Mark Emmert Calls For Inclusiveness
Jason Collins announcement could have a profound impact on college sports, too.
NCAA president Mark Emmert opened Tuesday’s second Inclusion Forum by urging campus leaders to make school policies more welcoming for women, minorities, disabled athletes and those with different sexual orientations.
While he didn’t cite Collins specifically during his speech or in the subsequent question-and-answer session, Emmert expressed his support for the first openly gay active player in a major American pro sports league. He acknowledged that Collins’ disclosure that he’s gay could have a ripple effect on how college athletic departments treat other players and coaches.
“At the very least, I hope it does make it much easier for athletes in universities and other environments to be open about it and be supported by their coaching staffs and teammates,” Emmert told The Associated Press. “We’re talking about a culture change, and it’s slow and arduous, but what I’m seeing on campuses is that the inclusion issue has moved up.
When the federal government passed Title IX legislation in 1972, it opened the door to better funding, better facilities and better coaches in women’s sports. Many at the forum argued that men’s and women’s sports still are not funded equally more than four decades later
Colleges have been at the forefront of opening educational opportunities for minorities and many have instituted policies regarding job searches that are intended to expand the talent pool. Many schools have been leaders in research for students with learning and physical disabilities, and now, with Collins’ going public about his sexual orientation, Emmert sees another opportunity for schools.
“I’m delighted by it,” he said. “The need for a high-performing athlete to feel he can be open and honest about his sexuality is long overdue.”
Emmert has been under fire since announcing in January that the NCAA botched its investigation into the University of Miami. Some in the media immediately began calling for his ouster.
In late February, the NCAA’s executive committee announced it was giving Emmert a vote of confidence, a rare and perhaps unprecedented move. Then, following an unusually contentious news conference at the Final Four, the calls for Emmert’s firing heated up again.
This week is a chance for Emmert to get back to business as usual.
It started with the opening of the Inclusion Forum, which runs through Thursday. That just happens to be the same day the board of directors will meet to discuss what to do about rule changes that were approved in January but later blocked by the membership over issues such as unlimited texting, phone calls and emails between college coaches and perspective recruits.
Emmert couldn’t escape a series of enough questions, even from a seemingly friendly audience.
“Female athletes, particularly basketball players, seem to be getting singled out in gender identity during games. What can the NCAA do about this?” one woman from Purdue asked.
Emmert asked what she thought could be done. The woman suggested sanctioning schools for improper behavior from fans.
“I would certainly support a proposal that would do that,” Emmert said. “If that’s a rule that makes sense and there ought to be some sanctioning like that, then I hope the membership brings that forward. I think that would make good sense.”
Even one of Emmert’s signature reforms, tougher academic standards, was debated.
One man noted that because of limited educational resources, it could lead to a widening gap between athletes from lower-income areas and those from the wealthier suburbs given the new requirements. Current rules require athletes to have a 2.0 GPA in their core high school courses. Beginning in 2016, incoming freshmen must have a 2.3 in those classes.
“The message is that to play basketball you have to have a jump shot, you have to be able to drive to your left, and you have to have English and math, too,” Emmert said. “I, but more importantly, the board and the Committee on Academic Performance are very, very confident that 2.3 will have a positive impact, not a negative one.”
AJ McCarron to drive pace car
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron will drive the pace car before NASCAR’s Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.
McCarron will serve as honorary pace car driver Sunday, leading the field around the track before Sunday’s Aaron’s 499. He’ll drive a special Ford Mustang GT.
McCarron has led the Crimson Tide to back-to-back national championships.
He says he’s watched races at Talladega before and has “always had a passion to get up to speed on the track.
Michael Waltrip’s No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota will sport an Alabama national championship paint scheme. McCarron and the Tide players got a look at the car before their spring game.
LSU suspends RB Jeremy Hill
ESPN.com news services
LSU has suspended Jeremy Hill indefinitely after its leading running back was arrested early Saturday morning for allegedly punching another man in the side of the head outside a Baton Rouge bar near campus.
Coach Les ‘Miles, in a statement released Monday by the Tigers, said he would “let this incident play out through the legal system before making any additional comments. ”
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said it would take four to six weeks to determine whether charges would go forward in Hill’s case.
Hill, already on probation in connection with a 2011 arrest, is charged with simple battery, a misdemeanor. In January 2012, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile.
Hill, 20, was LSU’s leading rusher with 755 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012, his freshman season. His college career was delayed a year after he was arrested in early 2011 for an alleged sexual assault on a 14-year-old girl. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was able to enroll at LSU and play football last season, emerging as the Tigers’ most effective running back after season-opening starter Alfred Blue’s season-ending knee injury in LSU’s third game.
Baton Rouge Police Lt. Don Kelly, the department spokesman, said police responded at 2:15 a.m. to a call regarding a 20-year-old man who said he was knocked out in a fight in a parking lot. A witness who had made a video recording with his mobile phone also contacted police and shared the recording. Kelly said the recording showed a man that appears to be Hill punching the victim, who was then punched again, and knocked to the ground by a second suspect whom police have not yet identified and who remains at large.
Police found Hill at an apartment on campus and arrested him. He was later released on bond.
Alabama Earns Number 1 Recruiting Class
Alabama is making a habit out of winning national titles both on and off the field. And their correlation is no secret. The process, as coach Nick Saban often describes it, is in full swing on the Tuscaloosa campus. It starts with laying a foundation.
In other words, it begins with recruiting.
On Wednesday, the defending champion Crimson Tide secured the No. 1 recruiting class in the country for the second year in a row, beating out Florida and Ohio State for the distinction of obtaining college football’s most talented crop of recruits. Alabama signed a total of 25 prospects to national letters of intent, 18 of which ranked among the ESPN 300.
