Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

Making the morning rounds.

Thank goodness they're preserving the integrity of this year's game. While five Ohio State players were busy Tuesday apologizing to teammates and fans for selling championship rings, jerseys and other memorabilia and landing a five-game suspension for the first five games of 2011, Sugar Bowl officials were entirely un-apologetic about lobbying to keep the players eligible to play against Arkansas on Jan. 4. Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan said he learned about the possible suspensions on Dec. 7, three days after the Buckeyes were formally selected to play in the game, and went to work to make sure OSU starters Terrelle Pryor, Boom Herron, DeVier Posey and Mike Adams would see the field for his very special event.

"I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year's game, we would greatly appreciate it," Hoolahan said. "That appeal did not fall on deaf ears, and I'm extremely excited about it, that the Buckeyes are coming in at full strength and with no dilution." Too bad the same thing can't be said for the integrity of NCAA rules. [Columbus Dispatch]

The company you keep... At least the players aren't the only ones taking fire so everyone else can turn a profit: The local tattoo parlor where players allegedly received free or discounted tattoos in exchange for autographs and memorabilia is under federal investigation by the FBI and IRS for undisclosed reasons. Most of the evidence against the players was recovered in the course of the investigation. [Columbus Dispatch]

OK, this time I'm really ready for my closeup. Miami's quarterback controversy may have been temporarily solved Tuesday when freshman Stephen Morris, working with the first team, left practice with a sprained ankle and spent the rest of the afternoon on crutches. Morris' absence puts veteran Jacory Harris in line to start for the first time since being knocked out of the lineup with a concussion in the 'Canes' Oct. 30 loss at Virginia – and to get a leg up on the competition heading into 2011, a make-or-break year for Harris' career as a senior. For his part, interim head coach Jeff Stoutland didn't rule Morris out against the Irish and said the competition has been "real close between the two." [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

It's a definite maybe. Urban Meyer's turn as a talking head during last week's Las Vegas Bowl wasn't a lark: He's "seriously considering" joining ESPN next year as an in-studio analyst. "We went and had three of the greatest days we've ever had together and (ESPN) called up and said, 'Why don't you drive up for the day?' So I brought my son and he loved it," Meyer said at Tuesday's press conference for the Outback Bowl. "What I found out, what a place, what great people." [Gainesville Sun]

No, Maryland still has not hired Mike Leach. But while the Pirate Coach is still expected to drop anchor in College Park after today's finale in the Military Bowl, the Terps have been reaching out to other spread gurus to replace outgoing head coach Ralph Friedgen – specifically, to a) SMU coach June Jones, whose agent insisted Tuesday that Jones isn't going anywhere despite acknowledged contact with other schools, and b) Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who skipped a scheduled media appearance after Tuesday's practice for the BCS title game. His boss, Gene Chizik, told reporters "there are possibilities of contact" between Malzahn and another school, but wouldn't offer details "because I don't have any." [Dallas Morning News, Associated Press]

Meanwhile, Friedgen called the build-up to his final game after a decade as his alma mater's head coach "like a slow death," albeit one that includes a stopover in the White House. [Associated Press, Washington Post]

Godspeed. Of all the things that have gone horribly wrong this week at the Pinstripe Bowl, Syracuse got a boost Tuesday with the return of punter Rob Long, who rejoined the team for the first time since undergoing surgery to remove a benign brain tumor earlier this month. Last week, tests revealed malignant cells that will require Long to undergo further treatment for level 3 astrocytoma. In the meantime, he's trying to boom as many kicks around the New York Jets practice facility as he can get in ahead of Thursday's game in Yankee Stadium. [New York Post, Syracuse Post-Dispatch]

Honoring Bell. If you're tuning in to the Gator Bowl on Saturday, yes, that is a quarterback wearing No. 36: Mississippi State starter Chris Relf will trade in his usual No. 14 against Michigan to honor former teammate Nick Bell, who succumbed to a newly diagnosed brain tumor in early November. MSU coach Dan Mullen said fans e-mailed him with the idea to put the QB in Bell's jersey for the one of the most high-profile games in recent Bulldog history, and Relf was on board. [Clarion-Ledger]

His status was 'lame duck.' On the other end of the spectrum, there's West Virginia running back Shawne Alston, who summed up the Mountaineers' dismal effort in the Champs Sports Bowl Tuesday when he admitted after the loss to checking into Facebook during halftime. Profile notwithstanding, something tells me that Alston's interests do not actually include Association Football. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Quickly… LSU will wait another week to learn running back Stevan Ridley's fate for the Cotton Bowl. … Georgia and Ohio State sign on for a home-and-home in 2020-21. … Florida defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was briefly hospitalized Monday with mild gastritis. … Texas may be losing another assistant coach. … Mark Ingram is finally getting acquainted with his offensive line. … Ricky Stanzi, Cover Girl. … And at least somebody is making money off the bowl games.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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