National notebook: Manziel suspended for first half of opener against Rice

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In this Jan. 7 file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban is doused with Gatorade in the final seconds of the BCS National Championship game against Notre Dame.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Texas A&M and the NCAA have finally come to a decision in the Johnny Manziel autograph scandal. The Aggies star quarterback has been suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s season opener against Rice this Saturday. Manziel will assume his starting duties in the second half of the game.

Manziel, accused receiving payment for autographs on multiple occasions, reportedly met with NCAA officials for several hours on Sunday. The NCAA and Texas A&M released a joint statement Wednesday stating they had no evidence of Manziel being paid for the autographs. The half-game suspension is due to him violating an NCAA bylaw stating “student-athletes cannot permit their names or likenesses to be used for commercial purposes, including to advertise, recommend or promote sales of commercial products.”

A&M coach Kevin Sumlin will have to decide between junior Matt Joeckel, the brother of former Aggie and second overall pick Luke Joeckel, and freshman Kenny Hill, who are currently in a position battle for the backup spot. Either one could get the start on Saturday.

USC quarterback battle still undecided

USC will start the 2013 season without a No. 1 quarterback. Athletic Director Pat Haden told ESPN the Trojans will wait until after the first or second game of the season to name their starter. Max Wittek and Cody Kessler are still competing for the job.

Wittek, a redshirt sophomore, was Matt Barkley’s backup at USC last year and also succeeded him as the starting quarterback at Mater Dei High School, prior to signing with the Trojans. Wittek made news last fall after predicting a victory in his first career start against No. 1 Notre Dame. USC lost that game, 22-13, and Wittek threw for just 186 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Kessler, also a redshirt sophomore, was the third-string quarterback for USC last year and also served as the holder on field goals. Despite having no experience as a starter and only throwing two passes in his career, Kessler has kept pace by demonstrating exceptional play making ability throughout camp.

Oregon debuts new football facility

Oregon is set to kickoff the 2013 season in style with its brand new “Football Performance Center.” The 145,000-square-foot facility, which opened in early August, features several jaw-dropping amenities including a private barber shop, two-story theatre, skybridge, new weight room and big screen display composed of 64 separate 55-inch televisions.

Most notable in the new facility is the incredible attention to detail and branding. The signature Oregon “O” can be found just about everywhere in the building. Whether it’s on the backrests of each chair, on the legs of the pool table or the buttons in the elevator, there is no mistaking whose turf you’re on.

Another obvious theme is the focus on team building throughout the facility. The multiple players’ lounges offer pool tables, foosball tables, TVs, game consoles and more, giving the players many reasons to stick around and spend time with each other. The locker room is also specially designed to facilitate conversation among the players. Locker doors open and slide into the locker, removing any walls that may make communication more difficult.

 

Nick Saban discusses national championship

The legend of Nick Saban just keeps growing.

In a GQ profile of the Alabama head coach, known for his maniacal approach, Saban had the following to say about last year’s national championship game: “That damn game cost me a week of recruiting.” Saban went on to explain that while he was spending his time preparing for the title game, other coaches were talking to his recruits, trying to win them over and gain an advantage on the recruiting trail.

The GQ profile, written by Warren St. John, gave fans a rare glimpse into the life of the two-time reigning national champion. While he has recently been called “Nicky Satan” and “the Devil himself” by a couple of his coaching colleagues, the article illustrates Saban in a more positive light, highlighting his family-first lifestyle and “coal miner’s” work ethic.