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Mettenberger era starts with LSU’s Purple-White game

Zach Mettenberger, Les Miles AP

Roughly 33,000 were in attendance at Tiger Stadium Saturday to take in the start of another year of LSU football that, yet again, carries high expectations and BCS championship aspirations.

That part hasn’t changed. What has is a key component to LSU’s offense that was noticeably absent in a 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game.

The Tigers have struggled with quarterback play basically since the departure of Matt Flynn after the 2007 season, but Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson are gone and former Georgia QB Zach Mettenberger is in. And if Saturday’s spring game was any indication of the future, there could be a collective sigh of relief coming out of Louisiana.

Mettenberger posted a 14-for-25 day, throwing for 270 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions — although one was a result of a tipped pass that was returned for a touchdown — during the Purple-White game (a 24-17 win by the White team).

Additionally, Stephen Rivers, younger brother of San Diego Chargers QB Phillip Rivers, went 6-of-17 for 75 yards.

Mettenberger’s favorite target was sophomore Jarvis Landry, who reeled in six catches for 120 yards. Odell Beckham had three grabs of his own for 115 yards and a touchdown as well. The leading rushers in the game were Alfred Blue (nine carries for 73 yards), Kenny Hilliard (eight carries for 40 yards) and Spencer Ware (eight carries, 51 yards).

LSU is known to have good defense, but picking up the offensive production could help launch the Tigers into the SEC West throne this year. Although LSU has to go on the road to Arkansas, they do get Alabama at home. If Mettenberger can improve the passing game with his group of talented receivers, there’s no reason to think LSU won’t be in contention for another division, conference and BCS title.

It’s still spring, but there’s a lot to feel good about if you’re Les Miles and company.

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Tulane adds future dates with Oklahoma, Ole Miss

Devon Walker

In a busy day on the scheduling front, Tulane secured a serious boost to its future schedules by announcing future games with Oklahoma and Ole Miss.

Tulane and Oklahoma will play a three-game series spread out over seven years; the Green Wave will come to Norman in 2017 and 2024, with the Sooners visiting New Orleans in 2021. The series will mark the first-ever meetings between the schools.

“We are excited to begin the series with the University of Oklahoma. There were a lot of moving pieces required to put this together and I thank my good friend Joe Castiglione for working with us to ensure Oklahoma would come back to Yulman Stadium as soon as scheduling would allow,” Tulane Rick Dickson said in a statement.

Elsewhere, Tulane has pushed back a visit to Ole Miss from 2017 to 2025 and added a home date against the Rebels for the 2023 season. The two schools have met 71 times previously in a series dating back to 1893. Ole Miss holds a 43-28 edge over the Green Wave.

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Five off-the-field Harbaugh lieutenants to earn $100K-plus in 2015

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh‘s off-the-field staff will be significantly better paid than his predecessor’s. According to an open records request filed by Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free-Press, two non-coaching assistants will earn $250,000 in 2015 and five will top the six-figure mark, up from the salaries Michigan paid for the same positions on Brady Hoke‘s staff.

Leading the way is Jim Minick, a longtime military man and lifelong friend of Harbaugh’s who was suspended last week after a DUI arrest. He’ll earn $250,000 as the Wolverines’ assistant athletics director for football, up from the $143,000 that Bob Lopez made in the same job last year.

Minick’s salary will be matched by the $250,000 earned by strength coach Kevin Tolbert, a $9,000 bump from the salary garnered by predecessor Aaron Wellman.

Elsewhere in the department, director of operations Rick Finotti will earn $120,000, recruiting coordinator Matthew Doherty will earn $107,000 and director of player development Gwendolyn Bush – also known as the mother of Wolverines graduate transfer Wayne Lyons – will earn $106,000 in 2015.

The five assistants raking in six figures-plus is up from three on Hoke’s staff.

Assistant strength coach Nathan Barry and recruiting operations assistant Chris Partridge will also earn $80,000, while recruiting assistant Anthony Binker sits as the low man on the totem pole at $41,000.

