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Fickell talks Tressel, Taylor Swift, MMA octagons

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During the course of a rather impressive interview on the Dan Patrick Show in which he revealed the “interim” tag had been quietly lifted from his title — semantics, people; “At some point either during the season or after the season a decision will be made on who will be our coach going forward,” a school spokesperson told Marcus Hartman of the Buckeye Sports Bulletin— Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell also briefly addressed the reason behind a brief game of one-way “phone tag” with now-former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

And how he would fare in an MMA-style octagon against the other 11 coaches in the Big Ten.

As far as the former issue is concerned, Fickell noted during a press conference earlier this month — his first since taking over for Jim Tressel, who abruptly resigned on Memorial Day — that he had missed a call from Pryor shortly before the QB announced that he was leaving the school for the NFL’s supplemental draft.  When asked about that “miscommunication”, Fickle, by way of Scout.com, gave Patrick a very simple and very honest answer, one that millions upon millions of strapping American males have already used over the past couple of years.

“I was at the Taylor Swift concert so I didn’t have a chance to speak with him,” Fickell said, referring to the multiplatinum country music star who played at Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus on June 7.

Of course, this begs the question: why you gotta be so mean, coach?  Those words, they’re like swords and knives and weapons that you use against him, although Fickell once again reiterated that “we wish [Pryor] the best of luck and that we’re going to encourage him when we do talk to him about getting back and finishing his education.”

After talking about his relationship with Tressel — the two have spoken since the resignation but not face-to-face — the next logical step when interviewing a Div. 1-A head coach was taken by the imitable Patrick.

When Patrick asked him who would emerge victorious if all 12 Big Ten football coaches were put in an octagon – the signature ring of the mixed-martial arts promotion Ultimate Fighting Championship – there was no hesitation in the Ohio State head coach.

“Me,” he said immediately.

Asked to clarify why, the former Ohio state champion wrestler at Columbus DeSales explained, “I just know my abilities and I’ve got confidence in what I do. Eighteen years of wrestling probably does help a little bit in my book, but, hey, you’ve got to have confidence in what you do, right?”

Of course, given Fickell’s background, he would and should have confidence in his abilities.  However, would it be a false and shortsighted bravado?

Let’s take a look at Fickell’s Big Ten coaching competition, in ascending order, from “no chance in hell” to “give Fickell a run for his money” to “teach the lil’ whippersnapper some manners, capice?”:

11.) Ron Zook, Illinois — He’d land the best trainers, nutritionists and ring managers in the country ahead of the main event, then trip and break his nose, an arm and two ribs during the first 30 seconds of the fight.

10.) Mark Dantonio, Michigan State — A heart condition last year places the wily and savvy veteran farther down on the list than he probably should be.

9.) Kevin Wilson, Indiana — Screaming “Hoosier daddy!!!” as he entered the octagon would do nothing but push Fickell into a psychotic rage.

8.) Kirk Ferentz, Iowa — Fickell has nearly 20 years on the Hawkeyes coach.  Back in the day, however, we get the feeling Ferentz would punch his opponent in the throat within nanoseconds of the bell ringing, gouge his eyes for a minute or two, then call it a day by two-fisted shooting Budweisers from atop the cage.

7.) Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern — If this were a real list, Coach Fitzgerald would be much higher.  Since it’s not, he’s stuck here.

6.) Brady Hoke, Michigan — He’s big, so this seemed to be a proper rough guesstimation of how he’d stack up against the other conference coaches.

5.) Danny Hope, Purdue — The mustache.  Enough said.

4.) Jerry Kill, Minnesota — Forget the glasses and eighth-grade-phys-ed-teacher look; the man’s surname is a verb that means “to deprive of life in any manner”.

3.) Bret Bielema, Wisconsin — Realistically, this would be Fickell’s toughest challenger based on size and pedigree; however, the Badgers’ head coach recently became engaged, which means — based on my own personal experience — his testosterone levels are at all-time lows.

2.) Bo Pelini, Nebraska — You’ve seen him on the sidelines, right?  Now, put him in a cage where only one person could walk out a winner.

1.) Joe Paterno, Penn State — Two words: he taught Chuck Norris and Jack Bauer — and ninjas — everything they know…

Reports: Joe Paterno, Penn State assistants knew of Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 09:  Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno watches his team during practice on November 9, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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On Thursday, Penn Live uncovered a line in a trail over an insurance claim alleging Joe Paterno may have learned of Jerry Sandusky‘s sexual abuse of children as far back as 1976.

A day later, that kindling has exploded into a bonfire.

Our own Tom Winter and Hannah Rappleye of our own NBC News reported Friday that “as many as six” Penn State assistant coaches witnessed abusive acts by Sandusky, dating back to the 1970’s. “You won’t believe what I just saw,” an unnamed Penn State assistant reportedly said to a room full of football staffers.

Additionally, Sandusky’s adopted son Matt Sandusky told NBC News he was informed by investigators that a Nittany Lions employee witnessed Sandusky molesting him in the team’s locker room in the 1990’s.

“The university is facing and has faced a number of litigation matters and claims related to the Sandusky events. Allegations of various kinds have been made, and will likely continue to be made,” Penn State said in a statement to NBC News.

“The university does not speculate publicly or hypothesize about individual allegations. These are sensitive matters, and we want to be respectful of the rights of all individuals involved. It would be inappropriate to do otherwise.”

Separately, Sara Ganim of CNN reported simultaneously of another man who accused Sandusky of raping him in 1971, and told CNN he informed Paterno of Sandusky’s crime. He said Paterno then threatened him.

