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Potential replacements for Petrino at Arkansas

Jeff Long AP

With the ghosts of Butch Davis‘ and Jim Tressel‘s coaching careers looming off in the distance, Arkansas officially announced its stunning decision Tuesday evening: the university has fired Bobby Petrino as the Razorbacks’ head football coach less than five months before the start of a new season.

The how’s and why’s of what led the football program to this point are not pertinent to this post; Ben’s had you covered very, very well on that front for the past few days.  What is pertinent is the future, and what tack UA takes in finding a replacement — interim or permanent — for Petrino.

During the press conference making Petrino’s dismissal official, athletic director Jeff Long announced that interim head coach Taver Johnson would continue in the same role through the end of spring practice, which will conclude with the spring game April 21.  Beyond that?  Long stated that he would commence a search for a permanent replacement “at the end of the press conference”, although he acknowledged, when pressed on the question of whether a permanent successor would be in place before the start of the upcoming season, that it’s possible an interim head coach could lead the Razorbacks in 2012.

Given the timing of the dismissal, it’s highly possible or even borderline probable that Long will take the path blazed by North Carolina (dismissing Davis a handful of weeks before the start of the 2011 season) and Ohio State (dismissing Tressel a couple of months before the start of the same season) — go the interim route for the upcoming season, while simultaneously conducting a national search for a permanent replacement.  In fact, that would probably be the most prudent course of action for the university, keeping as much of Petrino’s staff in place to lend familiarity for a roster full of players that are certainly in a state of uncertainty and could use some continuity.

While that seems likely, there are some quality candidates who could/would have an interest in what is, thanks in large part to Petrino oddly enough, a high-quality SEC coaching job.

Here are thumbnail looks at but a few of the potential replacements who have already been mentioned — or should be mentioned — as potential long-term and “permanent” successors to Petrino:

Gus Malzahn, head coach, Arkansas State — The former Auburn offensive coordinator has deep ties to the state — he graduated from high school and coached at that level there, and played football at UA for a couple of years — and will be entering his first season as a head coach at the collegiate level.  It’s highly, highly likely Malzahn would have an interest in the top job at his home state’s flagship university — next year.  Malzahn had previously turned down opportunities at high-profile jobs, reportedly because he didn’t feel he was ready for such a coaching step.  Stepping into the maelstrom that currently exists in Fayetteville likely isn’t something Malzahn would consider at this point in time.  Next offseason?  He would have to be considered one of the prohibitive favorites as a permanent replacement.

Garrick McGee, head coach, UAB — Out of all the possibilities, this one might be the most intriguing for both the short- and the long-term.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. “GM only coach Ark should look at if they wanna win now. … He can win at Arkansas,” Mallett tweeted, adding for clarity, “and not Gus M[alzahn].”  McGee will be entering his first year as a head coach, heading to UAB after spending the past four seasons at UA, the last two as offensive coordinator.  He was — and still is — beloved by his former players, and would lend some much-needed, instant credibility and stability in both the locker room and on the practice field.  Given the very recent and established relationship with the football program, a McGee hiring might be the only choice right now which would trump going the interim route.  Whether he would abandon UAB before coaching a single game remains to be seen, although those who know McGee and swear to his character would profess there’s no chance he would ditch UAB after the school took a chance on him.

Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana-Lafayette — The first-year Ragin’ Cajuns coach has no direct ties to either the state or the university, with the exception of two separate coaching stints at Central Arkansas spanning three years.  His name has, however, already been mentioned as a possibility, so we thought we’d toss it out there into the mix.  I will say this: Hudspeth is widely considered one of the rising stars in the college coaching profession, so he should not be dismissed completely simply over the lack of name recognition.

Skip Holtz, head coach, USF — The early buzz is that, if UA does indeed eschew an interim coach and instead hires a permanent replacement, the son of Lou Holtz becomes an instant front-runner.  In fact, CBSSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman tweeted Tuesday night that “Holtz may get in the mix for Arkansas with his dad pushing for it.”  Holtz graduated from an Arkansas high school, attending Fayetteville High while his pops was coaching the Razorbacks in the late 70s and early 80s.  If Longs skews away from the interim approach, he and the football program could do a helluva lot worse than Holtz, who in my opinion is one of the most underrated and undervalued head coaches in the country.

Butch Davis, unemployed — Don’t tell me this isn’t one of the first names you thought of.  Davis played for the Razorbacks in the early 70s before a knee injury ended his career, and the early word is that, obviously, Paul Hilton would jump at the opportunity if offered.  The other obvious part of the Butch equation is his messy departure from the Tar Heels.  Given Petrino’s even messier departure from the Razorbacks, it’s borderline laughable that this would even be an option for Long.  Then again, it was borderline laughable that Petrino.. and Davis… and Tressel… and Paterno would be dismissed over off-field issues, so who’s to know any more given the current state of the game of college football.