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Haskell Indian Nations U suspends football program for 2015 season

The empty seat of football stadium

Haskell Indians Nation University, a tribal university located in Lawrence, Kan., and competing in NAIA, announced Thursday it will suspend its football program for the 2015 season, citing the rising costs of college athletics.

“Conference changes, the cost of maintaining ten athletic programs, the lack of coaching staff to recruit and develop players and programs, and the dependency of Intercollegiate Athletics on university funding,” led university president Venida Chenault to halt the program for the upcoming season. In a university release (via the Lawrence Journal-World), the school said plans to scale back its athletics programs from 10 to six.

Haskell players may use the fall as “a developmental year for academic and physical conditioning,” but the university noted it is granting releases for players that have arranged them. Still, there is no guarantee the program will return, as the announcement says this fall will be used to determine the “viability” of the program long-term.

Naturally, Haskell’s players did not take the news kindly.

 

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Kansas State to induct four players to Football Ring of Honor

Oklahoma Sooners v Kansas State Wildcats

Kansas State announced Thursday that former Wildcats Michael BishopJordy NelsonClarence Scott and Darren Sproles will enter the program’s Ring of Honor this fall. This immediately brings to mind one question, “Wait, how could Kansas State have a Ring of Honor and Michael Bishop and Darren Sproles weren’t a part of it until now?”

Anyway, the above four represent K-State’s third Ring of Honor class, bringing the group’s total to 14. The four players will be enshrined to the interior facade of Bill Snyder Family Stadium during a halftime presentation of the season opener against South Dakota on Sept. 5.

“Like previous Ring of Honor classes these are not only skilled athletes and All-Americans at the positions they played at Kansas State but quality gentlemen who genuinely care about their university and their football program,” Snyder said. “They join the previous 10 Consensus All-Americans having represented their university with class and dignity.  I am so very proud of this and previous classes having coached nine of the 14 of them.”

Bishop went 22-3 (15-1 Big 12) as the Wildcats’ quarterback from 1997-98, leading the club to its first-ever No. 1 ranking while earning All-Big 12 honors both seasons and winning the 1998 Davey O’Brien Award. Nelson worked his way from walk-on to defensive back to one of the best wide receivers in school history, posting school record marks 111 catches and 1,606 yards while earning All-America honors in 2007.

Scott earned First Team All-America honors as a defensive back in 1970 and is already a member of K-State’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Sproles helped the Wildcats win their first Big 12 title in 2003 while setting a school record with 2,735 all-purpose yards. His 4,979 rushing yards remain a school record.

The group will join the likes of Lynn DickeyMartin GramaticaMark Simoneau and Terence Newman in the Wildcats’ Ring of Honor.

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Kick times set for a number of bowl games

We’re only 100 days away from the official start of the 2015 season, which means we’re only 100 days plus 17 weeks from everyone’s favorite time of year: bowl season.

  • Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (MW vs. MAC): Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Boca Raton Bowl (MAC vs. American): Dec. 22, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (American vs. Mountain West/BYU): Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Hyundai Sun Bowl (ACC vs. Pac-12): Dec. 26, 2 p.m. ET, CBS
  • AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Big 12 vs. SEC): Jan. 2, 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

So pleas, everyone, clear your schedules ahead of time and make room for the Boca Bowl. No you have no excuse for missing such a momentous post-season extravaganza.

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Report: UAB could announce decision to not reinstate football Friday night

University of Alabama Board of Trustees

There is no official statement saying anything other than there is no decision made yet on the future of UAB football. However, one report suggests an announcement could be made at the absolute textbook news dump hour; Friday night.

In a report by Kevin Scarbinsky of Al.com, Alabama State Representative Jack Williams says he has received “strong indications” UAB will not reinstate football. The state representative also told Al.com he believes UAB president Ray Watts could make that announcement Friday night.