“I’d be willing to sit on a witness stand and confront Joe Paterno,” the man CNN last year. “Unfortunately he died and I didn’t get to.”

The man was not included in the state of Pennsylvania’s investigation into Sandusky because it fell outside the statute of limitations.

The crime occurred when the victim was 15 and the coach was 27.

Victim A says he was hitchhiking when Sandusky picked him up, bought him beer, gave him pot — and then attacked him as he was standing at a urinal in a Penn State bathroom.

“I felt his presence behind me,” he said. “I felt his left knee on the back of my knee, and his arms went around me, grabbing my …” he trails off. “He said, ‘Let me help you with this.'”

Victim A said he jerked his head back, hitting Sandusky in the jaw. His head started bleeding and they both fell to the floor.

“Then there was a wrestling session,” he says. “And I lost. One thing led to another and the crime happened.”

The victim says he informed Penn State authorities — who accused him of making the story up and threatened to go to the authorities themselves — one of whom, he says, was undoubtedly Paterno.

Paterno passed away of lung cancer in January 2012 shortly after being fired by Penn State. Sandusky will spend the rest of his natural life in prison, and Penn State is litigating a claim against its insurance company arguing the university is owed reimbursement for the more than $60 million in payments it has made to Sandusky’s victims.

Oklahoma RB/KR Alex Ross joins graduate transfer market

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 28: Alex Ross #28 of the Oklahoma Sooners returns a kick off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the first quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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One of the most dangerous kick returners in college football just joined the graduate transfer market.

Oklahoma announced Friday running back Alex Ross will graduate this spring and ply his craft elsewhere for his final collegiate seasons.

Considering his plight on the Sooners’ depth chart, Ross’s decision to transfer is entirely understandable. After accumulating 88 carries in 2014, second-most on the team, Ross saw his usage drop to just 32 attempts (for 172 yards and one touchdown) last fall as Joe Mixon gained eligibility and Baker Mayfield‘s presence in the running game rendered Ross largely to the bench. Both will return next season — along with presumptive Heisman candidate Samaje Perine — so Ross will not.

“Alex has been a great teammate and team guy for four years for us, and we’ve always been proud of him,” OU head coach Bob Stoops said in a statement. “This is an opportunity for him to go somewhere else and play full time. We wish him the best.”

Ross ranks third in Oklahoma history with a 25.7-yard kickoff return average and surely would have broken the Sooners’ all-time kick return yardage record had he returned to Norman this fall. He took kickoffs back for touchdowns against West Virginia and Texas in 2014, and logged a 90-yard return in OU’s 58-23 Big 12-title clinching beatdown of Oklahoma State last November.

Ross was a second-team All-American kick returner on CBS Sports‘s list in 2014.

Charges against ex-Orange DB Howard upgraded in Syracuse stabbing incident

SYRACUSE, NY - SEPTEMBER 26:  Syracuse Orange takes the field amidst a cloud of pyrotechnic smoke before the game against the LSU Tigers on September 26, 2015 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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Former Syracuse defensive back Nasean Howard was arraigned last month on two counts of assault in the second degree after allegedly stabbing two of his former teammates.

On Thursday, Howard’s charges were upgraded to first degree assault, in addition to the second degree charges and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

The first-degree charge states Howard intended to cause “serious physical injury” — a safe bet considering he allegedly came at the two men with a knife — and carries a sentence stretching up to 25 years.

The 20-year-old Howard is accused of attacking Chauncey Scissum and Corey Winfield unprovoked during an on-campus birthday party for an unnamed Syracuse student. Scissum was stabbed in the jaw and, unable to protect himself due to a recent surgery, was protected by Winfield, who took stabbings in the arms, chest and ribs on Scissum’s behalf.

Defense attorney Irene Aurora Flores stated “there’s a lot more to the story” but declined further comment, according to the Associated Press.

Howard remains free on bail.

Pitt RB Chris James completes transfer to Wisconsin

SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 24:  Chris James #5 of the Pittsburgh Panthers carries the ball during the first half against the Syracuse Orange on October 24, 2015 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.  Pittsburgh defeats Syracuse 23-20.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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Hailing out of Chicago, Chris James hoped to sign with Wisconsin after leaving Notre Dame College Prep but wound up heading east to play for head coach Paul Chryst, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph and running backs coach John Settle at Pittsburgh.

All three of whom are now at Wisconsin.

So, naturally, James is now set to join them. The rising junior has planned to transfer to Wisconsin for months, and on Thursday received confirmation he’d been admitted to the Big Ten school.

“Coach Settle sent me a text, saying ‘welcome to the Badger family,’” James told Badger Nation. “I am really excited. It’s definitely been a long journey.”

James said, naturally, that his childhood love for the Badgers combined with his former coaches now employed in Madison drew him to Wisconsin. The presence of Ron DayneMontee BallMelvin Gordon and a handful of other 1,000-yard backs couldn’t have hurt, either.

“It was funny because everybody who I knew was wearing red now,” James said. “It was kind of weird but I’m glad I got to chance to go back up there. Things really haven’t changed that much. Stepping into Camp Randall, I got chills, man. As crazy as it feels, it felt like home.”

James rushed 87 times for 437 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman in 2014, and accumulated 56 carries for 253 yards last season.

Two of Wisconsin’s top three running backs will be seniors this fall, so James figures to be a regular in the Badgers’ running back rotation when his eligibility resumes in 2017.