Desert dismissal: Arizona fires Mike Stoops

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For the second time already this season, the head coach of a Div. 1-A football program has found himself suddenly and abruptly without a job.

Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne not-so-unexpectedly announced Monday evening that Mike Stoops has been dismissed as the Wildcats’ head coach.  Defensive coordinator Tim Kish will serve as the interim head coach until a permanent replacement is found.

“We’re appreciative of Mike’s dedicated work for the Arizona Wildcats,” Byrne said in a statement. “Coach Stoops had many successes as our head coach over the last eight seasons. It was a difficult decision but I feel now is the time for new leadership and direction.”

Coming off a disappointing 7-6 record in 2010, Stoops was one of a handful of coaches on the hot seat entering this year; a 1-5 start to the 2011 season sealed his fate.  The fact that UA played one of the toughest early-season schedules, however, didn’t help said fate.

Stoops’ only win in the past 11 games was against Div. 1-AA Northern Arizona in the season opener, with that downward spiral coming after UA began the 2010 season at 7-1.  The Wildcats have also lost eight straight Pac-10/12 games, yet another reason that led to the school pulling the trigger on a change.

In seven-plus seasons at UA, Stoops has compiled a 41-50 overall record and a 27-38 mark in conference play.  Stoops led the Wildcats to bowl appearances the past three years, just the second time in school history that’s been accomplished.  Until Stoops’ arrival in 2004, the Wildcats had not been to a bowl game since after the 1998 season.

The search for a successor will begin immediately.  One of the first names you will likely hear connected to the opening is Boise State’s Chris Petersen; besides the fact that he’s one of the top coaches in the country, he’s also very good friends with Byrne.  Another name that will be mentioned in connection with this opening — and nearly every job that comes open for that matter — is former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach.

“I expect the search to end sometime after the regular season is over,” Byrne said. “We will make the best decision for Arizona Football, and we are open to a variety of candidates, but the next time you will hear anything from me about this search will be when we introduce our new coach.”

UPDATED 10:18 p.m. ET: Stoops has released a statement addressing his dismissal.

“I am very proud of the Wildcat football program and the many accomplishments we have enjoyed. Topping that list is our qualifying for consecutive bowl games the past three seasons for only the second time in school history. I am also proud of the success our players demonstrated off the field. Not only has our team Academic Progress Rate (APR) improved significantly each of the past five years, but also our players have made great strides in conducting themselves in a manner that reflects the ideals of this University.

“When I took this job, I was hoping to be the first coach to lead this program to a Rose Bowl. Although we fell short of that goal, we made significant progress, and our organization continues to strive for excellence. I wish the entire Wildcat football program the best of luck going forward, and I thank the University of Arizona for the opportunity to be a part of the successes we have achieved over the past eight seasons.”

Former LSU QB Brandon Harris announces commitment to UNC

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Former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris has found himself a new home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Harris announced via Facebook and Twitter he has chosen to commit to North Carolina.

“Obviously, it has been an important time for me, looking for a great situation and another opportunity to grow as a young man and as a student as well as a football player,” Harris said in his statement. “After my [official] visit this weekend to the University of North Carolina, I’m going to get that opportunity. With that being said, I’m fully committed to UNC this upcoming year and I look forward to the opportunity to play for coach [Larry Fedora] and UNC.”

Harris will be eligible to play for UNC immediately this fall after graduating from LSU this summer, and the timing may not be better for Harris. UNC is losing its starting quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) to the NFL and has a wide open spot to fill in the starting lineup as a result. But the job will not automatically go to Harris upon his arrival at UNC after missing out on spring practices at North Carolina.

Harris played in just four games last season, in which he passed for 139 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Since the season-opener against Wisconsin, Harris was reduced to backup duty and did not play in any of LSU’s seven final games of the 2016 season, including the bowl game against Louisville. Harris announced his decision to transfer in February, which was pretty much expected given how last season played out amid a coaching change.

Report: Foot injury puts Georgia WR Riley Ridley on sideline for spring

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Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley has not been practicing this spring, but it has nothing to do with his offseason misdemeanor from a couple of weeks ago. Instead, a foot injury appears to have sidelined Ridley for the spring.

According to a report from Gridiron Now, Ridley has been out due to the foot injury. When the foot injury occurred is not reported. Even if his foot was not injured, it remains unknown if Ridley would be participating int he spring, at least at this point. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has said Ridley will be internally disciplined for his misdemeanor pot possession from earlier this month.

“He’ll receive discipline,” Smart said. “We are very disappointed in his decision. We do not condone that behavior. I think Riley is going to learn a valuable lesson from this mistake.”

When Ridley may be available again remains unknown, as does what exactly the punishment to him will be from Smart. A one-game suspension is the expected result for Ridley according to the university’s student-athlete handbook.

USF DB Hassan Childs in stable condition after overnight shooting incident

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USF defensive back Hassan Childs was injured in a shooting incident overnight. Fortunately, Childs is currently said to be in stable condition, according to USF.

“We are deeply concerned that an incident occurred overnight in which one of our guys, Hassan Childs, was injured in a shooting,” a statement from USF head coach Charlie Strong said. “Thankfully, Hassan is in stable condition and being well cared for, and no one else was injured. There is an ongoing investigation of the incident and we are in the process of gathering further information.”

The shooting took place off campus, but details about the incident have not been reported.

Childs played in eight games for the Bulls last year. He recorded 16 tackles and returned two punts for three yards in a backup role.

Turner Field on schedule to be ready for Georgia State season opener

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The Atlanta Braves opened the doors to their brand new baseball stadium over the weekend to fans as the baseball team gets ready to open the 2017 season in their new digs. Meanwhile, at the old home of the Braves, Georgia State University is moving along according to schedule in downsizing and renovating Turner Field to serve as the permanent home of the football program. So far, so good, as the university fully anticipates the stadium will be ready to go for the season opener on August 31 against Tennessee State.

The job that’s being done is incredible,” Athletic Director Charlie Cobb told 11Alive. “Each and every time I walk in, I see something new being done.”

Renovation and construction at Turner Field got started in February. The entire project will be done in phases as the university plans to develop around thew football stadium for an expanding university. As far as the stadium goes, the seating capacity will be retrofitted to hold a capacity of 23,000 fans. That will be the first phase of the master plan, with a second phase to complete building the rest of the stadium and add additional seating for fans.

“We plan on doing some unique things capturing the history of the stadium, but also creating a football facility that speaks to Georgia State,” Cobb said. “One of the stories we want to tell is the fact that it went from being an Olympic venue, to the home of the Braves, and now to the home of Georgia State. I think we can write that third chapter.”

Georgia State previously played its home games in the Georgia Dome, the now former home of the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. The Falcons are also moving into a new football stadium this season. The Falcons’ new home at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will also welcome some college football action to the stadium this season with the annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff will move to the new stadium from the Georgia Dome. This year’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff features Alabama and Florida State on September 2 and Georgia Tech and Tennessee on September 4. The SEC Championship Game and the Peach Bowl will also be hosted in the new stadium and the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game will be played there on January 8, 2018.

Georgia State may have their new home, but perhaps one day they will get to play in the new stadium too.