Alabama is the only school to finish with a top-three class in each of the past six years.
But for Saban, signing day was about more than rankings or outside evaluations. Frankly, he said, he put little stock in the opinions of others outside his office. To his way of thinking, signing day was about seeing more than a year of work on the recruitment trail in the form of signatures rolling off an archaic fax machine, ensuring the bank of top-tier talent at Alabama won’t soon run dry.
“Signing day is the culmination of a lot of hard work,” he said.
The next step, though, is the most difficult: getting the prospects to turn into players.
“Just because you get the puppy dog with the biggest feet doesn’t mean he’ll grow up to be the best hunting dog,” the hard-nosed coach was quick to point out.
The paws on the Crimson Tide’s newest crop of recruits do leave something to the imagination, though. Thirteen of Alabama’s signees were ranked among the top 10 at their respective positions. Derrick Henry, Alabama’s lone five-star commitment, was the No. 1 athlete in the country. He’ll likely play running back for Saban, though he has the skills to play either H-back or linebacker.
Their most high-profile signee might be Reuben Foster. The No. 1-rated inside linebacker in the ESPN 150 had a recruitment that can best be described as a melodrama. He verbally committed to Alabama before his junior year at Troupe County High in Georgia, moved to Auburn, Ala., and subsequently flipped his commitment to the in-state Tigers — and had a tattoo of their logo put on his arm. But after Auburn coach Gene Chizik and his staff were fired, Foster reopened his recruitment and on Wednesday signed with Alabama.
Saban, who defended the enigmatic linebacker, said he wouldn’t have liked to imagine what his recruitment would have looked like when he was 17 or 18 years old. The 61-year-old head coach blamed the newfound celebrity of recruits and the media for creating a circus-like atmosphere.
“We really think Reuben is a good person, and Reuben has a good heart,” Saban said. “He’s certainly a good football player, but I think that he really felt bad in some way, maybe by the way he handled his recruiting.”
Foster tweeted an apology to Alabama fans for the way he handled his recruitment following his signing ceremony earlier in the day. He said he was a “brat” and he hoped the fan base would “accept” him.
“Some of these things that turn out to be or appear to be not good qualities actually can be very good qualities if channeled in the right direction,” Saban said. “I think Reuben came here because he wanted the structure. He wants to get it right. He wants to do things the right way, and we want to help him do that. I think he’s got the right heart and the right character to do it.”
Foster was one of seven in-state recruits to sign with Alabama. A total of 17 others from 12 different states crossed borders to play for the back-to-back national champion.
Robert Foster, the No. 2 wide receiver in the country from Pennsylvania, spurned nearby Pittsburgh to give his verbal commitment to Alabama months before signing day.
Jonathan Alen, the third-ranked defensive end, signed with Alabama over in-state Virginia and Virginia Tech.
The nationwide effort, Saban said, was thanks to the access the Internet has provided scouting departments. Rather than limiting knowledge to recruits within driving distance, schools can search out kids from coast to coast with the click of a mouse. The rest is making a call and convincing the recruit you’re worth his time.
“If you had to do all this by getting out in a car and running around like I used to when I was recruited, you could never figure out who the best players in Oklahoma or Nebraska or California or any place far away would be,” Saban said. “But now with so much information, it’s not so hard to identify. So you can go specifically to evaluate and see a particular player some place that may be a little far away.
“We feel like our state is really important, and we feel like we’ve done a great job in the five-hour radius, but we feel like it’s really important to do a good job over the top in terms of knowing who the best players are, and which one of those players have some interest in Alabama.”
Alvin Kamara the four-star running back who would push Alabama from No. 3 to No. 1 in the class rankings late in the day, said there’s a different vibe to Tuscaloosa and the program Saban has built. The product of Norcross, Ga., said he liked the home-state Georgia Bulldogs well enough, but it was hard not to go to a school with Alabama’s reputation.
“There is definitely a difference in the culture in Tuscaloosa and Athens,” Kamara told ESPN after his televised signing. “At Alabama, they expect greatness and they achieve greatness, and that is the single reason why I chose to sign with the Tide.”
Banner Signing Day for Ole Miss
Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, the No. 1 overall recruit in the ESPN 150, kicked off national signing day Wednesday by announcing his intentions to sign with Mississippi.
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Nkemdiche, from Loganville (Ga.) Grayson, made the announcement Wednesday morning at a news conference broadcast on ESPNU, the first day prep football recruits could officially sign with colleges. He chose the Rebels over LSU and Florida.
He’ll be joined in Oxford by the No. 1 offensive tackle in Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia), the nation’s No. 1 receiver in Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill.), ESPN 150 offensive lineman Austin Golson and ESPN 150 safety Antonio Conner. They form the foundation for what could be the Rebels’ best recruiting class.
Ole Miss is the 11th school since ESPN began ranking recruits in 2006 to get multiple top-five players, but only the fourth school to do it in the same season. USC did it in 2007, while Florida and Texas did it in 2010.
The Rebels also signed Nkemdiche’s close friend and Loganville Grayson teammate David Kamara, a three-star cornerback, but missed out on ESPN 150 defensive end Chris Jones, who stayed true to his longtime commitment to Mississippi State.
“I feel like it’s the right place for me,” Nkemdiche said after his announcement. “I feel like they can do special things, and they’re on the rise. I feel like going to play with my brother (Denzel Nkemdiche), we can do something special.”
