal signed between the conference and the network back in 2008.

The deal will be for 45 college football games, 100 men’s basketball games, and lots of other sports, plus 24-7 programming about the SEC and all the fun and games. We would love to ask the network to hire us as special director for a ‘Wild Girls of the SEC’ documentary, because we doubt it will go ahead.

For those of you in love with Verne and Gary, we doubt that the SEC will walk away from its deal with CBS, which currently shares rights to the big games with the SEC, and seems to get first choice on the ‘biggies’ throughout most of the season for the 3.30pm kick-off and a couple of night games, too. The SEC still needs CBS as its national cable carrier, and we doubt that people watching ABC all over America will want to see the likes of Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and LSU week in, week out.

But here’s what we expect for this season, even before the SEC Network is launched in August 2014:

  • Even more blanket SEC coverage on College Gameday. Last season, ESPN was almost ESECPN with the amount of coverage SEC schools were getting on College Gameday. The first three games of Gameday were involving SEC teams. Four games after that involved SEC teams – and we think the reason for that was the rise of Notre Dame, who frankly saved College Gameday from even bigger accusations of bias. Don’t get us wrong, we love the SEC coverage, but it was getting a little dull. Especially without any love for the USC Song Girls. We’ll put an outside bet on a SEC school getting the College Gameday ad, too – like Texas A&M did last year.
  • The SEC to get a permanent spot on College Football Live: Watch College Football Live carefully, and the SEC is almost always heading up the headlines for Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit. In fact, other schools should be honored to get a look-in. This coverage will get even MORE SEC-biased in 2014, because it becomes within ESPN’s interests (they own 100% of the SEC Network) to pitch SEC, SEC, SEC to non-SEC football fans (would you believe it, they exist folks!) – because they’ll need the customers. If you don’t believe us, remember how much Texas and the Longhorn Network was pitched prior to the 2013 season?
  • Prepare to get hammered with ‘Buy The SEC Network’ Marketing: It won’t stop. If you love the SEC, you’re probably going to get it anyway, but by God, it’s going to get driven down your through. Chris Fowler and the gang should get special dividends from Disney for pitching the Network day in, day out. Because by God, they’ll do a lot of it

What we should expect after 2014:

  • The schools will be a ton richer. Which will mean more money for weight rooms and for other athletics other than football. This is a good thing. Also expect some of the money to go into the general scholarship funds, which can only help the universities – particularly those that aren’t your Vanderbilts of this world.
  • The ESPN exposure will mean even more great recruits come to play in the SEC. Thanks to ESPN, other conferences are going to be left in the dark. Unless their big teams have big former National Championship-winning SEC coaches, or have a lot of former players on their staff, like, you know, Ohio State.
  • The SEC will continue to dominate. Don’t be surprised if the SEC wins National Championships year in, year out until either the Second Coming happens, or the powers-that-be- in college football start to change rules about non-conference scheduling, so we see better non-conference games for big SEC schools, which will bring it more into line with NCAA Basketball. This will be no bad thing.
  • We eventually say goodbye to the CBS deal. Tradition may be one thing, but dollars is another. And CBS would quite happily forgo college football for The Masters, which at some point they are going to have to go for. ESPN will soon collect the top 3.30 game too, and we’ll have to go to one company to watch SEC football – and that’s exactly what ESPN will want you to do, because you’ll then pay for their channel.
  • More Les Miles and Steve Spurrier. Which is no bad thing.
  • More Wright Thompson. Which really, really, really is no bad thing.
  • More shots of beautiful SEC co-eds. Which really, really, really, really, is no bad thing. At all.
  • Paul Finebaum: The SEC’s most controversial talk-show host has just signed a contract with ESPN and the SEC Network. Some people have recommended he get a sports social media show with Skip Bayless and call it ‘Dislike’. Which is a little uncharitable. Anyways, you’re going to hear a lot of Auburn-baiting on national radio, folks.

