UCLA v USC

USC gets their own Luck: Barkley to return for another year

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In early January of this year, Andrew Luck surprised some observers by announcing that he was eschewing a shot at a certain spot inside the Top Five of the NFL draft and returning to Stanford.

Nearly a year later, another Pac-12 school has officially become the beneficiary of an even more surprising decision by the leader of its offense.

With an ornate Christmas tree setting the seasonally-themed scene: Matt Barkley announced at an on-campus press conference Thursday afternoon the one gift Trojan fans have been wishing for over the past few months: the quarterback will be returning to USC for one more season.  Barkley told his coaches and teammates of the news of his decision earlier in the day, a decision that was made after extensive conversations with his family, school officials and other advisers from the professional level.

“I know in my heart that I have not yet finished my journey as a Trojan football player,” the junior said. “Our USC football team has been through some tough times and we have persevered.  But the 2012 team has some serious unfinished business to attend to, and I intend to play a part of it.

“So, yes, I have firmly decided to forego the NFL draft in 2012 and finish this exceptional and unique journey that I’ve had here at USC.”

Based on the early draft projections, Barkley was a near-lock to be one of the first 10 players selected in the April NFL draft and, pending the pre-draft workouts, perhaps even a top-five selection.  Instead, he’s returning to solidify his legacy as one of the greatest Trojans in the football program’s storied history.

With the decision, Barkley immediately becomes one of the front-runners for the 2012 Heisman Trophy — perhaps the front-runner pending the NFL decisions of 2011 winner Robert Griffin III and this year’s other finalists, all of whom are draft-eligible — thanks to a 2011 season that saw him pass for more than 3,500 yards, 39 touchdowns and just seven picks.

More importantly is what Barkley’s decision means for the Trojans as a team.  Add Barkley’s return with the fact that 16 other starters from a 10-2 squad are expected to return as well, and it will likely equal the Trojans starting the 2012 season deep inside the Top Ten of the major preseason polls.

And, with the school finally eligible following a two-year bowl ban, a run at a Pac-12 championship and berth in a BcS bowl are certainly not out of the question and should probably be expected.  In fact, and even with the final chapter of the 2011 season not yet written, the Trojans would have to be considered one of a handful of legitimate national title contenders eight months or so out from the start of next season.

Thanks to Barkley’s unexpected decision, such talk is far from premature, regardless how far the start of the 2012 season is off in the distance.

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Western Michigan to transfer ‘Row the Boat’ trademark to P.J. Fleck, per report

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02: Head coach P.J. Fleck looks on from the sideline during the first half while playing the Ohio Bobcats during the MAC Championship on December 2, 2016 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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“Row the Boat” will soon row its way from Kalamazoo to Minneapolis.

According to a report from Madison Bennett of MLive, Western Michigan will soon transfer the “Row the Boat” trademark over to its former head coach P.J. Fleck.

“It’s just a matter of negotiating the terms of the release of that intellectual property,” WMU trustee William Johnston told MLive.

Fleck introduced the phrase at his introductory press conference in December of 2012 and turned it into a program mantra. The phrase joined national consciousness this season as Fleck guided the Broncos to an undefeated regular season, a MAC championship and an appearance in the Cotton Bowl. That success led him to take the head job at Minnesota earlier this month.

Fleck has stated the phrase has personal meaning to him, first spawning after he and his first wife Tracie lost infant son Colt to a heart condition.

“It comes from a very personal, personal tragedy in my life and that’s where ‘Row the Boat’ came from,” Fleck told ESPN earlier this month. “So, I really hope they do see that, and [that] they are willing to allow me to take that, but we’ll see as we move forward. I’m not sure what they’re going to do with it, but I really hope because of what it means, that I have the ability to at least purchase it, take it with me, and continue to change other people’s lives through tragedy, through adversity, in just a different area.”