Ole Miss recovered from a disastrous 2-10 season in 2011 to finish 7-6 under second-year coach Hugh Freeze, including a win over rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl and Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
“I feel like he’s a good man, he’s special,” Robert Nkemdiche said of Freeze. “I feel like he’s a man of his word. I respect him a lot, and I feel like he has good things coming.”
When Nkemdiche, Treadwell and Tunsil announced their decisions, the Ole Miss coaching staff celebrated.
Ole Miss doesn’t have the pedigree to usually recruit toe-to-toe with the likes of Alabama, LSU and other Southeastern Conference powerhouse programs. But at least on paper, the Rebels might outshine their SEC opponents when signing day ends.
“I’m so thankful and blessed that these families have chosen to trust in us,” Freeze said. “We’ll treat these young men as our own.”
Nkemdiche’s choice marks a signature addition to what is shaping up to be one of the top recruiting classes in the country. He had offers from coast to coast and took official visits to Florida, Ole Miss and LSU before deciding to join his brother in Oxford. Denzel Nkemdiche, a defensive back, had a breakout season for the Rebels in 2012, leading the team with 82 tackles, including 13 for a loss.
Talk of Ole Miss landing Robert Nkemdiche began almost two years ago when the Rebels signed his brother, then a lightly recruited defensive back, in May 2011. After back-to-back 18-sack seasons, Robert emerged as the top prospect in the 2013 class.
Surprisingly, Nkemdiche committed to Clemson during an unofficial visit last June, citing a solid connection with the Tigers’ coaching staff. It was apparent that he was excited about the opportunity to continue playing with Kamara, who had committed to Clemson while on campus with Nkemdiche the day before.
In July, Nkemdiche visited Ole Miss with Kamara while maintaining it was primarily just to see his brother. He would make two return visits in September to watch the Rebels play, with a visit to Clemson in between. It was during that month that his mother, Beverly, made headlines by stating her displeasure with her son’s actions while she was out of the country.
Denzel Nkemdiche said he and his mother pushed hard for Robert to choose Ole Miss, but ultimately the decision was his. Denzel said his individual success at Ole Miss — along with the big improvement for the program this season — were important factors in Robert’s choice.
“The feeling right now is unreal,” Denzel Nkemdiche said Wednesday. “It’s real hard to explain. I’m glad it’s over. I wanted him to make the right decision that he wanted to make, and I wanted him to feel comfortable with the decision he made because he’s going to be where he’s going to be for the next three years. I’m glad he’s going to be there with me. I’ll be able to look after him and take some care of him, and we’ll be able to win the national championship together.”
The 6-foot-6, 295-pound Tunsil chose Ole Miss over Georgia and Alabama.
“It really wasn’t the official visit [to Oxford], to be honest with you,” Tunsil said after announcing his choice in Lake City, Fla. “Me and [defensive line coach] Chris Kiffin had a relationship for about a year. He never gave up, he never gave up. I told him that Alabama was on top, then I told him that Georgia was on top, and he still didn’t give up.”
Conner (Batesville, Miss./South Panola), the No. 1 player in Mississippi and No. 24 prospect in the ESPN 150, picked the Rebels over Alabama and Mississippi State to extend Ole Miss’ signing-day run of success.
“It’s right down the road,” Conner said in an interview on ESPNU. “I feel more comfortable playing in my home state. I want to do something to put Mississippi on the map.”
Golson (Prattville, Ala./Prattville) had a tough choice to make: head to the SEC and one of the hottest programs around in Ole Miss, or stick with the team, Florida State, to which he had been committed for nearly two years. The Rebels won out.
In other developments on signing day involving top recruits:
Defensive linemen Adams, Daniel join Lawson at Auburn
Montravius Adams, the nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle prospect out of Dooly County High School in Vienna, Ga., committed to Auburn.
Adams made official visits to Florida, Clemson, Alabama, Georgia and Auburn over the past five weekends. He said early in his recruitment that he would like to leave the Peach State to continue his football career. Clemson appeared to be the early front-runner, as the Tigers’ coaching staff was the first to offer a scholarship to the Under Armour All-American. More than 20 programs followed suit, but Adams chose Auburn.
“I want to thank my family and my coaches for helping me through the process and for making me a better person,” he said. “I only have one more thing to say, and that is War Eagle!”
In a recruitment filled with twists and turns, it only seemed right for defensive end Elijah Daniel (Avon, Ind./Avon) to flip on signing day — from Ole Miss to Auburn.
Daniel, No. 34 overall in the ESPN 150, faxed his letter to Auburn on Wednesday despite entering signing day as an Ole Miss commitment. He was previously committed to Clemson as well.
Defensive end Carl Lawson (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton), the No. 2 overall prospect in the ESPN 150, also committed to Auburn as expected. Lawson was an early pledge to the Tigers but wavered in his commitment in recent months. He reaffirmed the pledge shortly before signing day.
“I committed to Auburn the school, not the coaching staff,” Lawson said Wednesday in an interview on ESPNU.
The additions moved Auburn up three places to the No. 11 class this year.
“In this league you win on the offensive and defensive lines, and the defensive line was a focus,” coach Gus Malzahn said. “The three guys we have, we feel like are three of the best in the entire country. Coach (Rodney) Garner’s a great coach and he’s going to have three guys that have a chance to help us immediately.”
CB Alexander to Clemson
Cornerback Mackensie alexander of Immokalee (Fla.) High School, the No. 2 corner and No. 4 overall prospect in the ESPN 150, selected Clemson. Alexander, the No. 2-ranked player in Florida, visited Auburn and Mississippi State late but settled on a school to which he made an official visit in November.
He said he connected with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.
“He’s a church guy like me,” Alexander said. “I trust in them guys. I’m going to be in a great position.”