LSU suspends RB Hill

Jeremy Hill isn’t doing himself any favors if he wants to be the SEC’s best running back come the end of the 2013-4 season.

The running back was arrested for simple battery after allegedly hitting someone on the side of the head outside a Baton Rouge hostelry on Saturday night, numerous reports have said.

Hill was suspended indefinitely by coach Les Miles, the coach announced on Monday.

Miles said in a statement that he would “let this incident play out through the legal system before making any additional comments”, ESPN reported.

Hill finished with 755 yards and 12 TDs on 142 carries in an incredible rookie season for the Tigers – and looks like one of the most promising offensive stars to come out of Baton Rouge in years.

Now, he’s got to pray that he’ll SEE 2013, let alone play in it.

Athlon Sports: Saban the best in 2013 coaching class

Nick Saban got more recognition for his great coaching ability (although we doubt he’ll care!) from Athlon Sports, who said he was the best coach in the 2013 class of 125 college football coaches.

It espoused: “Saban is without question the best coach in college football. He started his career as a head coach in 1990 with Toledo, then spent the next four seasons as the defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns. In 1995, Saban was hired as Michigan State’s head coach and guided the Spartans to a 34-24-1 record under his watch. Saban left East Lansing for Baton Rouge and LSU in 2000 and led the Tigers to a 48-16 record in five years, including a national championship in 2003. Saban had a two-year stint with the Dolphins but jumped at the opportunity to lead Alabama in 2007. After a 7-6 record in his first season, Saban is 61-7 in his last five years with the Crimson Tide, which includes three national championships. At 61 years old, Saban is still at the top of his game and should have Alabama in the mix for a SEC and national title every year he is on the sidelines.”

Also on the list was:

Steve Spurrier (South Carolina) – 5th

Mark Richt (Georgia) – 11th

Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M) – 16th

James Franklin (Vanderbilt) – 17th

Dan Mullen (Mississippi State) – 23rd 

Les Miles (LSU ) – 24th

Bret Bielema (Wisconsin) – 25th

Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss) – 30th

Will Muschamp (Florida) – 36th

Butch Jones (Tennessee) – 41st

Gary Pinkel (Missouri) – 42nd

Gus Malzahn (Auburn) – 53rd

Mark Stoops (Kentucky) – 71st 

Chizik denies allegations

Gene Chizik, the former Auburn coach, has denied allegations from blogger Selena Roberts that he manipulated players grades, ignored drug tests and paid players.

He said in a statement: “During my tenure at Auburn, the NCAA conducted a multi-year investigation into the Auburn football program that they called “fair and thorough.” The NCAA focused intently on widespread accusations about Auburn players being paid and other alleged recruiting violations. The NCAA conducted 80 interviews. In October 2011, the NCAA rejected “rampant public speculation online and in the media.” Unfortunately, the recent story published by Selena Roberts is more of the same. It once again portrays Auburn University, current and former coaches, professors, fans, supporters and community officials in a false light.

Unfortunately, Ms. Roberts’ story is long on accusation and inference, but short on facts and logic. It is noteworthy that the story comes just days before a player mentioned most prominently in the article is set to go to trial for felony armed robbery. The statements are very generalized accusations devoid of substance. During my time as Auburn’s head coach, I never authorized, instructed or directed anyone to change any player’s grade or provide any type of illegal payment to any student-athlete. Likewise, I am not aware of any alleged grade change or illegal payment by any member of my coaching staff, support staff or anyone else.

As for logic, the notion that the conduct inferred by Ms. Roberts was occurring under the NCAA’s nose, at the very same time the NCAA is conducting its thorough investigation, lacks merit. Further, the notion that there was ever an attempt to sabotage any Auburn student-athlete’s attempt to play professional football is outrageous. Auburn’s success in transitioning student-athletes to the NFL benefits both the student-athlete and the Auburn program.