Dave Wannstedt, defensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills — There’s one reason and one reason only why the former Pittsburgh head coach has been mentioned by a national writer — a previous relationship with Long.  Beyond that convenient tie, Wannstedt makes zero sense and would instantly and literally become one of the worst hires in the history of the game.

Mike Smith, head coach, Atlanta Falcons — Hey, that’s where Long found his last head coach, right?

In the end, and unless they can pry McGee away from UAB after four months on the job, it seems highly likely that an interim head coach from the current staff will be named for the 2012 season — perhaps as early as next week — and Long will begin a methodical, diligent search to find a permanent successor.  And, based on Long’s impressive and emotional performance in the press conference, the Arkansas faithful can feel at ease knowing that the search will be in good hands.

Then again, Long is the one who hired Petrino away from the Falcons in the midst of an NFL season

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Memphis’ leading rusher lost to season-ending injury

Doroland Dorceus AP

If Memphis is going to make any noise in AAC play this season, it’ll have to do so without the most productive member of its rushing attack.

At his regular Monday press conference, Justin Fuente confirmed the Tigers’ worst fears: running back Doroland Dorceus “will not be with us for the rest of the season.” Dorceus sustained an injury to his right leg in the second quarter of this past weekend’s 24-3 loss to Ole Miss.

Dorceus would not specify the exact nature of the injury, although the speculation is that it’s an ACL issue.

Through four games, Dorceus leads the Tigers with 237 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

With Dorceus sidelined for the final eight games, a heavy portion of the ground game load is expected to fall onto the shoulders of the starter and one of his main backups. Brandon Hayes, who’s started all four games this season, is second on the team with 197 yards, but averages just 4.6 yards per carry, while Jarvis Cooper is third with 130 yards on just 15 carries.

Hayes led the Tigers in 2013 with 860 yards and five touchdowns.

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Thanks to USC’s ‘questionable’ tactics, Beavers down a pair of DTs

Cody Kessler, Jalen Grimble

At Miami, the offensive right tackles have taken a hit.  For Oregon State, it’s the position on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.

Jalen Grimble, the starter at left defensive tackle for the Beavers, sustained a knee injury in the loss to USC this past Saturday.  Grimble is scheduled to undergo surgery next Monday to repair the damage and will be sidelined for a period of 3-4 weeks.

Because of a bye after this Saturday’s game, he could miss just the Colorado (Oct. 4) and Utah (Oct. 16) contests.  If he’s out the full four weeks, he could miss the Oct. 25 Stanford game as well.

The news is not so good for Grimble’s backup, however.

Noke Tago incurred a knee injury in the same game as the starter. Unfortunately, it appears his injury is more serious as defensive coordinator Mark Banker stated it’s likely Tago will be lost for the remainder of the season.

Both of the injuries occurred on chop blocks that weren’t called penalties against the Trojans. USC’s technique was called into question by Banker.

“You don’t know if it was done on purpose or not,” Banker said, “but I just think the technique was questionable. …

“I just hope it wasn’t intended to be an injury.”

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Only a setback will keep UGA’s Malcolm Mitchell from making 2014 debut Sat.

Georgia v Florida Getty Images

Finally, after weeks of speculation and false starts, one of the most talented and experienced members of Georgia’s receiving corps is set to return.  Probably.

Head coach Mark Richt said Tuesday that Malcolm Mitchellwould have to have a setback to not play” in Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. The wide receiver has been sidelined since undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean up some cartilage damage in mid-August.

He’s missed all of UGA’s four games this season.

This latest health issue, which occurred running routes during summer workouts and dragged on far longer than originally anticipated, continues what’s been a long line of injury setbacks for Mitchell, particularly as it relates to the knees.

Mitchell suffered a torn ACL — celebrating a touchdown, no less — in the season-opening loss to Clemson last year.  He was cleared and had been participating — in non-contact fashion — in UGA’s spring practice earlier this year before another leg injury in the first session knocked him out for the remainder of the spring.

Prior to that, he suffered a torn meniscus and had his knee ‘scoped in April of 2013.  But wait, there’s more: he didn’t play in the 2012 opener because of an ankle injury, with a hamstring issue costing him three games the year before.

When healthy, Mitchell is productive, as evidenced by his career totals of 85 catches for 1,237 yards and eight touchdowns.  It’s also evidenced by the fact that, despite missing essentially the entire 2013 season, he was named second-team All-SEC over the summer.