He acknowledged the high level of competition in the SEC but predicted success for Clemson during his time there.
“We’re going to win the national title,” Alexander said.
Nkemdiche was a Clemson commitment back in July when he said he’d also like the Tigers to sign teammate Ryan Carter and began a debate about how far a school should go to land one of the nation’s best players. Turns out, Clemson liked what it saw from Carter and gladly brought him in, Swinney said.
Swinney wasn’t worried about the players who didn’t pick the Tigers, only those who did.
“That mentality is like waking up at Chirstmas and getting a lot of nice presents and going, ‘Oh, this is all I got?’ ” he said.
CB Ramsey, LB Thomas pick Florida State over USC
Matthew Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington), the No. 1 linebacker in the nation, chose Florida State over Miami and a late push from USC.
“I just felt more comfortable with the staff and the program at FSU over anyplace else,” Thomas said. “Everything is there for me to succeed.”
The Seminoles were considered the favorite for Thomas despite late pressure to stay home and play for the Hurricanes. He becomes the highest-ranked prospect in FSU’s class at No. 6 overall.
Jalen Ramsey’s long-time commitment to USC officially ended when he put on a Florida State cap Wednesday. He quietly signed his letter of intent without any drama.
“My decision was solely on Florida State and how I felt about them,” the four-star prospect said. “I’m just excited.”
Ramsey originally committed to the Trojans over the summer, but openly considered other schools and took visits to Florida, Washington and Mississippi as well as USC and FSU. USC made a late push on Tuesday night to try to sway Ramsey back, but his mind was made up.
“I just felt so comfortable there at Florida State,” the No. 14 prospect said. “The coaches there, I trust them. They’re good Christian men. I’m Christian so I’m trying to stay in that. It’s close to home so I can see my family more. I just want to get there and help them win a championship.”
Although Ramsey called coach Jimbo Fisher on Monday night to tell him he planned to attend Florida State, the coach didn’t breathe easy until shortly before noon when the formal paperwork arrived.
“I sweat them until I get them,” Fisher said.
Teddy Bridgewater Paces Louisville to Stunning Upset of Florida
Calvin Pryor predicted the Cardinals would “shock the world” against Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Brave words that he and his teammates backed up from start to finish against an SEC power.
Terell Floyd returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown on the first play, dual-threat quarterback Teddy Bridgewater directed a handful of scoring drives and No. 22 Louisville stunned the fourth-ranked Gators 33-23 in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night.
By the end, the chant, “Charlie, Charlie!” echoed from sections of the Superdome occupied by red-clad Cardinals fans. It their way of serenading third-year Louisville coach Charlie Strong, the former defensive coordinator for the Gators, who has elevated Cardinals football to new heights and recently turned down a chance to leave behind what he’s built for the top job at Tennessee.
“They kind of thought we were going to come in and lay down and give them the game,” Floyd said. “But Coach Strong always preaches that we’re better than any team in the nation if we come out and play hard. Coach Strong believed in us and our coaching staff believed in us and we came in and believed in ourselves
Shaking off an early hit that flattened him and knocked off his helmet, Bridgewater was 20 of 32 passing for 266 yards and two touchdowns against the heavily favored Gators. Among his throws was a pinpoint, 15-yard timing toss that DeVante Parker acrobatically grabbed as he touched one foot down in the corner of the end zone.
“I looked at what did and didn’t work for quarterbacks during the regular season,” said Bridgewater, picked as the game’s top player. “They faced guys forcing throws … and coach tells me, `No capes on your back or ‘S’ on your chest, take what the defense give you.’ That’s what I took. Film study was vital.”
His other scoring strike went to Damian Copeland from 19 yards one play after a surprise onside kick by the Gators backfired badly. Jeremy Wright had short touchdown run which gave the two-touchdown underdogs from the Big East a 14-0 lead from which the Gators never recovered.
Florida never trailed by more than 10 points this season, and the Southeastern Conference team had lost only once going into this game. The defeat dropped SEC teams to 3-3 this bowl season, with Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi still left to play.
“We got outcoached and outplayed,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “That’s what I told the football team. That’s the bottom line.”
Louisville and Florida each finished at 11-2.
Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel, who had thrown only three interceptions all season, turned the ball over three times on two interceptions — both tipped passes — and a fumble. He finished 16 of 29 for 175 yards.
“I look at this performance tonight, and I sometimes wonder, `Why didn’t we do this the whole season,” Strong said. “We said this at the beginning: We just take care of our job and do what we’re supposed to do, don’t worry about who we’re playing.”
Down 33-10 midway through the fourth period, Florida tried to rally. Andre Debose scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and Driskel threw a TD pass to tight end Kent Taylor with 2:13 left. But when Louisville defenders piled on Driskel to thwart the 2-point try, the game was essentially over.
Florida didn’t score until Caleb Sturgis’ 33-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
The Gators finally got in the end zone with a trick play in the closing seconds of the half. They changed personnel as if to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1, but lined up in a bizarre combination of swinging-gate and shotgun formations and handed off to Matt Jones.
Jones met only minimal resistance as he crashed into the end zone to cap an 11-play, 74-yard drive that included four straight completions and four straight runs by Driskel.
The Gators tried to keep the momentum with a surprise onside kick to open the third quarter, but not only did Louisville recover, Florida’s Chris Johnson was called for a personal foul and ejected for jabbing at Louisville’s Zed Evans. That gave Louisville the ball on the Florida 19, from where Bridgewater needed one play to find Copeland for his score.
“We game-planned it and felt good about it,” Muschamp said of the onside kick attempt. “We wanted to steal a possession at the start of the second half.”