I remain part of the Auburn family and take these attacks on myself, the University and community seriously. During my time at Auburn, the administrators, professors and academic staff were of the highest integrity. Additionally, the inference that there was academic support staff that worked together with professors to change grades is absurd. As an Auburn resident, I take great pride in the quality and integrity of our police department. They enforce the law equally and fairly and my dealings with police Chief Tommy Dawson and his staff have been nothing short of excellent. He has handled many high profile cases with the upmost integrity and professionalism. To imply anything otherwise is simply wrong.

If there is a sad truth here, it is that there are no repercussions for bloggers who blast out widespread, venomous allegations and inferences in such an irresponsible manner. To make bold and outrageous conclusions on such thin support is a travesty.

During my tenure as Auburn’s head coach, we kept the well-being of our student- athletes at the forefront of every decision. We ran our program with the highest level of integrity and accountability. Period. I make absolutely no apologies for that. I stand firm in my statements, my support of Auburn University, its student- athletes (present and former), faculty, staff and community officials. As I stated during the NCAA investigation, I am comforted knowing that the truth always prevails.

 

Report: Auburn paid players, changed grades under Chizik rule

If you’re an Auburn fan and think that things couldn’t get worse than they were after a winless SEC season and the firing of your head coach – plus a sea of off-season troubles, then think again.

Selena Roberts, a reporter who has written for Sports Illustrated, brought out a report today that stunned not only this writer, will stun a lot of SEC fans.

In the report – which is essentially an interview with former safety Mike McNeil – Auburn changed grades, paid players to host recruits, saw more than 40 players test positive for “recreational drugs” after their National Championship win in 2011, and offered money to players to keep playing at the school.

Here are some stunning revelations from the report, and we’ll let them speak for themselves:

1) Player payments: “Receiver Darvin Adams, a star player with NFL dreams and a family to support, wrestled with whether to turn pro after the championship season. He discussed his plans with teammates and told them how much pressure he was under by Auburn coaches to stay. McNeil and Blanc say Auburn coaches offered Adams several thousand dollars to stay for his senior year. “It was sugar-coated in a way,” says Adams, who confirmed he was offered financial incentives, but declined to detail the exact amount. “It was like, we’ll do this and that for you. But I’d rather do things the right way. I am happy I didn’t say yes to that stuff. That’s what I’d tell kids.” Adams turned pro but went undrafted, a result, one NFL scout says, was due to negative reports on him from Auburn coaches. Adams plays for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and refuses to be bitter. “I play the cards I’m dealt,” he says. Other players tell stories of in-season cash payments to players. “Coaches would say, ‘Don’t tell anyone where you got it from,’’’ says Blanc. McNeil recalls having a difficult day at practice in 2007 and then-defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, calling him into his office. “I had no clue what it was about because I’d never directly asked him for anything,” says McNeil. “He slid about $400 over to me. He went into a drawer and gave me money and said, ‘Is this enough? Is this good?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’” Muschamp, now the head football coach at the University of Florida, denied the payment through a spokesperson.

McNeil says he was also paid $500 to be Dre’ Kirkpatrick’s tour guide. It didn’t work so well – Kirkpatrick went to play – and star – for hated rival Alabama.

2) Drug use: A trailer home on Wire Road was a hotspot for drug activity, players say. “From everything I know, drugs flowed freely from there, says [former Auburn player Mike] Blanc. “It wasn’t a secret that, if someone wanted something, they could get it there.”  The report added: “As players recall, more than 40 players tested positive for recreational drugs after the national championship.

3) Grade tampering: Players’ grades were changed to ensure players did not miss games – especially the National Championship Game against Oregon – which would turn out to be one of the best games of the season. Here’s what the report says: “Three players say that before the BCS Championship game the team was told that as many as nine of their teammates would not be able to play in the title game because they were academically ineligible……Before the season, McNeil says he was given an F for attendance in a computer science class. “I had B work but I missed too many classes; and I went to the instructor and said, ‘I really need this grade,’” says McNeil. “He said that he was sorry but he wouldn’t change it. I went to the person over him. She was in a position of power and backed up the instructor. I then told my counselor with the athletic department.” Within days, McNeil says, the grade was changed from an F to a C and he did not miss a game.

