Montana says ‘no thanks’ to WAC, Div. 1-A jump

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As the WAC is set to add two football schools to their depleted ranks, the one school they were really hoping to grab has decided to stay put.

In a release issued by the school, Montana announced that they will stay in the Big Sky Conference and not make the jump from Div. 1-AA* to Div. 1 -A” at any point in the foreseeable future.  The Grizzlies have been in the midst of a feasibility study in an effort to gauge what it would take to move up a level in football, and were expected to make a decision in the next few weeks.

An invitation from the WAC was reportedly Montana’s for the taking, but the school has apparently decided the status quo is the proper course for its very successful football program at this point in time.

“It was a complex issue with many pros and cons,” said UM president Royce Engstrom. “In the end, the better course is to stay with the conference we helped establish in 1963 and to continue building on its solid foundation. …

“At this time, FCS football presents the best overall fit for the University, it provides our student-athletes and fans with a great experience, and it is consistent with the strategic direction of the University.”

Engstrom said in the statement on the school’s official website that there were three principles that guided his decision.

First, he wanted to maintain the cross-state rivalry between UM and Montana State University-Bozeman, which he regards as essential to the state’s cultural fabric. The two institutions played their first college football rivalry game in 1897. Now nicknamed the Brawl of the Wild, it’s the fourth-oldest active rivalry in the FCS and the oldest west of the Mississippi.

Second, he wanted UM to compete with more mission-similar institutions. He said the recent addition of the University of North Dakota strengthened the Big Sky Conference in that regard.

Finally, he wanted to ensure that UM athletic teams can compete successfully and maintain the prestige and integrity the program has demonstrated over the years.

The Grizzlies have been to the playoffs — Playoffs?  What are these college football playoffs they speak of? — a Div. 1-AA-record 17 straight seasons, and would certainly have been a quality addition to a conference in desperate need of such additions.

And, speaking of desperate additions, it was announced Thursday that Texas State and the University of Texas at San Antonio will be the seventh and eighth football members of the WAC, which will become the latest in a long line of conferences to reshape themselves over the past century-plus.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times)

(Writer’s note: I refuse to refer to the divisions of football by the names currently attached to them by the NCAA.  To borrow a line from one of the most underrated movies of all-time, “his momma called him 1-A/1-AA, I’ma call him 1-A/1-AA.”  Thank you, and have a nice day.)

Nick Saban had ‘very positive meeting’ with Jalen Hurts’ dad

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Not surprisingly, Nick Saban is taking a measured approach to what could potentially be a volatile situation within his football program.

In an interview that was posted Thursday, Averion Hurts, the father of two-year starting quarterback Jalen Hurts, stated that, if his son fails to beat out Tua Tagovailoa for the starting job, he would “be the biggest free agent in college football history.”  The intimation, of course, was that Hurts would transfer if/when he lost the competition.

As it turned out, the Crimson Tide head coach was previously scheduled to meet with the media later on in the day, after the piece had gained some national traction.  Predictably, Saban was asked about the quotes attributed to the elder Hurts.

In answering the queries, Saban stated that he had met with the father this past weekend in what he described as “a very positive meeting.”

In the article in question, Averion Hurts stated that, while “Coach Saban’s job is to do what’s best for his team… my job is to do what’s best for Jalen.” Saban’s response? From al.com:

At the end of the day, everybody has career decisions that they have to make. Nobody knows what the outcome of this situation will bring. We don’t want any player not to be able to fill their goals and aspirations in our program here. We don’t want that for any of our players. Jalen’s dad has always been very positive and supportive in every conversation that I had.

So I’m not really concerned with what somebody else chose to write because I’m always sort of use the personal communication that I have with our player, Jalen and his family when necessary. And I have a lot of trust and respect for those folks. And I don’t think there’s an issue or problem from my standpoint.