On the following kickoff, Evans cut down kick returner Loucheiz Purifoy with a vicious low, high-speed hit that shook Purifoy up. Soon after, Driskel was sacked hard from behind and stripped by Pryor.
“Just coming up to this point, we had the right attitude, had the right mindset that we would go out and beat this team,” Pryor said.
Louisville’s Lorenzo Mauldin recovered on the Florida 4, but the Gators’ defense drove the Cardinals backward and forced a missed field goal, but that was one of few morale victories for the frustrated Gators.
After Louisville native Muhammad Ali was on the field for the coin toss, the Cardinals quickly stung the Gators. Floyd, one of nearly three dozen Louisville players from the state of Florida, made the play.
Driskel was looking for seldom-targeted Debose, who’d had only two catches all season.
“I threw it behind him, (he) tried to make a play on it, tipped it right to the guy,” Driskel said. “Unfortunate to start the game like that.”
It made for an easy catch and score for Floyd only 15 seconds into the game.
“That play kind of set the tone,” Floyd said. “It kind of gave us momentum and we kept it.”
Oddly, Louisville had only 10 defenders on the field until only moments before the snap, when safety Jermaine Reve darted out from the sideline and immediately found a Florida receiver to cover.
When Louisville’s offense got the ball later in the quarter, the Florida defense, ranked among the best in the nation this season, sought to intimidate the Cardinals with one heavy hit after another.
One blow by Jim Bostic knocked Bridgewater’s helmet off moments after he’d floated an incomplete pass down the right sideline. Bostic was called for a personal foul, however, which seemed to get the Cardinals opening drive rolling. Later, Wright lost his helmet during a 3-yard gain and took another heavy hit before he went down.
Louisville kept coming, though.
B.J. Butler turned a short catch into a 23-yard gain down to the Florida 1. Then Wright punched it in to give the Cardinals an early two-TD lead over a team that finished third in the BCS standings, one spot too low to play for a national title in Miami.
Louisville won the Big East berth to this game. The Cardinals beat Rutgers in late November to virtually lock up the conference title, sealing that win on a late interception by Floyd.
Jim Boeheim Win Notches Number .903, Passes Bob Knight On All Time List
Jim Boeheim achieved another milestone in his impressive career at Syracuse, and yet passing Bob Knight for second place all-time on the victory list almost seemed like an afterthought.”I’m proud to be able to do that. I’m happy to get it done,” Boeheim said after his seventh-ranked Orange had defeated Rutgers 78-53 on Wednesday night for his 903rd victory, one more than Knight among men’s Division I coaches. “To me, this game is not about numbers, it really isn’t. It’s not about how many points you score or the assists you get. It’s about all the people, all the people you meet on the way. It’s been an unbelievable experience.”Boeheim, in his 37th season at his alma mater, trails only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who has 940 victories, and he was more touched by the phone calls and letters than anything else.”I got a call from (former St. John’s star) Chris Mullin, I think after 900,” Boeheim said. “That call meant as much to me as anything because he’s the best player, you could argue, who’s played in this league. And I got a note from (Butler) coach Brad Stevens, which is interesting because I’m probably his biggest fan. He just thanked me for my contributions to the game.”If a young coach thinks that way about me, then I’m really happy. That’s what I’m really proud about.”Boeheim was also proud of the way Syracuse (13-1, 1-0 Big East) performed en route to its 33rd straight home victory, the longest active streak in the nation. The Orange have beaten Rutgers (9-3, 0-1) 13 straight times. Brandon Triche had a season-high 25 points, hitting 5 of 7 3-point attempts, and added six assists and four steals to lead Syracuse. Michael Carter – Williams finished with 12 points and 10 assists, his eighth double-double, and C.J. Fair had 15 points and three blocks. Eli Carter led Rutgers with 19 points while Myles Mack, who entered the game averaging 14.5 points, did not score and was 0 of 3 from behind the arc. He entered the game leading the Big East at 51.2 percent from 3-point range.The Scarlet Knights had won five straight but were no match for Syracuse in coach Mike Rice’s first game back after a three-game, 16-day suspension for inappropriate behavior and language. Rutgers went 3-0 under associate head coach David Cox, capped by a 68-56 win over Rider on Friday.Rice was suspended without pay and fined $50,000 on Dec. 13 for a violation of athletic department policy. Rice, 43, who returned to the team on Saturday, is in his third season at Rutgers. A former guard at Fordham, Rice came to Rutgers from Robert Morris, where he took the Colonials to the NCAA tournament twice.Rutgers has defeated three top-10 teams at home under Rice, but the program has never accomplished the feat on the road. Syracuse won the game with a 21-0 run over the final 6:42 of the first half to break open what had been a tight affair.Rutgers committed 10 turnovers in each half and was outscored 20-7 on the fast break.”We’re really good when we’re scoring and things are going our way,” Rice said. “The team response — we lacked the energy, we lacked the toughness. In this league, bad things are going to happen, whether it’s missed shots or turnovers, which we really couldn’t have against Syracuse, but we had them.”How are you going to respond defensively? That’s what limits their runs, and our defense was a no-show after we stopped scoring.”Carter’s runner in the lane at 8:07 gave Rutgers its only lead at 20-18. It was the final basket of the period for the Scarlet Knights. They missed seven shots, committed three fouls and had two shots blocked as the Orange ran away.Fair followed his own miss to start the Orange surge and consecutive baskets by Carter-Williams, the second a pretty underhanded scoop with reverse spin, gave Syracuse an eight-point lead.Triche’s fast-break layup after a block by Fair and a bank shot off the glass by Rakeem Christmas kept the Orange rolling, and James Southerland’s transition 3 made it 35-20 with 2:22 to play.”It did snowball,” said Austin Johnson, who had six points and four rebounds for the Scarlet Knights. “It’s a tough place to play. We just have to remain confident and do what we know we’re capable of out there. If we do that, we can compete with anybody. Tonight was definitely a clunker.”Triche’s lob to Southerland completed the run as Syracuse finished the half 14 of 29 (48.3 percent) from the field while holding Rutgers to 8 of 29 (27.6 percent). About the only mistake the Orange made was Christmas’s turnover out of bounds in the final seconds as Syracuse tried to hold for the final shot.At the outset, the game had the makings of a barnburner. Triche hit three 3-pointers in the first 6 minutes of play, all off assists by Carter-Williams as the Orange gained an early lead. But Carter kept pace with three 3s and another 3 from the wing by Jerome Seagers tied it at 16.The score was tied four times before Syracuse took control.”We were playing really well and we were down two,” Boeheim said. “I was getting ready for it to be a battle right down to the end, so I’m shocked at what happened during that period of time. We were playing well. Then we started playing even better.”Both teams are leaving the conference, Syracuse after the season for the Atlantic Coast Conference and Rutgers for the Big Ten at a date that’s still to be determined.