What worries this blog is that this sort of thing doesn’t just happen at the University of Auburn. We’ve heard stories from contacts all over the SEC of players getting beneficial treatment (such is the nature of being gods of campus). Our question: What is the NCAA – and in particular the Mike Slive and SEC – going to do about this sort of issue? It’s not good for Auburn, it’s not good for the NCAA, and it’s certainly not good for the reputation of the Southeastern Conference.

Blanc was quick to deny the story. He told Mike Svzetitz, sports editor of the Opelika-Auburn News: “None of that stuff that she said I said is true. None of it is true.”

Bates also denied the story to Weigh In Sports’ Brian Tarvin.

Auburn has not commented on the story.

You can read the whole of Roberts’ report here.

 

 

 

Harvey Updyke gets three years for Toomer’s Oaks poisoning

It’s too  harsh to call it ‘murder’ because that word refers to humans, but Harvey Updyke has admitted to the killing of Toomer’s Oaks.

The Alabama fan – who famous called Paul Finebaum’s show to admit his crime – was sentenced to three years in prison after admitting to “Criminal Damage to an Agriculture Facility”, which is a Class C felony in the State of Alabama. The sentencing was part of a plea deal with the D.A.

He will be out after six months, and then under supervised probation for five years.

“As part of the plea deal, Updyke’s probation will require him to abide by a 7 p.m. curfew and he is forbidden to attend any collegiate athletic events and is banned from entering any property owned by Auburn University,” WSFA 12 News remarked in an article. 

Updyke poisoned the Oaks in 2011 after being infuriated by Auburn’s National Championship win. The Oaks themselves will never recover.

 

 

Clowney has $5m insurance policy

South Carolina defensive end and All-American Jadeveon Clowney has a $5 million insurance policy should he get injured in the 2013 season, it has been reported.

The policy – which will be paid out via the NCAA should anything go awry next season – will be paid for by family members, and protect against future . The cost is $30,000.

Reply to Charleston Post-Courier writer Daryl Slater’s report, Paul Myerberg of USA Today noted that the policy was the largest available to players.

The insurance company offering the policy is HCC, based in Cincinnati.

On South Carolina’s website, they said: “Student athletes can receive up to $5m in coverage, up from $4.4m in basketball and $3m in football.”

The NCAA says on its site: “This program will provide the student-athlete with the opportunity to protect against future loss of earnings as a professional athlete, due to a disabling injury or sickness that may occur during the collegiate career.”

It adds: “The condition of disability can be determined when the following criteria have been met: * The student-athlete’s disability results from an injury or sickness, * The student-athlete’s injury or sickness occurs while the policy is in force, * The student-athlete is under the regular care of a qualified physician, * The student-athlete is unable to engage in sporting activity at the professional level, * The applicable elimination period has elapsed, and * The student-athlete’s total disability prevents him or her from signing any employment contract with any professional team as a professional athlete in his or her sporting activity.”

However, the NCAA’s catastrophic injury program (one can only assume that a ‘catastrophic injury’ is one where a player doesn’t walk again)- as set out by the NCAA on its website – has said that the maximum benefit amount per covered accident for all benefits combined is $20m.

Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M has taken out a similar policy.

Clowney created waves earlier this off-season when there was talk of him perhaps sitting out the 2013 season because of the fact that a potential injury could derail his Top 10 draft pick hopes (and let’s face it, he’s the best pass-rusher in college football right now).

 

ESPN announces August-October SEC TV dates

ESPN has announced its August – October TV dates for SEC schools – starting with South Carolina’s hosting of North Carolina on Thursday, August 29th at 8pm.

