Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

  • Northwestern’s quarterback competition has come to an end.

    Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald announced Thursday that Clayton Thorson will start the team’s opener against Stanford on Sept. 5.

    Thorson, a redshirt freshman, beat out fifth-year senior Zack Oliver and redshirt sophomore Matt Alviti for the starting role.

    Thorson was a highly decorated four-star recruit coming out of Wheaton, Ill., and was rated No. 136 nationally by Rivals.com in the 2014 class. Additionally, Rivals tabbed Thorson as the sixth-best dual-threat quarterback and seventh best player from Illinois in his class.

    The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Thorson redshirted the 2014 season while Trevor Siemian played out his senior year. Oliver and Alviti both saw action behind Siemian last season, but Thorson was able to overcome their edge in experience and win the job.

    Northwestern has typically used a two-quarterback system in recent years, but Thorson has the mobility to run the zone read, a play often utilized in offensive coordinator Mick McCall’s offense. 

    For more Northwestern news, visit WildcatReport.com.

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    Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

  • North Dakota State is joining the “cost-of-attendance” movement.

    The school announced Thursday that it would provide full cost of attendance to all of its scholarship athletes beginning in the 2016-17 season. The school said it believes it’s one of only two FCS programs to take this step.

    Cost-of-attendance stipends had been a big topic of debate on the FBS level before the Power Five conferences decided to endorse the move and allow school to add miscellaneous funds for items beyond tuition, fees, room, board and books.

    However, full cost of attendance scholarships have not been discussed at the FCS level. But NDSU is not the typical FCS program. It has won four straight FCS titles and has competed well against FBS opponents. It not only has raised the bar on the field, but it's now putting pressure on other FCS schools to keep up in order to attract high-level athletes.

    “For us it was about who you recruit against,” NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen said. “We’re recruiting against programs that are going to offer this. We thought it was important to give our coaches the tools to be apples to apples with those programs.”

    Liberty University (Va.) is the only other known FCS program to offer cost of attendance scholarship in all sports.

    NDSU estimates it will take $600,000 to $700,000 to cover this venture — works out to $3,400 per student-athlete — that will come from external fundraising.

    “Could a student probably get a job? Yeah, they probably could but not if we want to be successful with all the things we make them do,” Larsen said. “And that is to be special athletes and do great in school and all those things. This certainly alleviates a lot of that.”

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    Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter!

    And don’t forget to keep up with all of Graham’s thoughts, witty comments and college football discussions on Facebook

  • The injury bug continues to bite Tennessee.

    Vols head coach Butch Jones said Thursday that senior safety LaDarrell McNeil will be out “for an extended period of time” due to “neck instability.”

    “This one came kind of out of nowhere,” Jones said. “He's had some neck instability there, so he's undergoing further examination, but he will be out an extended period of time. It could be a lengthy period of time, but everything is about the welfare of our student athletes and making sure that there's life after football and everything that he's going through.”

    McNeil is entering his fourth year as a starter for the Vols. He has played in 36 games, including 31 starts, over the past three seasons and is one of the leaders of the defense. In those three seasons, McNeil has tallied a total of 188 tackles and three interceptions.

    Jones also announced that senior receiver Pig Howard is suspended for the season opener against Bowling Green for violating team rules. Jones said the violation occurred months ago.

    “This isn't something that just occurred, this is something that dates back many months,” Jones said. “However, to (Howard’s) credit, I like the way he's approached training camp. He's had the best training camp he's had since we've been here. I'm appreciative of his efforts, but he will miss the Bowling Green game.”

    Howard had 54 catches for 618 yards and a touchdown last season to lead the team in both categories. He also added two rushing touchdowns.

    In his three seasons, Howard has 111 catches for 1,060 yards and five touchdowns.

    Additionally, Jones told reporters that freshman receiver Vincent Perry is out with a meniscus injury and junior receiver Jason Croom, who has been dealing with a knee injury, will have his knee scoped on Friday. Croom, who caught 21 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns in 2014, originally injured the knee in December and has missed most of preseason camp.

    Guard Austin Sanders (biceps), defensive back Rashaan Gaulden (foot) have already been ruled out for the season. Guard Marcus Jackson is also expected to miss the season with a biceps injury.

    For more Tennessee news, visit VolQuest.com.

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    Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

  • USC coach Steve Sarkisian was open and apologetic Tuesday when he admitted a mixture of alcohol and medication led to unprofessional comments during a booster event last Saturday.

    Sarkisian told the Pac-12 Network on Thursday that the school was going to help him get treatment.

    “I think the biggest thing is, I’m at the greatest university in the world,” Sarkisian said. “And I’m fortunate for that. We have unbelievable people here in place that can make that happen. I’m fortunate for that. Is it ideal? No. It’s not. But I think it sends a great message to our team that I’m willing to step forward and want the treatment. To figure out exactly to what extent that is. And our team has been awesome about it.”