Jerry Sandusky Regrets Not Testifying
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky regrets not taking the stand at his child sex abuse trial and likely will be sentenced next month, his defense lawyer said Wednesday.
Attorney Joe Amendola said he has not received a presentence report for Sandusky from the county court system and the defense has not decided whether to contest a recommendation that the 68-year-old be declared a sexually violent predator under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law, which would subject him to stringent reporting requirements if he’s released on parole.
“The reality is Jerry is going to get a sentence, which, if it’s not reversed on appeal, is going to be tantamount to a life sentence,” Amendola said.
Sandusky, who maintains his innocence, acknowledging he showered with boys but saying he never molested them, regrets not taking the witness stand to dispute the claims of several young men who accused him of abuse, Amendola said.
“He does now,” Amendola said. “What do they say about Monday morning? 20-20?”
Amendola had suggested in his opening statement to the jury that Sandusky might testify.
Amendola said he has continued to warn Sandusky about plans to make a statement at sentencing to Judge John Cleland because going into specifics could return to haunt him if he eventually gets a new trial.
A tape of an interview Sandusky gave to NBC shortly after his November arrest was played to jurors at his trial. In the interview, Sandusky said he’s not sexually attracted to young boys and shouldn’t have showered with them.
Amendola said anything Sandusky says could be used against him and he has talked to Sandusky “about being cautious.”
Pennsylvania criminal defendants generally are sentenced within three months of conviction, but that can be extended under certain circumstances, and Amendola said the defense needs more time to evaluate whether to contest the recommendation that Sandusky be deemed a sexually violent predator.
He said the sentencing for Sandusky, who was convicted in late June, is “looking more and more like it’s going to be October,” based on “the fact that we haven’t gotten a date, and it’s the fifth of September.”
Asked about reports that Sandusky was working on a book while incarcerated, Amendola said it was more like a long version of Sandusky’s account that might be helpful to other lawyers during any appeals process.
Amendola has begun work on post-trial motions that can’t be filed until after sentencing. He said Sandusky will have 10 days to file post-sentencing motions and the judge would have four or five months to rule on them. If Sandusky loses those efforts, he would then have a month to file an appeal to Superior Court.
A core issue, Amendola said, remains whether Sandusky did not get a fair trial because the judge denied his efforts to delay it.
He said the day Sandusky first was charged in November he was shocked to learn there were more than one or two people prosecutors said were victims — there were eight, with two more added in a second set of charges that followed in December.
Amendola said some people who had promised to help Sandusky turned their backs on him once he was charged.
“I was left in a moral dilemma: Do I abandon him, too?” said Amendola, who acknowledged he isn’t sure he’ll still be representing Sandusky in an appeal process.
Sandusky remains in an isolated unit with 10 or 15 other inmates at the Centre County jail. Most fellow inmates have been “very nice to him,” Amendola said, but one engaged in what the lawyer described as “mouthing off to him one night.”
“Jerry says they’re very sympathetic,” Amendola said. “As a matter of fact, a number of them have said they’re innocent, too.”
Amendola said Sandusky’s visitors have included his wife, family friends, former players and former participants in his charity, The Second Mile. He declined to identify the players, and a message left for the jail warden wasn’t immediately returned.
Alabama is New 1 in Both Polls
Alabama is the new No. 1 in both The Associated Press and USA Today college football polls, moving past USC thanks to a resounding victory against Michigan.
The Crimson Tide swayed more than enough voters in both polls with a 41-14 win Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium to overtake the preseason No. 1 Trojans, who beat Hawaii 49-10. USC entered that game a 40-point favorite at home.
Alabama received 45 first-place votes in the AP poll, up 28 from last week, and 37 first-place votes in the USA Today coaches’ poll.
It marks the 47th time that Alabama has been No. 1 in the AP poll, the 16th under coach Nick Saban.
“I would agree with (voters),” USC coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday. “I didn’t watch any of the game because we can’t, but from what I heard, they played a really good Michigan team in a big matchup and played really well.”
This is the 86th time in the 76-year history of the AP poll that the top-ranked team won and dropped in the rankings. It’s happened at least once every year since 2007.
Despite their season-opening blowout, the Trojans received 11 first-place votes in the AP poll and 14 in the USA Today poll.
Asked if losing the No. 1 ranking motivated him, USC quarterback Matt Barkley said, “I don’t care about it. It doesn’t motivate me. A ranking doesn’t motivate me. I think being perfect is what motivates us.”
