John Blake out as Tar Heels assistant coach

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The fallout from the NCAA’s investigations into the North Carolina football program continues today as a member of Butch Davis‘ coaching staff has stepped.  And, somewhere, Steve Spurrier is smiling a satisfied smile.  Or not.

In a press release issued by the school, the Tar Heels announced that John Blake has resigned his post as Davis’ associate head coach.

Last month, reports surfaced that the NCAA was looking into Blake’s relationship with player agent Gary Wichard.  The Yahoo! report, citing three sources close to the investigation, stated that “the NCAA’s inquiry into Blake has focused on his one-time position as vice president of football operations for Pro Tect Management – an agency founded and run by Wichard since 1979.”

Given all the negative attention being focused on him and the program he’s been a part of for four seasons, Blake has decided to “resign” effective immediately.

“While I have enjoyed my tenure at the University of North Carolina, it has become apparent to me over the course of the past few weeks that my presence has become a distraction to my family and to this great University, too,” Blake said in a statement released by the school. “Consequently, I have determined that it is in the best interests of my family, the University community at large, and the Football Program for me to step down from my position as associate head football coach effective today, September 5, 2010.”

“Knowing John as I have over the years, it is clear that this was a difficult decision for him to make,” Davis said in his own statement. “I know how much John loves the players, coaching and the game of football. I am grateful for all of his hard work and effort in helping build this program. As difficult as this situation is, I have accepted his resignation. Throughout his career, I know he has worked hard to help young men become better people and football players. He and his family have made positive contributions to our football program.

“The Tar Heel family has tremendous passion for the University and everything it represents. It’s one of the things that made me want to be a Tar Heel four years ago. All of us who are part of the football program have been both disappointed and embarrassed by recent events. Our student-athletes, coaches and I are committed to working every day, both on and off the field, to build a better football program, one that everyone associated with the University of North Carolina can and will be proud of.”

Athletic director Dick Baddour indicated that Blake had said “in previous conversations that he would step down if he felt his presence with the football program would become a distraction.”

As a parting gift, Blake will receive $75,000, which, the release stated, approximates the salary he would have received had he completed the football season. Blake had a contract that would have expired on June 31, 2011, with a base salary of $240,000.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.