Today in sports: The NFL announces punishments stemming from the New Orleans Saints Bountygate scandal, Lehigh's win over Duke has been immortalized in song, and the New York media races to find the backstory -- any backstory -- on the Tim Tebow trade.
The NFL has suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season without pay for his "involvement" in the team's now infamous bounty program over the past three years. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who admitted to running the cash-for-concussions bonanza, was given an indefinite suspension. (Williams joined the St. Louis Rams in the same position earlier this off-season.) Saints general manager Mickey Loomis received an eight-game suspension and assistant head coach Joe Vitt was given a six-game ban, also without pay. The team was fined $500,000 and will be stripped of a second-round draft choice in 2012 and 2013. No punishments were announced for the "22 to 27 players" the league cited for participating in the program, though that could happen later after the players union finishes its own investigation. The length of the Payton suspension, writes Judy Battista in the New York Times, is "unprecedented" in scope, and is both "a stunning blow to one of the N.F.L.’s most successful teams, but also a strong message about how seriously the league took the threat to player safety." In a statement, the NFL accused Payton of stonewalling league investigators and encouraging team personnel to do the same. The league states:
The violations were compounded by the failure of Coach Payton to supervise the players and coaches and his affirmative decision starting in 2010 (a) not to inquire into the facts concerning the pay-for-performance/bounty program even though he was aware of the league’s inquiries both in 2010 and 2012; (b) to falsely deny that the program existed; (c) to encourage the false denials by instructing assistants to “make sure our ducks are in a row;” and (d) to ignore instructions from the league office and club ownership to ensure that no such program existed.
Payton's suspension begins April 1, which means he won't able to participate in next month's draft. There's no word on who will coach the team in his absence. The Saints, as you would expect, are not taking the news well. Quarterback Drew Brees -- who, we're just saying, still hasn't worked out a long-term contract extension with the team -- tweeted that he was "speechless," while Fox Sports NFL reporter Jay Glazer says that when he talked to Payton after the suspension was announced, he asked him "Are you OK?" To which Payton apparently replied, "No, I'm not OK." He was slated to make just less than $ 8 million this year. [The New York Times and PFT]
The decision by the New York Jets to try to trade two mid-round draft picks to Denver for Tim Tebow seems like the very definition of just taking a flier on something. Or it would be, if the team wasn't in New York and the player was somebody other than Tim Tebow. Before the negotiations reportedly hit a snag this afternoon, the original ESPN New York post with the news was full of theories about why the Jets would want to add a gadget quarterback to their roster. Our favorite comes courtesy of ESPN New York Jets reporter Rich Cimini, who said there is "some thought that Tebow and his clean-cut image could help polish the negative perception of the locker room, torn by discord last season," though apparently "others close to the team said that was no factor whatsoever in the decision." Still, it's nice to see a wild theory offered, and promptly debunked. Tebow could still end up in New York. Keep the faith, Gang Green beat reporters. [ESPN New York]
Jerry Tarkanian's son says the shiny-headed former head basketball coach at UNLV and Fresno State is resting comfortably at a Las Vegas-area hospital after suffering a "mild heart attack" last night. The 81-year-old coach is scheduled to be released later today. So lock up your fluffy white athletic towels and vagabond junior college phenoms. [Las Vegas Review Journal]
Remember when Lehigh beat Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament? (It happened Friday.) You can now relive that upset -- and all of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's pained this-is-everyone's-fault-but-mine facial expressions -- in a tribute rap video by a 2007 Lehigh alum who performs under the name DJ Hump. There's a terrific line about Duke being a safety school that will almost certainly enrage -- enrage -- Duke types who are inclined to get worked over such things. [via The Dagger]
Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball coach Shaka Smart is from Wisconsin and threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field last year after leading the Rams on an improbably run to the Final Four. For some reason, some University of Illinois basketball backers thought this would be enough to help the Illini lure Smart -- who at 34 is college basketball's hottest coaching prospect, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future -- to Champaign. It was not. Sources say Smart informed Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas today that he's not interested in the job. Adding insult to injury, Thomas was also reportedly rebuffed by second choice, University of Alabama head coach Anthony Grant. [Chicago Sun-Times]