Both polls have the same top seven, with LSU at No. 3. Oregonand Oklahoma round out the top five in both polls, followed by Florida Stateand Georgia. Michigan fell the same number of spots in both polls, dropping 11 places to No. 19.
Arkansas, South Carolina and West Virgina complete the AP top 10.
Notre Dame was new to the AP poll at No. 22 following a 50-10 rout of Navy in Ireland.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly downplayed his team’s rise in the poll Tuesday, called the ranking “white noise.”
Boise State fell out of the Top 25 thanks to Friday’s loss at Michigan State, marking the first time in 62 weeks that the Broncos are unranked in the AP poll. That was the second-longest active streak, behind Alabama (now at 67).
The Mountaineers climbed three spots to No. 8 in the USA Today poll, and the Gamecocks and Razorbacks rounded out the top 10. Louisville joined the USA Today poll at No. 24.
LSU Kicks Tyrann Mathieu off team
ESPN.com News Services
“We extended ourselves personally and professionally to him,” LSU coach Les Miles said at a news conference Friday. “He has really improved and has a chance to take some steps as a person.”
Miles would not specify the reason Mathieu, who was suspended for a game last year for failing a drug test, was kicked off the team. “Both,” he said when asked if it was a team rule or a school rule. He said it was not a legal issue.
“I complied and agreed that it was right,” Miles said. “We’ll miss the guy. The football team’s got to go on. We’ll have to fill the void.”
A source told ESPN’s Joe Schad on Friday that Mathieu has been looking for a new school to play for this season. Mathieu has two years of eligibility left and could transfer, but he would have to sit out this season if he went to another school in major college football. If he moved down a level, to FCS, he could play right away.
“I can’t imagine he would be here and not want to transfer and go play football,” Miles said. “We will help him in every way we can.”
Last season Mathieu, who is nicknamed Honey Badger, was a surprise finalist for the Heisman and won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s best defensive player.
The junior defensive back helped the Tigers win the SEC championship and reach the BCS title game. LSU lost the championship 21-0 to Alabama.
LSU enters this season ranked No. 1 in the USA Today coaches’ poll. The AP college football poll will be released Aug. 18. The Tigers opened preseason camp last week as one of the favorites to reach the national championship game again. LSU started closing practices on Wednesday, but officials said Mathieu practiced at every practice until Friday morning, when he was informed of his dismissal.
“I called on the leadership of this team to understand that these things happen and they certainly understand it and they are ready to take positive steps,” Miles said of the decision, which officials said was made Thursday night.
Mathieu was the team’s big-play machine at cornerback and on special teams. The All-American scored four touchdowns — two on punt returns and two on fumble returns — intercepted two passes and caused six fumbles and recovered four last season.
“At the time, I think it’s an opportunity to redirect and I think he still has a bright future,” Miles said. “He can still accomplish all the goals he set for himself. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be doable.
“For the team, we lost a quality person. We enjoyed working him. He was a great teammate.
“I think he gave us a lot of examples we can learn from. I think he is a quality, quality guy who had a behavior issue. That’s it. Certainly the overview of his time with us is positive.”
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said Mathieu’s rule violations were an “ongoing issue.”
“This was just a team policy, not going to confirm or deny either way, ” Alleva said when asked if the dismissal was related to last year’s one-game drug suspension.
“The policy is a written policy. It’s like the speed limit, if you are going over the speed limit, you’re breaking the law. He’s been over the speed limit. As in, he’s been over it a lot.”
Asked if it was a legal issue, as in a law violation, or just policy, Alleva said, “policy,” and added that LSU made efforts to counsel Mathieu.
“We do everything we can to help these kids. He’s had help and we’ve been trying to help him all along in everything,” Alleva said. “Being an athlete is a privilege. You have to follow the rules to take advantage of that privilege and unfortunately, he doesn’t have that privilege here any more. He’s a good kid. He really is a good kid, it’s a shame. But I told him this morning, that he has the rest of his life. His life is still ahead of him. He still has an opportunity to do good things.”
LSU isn’t quite as deep at cornerback as it was last season, when it had All-American Morris Claiborne and often used Mathieu as a nickleback. Tharold Simon is the other expected starter opposite Mathieu. Second on the depth chart are redshirt freshman Jalen Collins and freshman Jalen Mills.
“We have good players,” Miles said of potential replacements. “It’s interesting. Eric Reid, Tharold Simon and a guy who’s no longer on this team (Mathieu) all played very significant roles in a Cotton Bowl victory at the end of the season. We have similar type guys. The challenge will be to them.”
Because of injuries, Reid, Simon and Mathieu all played a lot of snaps in the 2011 Cotton Bowl as true freshmen. This suggests that true freshmen will have to play a lot.
“I think Odell Beckham is a very talented punt returner and I think we’re good at kick returner as well.”
Penn State Sanctions: $60M, Bowl Ban
ESPN.com News Services
The NCAA has hit Penn State with a $60 million sanction, a four-year football postseason ban and a vacation of all wins dating to 1998, the organization said Monday morning.
The career record of former head football coach Joe Paterno will reflect these vacated records, the statement continued.
Penn State must also reduce 10 initial and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period, the release said.
The NCAA revealed the sanctions as NCAA president Mark Emmert and Ed Ray, the chairman of the NCAA’s executive committee, and Oregon State’s president spoke at a news conference in Indianapolis at the organization’s headquarters.
“In the Penn State case, the results were perverse and unconscionable,” Emmert said.
“No price the NCAA can levy with repair the damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims,” he said, referring to the former Penn State defensive coordinator convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse last month.