If that proves to be the reality of the situation as UAB reassessed the fate of the football program it shut down last November, then it is following the public relations textbook in releasing negative news as late on a Friday as possible. Except the news cycle is more around-the-clock as it has ever been, so UAB and Watts would not be escaping much turmoil if an announcement is made Friday night. After all of the negativity surrounding the way this UAB situation has unfolded, it would be nice to see the school just come right out and announce the decision, for better or worse, as early as possible instead of trying to hide in the darkness of the night.

But let’s see how this plays out. The odds of UAB overturning its previous decision to shut the program down were slim from the beginning, but at least there was a glimmer of hope for the fans. It would be nice to see UAB be straight with the fans and community, whatever the final decision may be. They deserve that.

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Syracuse, UConn set dates to renew old Big East rivalry

Florida State v Syracuse

About a month ago we caught wind of the possible revival of an old Big East rivalry being put together. Now Syracuse and Connecticut have put the finishing touches on the home-and-home scheduling agreement.

Announced today, UConn will host Syracuse on September 24, 2016 at Rentschler Field. Syracuse will host the Huskies two years later on September 29, 2018 in the Carrier Dome. Syracsue will be the first of two ACC opponents on UConn’s 2016 schedule. UConn hosts Virginia the previous week. UConn also visits Boise State in 2018. So far the only other non-conference game on Syracuse’s 2018 schedule is a road trip to Notre Dame as part of the ACC’s rotating schedule. Syracuse’s power conference scheduling requirement in the ACC is already satisfied in 2016 and 2018 with the Fighting Irish appearing on the schedule.

While the two schools have a much more storied basketball history, it will be good to see two northeastern programs compete against each other. UConn leads the all-time series with the Orange, 6-3.

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Penn State dismisses CB following drug and alcohol incident

Penn State cornerback Da’Quan Davis was arrested earlier this month for drug and underage drinking charges. That incident has led to Davis no longer being a part of the football program under the watch of James Franklin.

“Da’Quan Davis is no longer a member of the Penn State football team due to a violation of team rules,” Franklin said during his spring caravan stop in New York yesterday. “We appreciate Da’Quan’s contributions to the program and wish him success in the future.”

As reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer beat reporter Joe Juliano, Centre County Court documents filed earlier this week show Davis was arrested on May 9. Police charged Davis with possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use and use or possession of drug paraphernalia. Both of these offenses are considered misdemeanors. However, court documents also show Davis was cited for purchasing alcoholic beverages as a minor. This is considered a summary offense.

Davis is still enrolled at Penn State for his senior year. Davis appeared in half of Penn State’s games last season and likely would have been a reserve defensive back this season. While Penn State continues to claw its way back to a full 85-scholarship roster, incidents like this do nothing to help stabilize the program’s scholarship situation.

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Alabama vs. Wisconsin in AT&T Stadium goes primetime

AT&T Stadium

In a scheduling announcement that should have been expected from the start, Alabama and Wisconsin’s season-opening clash in AT&T Stadium in Arlington on September 3 will be played in primetime. ABC will televise the game starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern.

The Alabama vs. Wisconsin game was long expected to be placed in primetime, with ABC the likely network to get the game through ESPN’s coverage plan. Other games appearing in the same time slot, or closely overlapping with it, include Notre Dame vs. Texas on NBC (7:30 p.m. eastern), Texas A&M vs. Arizona State in Houston on an ESPN network to be determined (8:00 p.m.). Florida State will be playing on ESPN against Texas State (8:00 p.m.).

Wisconsin’s appearance on the first Saturday night game on ABC of the new season will be the first of three primetime games on the ESPN family featuring a Big Ten team in the first two weeks of the season. Michigan State’s home game against Oregon in week two will also air on ABC. Ohio State’s season-opener on Labor Day on the road at Virginia Tech will be televised by ESPN at 8:00 p.m.

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If student-athletes must be recognized as employees, Notre Dame prepared for drastic changes

Jack Swarbrick

Big changes could be on the horizon for college sports, and that has some concerned about the future. With the National Labor Relations Board still going through a review focused on Northwestern players’ union movement and various court cases taking the NCAA to task regarding how student-athletes are allegedly exploited, Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick says Notre Dame is prepared to abandon ship entirely if it has to begin recognizing student-athletes as employees.