Mitchell’s return is not the only positive receiving news for the Bulldogs as Justin Scott-Wesley is expected to make his 2014 debut against Vandy as well.  In October of last year, Scott-Wesley suffered a torn ACL.  At the time of the injury, he was UGA’s second-leading receiver with 16 catches for 311 yards and two touchdowns.

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Miami down top two right tackles vs. Georgia Tech

Taylor Gadbois

When Miami takes the field for its next game, the Hurricanes will have a rather significant issue on the right side of the offensive line.

Tuesday, Al Golden confirmed that both Taylor Gadbois and Kc McDermott will not play in this Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech because of injury. Both linemen suffered left knee injuries in the win over Duke in Week 5.

Gadbois is the ‘Canes’ starting right tackle, while McDermott is his backup. Some combination of Trevor Darling, Hunter Wells and Sunny Odogwu will take that twosome’s place.

After playing in four games as a redshirt freshman in 2013, Gadbois had started the first five games this year.  McDermott played in three games as a true freshman last year.

(Photo credit: Miami athletics)

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Reports: key LSU DB lost for season with torn ACL

Dwayne Thomas, Dak Prescott

It appears LSU won’t have a key piece of its secondary puzzle at its disposal moving forward.

Both the Baton Rouge Advocate and the New Orleans Times-Picayune have reported over the past 24 hours that Dwayne Thomas has a torn ACL and, as a result, will miss the remainder of the 2014 season.  The defensive back suffered the injury in the second quarter of this past Saturday’s blowout win over New Mexico State.

The football program has yet to address Thomas’ status.

The loss, if it comes to fruition, would be a significant one as Thomas is the Tigers’ starting nickel cornerback and sees extensive action.  Through five games, Thomas is fifth on the team with 24 tackles and is tied for second with 2.5 tackles for loss.

As a redshirt freshman in 2013, Thomas played in 11 games.  Thomas was a four-star member of LSU’s 2012 recruiting class, rated as the No. 14 corner in the country.

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Cincinnati staff member fired after disturbing sex-abuse arrest

Antrione Archer

The latest incident that sets the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker back to double zeroes doesn’t involve a college football player… and does involve some very disturbing allegations.

First things first: Cincinnati announced in a press release Tuesday that Antrione Archer had been terminated from his position as Tommy Tuberville‘s Director of Player Welfare & Development, a position he had held since 2011. Archer was arrested in Kentucky in June, but the school didn’t find out until last Friday. Within hours, the school stated, Archer was placed on administrative leave before he was fired four days later.

The school did not detail either the arrest or the charge Archer is facing. WKRC-TV did, however, and let’s just say it’s not a topic that’s ever come up before here at CFT.

From the television station’s website regarding the incident, which occurred in a grocery store pharmacy:

According to court records, police said Archer was in the Fort Mitchell Kroger May 27 and asked a 73-year-old employee for help finding some vitamins. Police said while she was helping him, Archer quote, “pulled his penis from his pants,” and also, “placed his exposed penis against her backside.” Police said he did this several times at different locations throughout the store.

The incident was caught on store surveillance cameras. Two weeks later, after police had identified Archer as a suspect, he was interviewed and confessed.

Archer was officially charged with third-degree sex abuse, a misdemeanor. The station wrote that “Archer’s attorney told Local 12 they were close to having the situation resolved through the legal system.”

(Photo credit: Cincinnati athletics)

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Taylor Kelly ‘pretty questionable’ for USC game

UCLA v Arizona State Getty Images

It appears that Taylor Kelly‘s absence from the playing field will indeed bleed into the month of October.

According to Todd Graham, the quarterback is “pretty questionable” for Arizona State’s game Saturday against USC.  After the quarterback initially suffered an unspecified foot injury in the Sept. 13 win over Colorado, the ASU head coach had downplayed the severity of the injury and the length of time Kelly would be sidelined.

Kelly is still walking with the aid of crutches and remains in a protective boot.

“Taylor has the boot on and stuff, but it’s precautionary,” Graham said Monday. “He is running in the pool, he is exercising in the pool and has no pain, so he’s doing really well.”

The good news for the Sun Devils is that the injury could cost Kelly just two games. ASU was on a bye the week after Kelly suffered the injury, and have another bye coming up next weekend. If he comes back for the Oct. 18 game against Stanford as previously reported, he’ll have missed only the UCLA and USC games.

If Kelly is sidelined as expected, Mike Bercovici would get the call. In his first career start, Bercovici threw for 488 yards and three touchdowns in the blowout loss to the Bruins. He did, though, toss a pair of interceptions.

