Vandy officially introduces Franklin as new coach

2 Comments

As if a posting on a Facebook wall wasn’t enough, Vanderbilt made the hiring of James Franklin official the old-fashioned way — they held a press conference and sent out a press release.

The now-former Maryland offensive coordinator was officially introduced Friday afternoon as the 27th head coach in the school’s history, as well as becoming “the first minority head coach to lead the Vanderbilt football program.”  The 38-year-old Franklin — who becomes the second-youngest head coach in the SEC behind Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen — will replace Robbie Caldwell, who stepped down last month after one year on the job.

“Improving our football program is a high priority at Vanderbilt and the first step in the process was to identify just the right person to lead us,” vice chancellor of athletics David Williams said. “Our search was national and we talked to many, many candidates and experts in the college football arena. One name that quickly rose to the top of our list was James Franklin. We are thrilled that he has agreed to become our head coach.”

Franklin has spent the past three seasons as Maryland’s offensive coordinator, including the last two as the designated head coach-in-waiting.  Raheem Morris, who attempted to hire Franklin away from the Terrapins when he became the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was effusive in his praise of Franklin in a statement included in Vandy’s release.

“He is a first class coach, and a perfect fit for a university like Vanderbilt. He’s a tremendous motivator of men, and inspires character in each of his players. He works really hard to be the best that he can be as a coach, and has the toughness to build up a program in the SEC. He will no doubt be a great representative of Vanderbilt University.”

In addition to two separate stints at Maryland, he’s also coached at Washington State and Kansas State, as well as spending one year as wide receivers coach for the Green Bay Packers.

With Franklin’s hiring, there are now four Div. 1-A football programs still in search of a head coach: Ball State, Kent State, Temple and Miami of Ohio.  That’s until the Michigan job opens up after the Wolverines’ bowl game, of course.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
1 Comment

After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File
Leave a comment

When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.

Shaq Wiggins opts for Tennessee after leaving Louisville

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After a couple of years away, Shaq Wiggins is back in the SEC.

The defensive back took to his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon to announce that he “will continue to finish my career at the University of Tennessee.”  The move to Rocky Top comes a little over a month after he decided to transfer from Louisville.

As a graduate transfer, the defensive back will be able to play for the Vols in 2017.

The transfer to UT continues Wiggins’ well-traveled collegiate career.

In early May of 2014, Georgia announced that Wiggins had decided to transfer from the Bulldogs; later that month, he followed former UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to the U of L. With Grantham departing this offseason for the same job at Mississippi State, it was thought that, after a successful appeal of an initial barring, the Bulldogs would be a potential landing spot for Wiggins.

Wiggins started at corner for the Cardinals in 2015, earning honorable mention All-ACC honors. Injuries plagued him throughout the 2016 season.