Here is the line-up:

Thu, Aug 29 6 p.m. North Carolina at South Carolina * ESPN
  9:15 p.m. Ole Miss at Vanderbilt ESPN
Sat, Aug 31 5:30 p.m. Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game: Virginia Tech vs. Alabama (Atlanta) ESPN
  8 p.m. Georgia at Clemson ABC
  9 p.m. Cowboys Classic: TCU vs. LSU ESPN
Thu, Oct 24 7:30 p.m. Kentucky at Mississippi State ESPN

We’re already extremely excited!

In order of games that the neutral should be excited about, here we go:

1) Georgia at Clemson – Two likely highly-ranked teams in one of the best atmospheres in college football. At night. College Gameday, anyone?

2) Virginia Tech vs Alabama – Welcome back, National Champions

3) Ole Miss vs Vanderbilt – The two pretenders to the big boys’ throne. Is Ole Miss for real? And will we really find this out about Hugh Freeze’s guys one game in?

4) TCU vs LSU– First chance for TCU to exploit what’s been a difficult off-season for LSU thus far with half the squad seemingly gone to the NFL.

5) North Carolina at South Carolina – The battle of the Carolinas. There won’t be too problem with Williams-Brice being loud, folks.

6) Kentucky at Mississippi State – Both programs still rebuilding. Could be interesting for purveyors of the Dan Mullen Hot Seat.

SEC Spring Game: Full Diary

The SEC has released all the dates of Spring Games – and when practice begins. Here’s to the athletes getting prepped for it already.

All SEC schools and Pro Days start practice between March 2nd and March 27th.

Here are the Spring Games in April:

April 6th: Florida, Georgia

April 13th: Kentucky, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt

April 20th: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Tennessee

Most intriguing SEC players at the NFL Combine

To any outsider, you now understand why most good high school players want a chance to prove themselves at the SEC.

If you’re good – and good enough to go pro – then you might get invited to the NFL Combine. 74 SEC players were asked to come.

Thanks to Gamedayr for the list, without which this article wouldn’t have made it up here.

Alabama (10)

  • Quinton Dial, DE
  • DJ Fluker, OT
  • Nico Johnson, ILB
  • Barrett Jones, OL
  • Eddie Lacy, RB
  • Robert Lester, FS
  • Dee Milliner, CB
  • Damion Square, DE
  • Chance Warmack, OG
  • Jesse Williams, DT
MOST INTRIGUING: Eddie Lacy could be seen as the next Trent Richardson – particularly if he performs as well as he did in the SEC Championship Game, where he took the ball over. We’re also going to be intrigued by Barrett Jones (who could well be one of the steals of the draft at center when he gets picked), as well wondering whether the injuries that Jesse Williams was carrying at the end of the year will raise questions amongst NFL GMs.

Arkansas (6)

  • Alvin Bailey, OG
  • Dylan Breeding, P
  • Knile Davis, RB
  • Chris Gragg, TE
  • Cobi Hamilton, WR
  • Tyler Wilson, QB
MOST INTRIGUING: Knile Davis has a lot to make up for after a poor 2012 (actually, that goes for a lot of the Arkansas players, if we’re honest), and Tyler Wilson’s going to have a lot asked about his leadership skills – particularly as he didn’t excite anybody at the Senior Bowl.

Auburn (3)

  • Corey Lemonier, DE
  • Phillip Lutzenkirchen, TE
  • Onterio McCalebb, RB
MOST INTRIGUING: McCalebb’s been a real playmaker throughout his years at Auburn. Can he show it off at Combine level? Lutzenkirchen can expect a lot of injury questions.

Florida (10)

  • Jon Bostic, ILB
  • Matt Elam, FS
  • Josh Evans, FS
  • Sharrif Floyd, DT
  • Mike Gillislee, RB
  • Jelani Jenkins, LB
  • Lerentee McCray, OLB
  • Xavier Nixon, OT
  • Jordan Reed, TE
  • Caleb Sturgis, K
MOST INTRIGUING: How many can we pick? Most of the players are extremely athletic, but expect Matt Elam to rocket up in people’s estimation if he has an incredible Combine. He’s the best safety in the draft, after all. 