    While he noted the players were supportive of his honesty regarding the situation, he didn’t escape their wrath as they made him do up-downs after practice, and typical punishment for a violation of team rules.

    In the end, Sarkisian said he was happy to have another chance and eager to address the behavior that got him in trouble in the first place.

    “I don’t know if it’s a total blessing or a total positive because there are repercussions that come from it,” Sarkisian said. “But, I’m fortunate I’m at the University that I’m at, and that this university is offering the support that they’re offering me. That’s why you choose to come to a place like USC.”

    For more USC news, visit TrojanSports.com.

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    Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter!

    And don’t forget to keep up with all of Graham’s thoughts, witty comments and college football discussions on Facebook

  • N.C. State running back Shadrach Thornton will miss the first two games of the season.

    Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said Thursday that the senior is suspended for violating athletic department policy. According to the News & Observer, Doeren said the suspension stems from “a university issue that happened six months ago.” Doeren did not provide specifics.

    This is the third suspension of Thornton’s N.C. State career. He missed a game in 2013 after a June 2013 misdemeanor assault arrest that involved his then-girlfriend. Those charges were later deferred.

    Thornton also was hit with a marijuana possession charge in December 2013, but the charge was dropped and he did not miss any games.

    The 6-foot-1, 218 pound Thornton led the Wolfpack with 907 rushing yards in 2014. He also had nine rushing touchdowns and 133 yards and a touchdown on 15 receptions. Overall in his career, Thornton has 2,369 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing.

    In his absence, junior Matt Dayes will start at running back. Dayes had 573 yards and led the team with 13 rushing touchdowns last season. Dayes also had 32 catches for 321 yards and five touchdowns.

    After missing home games against Troy and Eastern Kentucky, Thornton will be eligible to return to the field at Old Dominion on Sept. 19.

    For more North Carolina State news, visit TheWolfPacker.com.

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    Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

  • A day after Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster raised some eyebrows for saying the Hokies were considering taking money from a player’s cost of attendance stipend as a form of discipline, Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville told ESPN that the Bearcats are considering the same.

    Tuberville said the idea is to hold players “accountable” if they break team rules or do not meet academic requirements.

    From ESPN:

    Cincinnati said that the plan, which Tuberville has considered long before Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster made similar comments Wednesday, would be subject to an appeal.

    Tuberville said "effort" -- in addressing off-the-field shortcomings, not athletic performance -- would be a factor in determining any withholdings.

    Bearcats athletic director Mike Bohn said it would be a “tool” to help student-athletes.

    “It’s not a fine. It’s not a threat. It’s a tool,” Bohn told ESPN. “We want to help our student-athletes and are committed to helping them. Our expectations are high. Coach told them, ‘We love you but don’t think that if you continue to do the wrong things that we are required to provide every piece of that support package.’ It’s an accountability measure.”

    That sounds a whole lot like a threat to me.

    The cost of attendance stipend (Bohn says Cincinnati’s is more than $5,200 per student-athlete) is a part of a player’s scholarship; it’s not money a program should be able to give and take at its own discretion.

    Bohn told ESPN that violations that would warrant a stipend reduction include academic fraud or drinking and driving. Additionally, Cincinnati senior associate director of athletics Maggie McKinley said that there is language in a student-athlete’s scholarship that gives the school the ability to “reduce or terminate” it if an athlete violates the student code conduct policy or the athletic department policy.

    But does that open up the possibility of withholding money for far less egregious offenses? Or is it just for student and athletic department conduct policies?

    Violating school policies is one thing, but if Tuberville thinks it’s a good idea to withhold money for a player having bad grades, that’s heading down a completely different avenue.

    For what it’s worth, McKinley said student-athletes would be informed of any rules surrounding the issue.

    From ESPN:

    McKinley noted that coaches will have clear and consistent policies that must be clearly communicated to their teams and that financial reduction decisions will be reviewed by an oversight committee.

    When Foster, Virginia Tech’s longtime defensive coordinator, brought up the possibility on Wednesday, Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock quickly put a stop to it. He told The Roanoke Times that taking money “out of cost of attendance would not be permissible.”

    Cincinnati should probably follow Virginia Tech’s lead on this one. 

    For more Cincinnati news, visit BearcatReport.com.

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    Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

  • When Louisville hosts Clemson on Sept. 17 for a primetime Thursday night matchup, the Cardinals will wear brand new black alternate uniforms.  

    Louisville is no stranger to alternate uniforms. The program wore a similar black look in its opener against Miami last year and also wore an all-grey combination against Florida State.

