Here’s the latest on notable storylines in and around the Southeastern Conference.
Sony Michel breaks arm in ATV accident
University of Georgia officials confirmed that running back Sony Michel broke his arm as a result of an accident on an all-terrain vehicle on Saturday. Michel rushed for 1,161 yards on 219 carries last year, becoming UGA’s starting tailback when Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the Tennessee game.
Michel, a second-team preseason All-SEC pick by Athlon’s, and a third-team selection by Lindy’s and Phil Steele, had successful surgery on Monday and is expected to fully recover. What that means for his 2016 season is unknown, except that he won’t be able to start fall camp in early August.
Chubb said in February that he plans to be ready for the opener, though it’s too soon to know if that’ll happen.
The continuing saga of Ole Miss and the NCAA investigation
At the end of last week, Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel wrote a story that gave more insight into what’s gone on behind the scenes in the NCAA’s investigation at Ole Miss. Thamel’s primary source was Lindsey Miller, the soon-to-be-former stepfather of former Rebel left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who told Thamel that he spent over 100 hours with NCAA investigators during which he alleged numerous improprieties during both Tunsil’s recruitment as well as his time at Ole Miss.
What it means is up for debate, according to this excellent podcast at RebelGrove.com, the NCAA didn’t lend enough credence all Miller’s claims to put them in its Notice of Allegations that it sent to Ole Miss at the end of May (the NOA may be found here).
What we know: Ole Miss has admitted to 12 of the 13 allegations leveled against Ole Miss, though it disputes the severity of those dozen. (The disputed allegation is over Tunsil allegedly driving three “loaner cars” during his playing career.) Some of the more serious non-Tunsil-related charges were over academic fraud administered by former Rebel assistants David Saunders and Chris Vaughn. Both assistants had since moved on and were fired by their respective schools when the charges were made public this spring.
Ole Miss has self-imposed penalties already, including a school-imposed seven-game suspension for Tunsil last year. In May, it added more: three years of probation, and a loss of 11 scholarships over four years, beginning with its most recent recruiting class. It also barred assistants Chris Kiffin and Maurice Harris from recruiting for a few weeks.
What we don’t know: who’s ultimately culpable for what happened. Ole Miss claims that most of the acts were committed by “rogue boosters” who have since been disassociated from the program. The case essentially comes down to whether the NCAA believes Ole Miss or Miller, who claims that the coaching staff orchestrated the funneling of improper benefits to Tunsil.
If its the latter, there will be plenty of pressure on the NCAA to hit Ole Miss hard, but Miller’s credibility—he and Tunsil’s mother are in the midst of a divorce—is also questionable.
Don’t look for a resolution during this calendar year.
Tennessee civil lawsuit settled
On Tuesday, Tennessee settled a lawsuit with nine female plaintiffs charging that the athletic department had fostered a culture that created a hostile sexual environment. Half of the $2.48 million settlement (that includes attorney’s fees) will be paid by the athletic department, while the other half will be paid by the school’s administration.
Six former UT athletes, which includes five football players, were alleged to have committed various sexually-related crimes in a highly-publicized lawsuit filed in February. The case now won’t go to court, and the university did not admit to “guilt, negligence or unlawful acts.”
The NCAA has not gotten involved in the matter, and there is nothing at the moment to indicate that it will.
‘Bednarik Award Watch List issued
This award is given to the nation’s top defensive player, and this week, the Maxwell Club (which gives the award) announced a 90-man preseason watch list. On that list are 24 SEC players, and here’s the complete list of them.