Auburn implements new cooperation policy amid Harsin probe

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AUBURN, Ala. — Amid an investigation into football coach Bryan Harsin, Auburn University has implemented a new policy stating that employees can be fired for not cooperating with an investigation or review.

The new policy, which went into effect on Tuesday, states that violations “may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.” It was titled the “Employee Duty to Cooperate Policy.”

The university is looking into the football program, which has lost 18 players and five assistant coaches since the end of Harsin’s first season. The defections came after the Tigers lost their final five games and finished with a 6-7 record.

Harsin attended a meeting of Southeastern Conference coaches on Thursday at league headquarters in Birmingham. Harsin, escorted by a state trooper, entered through a side alley while reporters staked out other entrances to the building.

Auburn did not immediately respond to a question about the reasons for the new policy or whether it was related to the Harsin investigation.

The policy states, in part: “Employees have a duty to cooperate fully and truthfully with investigations, inquiries, and reviews relating to their university responsibilities and professional obligations. For example, employees must do the following: cooperate in sharing requested information and participating in interviews; produce all requested university documentation within their custody or command; disclose additional information relevant to the investigation or review; and maintain confidentiality as advised.”

Harsin maintained in an interview with ESPN last week that he’s “not planning on going anywhere.” Auburn released a statement on Monday saying university officials are “judiciously collecting information” from sources, including student-athletes.

Harsin arrived at Auburn after being hired away from Boise State in December 2020.

Newly hired offensive coordinator Austin Davis announced he was resigning for personal reasons after replacing a fired Mike Bobo. In January, defensive coordinator Derek Mason left for Oklahoma State.

Harsin’s contract runs through the 2026 season and averages $5.25 million per season. If he is fired without cause, Auburn would owe Harsin 70% of the remaining value of the deal, or about $18 million.

Harsin replaced Gus Malzahn, who was fired after last season and received a buyout of $21.45 million.

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”