“Notre Dame’s just not prepared to participate in any model where the athlete isn’t a student first and foremost — that’s the hallmark for us,” Swarbrick said in a story by USA Today. “If the entire model were to move toward athletes as employees, we’d head in a different direction. Our president has been clear about that. I’m not articulating a unique position.”

Yeah. OK. Suuuuuure.

We know that Notre Dame tends to operate in a bit of a different way than a god number of institutions. Notre Dame takes tremendous pride in its history, tradition and identity. This is not to be seen as a criticism. Despite an ever changing shift in college sports, things have worked out well for Notre Dame as the university has somehow strong-armed its way into remaining among the powerful and elite college sports programs and even managed to get a deal worked out with the ACC to receive the benefits of conference membership in a power conference without having to give up its coveted football independence. Notre Dame has its own TV deal (with NBC) and gets the benefits of playing in the ACC in sports like basketball. It’s a pretty sweet deal Notre Dame has.

If you think the school is just going to pack it all up and leave if asked to treat student-athletes as employees, think again. Sure, there will be some added costs to the university, as would be the case at every university, but the school would still more than likely be throwing away a tremendous amount of revenue if it were shut down its athletics programs in search of another option more focused on education. As scary as some leaders want you to think this can be, I’ll take Swarbrick’s bluff if he thinks Notre Dame is going to drop down to Division 2 or Divison 3.

Notre Dame and other schools can focus as much on academics as they wish, as they should. But let’s be real. Athletics brings in a tremendous amount of money, and giving that up is going to be received well.

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NIU offers fans chance to choose new field design

niuhelmet Getty Images

Northern Illinois will have a brand new playing field in Huskie Stadium this fall, and thankfully (or mercifully) the program will not be installing a non-traditional field the way programs such as Boise State and Eastern Michigan have. Surely somebody might have been tempted to toss the idea fo an all-black playing field around the NIU offices, even if in jest. Instead, NIU is serving up six options and giving fans a chance to decide which field design should be used for the MAC power moving forward.

The first two designs, shown in the Instagram image below, should be out of the running from the start. The first has no color in the end zones and what appears to be the shadowy image of corn. NIU broke out corn uniforms last season, if you recall. With no offense intended to the great corn community, let’s hope NIU fans are quick to dismiss this field design. The second option adds a black background to the end zones and adds a larger outline of the state of Illinois at midfield underneath the “NIU” logo. It’s OK, but let’s move on.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 2.27.28 PM

Moving to the second two options, we see the husky logo make an appearance at midfield, with “NIU” plastered across the end zones on a black background. So far, this is the leading candidate, and we don’t even have to waste much time on the next option, which puts the “NIU” logo back at midfield and writes “HUSKIES” in the end zones. The outline of the state of Illinois is also huge. We get it. You are in Illinois.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 2.29.51 PM

Now let’s move on to the final two options for fans to consider. Personally, the option with the gigantic husky logo shadowed into the field is the best of the six options on the ballot.  The sixth option with the red end zones is not terrible, but c’mon. What other school is going to have a logo practically take up the entire field?

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 2.30.44 PM

NIU will eliminate one option each day until the final design is made official. Which one is your favorite?

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Syracuse clarifies controversial plans for retired No. 44 jersey

Jim Brown - Syracuse

So it turns out the hoopla surrounding Syracuse and the uniform No. 44 got a little out of hand. After Donovan McNabb came out swinging at the idea of unretiring the inspirational uniform number after 10 years of retirement, Syracuse has cleared up the intention of bringing the number back into the mix.

“[Tuesday’s] announcement was simply a reiteration of that commitment and another opportunity to celebrate the great accomplishments of those who have worn the number with Syracuse pride and honor,” Syracuse Vice President for Public Affairs Kevin Quinn said in a statement shared with Syracuse.com. “The retired #44 jersey will continue in its place of honor at Dome — as a symbol of past glories and future successes.”

