Gene Smith admits to asking Tressel to resign

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On May 18, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith was quoted as saying his embattled head football coach still had his full faith and backing.

Oh, definitely, no question,” Smith said when asked at the Big Ten meetings in Chicago if he still supported his football coach. “I haven’t changed, I haven’t changed.”

Nearly two weeks later, Jim Tressel stepped down as the Buckeyes’ coach amid reports that he was encouraged to resign by unnamed individuals for the good of the program.  As it turns out, Smith himself was one of those unnamed individuals.

During an interview with the Columbus Dispatch‘s Bill Rabinowitz ahead of his school’s response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations, acknowledged for the first time that he asked the long-time head coach to step down the day before he officially resigned.  And that his support had wavered “long before” that day came.

Smith would not answer questions directly related to the NCAA case, but he did acknowledge for the first time that, on May 29, he asked Jim Tressel to resign as football coach. Tressel stepped down the next day.

OSU officials publicly supported Tressel long after the revelation in March that he had failed to forward to anyone at the university emails warning him that players had sold memorabilia and received tattoo discounts – an NCAA violation. But Smith admitted that his support had wavered “long before” he asked for Tressel’s resignation. Asked if that meant weeks or days, Smith replied: “Days.”

While not nearly as much as Tressel had, Smith has come under fire as well for the fires of scandal/rumor/innuendo/speculation that’s burned in connection to the storied football program over the past several months.  Unlike his now-former football coach, asking himself to step down has not and will not be a consideration.

“Oh, heck no,” Smith told the Dispatch. “There’s never been a point in my life in (this) business when I’ve considered resigning.

“When you know that what you do every day is right and you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got to stay the course and make sure we continue to get better and help our current student-athletes and coaches. So I’ve never thought about that at all.”

Whether Smith’s boss or other unnamed individuals have thought about it, however, remains to be seen and is a scene in this soap opera that’s yet to fully play itself out.

Oregon reportedly poaches Wazzu assistant Jim Mastro as Ducks’ new running backs coach

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Alex Grinch isn’t the only member of Mike Leach’s staff who is ticketed out of Pullman this offseason.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman, Oregon had poached Washington State assistant Jim Mastro to be the Ducks’ new running backs coach and run game coordinator.

Mastro has been with the Cougars since joining Leach’s initial staff at Wazzu back in 2012 and has quite a bit of experience out west, including 11 seasons at Nevada and a year at UCLA. He replaces Donte Pimpleton, who followed former Oregon coach Willie Taggart to Florida State several weeks ago.

Interestingly, this is the third straight offseason that the Ducks have poached an assistant from their Pac-12 North rivals. Quarterbacks coach David Yost left for Eugene back in 2015 while Taggart hired defensive line coach Joe Salave’a last year. Mastro should have plenty to work with upon arrival with senior Tony Brooks-James and youngster Darrian Felix likely leading the way on the ground.

Kevin Sumlin brings familiar Texas A&M face with him to Arizona’s coaching staff

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Kevin Sumlin is still sorting out his new staff at Arizona but reportedly has his special teams coordinator locked up and it’s a familiar face from his previous stop in College Station.

While Texas A&M’s former special teams coordinator Jeff Banks was hired for the same position at Alabama, Sumlin has hired his No. 2 in Jeremy Springer to be the Wildcats’ new special teams coordinator, a source told Sports Illustrated this week. The trio worked together for three years with the Aggies as Springer assisted Banks in the crucial third phase of the game.

Springer was originally ticketed to join another former Sumlin assistant in David Beaty as a staffer at Kansas but instead will head west to the desert. His most recent formal title was quality control special teams/tight ends assistant at Texas A&M but he’ll be an on-field coach in Tucson.

Springer played linebacker for UTEP and is still pretty fresh-faced in the coaching profession having graduated from the school in 2011.

Tennessee still trying to remove Butch Jones billboard at Neyland Stadium… months after he was fired by the Vols

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It’s been nearly two weeks since the national championship game which means that Jeremy Pruitt has been in Knoxville as the new Tennessee head coach for some time now leading the program. Despite that fact, there’s still a visible reminder every day when he drives into work of the previous regime that was in charge of the Vols.

That’s because there’s a giant 35-by-30-foot picture of former head coach Butch Jones still up on the outside of Neyland Stadium… over two months after he was fired by Tennessee. According to the Times Free Press, the picture could even be up past signing day in February as the rather slow change is made for an item that isn’t as easy for the school to alter as the media guide is.

“That’s not an easy process,” athletic director Phillip Fulmer told Knoxville NBC affiliate WBIR. “There’s mechanical things involved to get that done. It’s not just, ‘Let’s take down a picture off the wall or a graphic.’ We’re working through that.

“It is important to us, because it is important to reflect what we’re doing. It’ll be done in due time. I’ve heard the same thing from the chancellor. She wants me to speed it up, too. We will. We’ll get there.”

Funny enough, the giant picture of Jones (flanked by UT legends Reggie White and Robert Neyland) replaced an image of Fulmer from when the team won the BCS title 20 years ago. Something says they might revert back to that look with their now-AD until Pruitt can establish himself with the program over the next few years to prevent a repeat of this fiasco.

As the Times Free Press notes, it took Florida State just a week to scrub Jimbo Fisher‘s likeness from Doak Campbell Stadium but it might be three months before the Vols can do the same with their coaching change. It may not delight the fan base to see Jones some more but this is clearly one area on Rocky Top that is decidedly not moving at SEC-speed at the moment.

Arkansas DC John Chavis deal with Razorbacks reportedly includes expensive option after 2018

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Chad Morris’ first big hire upon taking over the head coaching spot at Arkansas was to bring in veteran SEC defensive coordinator John Chavis. If the pair is still together beyond the 2018 season though, it will be an expensive combination for the school based on the contract of the latter.

USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz obtained the details of Chavis new deal with the school on Friday night and notes that the longtime coach will make $995,000 for the 2018 season in Fayetteville.

While that figure for the 2018 campaign is down sharply from the $1.6 million figure he made in 2017 in the same role at Texas A&M (third highest for an assistant in the country), it should be noted that the Aggies are still on the hook for nearly $700,000 as a result of a one-year extension he signed prior to last season — resulting in the six-figure salary at Arkansas instead of hitting the million dollar mark.

If Chavis exercises the option for 2019 though, he’ll be back in the top 10 highest paid assistants once again but with Arkansas ponying up the full amount. Not bad work if you can get it after allowing 30.7 points per game the prior season.

Hopefully for the Razorbacks though, the results are more in line with the salary for Chavis and company going forward.