Georgia (11)

  • Marlon Brown, WR
  • Sanders Commings, CB
  • Kwame Geathers, NT
  • John Jenkins, DT
  • Abry Jones, DE
  • Jarvis Jones, OLB
  • Tavarres King, WR
  • Alec Ogletree, ILB
  • Bacarri Rambo, SS
  • Cornelius Washington, OLB
  • Shawn Williams, SS
MOST INTRIGUING: Jarvis Jones might need an exceptional combine to stop his slide down the pecking order after questions are starting to get asked about his ability to block the run. There will be also questions from GMs about his spine – although after a relatively injury-free SEC season, should there be any questions? Also, expect Rambo and Ogletree to raise some eyebrows about their characters.

Kentucky (1)

  • Larry Warford, OG
MOST INTRIGUING: Speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Warford isn’t considered to be a first round pick, so a good Combine could at least get him on the radar – unlikely though it is.

LSU (13)

  • Lavar Edwards, DE
  • Chris Faulk, OT
  • Michael Ford, RB
  • Bennie Logan, DT
  • PJ Lonergan, C
  • Tyrann Mathieu, DB
  • Barkevious Mingo, DE
  • Kevin Minter, ILB
  • Sam Montgomery, DE
  • Eric Reid, FS
  • Tharold Simon, CB
  • Spencer Ware, RB
  • Brad Wing, P
MOST INTRIGUING: Easy. Mathieu. Yes, we know that he’s been out of the game for a year. But the kid was a gamechanger in 2011, and don’t think the GMs have forgotten. And staying with Patrick Peterson’s family in Florida might just have saved his professional life. We can’t wait to see what the scouts say about him in Indianapolis.

Mississippi State (3)

  • Johnthan Banks, CB
  • Josh Boyd, DT
  • Darius Slay, CB
MOST INTRIGUING: Banks. He was a shutdown corner for MSU this season, and it wasn’t his fault that their season collapsed. He’s a projected first rounder, and we can’t wait for him to move up the pecking order after a good Combine.
Missouri
  • Zaviar Gooden, OLB
  • TJ Moe, WR
  • Sheldon Richardson, DT
MOST INTRIGUING: TJ Moe. If his SEC Media Day was anything to go by, anyway.

South Carolina (7)

  • Justice Cunningham, TE
  • DeVonte Holloman, OLB
  • TJ Johnson, C
  • Marcus Lattimore, RB
  • Ace Sanders, WR
  • DJ Swearinger, SS
  • Devin Taylor, DE
MOST INTRIGUING: Marcus Lattimore because of his knee, Ace Sanders because of his pure speed. Everyone in the college football world will be praying Lattimore gets through Indianapolis unscathed. Every little victory, and all that.

Tennessee (5)

  • Tyler Bray, QB
  • Justin Hunter, WR
  • Cordarrelle Patterson, WR
  • Mychal Rivera, TE
  • Dallas Thomas, OT
MOST INTRIGUING: Everyone’s talking about Patterson being the No.1 receiver in the draft, and after his 2012, this is no surprise. We hope that he’ll prove himself at the Combine.

Texas A&M (6)

  • Luke Joeckel, OT
  • Christine Michael, RB
  • Damontre Moore, DE
  • Sean Porter, OLB
  • Jonathan Stewart, ILB
  • Ryan Swope, WR
MOST INTRIGUING: Swope because he might be a bit slow and people will make some dumb comments (when those who have actually watched Texas A&M this season will know that Swope was one of the most sure-handed receivers in college football). Oh, and Demontre Moore because some people are talking about him being a potential No.1 pick. Him and Joeckel, anyway.

Vanderbilt (1)

  • Zac Stacy, RB
MOST INTRIGUING: Obviously – with only one player – Stacy. But guys, don’t look down on Stacy. Stacy broke records at Vanderbilt, and he was definitely dangerous against SEC opposition, too. What could a good combine do?

 

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