The uniform No. 44 will remain retired, but will be given consideration to be used under special circumstances. What those circumstances would entail will likely be left to the jurisdiction of the small committee to be organized as originally announced.

Now that we have all that cleared up, perhaps there will now be peace in the Syracuse community.

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Barry Alvarez not ready for outdoor B1G championship game

New England Patriots v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The Big Ten has made a home in Indianapolis for its football championship destination, and for good reason. Indianapolis is a city that has proven on more than one occasion to be a good fit for a championship setting, even though the city is not ready to place a bid for a future College Football Playoff game. Ask Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez and he will tell you he would prefer to keep the game inside, protected from the elements. That seems to be good news for Indianapolis, not that the Big Ten was moving its football championship game anytime too soon.

I would have a hard time voting for a game outside,” Alvarez said at the Big Ten spring meetings this week (he also had some things to say about the Big 12), according to The Detroit News. “I know purists say football is supposed to be played outside. But I don’t want elements to have a factor in a game of that magnitude.”

That is a fair point. When you think of Big Ten football you are likely to think of cold weather and fall classics played outdoors. None of the teams in the Big Ten play inside a dome now that Minnesota has an open-air football stadium. Playing outside in the cold is what Big Ten football is thought to be all about. But playing a game protected from the elements allows for a game to be decided by the players and coaches without the possibility of snow or rain playing a critical factor. With so much at stake, that seems to be reasonable enough. Getting fans to the game (and of course those pesky and annoying media members that will be sure to share with you all of their complaints about the weather) is also a legitimate concern.

The Big Ten announced last June the conference will keep its football championship game in Indianapolis through the 2021 season, but that does not mean the conference would be open to evaluating other options beyond that. There are plenty of terrific venues within the Big Ten footprint, with Chicago’s Soldier Field tending to be a popular conversation piece if nothing else. The conference’s overall efforts to establish a more eastern presence (Pinstripe Bowl tie-in, basketball tournaments in New York City for example) following the additions of Rutgers and Maryland could, in theory, open up the possibility of playing a championship game in MetLife Stadium or FedEx Field.

Just saying. Don’t be surprised if that comes up in conversation at some point in the next few years.

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Pair of Southern Miss receivers arrested for alleged armed robbery & kidnapping

1560_southern_miss_golden_eagles-helmet-2003

Two Southern Mississippi wide receivers are in some deep legal trouble. Yesterday, James Cox and Kyle Foster were arrested on three felony charges including armed robbery, kidnapping and burglary of an occupied dwelling.

The details involving the incident in question are still unknown beyond the charges and arrests. Southern Mississippi’s athletics department is aware of the situation though and awaiting the legal process to play out.

“We have been made aware of the situation and we are continuing to gather information at this time,” Southern Miss spokesman Jack Duggan said in a statement shared with Hattiesburg American.

Cox was sixth on the Southern Miss roster for receiving in 2014 with 15 receptions for 219 yards and two touchdowns.Foster was eighth on the team with 168 receiving yards on 12 receptions in nine games. Cox earned Conference USA academic honor roll honors in 2013 as a freshman.

Foster was eighth on the team with 168 receiving yards on 12 receptions in nine games. Foster played at Syracuse in 2011 and redshirted with the program in 2012. He played the 2013 season at Dodge City Community College before transferring to Southern Miss in 2014. Foster is a cousin of NFL player Dion Sims.

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Watch Ken Niumatalolo do a barrel roll with the Blue Angels

US Navy Blue Angels flying in formation

Being the head coach at Navy has its perks. Take riding with the talented Blue Angels for example. Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo got a chance to take a ride with the best of the best pilots the Navy has to offer back in the summer of 2010, and he was taken for quite a ride.

In the video below you can see the pilot talk Niumataololo through the whole experience, giving him proper warnings just before going into some gravity-defying maneuvers and barrel rolls. The coach takes those G-forces like a champ, although he admits to getting a little light-headed toward the end as the intensity picks up. Can you blame him?


Helmet sticker to Football Scoop.

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