Notre Dame hires Tommy Rees as quarterbacks coach

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 10:  Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish talks with head coach Brian Kelly while playing the  Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on September 10, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Tommy Rees is back in the Notre Dame quarterbacks room. Except now he’s running the room, and he’s no longer Tommy Rees.

Notre Dame on Tuesday announced the hiring of Tom Rees as its new quarterbacks coach, three seasons after he left school as its starting quarterback.

“When I finished my playing career and graduated from Notre Dame, I wanted to do two things,” Rees said in a statement. “First, I wanted to coach, and second, at some point in my career I hoped to get an opportunity to return and do it at my alma mater. I didn’t know when or if this opportunity might present itself, but I’m so grateful and honored that it did. I’m ready to get things rolling with this great staff and group of student-athletes.”

After starting the entirety of the 2011 and ’13 seasons and playing off-and-on in ’10 and ’12, Rees left school ranking third in Irish history with 7,670 passing yards, second with 61 touchdown passes, and seventh all-time with 23 victories against eight losses.  He was named Notre Dame’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2013.

“I’m very excited to have Tom join our staff,” head coach Brian Kelly added. “He possesses an understanding of the game, and most importantly the quarterback position, that’s unique. He’s a true student of the game and great communicator that will offer immediate dividends toward guiding our quarterback room.

“As a former quarterback at Notre Dame, Tom also has a rare ability to truly relate with the quarterbacks on our roster. He’s literally sat in their seat, dealt with the ups and downs, faced the criticism, deflected the praise, and all that comes with playing the position at Notre Dame. He can genuinely mentor them — not only on the football field, but in the classroom and the community as well.”

Rees jumped into coaching as a graduate assistant at Northwestern in 2015, then spent last season as an offensive assistant with the San Diego Chargers.

Jim Harbaugh becomes first coach to pay three assistants $1 million

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 21:  Jim Harbaugh head coach of the Michigan Wolverines run onto the field prior to the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium on November 21, 2015 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images)
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According to the USA Today coaching salary database, a dozen assistant coaches took home at least $1 million in 2016.

That number will rise to at least 15 in 2017, and three of the coaches will wear maize and blue.

Michigan released contract information Tuesday that shows offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, defensive coordinator Don Brown and quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton will each take home $1 million in 2017. This comes on the heels of Jim Harbaugh taking home an industry-leading $9 million himself in 2016.

In another move that will not go unnoticed within the industry, Harbaugh has also handed lengthy contracts to each assistant. Drevno and Brown each inked 5-year deals, and Hamilton a 4-year one.

Brown’s deal stays at a flat $1 million through the first four years before jumping to $1.4 million in Year 5, with $1.4 million in retention bonuses built in. Hamilton will make $1.25 million in the final year of his contract, with $700,000 waiting after the second and third seasons. Drevno will make $1 million with no retention bonuses, but he has netted a $150,000 signing bonus.

Contract details oncoming:

The Wolverines are 20-6 in the first two seasons of the Harbaugh era.

Texas Tech adds former Red Raider center as O-line coach

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 14: The Texas Tech Red Raiders take the field before the game against the Kansas State Wildcats on November 14, 2015 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech won the game 59-44. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
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Brandon Jones‘ coaching career began in Lubbock after his playing days at Texas Tech came to an end, and now that career will continue on at his alma mater.

Jones, Tech announce via a press release, has been hired as the Red Raiders new offensive line coach.  The hiring of Jones comes a couple of days after Tech announced that Lee Hays would not be returning to Kliff Kingsbury‘s coaching staff in 2017.

“We’re excited to welcome Coach Jones to our staff,” the head coach said in a statement. “He’s regarded as one of the top offensive line coaches in the country, and our program will benefit from his leadership. We’re looking forward to our offensive line continuing to develop under him.”

The past two seasons, Jones served as the line coach and running-game coordinator at Cal.

Prior to that, he was the line coach at East Carolina from 2010-14. Jones started 22 games along the line for the Red Raiders before becoming a grad assistant with the football program in 2007.