Tressel ‘encouraged’ to resign ‘for good of the program’

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The fallout from Jim Tressel‘s stunning resignation, which came nearly two weeks after getting a vote of confidence from his boss, continues this morning with word that his decision to step down as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes — surprise! — may not have been a completely voluntary one.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, which broke the story on Tressel’s resignation, the now-former head coach was “encouraged” to resign by unnamed individuals.  It’s unclear precisely who those individuals were, but the talk of Tressel stepping down for the good of the program had reportedly commenced several weeks ago.

The Dispatch further writes that “mounting pressure, a pending NCAA disciplinary hearing and new revelations about the culture of the program forced the university to act on their once-revered coach, sources said.”

The new revelations the paper spoke of could include myriad issues, including the school’s probe — prompted by a Dispatch inquiry — into vehicles purchased by members of the football program and their family from a pair of Columbus dealerships.  Additionally, a feature by Sports Illustrated senior writer/pit bull George Dohrmann has been in the works for weeks and is said to be very damning and damaging to the OSU football program in general and Tressel specifically.  While it’s unclear what new details, if any, Dorhmann unearthed, OSU officials were reportedly given a sneak peek into the piece late last week.

“I’m told it is likely my SI mag story will be posted at SI.com later today/tonight. Timing of Tress dec. will make sense after you read it,” Dorhmann wrote on his Twitter account shortly after news of Tressel’s resignation broke.  Dohrmann went on to write that a statement by OSU officials that the “Board and President Gee consider this matter unrelated to the media” is “bs“.

As for the future of an Ohio State football program rocked by the scandal that eventually brought down one of the most successful head coaches of the past decade?  For the time being, you can forget about Urban Meyer riding in on his white horse and saving his home state’s flagship institution, even as ESPN‘s Kirk Herbsteit stated this morning that “[t]he reality is his (Urban Meyer) dream job has always been and will continue to be the head coach at Ohio State.”

In an email sent to students announcing Tressel’s resignation, OSU president/serial buffoon E. Gordon Gee wrote that “recruitment for a new head coach – which is expected to include external and internal candidates – will not commence until the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season.”  So, at least for the 2011 season, Luke Fickell, who it had previously been announced would serve as interim head coach while Tressel served his five-game suspension, will be in charge of the Buckeyes.

Athletic director Gene Smith, who also attended the meeting, declined to comment but said in a release that he is looking “forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best – representing this extraordinary University and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life. We look forward to supporting Luke Fickell in his role as our football coach. We have full confidence in his ability to lead our football program.”

After that, however, the speculation centering on Meyer taking over the program will commence in earnest.

Regardless of whether it’s Meyer or Fickell or whomever, that individual could very well be stepping into an on-field mess spawned by off-field issues.  The university is scheduled to appear in front of the NCAA in August to answer for the cover-up/lies/dishonesty that led to Tressel announcing to his players Monday morning that he was stepping down.  Tressel became aware in April 2010 that at least two of his players — quarterback Terrelle Pryor, wide receiver DeVier Posey — had likely received impermissible benefits but sat on the information — in one instance lying to the NCAA on a compliance form — until confronted with damning emails this past January.

Whether Tressel’s resignation, forced or not, will have an impact on whatever sanctions the NCAA levies on the football program remains to be seen.  It became clear, however, to many involved, including the coach, that the trigger had to be pulled.

“After meeting with University officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach,” Tressel said in a statement. “The appreciation that Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable.”

Tressel leaves Ohio State with a 106-22 record, seven outright or shared Big Ten titles — including six straight — and one national championship.  Unfortunately, given the circumstances surrounding his resignation, the on-field greatness will not be his legacy.

Iowa linebacker announces transfer

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Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been known to have a program that could play some solid defense more often than not, but the depth at linebacker just got a bit more shallow this Memorial Day weekend. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Garbutt has announced he is leaving the program.

“After prayer, consulting with my family and Coach Ferentz, I have made the decision to leave the University of Iowa,” Garbutt announced in a statement on Twitter. “I am thankful for my years as a Hawkeye and will continue to support the franchise.”

Garbutt went on to announce he will make a decision after going through a recruiting process. No timeline for his decision was announced.

