Thu Apr 17 05:51pm EDT
Following a meeting Thursday morning with the coaching staff and school officials, Minnesota State Mankato players say they'll return to practice Friday after walking out on Wednesday's practice.
The players boycotted practice after Todd Hoffner took his job back as head coach. Hoffner was suspended in August 2012 and dismissed in May 2013 but elected to return Tueday after an arbitrator said he was wrongfully terminated.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, the players said their boycott wasn't done in an attempt to subvert Hoffner's return. Interim coach Aaron Keen went 24-2 in two years during Hoffner's absence and is still on the staff.
"We wanted our voice to be heard yesterday about our support for Aaron Keen and for our desire for a more robust communication channel be opened between the players, Coach Hoffner and the administration about the coaching situation,’’ safety Sam Thompson and wide receiver Kyle Riggott said in a statement (via the Minneapolis Star Tribune). “We stand behind our actions and statement made, but in no way did we want our actions to undermine Coach Hoffner’s return."
Hoffner said he didn't take his players' actions personally.
He was suspended after a video of his children naked and playing around was found on his phone. Hoffner was also charged with possession of child pornography in August 2012, but the charges were dropped three months later.
Minot State hired Hoffner to be its coach in January, and at the time, Hoffner said he was grateful for the second chance. After the arbitrator's ruling last week, Hoffner resigned his position at Minot State to return to Minnesota State.
Minot State's sports information director told the Star-Tribune that Hoffner was asked about the possibility of returning to Mankato during his hiring process.
He was asked at least once, if not multiple times, about going back there. He said he was committed to us 100 percent,” said Michael Linnell said. “He was here 95 percent of the time” after getting the job. But “he was living with somebody that he knew. He did not buy or rent a place that I know of.”
Linnell added that the school was also frustrated with what had happened. Minot State was 2-9 last season. Hoffner was making approximately $15,000 more at Minnesota State than he was set to make at Minot State.
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Thu Apr 17 05:45pm EDT
The rivalry between South Carolina and Clemson is always entertaining and usually the bulk of the banter comes from the coaches making offhanded remarks about each other’s programs.
But on Thursday, an artistic fan decided to put his mark on the in-state feud.
Joe Connolly is the strength and conditioning coach for the Gamecocks and he made sure to get in a little jab of his own by noting that there’s no fifth finger. Well, the Clemson paw only has four “fingers,” and the joke about the fifth refers to the “five-bombing” South Carolina fans do to Clemson fans as a reminder that the Gamecocks have won five straight against the Tigers.
Never change South Carolina FBS schools. Never change.
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Thu Apr 17 05:13pm EDT
Kansas hasn’t had a whole lot of success with quarterbacks under coach Charlie Weis, but the Jayhawks are hoping those fortunes will change in 2014.
Weis announced Thursday that sophomore Montell Cozart won the starting role coming out of spring football.
Cozart started three games last season and played in four others, but was in a fierce quarterbacking battle with 2013 starter Jake Heaps and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard. Weis had nothing but praise for Cozart during spring practices and during last Saturday’s spring game, Cozart was the best quarterback on the field.
Offense was a major concern for the Jayhawks last season. They ranked 117th nationally in total offense with 294.5 yards per game and 118th in scoring offense with 15.8 points per game. Kansas managed just nine passing touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Jayhawks had just one multi-passing touchdown game all season.
And Cozart was far from a quarterbacking star last season.
In his seven appearances, Cozart completed 23-of-63 passes (36 percent) for 227 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed 66 times for 214 yards and a score.
But those numbers apparently skyrocketed this spring. Weis told reporters earlier this spring that Cozart was completing 75 percent of his passes. During the spring game, Cozart completed a team-best 6-of-10 passes for 58 yards and also rushed for 70 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries. Cozart’s ability to be a dual-threat is what has made him a nice fit for first-year offensive coordinator John Reagan’s system.
If Cozart can hold on to the starting role, it will likely end a disappointing college career for Heaps. Heaps was the No. 1 pro-style quarterback coming out of Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash. When he signed with BYU, it was a major coup as several other programs, including Notre Dame, were vying for his services.
But his career never really took off.
In 2010, Heaps opened the season sharing time with Riley Nelson before Nelson was injured and Heaps was declared the undisputed starter. He completed 57.2 percent of his passes for 2,316 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and surpassed Ty Detmer’s freshman touchdown record.
But things changed in 2011 when Heaps struggled during his first five starts and was ultimately benched for Nelson, who went on to be the starter. Heaps transferred to Kansas, sat out a season and has failed to replicate any of the magic he saw in 2010.
But given the fact that the Kansas quarterbacking position has never maintained any sort of consistency under Weis, there might still be a chance for Heaps to end his career on a high note.
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Thu Apr 17 03:51pm EDT
The Big Ten has 14 teams and commissioner Jim Delany knows that makes no sense.
It made no sense when the conference added Penn State as its 11th team in 1990 and when Nebraska came along in 2011 to make it 12. Now that Rutgers and Maryland will become official members in July, Delany has no plans to ever change the conference’s name.