    This new black uniform is the second alternate look the program has unveiled this offseason. In the season opener against Auburn on Sept. 5 in Atlanta, the Cardinals will go with new “Uncaged Cardinal” uniforms.

    Louisville went 9-4 in 2014.

    For more Louisville news, visit CardinalSports.com.

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    Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

  • Did Auburn's athletic department influence the school's decision to keep its public administration major?

    According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the school had decided to eliminate the major in 2013. However, following discussions with the athletic department, the major survived.

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    In addition to meeting with the school’s provost to urge him to spare public administration, the documents show, top athletic officials also offered to use athletic department funds, if necessary, to help pay its professors and support staff. Gary Waters, Auburn’s senior associate athletic director for academic services, wrote in an email in January 2013 that athletics had made “similar investments in academic programs during the last few years,” although in those cases, he added, “it has not been publicized.”

    In the fall semester of 2013, more than half of the roughly 100 students majoring in public administration were athletes, records show, including nearly all of the top stars on the Auburn football team, which would win the Southeastern Conference title and play in the national-championship game. “If the public administration program is eliminated, the [graduation success rate] numbers for our student-athletes will likely decline,” a December 2012 internal athletic department memo said.

    An Auburn spokesman said that while various groups may provide input on curriculum decisions, the “athletic department has not improperly influenced academic decision-making.” The school said athletics has donated money and other resources to help several academic programs over the years, “but public administration is not one of them.”

    The report in the WSJ comes days after Rutgers revealed it was investigating communication between coach Kyle Flood and a lecturer regarding a Rutgers football player who may be on the cusp of being academically ineligible.

    The report says the political science faculty at Auburn voted unanimously to eliminate the program in 2012. In early 2013, Auburn provost Timothy Boosinger met with Waters and athletic director Jay Jacobs. After waiting for a new dean for the College of Liberal Arts, the school kept the major later in the year.

    It also states that fewer than one percent of Auburn students pursue a public administration major. 26 football players on the 2014 team had public administration majors.

    Clustering athletes in the same majors isn't a new phenomenon. Many North Carolina athletes majored in African-American Studies, the program at the center of the academic fraud controversy that enveloped the university.

    It's clear to see why athletic departments would want its athletes to have majors that may be considered "easy" even if it may not be the most ethical of practices; it helps decrease the risk of eligibility issues. And the more players that graduate, the better a team's Academic Progress Rate. Teams with poor APRs can face NCAA punishment.

    While reports like this may be eye-opening to some, don't expect the trend to change as long as there's extreme pressure to win.

    For more Auburn news, visit AuburnSports.com.

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    Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • UConn now has a completely gray uniform to wear in 2015.

    The Huskies unveiled the uniform on Wednesday.

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    The best part of this uniform is easily the helmet. Gray is an overplayed color in college football to begin with, and going all gray just seems really drab. But Nike loves gray and UConn is a Nike school, so it made sense that the Huskies were going to have gray uniforms at some point.

    Simply adding blue pants or a blue jersey to the other gray elements would be a huge step up. We'll see when UConn wears this uniform in 2015. Hopefully it's not on an overcast day in Storrs. That may be too much gray to handle.

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    Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Vanderbilt linebacker Nigel Bowden is the man who makes the defensive play calls for the Commodores. And Coach Derek Mason wanted his voice to be more "authoritative" in 2015.

    “Since the beginning of time that position has been a leader. You go where you’re middle linebacker goes,” Mason told the Tennesseean. “I just asked Nigel to step outside his comfort zone. … As he is authoritative, guys will start to understand who the leader is, and that’s a strong position.”

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    Bowden was a redshirt freshman in 2014 and led the team with 78 tackles. He made the play calls last year as Vanderbilt went 3-9 and 0-8 in the SEC. The 6-1, 240 pound player was a four-star recruit in the class of 2013 and the No. 9 inside linebacker in the country.

    “(My voice) has to come out hard and aggressive this year,” Bowden said. “We’re not here to be nice to each other.”

    Of course, a deeper voice isn't going to simply mean Vanderbilt makes an improvement on both sides of the ball. While finding a productive quarterback and offensive consistency will be considerably helpful, so will a better defense. Vanderbilt was 13th in the SEC in total defense last year. Mason, who was in his first season as the team's head coach in 2014 is now the team's defensive coordinator too.

    Though maybe Bowden's voice will help with intimidation if Vanderbilt's defense gets off to a good start under Mason's leadership.

    “He really has tried to deepen his voice. He’s become a loud and powerful guy out there,” DE Caleb Azubike said. “You can definitely hear him when he talks. You’ll almost be able to hear him from the stands.

    “His voice has become so stern that you almost feel that you have to listen to him when he talks.”

    For more Vanderbilt news, visit VandySports.com.

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    Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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