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May 13, 2011

College football's offseason unlucky 13

Ernest Hemingway once told his son that you make your own luck.

In that case, you probably make your own bad luck, too.

Throughout college football's offseason, there has been plenty of bad luck to go around. There's also been dumb luck. And in some cases, luck has just run out.

Players have been arrested, suspended and dismissed. Others have suffered major injuries or have been hospitalized after workouts. Programs, coaches, bowls and the BCS have been embarrassed. There have been accusations of impropriety, corruption and just plan old-fashioned cheating.

Of course, some would contend that most of those issues aren't a matter of bad luck as much as they are bad management, bad ethics and bad decisions.

If you're lucky, those issues never come to light. But if you're not ...

So in "honor" of it being Friday the 13th, we take a look at 13 instances of very bad luck within college football this offseason.

13. Nebraska: The Association of American Universities (AAU) is an association of 62 leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada; the Big Ten was the only FBS league in which all its members also are AAU schools. We say "was" because Nebraska lost its membership. Nebraska, which fell short of several criteria, is the first university ever to be voted out. Thirty-eight of the members play FBS football.

12. Miami: Al Golden's first few months in Coral Gables have been hectic. Reserve defensive lineman Jeffrey Brown was suspended indefinitely after he was arrested and charged with sexual battery. Backup linebacker Ramon Buchanan was suspended after being arrested for resisting a police officer; those charges were dropped after Buchanan agreed to an intervention program. In addition, as many as eight players – including starting offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson – reportedly have been suspended for the first game. Finally, four players announced last week that they were transferring.

11. Notre Dame: The Irish completed spring practice without their best player, WR Michael Floyd, who was suspended after a DWI arrest in March. Floyd has pleaded not guilty. Floyd twice had been cited for underage drinking.

10. Stephen Garcia: Garcia was suspended indefinitely for apparently showing up intoxicated and causing a disturbance at a life skills seminar. It was the fifth time in his South Carolina that Garcia has been suspended. At worst, South Carolina will lose its starting quarterback in a season in which many expect the Gamecocks to again win the SEC East. At best, he'll be back and the Gamecocks again will be depending on an undependable player. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson thinks Garcia will be back. "If you don't think Stephen Garcia will probably get to line up in the fall, then you need to go move your turnip truck out of the parking lot and leave," Johnson recently was quoted as saying at a Gamecock Club meeting. "I think Stephen Garcia will probably get another shot. But I hope it's not the kind of shots he's been taking lately."

9. Janoris Jenkins: Florida's potential All-America cornerback was dismissed from the team by new coach Will Muschamp after Jenkins was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession in April. It was Jenkins' second drug-related arrest since January and his third arrest in less than two years. In June 2009, he was arrested for fighting and fleeing police and received six months' probation.

8. Arizona State: Just when the Sun Devils seem to be emerging from three years of tribulation, they have more problems. Spring drills were marred by likely season-ending injuries to star cornerback Omar Bolden and starting wide receiver T.J. Simpson. Both seniors suffered torn ACLs and likely won't play in 2011. Additionally, the Sun Devils were without sophomore running back Dantre Lewis during the spring; he was wounded by a stray bullet when visiting family in California.

7. Oregon: Oregon recruiting practices came under scrutiny after a Yahoo! Sports report revealed the Ducks had paid $25,000 to Willie Lyles for recruiting information. (Former Texas A&M secondary coach Van Malone has claimed that Lyles told him in 2008 that A&M would have to pay $80,000 to sign Patrick Peterson, who eventually signed with LSU.) Lyles supposedly is a "mentor" to redshirt freshman tailback Lache Seastrunk, a five-star prospect from the 2010 recruiting class. Oregon has denied breaking any NCAA rules. If that wasn't enough, the Ducks indefinitely suspended Kiko Alonso, a probable starter at middle linebacker, after he was arrested for burglary.

6. Trinton Sturdivant: Yet another knee injury finally may have ended a once-promising career. After starting at left tackle as a true freshman and making numerous freshman All-America teams, the 6-foot-5, 312-pound Sturdivant appeared destined for a great career at Georgia. But a torn left ACL forced him to miss all of the 2008 season; then, he tore the ACL again in the '09 opener and missed the rest of that season. He returned last season, playing in 12 games and making seven starts, which raised hopes for this year. But he tore the right ACL during a spring scrimmage and had surgery again; he is expected to miss the season.

5. Iowa: In January, 13 members of the football team were hospitalized with exertional rhabdomyolysis, a muscle disorder, after an offseason workout. Symptoms included extreme soreness and discolored urine. One of those players, senior defensive back Willie Lowe, requested a release from his scholarship so he could transfer. A month later, Hawkeyes radio analyst Ed Podolak suffered serious injuries when struck by a car outside a Scottsdale, Ariz., hotel. The injuries were not life-threatening.

4. John Junker and the Fiesta Bowl: Junker, who was the bowl's executive director, lost his job, which paid $600,000, and the bowl itself was fined $1 million by the BCS in the fallout from a scandal involving perhaps millions of dollars in frivolous spending. Junker was alleged to have billed the Fiesta Bowl tens of thousands of dollars for, among other things, treating officials of various universities to luxurious golf outings and picking up travel and lodging costs for university officials to football games. He also allegedly billed the bowl for more than $30,000 to pay for his own birthday party and expensed more than $1,200 for a "business trip" to a Phoenix-area strip joint. In addition, Fiesta Bowl employees reportedly were offered "bonuses" so they could make political contributions. All this jeopardizes the Fiesta Bowl's tax-exempt status. It remains a BCS bowl, though, as long as officials pay the $1 million fine.

3. The BCS: Constantly under fire, the BCS took a huge public-relations hit with the Fiesta Bowl scandal. In response, the BCS appointed a "task force" to investigate possible corruption in its bowl games – before it was pointed out that one member of the task force had accepted a free Caribbean cruise from the Orange Bowl. Last week, the U.S. Justice Department sent a letter to the NCAA asking why a playoff system isn't used in big-time college football, as it is in all other team sports, and suggested the BCS could be in violating federal antitrust laws.

2. Auburn: The Tigers won the national title on Jan. 10. But it's been tough going since. First, the team's biggest stars – junior quarterback Cameron Newton and junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley – declared for the NFL draft. That was expected. What followed wasn't. The sacred oak trees at Toomer's Corner, which traditionally are rolled in bathroom tissue to celebrate big victories, were poisoned, allegedly by a disgruntled Alabama fan. In March, four players – including starting safety Mike McNeill – were arrested for first-degree robbery; the quartet later was dismissed from the team. Then, four former players told HBO's "Real Sports" that they received money while playing for the Tigers. The NCAA indicated it would investigate.

1. Jim Tressel and Ohio State: The Buckeyes' bad luck has carried over from late in 2010. Earlier this year, news broke that coach Jim Tressel was aware that five of his players had received illegal benefits but had kept the information from his bosses and the NCAA. He did, though, pass on the news to the "mentor" of one of the players, quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The NCAA is continuing to look into the matter, and Tressel – who has been suspended for the first five games of the season – might have coached his final game with the Buckeyes. Ohio State is scheduled to appear before the NCAA's infractions committee Aug. 12. In addition, Ohio State's compliance department now is reviewing the sales of more than 50 cars to student-athletes and their families to make sure the sales met NCAA rules in the wake of a report over the weekend by the Columbus Dispatch. The Dispatch report focused on two dealerships, and the dealers told the newspaper they call Ohio State's compliance office when an athlete buys a car; the compliance office told the Dispatch it relied on the car dealers to provide accurate information.

Olin Buchanan is a senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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