SEC West teams flooded by off-field controversy

SEC West teams flooded by off-field controversy

May 6th, 2016 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, left, and Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss are among several SEC West football coaches who are having to deal with negative off-the-field matters this spring.

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

The "wild, wild West" usually has a positive connotation in Southeastern Conference football.

Alabama and LSU became the first teams from the same league to play for the national championship when they met in New Orleans after the 2011 season, while Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State were three of the top four teams in the inaugural playoff rankings in 2014.

There wasn't much spreading of sunshine Thursday, however, as only LSU's Les Miles and Bret Bielema of Arkansas did not have to address off-the-field issues during a spring wrap-up teleconference with SEC West coaches.

Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin became the latest entangled coach when assistant Aaron Moorehead responded Wednesday night on Twitter after Aggies quarterback commitment Tate Martell announced he was opening up his recruitment. Moorehead, the team's receivers coach, posted: "I feel sorry for people who never understand loyalty. I can't really even vibe with you."

After reading Moorehead's message, another Texas A&M commitment, receiver Mannie Netherly, opened up his recruitment via Twitter.

"I was made aware of it, and I have addressed it with Aaron," Sumlin said. "We're still working through that. He has taken responsibility for his actions, and we'll move on from there."

Moorehead issued an apology Thursday, but now the Aggies must move on without the nation's top dual-threat quarterback and a four-star receiver among their commitments. When asked if he was surprised an assistant coach would rant on social media, Sumlin replied, "I've said what I have to say about that."

Alabama's Nick Saban is down one assistant following last Friday's resignation of defensive line coach Bo Davis, who reportedly committed recruiting violations and then was not forthcoming with NCAA officials. The university is hoping that parting ways with Davis will prevent the Crimson Tide from receiving penalties — which Florida avoided in 2014 following the departure of receivers coach Joker Phillips — but Saban didn't elaborate much on a statement he released a week ago.

"I'm not going to comment on any personnel decisions or any kind of investigations," Saban said. "We put a statement out. We're all about trying to do things right here at Alabama, and we're going to do everything we can to do it right and make it right."

Saban did say a few people have been interviewed but that it's a difficult time of year to find coaches looking for work or willing to leave their job. Karl Dunbar, who worked with Saban at LSU and was let go by the Buffalo Bills in March, is considered a top candidate to replace Davis.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn did not have any disciplinary update for four sophomore players — receiver Ryan Davis, defensive end Byron Cowart, and defensive backs Carlton Davis and Jeremiah Dinson — who were arrested last weekend for marijuana possession. Cowart was the nation's No. 1 signee in the 2015 class.

Malzahn's Tigers, incidentally, open this year against Clemson, which lost 45-40 to Alabama in last season's national championship game.

No coach had a more terse response Thursday than Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, who was asked about Jeffery Simmons. The five-star defensive end, who signed with the Bulldogs in February, was arrested in March and charged with simple assault after being accused of striking a woman at an apartment in Macon, Miss.

Asked if he had an update on Simmons, Mullen said, "Nope." Asked seconds later how the evaluation process has gone since the incident, Mullen said, "Good."

Then there is Ole Miss, which was put in an uncomfortable light during last Thursday's opening round of the NFL draft. Former Rebels offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil had his Twitter account hacked and a video of him using a bong was posted, then Tunsil admitted in Chicago that he took money from an Ole Miss athletic official.

"Since draft night, we've obviously had some adversity around our place," Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said. "I know our administration has been aggressively working to reach a resolution on the matters involving Laremy. I'm told that we've made a lot of progress. The facts are always more important than speed or our public response, which is difficult for me sometimes because I want to respond.

"Our administration will continue to work with all the parties to get the answers and reach a conclusion as soon as possible. We hope that is coming quickly."

Ole Miss received an NCAA Notice of Allegations in January that mentioned the football, track and women's basketball programs. Freeze was asked if Tunsil's revelations could result in a new notice being sent and said that would depend on what the facts reveal.

Freeze mentioned on multiple occasions that he is not a part of the fact-finding process.

"I was shocked like everyone else living it out in real time," he said.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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