“The name represents a series of characteristics. Brand characteristics,” Delany said Wednesday at WWJ-AM’s Business of Sports luncheon in Detroit.
According to Mlive.com, Delany recalled a time when ex-Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe called him with a proposal.
“He said ‘you’re now at 12, we’re now at 10, having lost Nebraska and Colorado. Could we become the Big Ten, and you become the Big 12?’
"'I thought, ‘I don’t think so,’” Delany said.
Delany did say, however, that when Penn State joined the conference he tossed out the idea of changing its name to the Big 11, but he was shot down.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon spoke alongside Delany at the luncheon and agreed that the name should not be changed for the sake of the conference’s brand.
“In the world of branding, you build what’s called brand equity. If you look at the Big Ten Conference, you’ve got brand equity that’s been built over decades and decades. The Big Ten means something,” Brandon said. “The Big Ten stands for more than just a descriptor of the number of teams in the conference. It stands for the legacies, the traditions, the histories. It defines an organization, an institution.”
With 14 teams in the fold, the Big Ten's divisional alignment will switch to an "east" and "west" format. Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers will compete in the east division while Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin duke it out in the west division.
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Thu Apr 17 02:49pm EDT
The Tennessee coaching staff had an interesting incentive for Saturday's spring game.
The winner got a steak dinner while the losers had to eat pork and beans. Many spring games are scored untraditionally, and Tennessee's pitted the offense against the defense. The offense won, so it enjoyed the steak dinner while the defense got the pork and beans.
The aesthetic touch really rubs it in if you're on the losing team. While there was a carving station for the offense, the pork and beans were served in aluminum pans and looked, well, depressing. DL Jordan Williams does get credit for his optimism about the losing meal though.
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Thu Apr 17 01:48pm EDT
Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth looks like he can move a lot of weight in the weight room. He can back up the look too.
Hudspeth, 45, recently bench pressed 370 pounds, an impressive number for a player, but a ridiculous number for a coach.
It's a pretty clean rep too. And we're now eagerly waiting for Hudspeth's squat and deadlift videos.
It's not the first time Hudspeth has showed off his benching skills. Last summer, he bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times. The 225-pound test is a staple of the NFL combine and it would have put him six reps outside the top 15 of 2014 NFL combine participants who did the bench press. (When mimicking the NFL combine, yours truly did two reps. I bow down to Hudspeth's strength.)
He has to be the strongest head coach in college football, right? Some strength coaches may have him beat, but if we're having a FBS head coach bench press contest, we'll take Hudspeth and give everyone else the field. We should have a head coach combine. While Steve Spurrier's hip may prevent him from doing many of the drills, he'd still have some awesome trash talk.
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Thu Apr 17 01:07pm EDT
Oklahoma linebacker Frank Shannon, the team’s leading tackler last season, has been accused of sexually assaulting a female student, but prosecutors decided not to file charges against him, according to The Oklahoman.
Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said Thursday that no charges were filed “based on the woman’s wishes at the time and based on the facts that were presented.”
(Mashburn) explained the woman said she did not want Shannon prosecuted. He also said it was unclear from the accounts of both the woman and the player "what had actually taken place."
However, a Title IX sexual misconduct allegation report obtained by the Oklahoman said that Shannon was accused of “attempting to forcibly have sex with a woman in his bedroom after the two left a party together” on Jan. 20.
Despite no charges against Shannon being filed, he still faces discipline from the university. Under Title IX, any sexual harassment claim that the university is aware of must be reported. When reached by The Oklahoman, an employee of the OU Sexual Misconduct Office said that when the office receives a complaint, they conduct an investigation of the incident that is “independent of any criminal investigation.”
If it is determined that a violation of the university’s “Sexual Misconduct, Discrimination and Harassment Policy” occurred, the investigation is turned over to the student conduct office which then meets with the accused student and ultimately recommends disciplinary action.
That disciplinary action is subject to appeal, and the paper reported that Shannon’s status with the school “will be determined through an appeals process.”
The Oklahoman reported Wednesday that Shannon had not been practicing with the team and did not play in the spring game. Head coach Bob Stoops said that Shannon was away from the team to deal with “personal issues.”
Shannon led the Sooners with 92 total tackles last season. He also registered seven tackles for loss, two sacks and one interception.
Former Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons was expelled from the school after a similar incident. Gibbons never faced criminal charges for an alleged 2009 sexual assault, but was expelled for violating Michigan’s sexual misconduct policies more than three years later.
Similarly, Florida State’s Chris Casher and Ronald Darby – the two witnesses in the Jameis Winston sexual assault case – are reportedly facing discipline for similar Title IX violations of FSU’s code of conduct.
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Thu Apr 17 12:27pm EDT
The quarterback exodus at Texas Tech is continuing.
Two walk-on quarterbacks who received playing time during spring practice have decided to leave the team, leaving QB Davis Webb as Texas Tech's only quarterback until summer begins.
