Jacksonville State is a mere three days away from kicking off its 2022 season - a campaign that is arguably one of the more important ones in recent memory as the program begins its transition to the FBS — having accepted an invite to join Conference USA.
In the midst of that, though, the program are dealing with an off-field arrest and have leveled a serious accusation against an upcoming opponent.
Here’s what is known at this time.
Earlier this week, reports broke that punter Jack Dawson was arrested on multiple assault charges against a former teammate. The alleged abuse ranged from verbal to sexual. Dawson, once a member of Troy’s team, is scheduled to appear in court in October. The incidents in question are alleged to have taken place while Dawson played for the Trojans back in 2020, according to reports.
Dawson transferred over after 2020 and was Jacksonville State’s starting punter last fall, playing in all 11 games. At the time of this article’s publication, he is still currently listed on the team’s official roster.
In a meeting with the media on Tuesday, first-year head coach Rich Rodriguez dropped claims that Stephen F. Austin, JSU’s opponent this Saturday, allegedly had personnel with recording devices present and observing the team’s practices earlier this year.
“Pretty good sources [say] it’s true that they (SFA) had a couple staff members at our spring game.” Rodriguez said in the press conference. “If they’re over there thinking they have our plays or signals, we’ve changed things since the spring.”
Rodriguez went on to say that some around the JSU program, including his own daughter, caught an individual trying to film practices recently.
EAST TEXAS ESPIONAGE ???— Johnny Congdon (@congdonsation) August 23, 2022
Ahead of their Week Zero showdown with Stephen F. Austin this upcoming Saturday, Jacksonville State Head Coach Rich Rodriguez claims SFA allegedly sent a spy with a camera to watch them practice.
"That's really not supposed to happen" -R.R.@abc3340 pic.twitter.com/BEUF9dH3f6
What does all this mean? One certainly has to wonder what kind of distractions this will pose for the Gamecocks as they prep for this weekend. Will the accusations laid out against the Lumberjacks hover over a matchup that already was set to be pivotal given JSU’s win in last year’s meeting?
As of Wednesday morning, there’s been nothing further as to if the NCAA will look into the claims of spying.
Also, what is to be made of Dawson and his future with the team? It is unclear right now what repercussions, if any, the punter will face this season and beyond. With all of this swirling overhead, JSU presses on with the duties of game week and will kick off against Stephen F. Austin at 3:30 PM (ET) on Saturday. The game will be aired on ESPN as part of the network’s annual FCS Kickoff series.