Garbutt still has three more years of eligibility remaining, although he has already burned one redshirt year after joining the Class of 2015 at Iowa. If he transfers to another FBS program, he will have to sit out the upcoming 2017 season and lose a year of eligibility in the process. He would be available to play immediately this fall if he transfers to a lower division football program.

Report: Navy’s football stadium will host NHL outdoor game between Caps and Leafs

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The NHL has enjoyed the success of their growing number of outdoor games. What started out as an attempt to steal the New Years Day spotlight from the college football bowl season has grown to include additional outdoor games around the country in February and March as part of the league’s Stadium Series. With an abundance of outdoor games, finding new venues to host the outdoor games offers new opportunities to showcase a wide range of stadiums. Navy is now set to get in on the NHL outdoor fun.

The Associated Press reports Navy’s Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium will be used for one game in the NHL’s Stadium Series on March 3, 2018. The Washington Capitals will “host” the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 34,000-seat venue in Annapolis, Maryland. A formal announcement is expected to be made on Monday, Memorial Day. It’s also the same day the NHL kicks off the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators and commissioner Gary Bettman gives his annual state of the league address.

The New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres were previously slated to play in the NHL Winter Classic in Citi Field, home of baseball’s New York Mets.

Heinz Field, the home of the Pitt Panthers, was used to host the 2011 Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, becoming the first college football stadium to host an outdoor NHL game. Of course, Heinz Field is also home to the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, so this college stadium host came with an asterisk. Heinz Field hosted a Stadium Series game this past February between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

Michigan’s Michigan Stadium hosted the Winter Classic in 2014 between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, hosted a game in the NHL’s Stadium Series in 2016 between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks.

There are still a good handful of stadiums worth considering for future NHL outdoor games, especially in the Big Ten. Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has long been suspected of being a potential target for an outdoor game, but any plans involving Beaver Stadium may have to wait until after the stadium’s facilities are upgraded as part of the school’s upcoming athletics department renovation. Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium could also be an attractive candidate for an outdoor game in the future as well.

A couple other venues for possible Stadium Series game sin the future should include the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Rose Bowl. The NHL has already played an outdoor game in Dodger Stadium, back in 2014, so the league is not afraid to play outside in LA (and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara hosted a game in 2015). If they return, playing in either historic stadium would seem to make sense, although it is possible the NHL would prefer to wait until the new home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers is completed before making a trip to LA again.

Alabama DB Tony Brown has chance to prove he’s fastest NCAA athlete in nation

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Forget the 40-yard dash. Alabama defensive back Tony Brown is setting his focus on the 100-meter dash.

Brown, a track star in addition to being a fixture on the Alabama defense, qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 100-meter dash after finishing in the top 10 at the NCAA East Regional at Kentucky. Brown is a two-time All-American on the track.

Let this serve as another example of the caliber of athletes Nick Saban is bringing in to his program. Recruiting analysts have been noting for years the importance of recruiting athletes with skills in more than one sport, and Alabama has that with Brown. Brown was one of the nation’s top hurdlers in high school, and that success on the track has continued in Tuscaloosa.

Brown brings the pain on the football field too, of course. Just ask former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams what kind of damage Brown can bring.

Helmet sticker to Gridiron Now.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey still not a fan of early signing period

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The SEC will gather in Destin, Florida this week for the annual spring meetings. This will be the first time the conference has come together since the adoption of an early signing period in college football, which is something that has not been well-received by some in the SEC. Among the dissenters in the early signing period conversation has been SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who says he is still no fan of the new recruiting calendar.

I still don’t think that’s best,” Sankey said in an interview with the Associated Press last week.

“I think the early signing date has an impact on high school football,” Sankey said. “I think moving the recruiting calendar has an impact on high school football. I think we all have to be concerned about football and its strength and health at every level. Whether it’s a minority voice or a singular voice, I think those are important issues to consider.”

The stance by some around the SEC against the idea of the early signing period is notably different compared to just a few years ago. At the spring meetings in 2014, the SEC football coaches voted unanimously in favor of an early signing period starting on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Former SEC commissioner Mike Slive, however, expressed his preference to keep the only signing day in February.

As far as the voice coming from the commissioner’s office in the SEC is concerned, the narrative has not changed following the changing of the guard.