Hurts has taken the majority of first-team reps this spring as Tagovailoa has been extremely limited because of an injury to his left (throwing hand) that has, thus far, required two different surgeries.  Tagovailoa will not participate in the annual spring game this Saturday, and Saban has refused to give a timeline for a decision on a starter to be made.

Will Greg Schiano attend Rutgers camp with Ohio State coaches?

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The most successful head coach in Rutgers program history could be making his long-awaited return to the program. Sort of. Greg Schiano, now Ohio State’s defensive coordinator, could potentially be one of the members of the Ohio State coaching staff that makes a visit to New Jersey this summer for a football camp run by Rutgers.

The East Coast Elite Football Camp will be held on June 1 for high school juniors and seniors. Ohio State’s coaching staff will be a special guest for the camp, leading many to suspect Schiano will be one of the star attractions for the Rutgers camp.

It is worth noting Rutgers head coach Chris Ash was previously the defensive coordinator for Ohio State before accepting his first head coaching gig with the Scarlet Knights. Schiano was hired by Ohio State to fill the vacancy on the coaching staff as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. With Ash making it his professional mission to build the Rutgers program using the lessons and strategies learned under Meyer at Ohio State, it seems only natural to invite Urban Meyer and his staff to New Jersey to work a football camp. Not only would this be a tremendous selling point for high school juniors and seniors (thus, potential recruits), but the Rutgers staff can benefit from working alongside Ohio State’s coaching staff, which is among the best in the nation.

Schiano turned a dreadful Rutgers program into a competitive program in the Big East over a span of 11 seasons. During that time, Rutgers played in six bowl games, and won five in a row over a six-year span. In 2006, Schiano coached Rutgers to a No. 12 ranking with a record of 11-2. After a 9-4 season in 2011, Schiano accepted the job with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but a two-year stint in the pros was all Schiano would have before eventually returning to the college game after a two-year break.

Keegan-Michael Key to guest coach at Penn State spring game

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Penn State’s spring game on Saturday could be a coaching matchup of James Franklin vs… James Franklin?

Noted Franklin impressionist and Penn State alum Keegan Michael-Key will be attending the Penn State spring game this Saturday. The school also announced on Facebook Michael-Key will be a special guest coach for the game. You can bet the actor will tap his inner Franklin for at least a little bit for some comedy on the sidelines.

Michael-Key has made himself visible around Penn State the past few years with his impressions of Franklin during football meetings and on ESPN’s College GameDay. The similarities between Franklin and Michael-Key are so good that even the head coach of the Nittany Lions has had to tell some people it’s not him they see on TV sometimes.

With any luck, perhaps we’ll get our first glimpse of the newest addition to the Penn State spring roster, Hingle McCringleberry.

Penn State’s spring game is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. this Saturday.

North Dakota State gives Chris Klieman contract extension

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After coaching North Dakota State to a national championship last season, Chris Klieman has been given a contract extension.

The school announced the contract extension, which is now good through the 2023 season. The new extension tacks on two years to the existing contract for the head coach of the FCS juggernaut Bison.

“Chris has done an exceptional job in leading our football program on a national level,” North Dakota State director of athletics Matt Larsen said in a released statement. “Not only have we won three national championships during his tenure, but our student-athletes are achieving high marks in the classroom and are actively engaged on campus and in the Fargo-Moorhead community. I look forward to working with him and his staff for years to come.”

Klieman was named head coach at North Dakota State after former Bison head coach Craig Bohl was hired by Wyoming in 2014. In his short time as head coach, Klieman has continued to keep North Dakota State among the top FCS programs in the nation with three national titles (2014, 2015, 2017) and four consecutive Missouri Valley Football Conference championships. Prior to becoming the head coach of the program, Klieman was a defensive back coach and defensive coordinator under Bohl.

The defending FCS national champion North Dakota State Bison open their 2018 season at home against Cal Poly on September 1. North Dakota State will not play an FBS opponent this fall or in 2019, but will play at Oregon in 2020.