Jim Tressel

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.

Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett officially withdraws from school

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.

After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.

“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”

Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.

Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez wants changes to Big Ten scheduling

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Acting head coach Barry Alvarez of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on from the bench before the start of the Outback Bowl against the Auburn Tigers on January 1, 2015 during  at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Wisconsin has been one of the pleasant surprises to begin the 2016 season but a lot of folks are not counting on the Badgers to remain in the top 10 of the polls after one of the most brutal schedules in the month of October you can find.

Having already played (and beat) defending conference champion Michigan State last week, Wisconsin travels to No. 4 Michigan, has a bye week, then hosts No. 2 Ohio State. They’re not done after that though, traveling to Iowa and then hosting No. 15 Nebraska in a stretch that should determine the West division champion before the month is up.

Longtime head coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez is well aware of what awaits his team and is no fan of such an unbalanced schedule.

“I remember when that schedule came out (in 2013) and I thought, ‘How the hell did you kick out something looking like that?” Alvarez told CBSSports.com. “I think you could take a look at the general strength of some programs and split them up. Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State have been good for a long time. Penn State Nittany Lions normally is in that group. Just make sure someone doesn’t get all three year in a year. That’s hard to do. That’s something the ADs are going to have to talk about some day.”

The Big Ten recently moved to a nine game conference slate which means an additional crossover game between divisions. Wisconsin has been the beneficiary of some weaker schedules in the past (Rutgers/Maryland in 2014/15) but seem to be the poster child this year for drawing all of the major powers from the East division.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany cautioned against reading too much into the Badgers’ schedule in 2016 and wants to see how the current format works out — but didn’t rule out any future changes.

“If I was an AD, I would probably be saying the same thing (as Alvarez),” Delany said. “If I was a football coach, I know I would.”

The conference has released the league schedule through 2019 but you can bet the next set of Big Ten games will likely break up some of the more historically successful programs a little more when it comes to division crossover games. Until then though, ‘On Wisconsin’ will have to be more than the school motto in October for Alvarez and his Badgers.

Pick problems lead Bowling Green to make a change at QB

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 3:  James Knapke #3 of the Bowling Green Falcons is sacked by Nick Bosa #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the fourth quarter on September 3, 2016 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Bowling Green 77-10. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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In 118 pass attempts this season, James Knapke has tossed nine interceptions, the most of any FBS quarterback through Week 4.  Entering Week 5, Bowling Green isn’t planning on allowing the senior quarterback to add to that total.

In a brief statement Thursday morning, BGSU head coach Mike Jinks announced that redshirt freshman James Morgan will start at quarterback Saturday against Eastern Michigan.  Morgan replaced Knapke in the loss to Memphis last week after the starter tossed three interceptions.

Morgan himself hasn’t been averse to turnovers, however, as he has thrown three in 46 attempts.

After Matt Johnson went down with a season-ending injury in the 2014 opener, Knapke took over as the starter and threw for 3,173 yards, 15 and 12 interceptions.  A healthy Johnson (shut it, 12-year-olds) reclaimed his job in 2015, but Knapke took over again in 2016 as Johnson’s eligibility expired.

Not only are Knapke’s interceptions the most in the country, but his pass efficiency rating of 88.4 is the worst of the 121 FBS quarterbacks listed on the NCAA.com stats page.

Wisconsin loses kicker Rafael Gaglianone to season-ending surgery

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03:  Rafael Gaglianone #27 of the Wisconsin Badgers makes a field goal during the first half against the LSU Tigers at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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As far as kickers go, this is a rather significant development.

Last week, Wisconsin’s Rafael Gaglianone did not make the trip to East Lansing for the Michigan State game because of a back issue.  Not only will the placekicker miss this Saturday’s game against No. 4 Michigan, he will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2016 season after undergoing back surgery.

According to the school, Gaglianone’s condition improved Sunday but subsequently worsened.  It was then decided that the junior would undergo the medical procedure.

A similar back injury, the school said, led Gaglianone to miss spring practice last year.

“You’re disappointed for Rafael because of all the work he’s put in and how well he was playing,” head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “From a football perspective, I’ve appreciated the way the other guys in that unit have responded this week.”

This season, Gaglianone has connected on seven of eight field goal attempts and all 10 extra points.  Included in that total was what turned out to be the game-winning field goal in the opener against LSU at Lambeau Field.

Including this season, Gaglianone, who will be eligible for a medical hardship waiver, has been good on 44-57 field goals in his career and all but two of his 111 point afters.

With Gaglianone sidelined, the Badgers will turn to Andrew Endicott.  The senior, who hadn’t previously attempted a field goal or extra point at the collegiate level, made 1-1 of the former and 3-4 of the latter in replacing Gaglianone against MSU.