The NCAA said the $60 million was equivalent to the average annual revenue of the football program. The NCAA ordered Penn State to pay the penalty funds into an endowment for “external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at the university.”
The Penn State athletic program will also be put on five-year probation and must work with an athletic-integrity monitor of NCAA’s chosing.
“There is incredible interest in what will happen to Penn State football,” Ray said at the news conference. “But the fundamental chapter of this horrific story should focus on the innocent children and and the powerful people who let them down.”
The NCAA’s announcement followed a day after Penn State removed Joe Paterno’s statue outside Beaver Stadium, a decision that came 10 days after a scathing report by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh found that Paterno, with three other top Penn State administrators, had concealed allegations of child sexual abuse made against Sandusky.
The Freeh report concluded their motive was to shield the university and its football program from negative publicity.
The NCAA took unprecedented measures with the decision to penalize Penn State without the due process of a Committee on Infractions hearing, bypassing a system in which it conducts its own investigations, issues a notice of allegations and then allows the university 90 days to respond before a hearing is scheduled.
Following the hearing, the Infractions Committee then usually takes a minimum of six weeks, but it can take upwards of a year to issue its findings.
But in the case of Penn State, the NCAA appeared to use the Freeh report — commissioned by the school’s board of trustees — instead of its own investigation.
“We cannot look to NCAA history to determine how to handle circumstances so disturbing, shocking and disappointing,” Emmert said in the statement. “As the individuals charged with governing college sports, we have a responsibility to act. These events should serve as a call to every single school and athletics department to take an honest look at its campus environment and eradicate the ‘sports are king’ mindset that can so dramatically cloud the judgment of educators.”
NCAA Division I Board of Directors and/or the NCAA Executive Committee granted Emmert the authority to punish through the nontraditional methods.
“It was a unanimous act,” Ray said. “We needed to act.”
Penn State athletics had been given no indication from the NCAA about what sanctions or penalties were to be levied on the department and football program, a source with direct knowledge of the situation in State College told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz on Sunday night. If this were a traditional infractions case, the athletic department would have known up to 24 hours in advance.
A trustee said Penn State has hired Gene Marsh, a lawyer for Lightfoot, Franklin & White in Birmingham, Ala., and a former member and chair of the NCAA Infractions Committee. Last week, ESPN contacted Marsh, who also previously represented former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, and he refused to confirm or deny he had been retained by Penn State.
A former Committee on Infractions chairman and current Division I Appeals Committee member told ESPN.com’s Katz on Sunday the NCAA’s penalizing of an institution and program for immoral and criminal behavior also breaks new ground.
The former chair, who has been involved with the NCAA for nearly three decades, said he couldn’t use his name on the record since the case could come before him and the committee he still serves on in an appeals process.
“This is unique and this kind of power has never been tested or tried,” the former chair said. “It’s unprecedented to have this extensive power. This has nothing to do with the purpose of the infractions process. Nevertheless, somehow (the NCAA president and executive board) have taken it on themselves to be a commissioner and to penalize a school for improper conduct.”
The chair said that the NCAA was dealing with a case that is outside the traditional rules or violations. He said this case does not fall within the basic fundamental purpose of NCAA regulations.
“The purpose of the NCAA is to keep a level playing field among schools and to make sure they use proper methods through scholarships and etcetera,” the chair said. “This is not a case that would normally go through the process. It has nothing to do with a level playing field. It has nothing to do with whether Penn State gets advantages over other schools in recruiting or in the number of coaches or things that we normally deal with.”
The NCAA, the chair said, had never gotten involved in punishing schools for criminal behavior.
“The criminal courts are perfectly capable of handling these situations,” the former chair said. “This is a new phase and a new thing. They are getting into bad behavior that are somehow connected to those who work in the athletic department.
“This is an important precedent. And it should be taken with extreme care.”
Under NCAA rules covering postseason bans, players are allowed to transfer without sitting out a season as long as their remaining eligibility is shorter than or equal to the length of the ban. Only seniors could transfer and play immediately under a one-year ban, but a two-year ban would mean seniors and juniors could both transfer without penalty.
The NCAA, heavily criticized for its sometimes-ponderous pace in deciding penalties as scandals mounted at Ohio State, Auburn, USC and elsewhere, acted with unprecedented swiftness in arriving at the sanctions for a team that is trying to start over with a new coach and a new outlook.
Emmert had put the Penn State matter on the fast track. Other cases that were strictly about violating the NCAA rulebook have dragged on for months and even years. There was no sign that the infractions committee so familiar to college sports fans was involved this time around as Emmert moved quickly, no doubt aided by the July 12 release of the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh and what it said about Paterno and the rest of the Penn State leadership.
The investigation focused partly on university officials’ decision not to go to child-welfare authorities in 2001 after a coaching assistant told Paterno that he had seen Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in the locker room showers. Penn State officials already knew about a previous allegation against Sandusky by that time, from 1998.
The leaders, the report said, “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from authorities, the university’s board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large.”
Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years.
Emmert had warned Penn State last fall that the NCAA would be examining the “exercise of institutional control” within the athletic department, and said it was clear that “deceitful and dishonest behavior” could be considered a violation of ethics rules. So, too, could a failure to exhibit moral values or adhere to ethics guidelines.
The Freeh report also said school had “decentralized and uneven” oversight of compliance issues — laws, regulations, policies and procedures — as required by the NCAA.
Recent major scandals, such as improper payments to the family of Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush while he was at Southern California, and players at Ohio State trading memorabilia for cash and tattoos, have resulted in bowl bans and the loss of scholarships.
Paterno won 409 games for the school in his 46 seasons as head coach.