Tech confirmed the departure of Mike Richardson and Tanner Tousch to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal on Wednesday. Richardson is looking to transfer to a different school for more playing time while Tousch is leaving the football program to focus on school. Both had joined the Tech program prior to the spring semester.
After a strong performance in the Holiday Bowl against Arizona State, Webb asserted himself as Texas Tech's starting quarterback. Webb was 28-41 for 403 yards and four touchdowns in the 37-23 win.
But now that five quarterbacks have left the Tech program since the end of the 2013 season, the depth chart behind Webb is now even muddier and there won't be much time to sort it out before the 2014 season begins. Patrick Mahomes, a three-star recruit according to Rivals, is a strong possibility to be the No. 2 if he gets to Lubbock, Texas. He's a highly-regarded pitcher and recently threw a no-hitter. There's a chance he could be selected in the MLB draft and choose baseball over football.
If baseball does win out for Mahomes, the battle for the backup job will come down to expected walk-ons Payne Sullins, Mason McClendon and Vincent Testaverde, the son of former NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde. Testaverde started playing organized football as a junior in high school and became his team's starting quarterback eight games into his first season.
Baker Mayfield, Tech's starter as a walk-on freshman to open the season, transferred to Oklahoma, where he'll also walk on and have to sit out a season. Michael Brewer, Tech's 2013 projected starter until a back injury in the summer, transferred to Virginia Tech and Clayton Nicholas transferred to Bowling Green.
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Thu Apr 17 11:05am EDT
12 teams in a conference is the magic number in the Football Bowl Subdivision to hold a conference championship game. The Sun Belt currently has 11 teams.
Because conference title games are a lucrative proposition not only in terms of money and exposure, the Sun Belt is looking for a team to fill up the football egg carton.
James Madison won't be that 12th team. The FCS school was under consideration by the conference to make the jump to FBS, but any move to the Sun Belt isn't happening.
“It appears they made a decision to stay FCS,” Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson told the Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday. “We never offered an invitation and we never extended an invitation either formal or informal."
The Sun Belt had 12 teams lined up for 2014 last year, but as other conferences made moves throughout the trickle-down-effect of conference realignment, Western Kentucky is moving to Conference USA for 2014, leaving the Sun Belt back at 11 for football. (Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas-Arlington are members but don't play football.)
Among those 11 teams are Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, two schools who made the move from FCS to FBS and two schools who have monumental upsets of BCS teams in recent history. James Madison has the upset too, but not the desire to move up a rung in the football hierarchy at the moment.
"We are well aware of the changing scene within our conference as well as nationally," James Madison president Jonathan Alger said in a statement. "In response, we have engaged in a rigorous analysis of our athletic profile within the context of our strategic planning process . . ."
"Consistent with these values and principles and the ongoing issue of conference alignment, JMU will not pursue or accept an invitation from a conference that does not meet our criteria. If we do receive an offer consistent with our established values, we are prepared to review it and make a recommendation to the Board of Visitors. This process is ongoing and will require continued support on the part of the university, students, faculty, staff, coaches, alumni, and fans."
According to the Harrisonburg News-Record, JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne said no decision on a conference has been made and dialogue continues.
James Madison was reportedly dissatisfied that only two Sun Belt teams made bowls last year.
According to media reports, JMU officials have privately expressed dissatisfaction with the CAA and its tepid reaction to conference realignment, which cost the league three of the Dukes' top rivals.
JMU officials were approached by the Sun Belt more than a year ago, according to media reports, but the Dukes weren't enamored with a league that put just two teams in bowls last season. The Sun Belt's TV contract also doesn't provide as much exposure or revenue as the C-USA TV contracts.
With three of Conference's USA's teams (East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa) departing for the AAC for the 2014 season and Old Dominion (in 2014) and UNC-Charlotte (in 2015) transitioning into the conference, there will be a spot for a 14th team available in two years.
Old Dominion's athletic director has lobbied the conference on behalf of JMU previously, but the conference has said it has no intentions of expanding.
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Wed Apr 16 09:17pm EDT
Illinois revealed its new football uniforms for 2014 on Wednesday night and we like the all-white look.
The uniforms are part of a rebranding for the entire athletic department, which showcased different looks for all of its sports. The three football uniform sets paraded around were all monochromatic and included a blue, an orange and a white set.
We're going to guess the all-one-color groups are not the only options for the Illini, which would mean there are 27 different possible uniform combinations among helmets, jerseys and pants. So yes, if Illinois wanted to, it could mix and match for two years and not wear the same combination twice.
The rebranding is part of a "respect the past, represent the future" campaign from the school and Nike, which is similar to the theme Syracuse invoked when revealing its new uniforms earlier Wednesday.
The edge to in the orange-and-blue battle goes to Illinois and it's not even close. Unlike Syracuse, the Illini did a good job of utilizing all three colors and the numbers don't look deformed.
If we do have a quibble, it's that the new font featured in the posed pictures above looks very similar to the font utilized by Mizzou, its state-school neighbor to the west and another Nike school. But the football version of the rivalry is on ice after the schools last played in 2010. We won't be having a gridiron font fight in the near future.
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