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Michigan prez expresses ‘extreme disappointment’ over injury handling

Minnesota v Michigan Getty Images

With whispers and rumors beginning to grow that Brady Hoke could find himself on the coaching unemployment line as early as today, Michigan remains in full-blown CYA mode three days removed from its medical ineptness.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, UM president Mark Schlissel said that he wants “to express my extreme disappointment in the events surrounding the handling of an on-field injury to one of our football players, Shane Morris.” Morris was reinserted into the loss to Minnesota after suffering what was later determined to be a concussion, leading some to call for both Hoke and athletic director Dave Brandon to be fired.

Hoke was not mentioned in the statement, although Schlissel did state that he has “been in regular discussion regarding this incident and its aftermath with Athletic Director David Brandon and the Board of Regents” and that he supports the initial concussion protocol changes the athletic department has identified.

What those specifics are weren’t detailed by the president.

“Despite having one of the finest levels of team medical expertise in the country, our system failed on Saturday,” Schlissel wrote in the statement. “We did not get this right and for this I apologize to Shane, his family, his teammates, and the entire Michigan family.”

Moving forward, Schlissel said he and the regents will receive “a thorough review of our in-game player safety procedures, particularly those involving head injuries” from the athletic department. That department, at Schlissel’s behest, will also consult with university health experts in reworking the protocols for head injuries.

“Our communications going forward will be direct, transparent and timely,” a portion of the statement seemingly directed at the fan base read. “The University of Michigan stands for the highest level of excellence in everything we do, on and off the field. That standard will guide my review of this situation and all the University’s future actions.”

Hoke released a statement through the university Sunday defending his actions.

Shortly before the president’s statement was released, the school’s sports information department sent out a link to the department’s current concussion policy.  You can view that by clicking HERE.

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Backup Ole Miss DB to pursue pro baseball career

Alonzo Harris, Anthony Alford

Ahead of its huge matchup with Alabama Saturday, Ole Miss has seen its depth in the secondary take a bit of a hit.

Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze announced Tuesday that Anthony Alford has decided to leave the football team and pursue a career in professional baseball. Since being drafted in the third round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, the defensive back had participated in the club’s extended spring training program before reporting for summer camp.

The contract Alford signed with the Blue Jays had permitted him to play football for the Rebels, although that will not be an issue moving forward.

“We wish him the best. He’s a great kid.,” Freeze said in a part of his statement.

Alford actually began his collegiate career as a quarterback at Southern Miss, starting five games as a true freshman in 2012. In January of 2013, Alford transferred to Ole Miss and moved to the defensive secondary, although there had been plans to use him as a Wildcat quarterback.

After sitting out the 2013 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Alford had played in all four games for the Rebels at safety in 2014. He was credited with six tackles as well as returning two punts for eight yards.

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Alabama’s Bovada title odds shorten; Mariota, Gurley Heisman faves

Todd Gurley

Thanks to the reigning champ’s struggles in a pair of victories the past couple of weeks, there continues to be a non-Florida State betting favorite to claim the first-ever College Football Playoff title.

In the latest odds released by Bovada.lv Tuesday, Alabama comes in as the title favorite at 6/1. Those odds are slightly shorter than the 13/2 odds on Sept. 23 for the Tide.

FSU and Oklahoma are at 15/2, the same as they were a week ago.

Auburn (8/1, from 15/2), Texas A&M (14/1, from 12/1), USC (33/1, from 25/1) and Wisconsin (50/1, from 40/1)all saw their odds lengthen. Among those with shorter odds than a week are Oregon (8/1, up from 9/1), UCLA (12/1, up from 18/1) and Baylor (14/1, up from 18/1).

The best odds for a one-loss team are the 14/1 for both Georgia and Michigan State.

On the Heisman side of the Bovada wagering equation, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (7/4) and Georgia running back Todd Gurley (7/2) remain the prohibitive favorites. Those are shorter odds than the 2/1 and 10/1, respectively, from seven days ago.

Ameer Abdullah has also seen a meteoric rise the last week. The Nebraska running back was 25/1 last week, but comes in today at 9/1 along with A&M quarterback Kenny Hill.

Reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston has seen his odds lengthen even further, moving from 20/1 to 22/1. Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato, at 50/1, has the best odds of a Group of Five player. In fact, Cato is the only player from one of those conference to be listed by Bovada.

Below are the complete set of odds for both the College Football Playoff title and Heisman Trophy, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

September 30 Bovada CFP Odds

September 30 Bovada Heisman Odds I

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ACC announces priorities for new autonomy structure

Over the summer the 65 schools making up the power conferences voted in favor to form a new structure of autonomy. Now that this major step was behind them, conferences were tasked with coming up with the details for this new structure. The ACC has taken that step by submitting its initial priorities for consideration under the new power structure. Among the items listed by the ACC are scholarship protection for student-athletes, meeting the cost-of-attendance and the ability an institution can provide for educational support for former student-athletes. The deadline to send these priorities to the NCAA offices is tomorrow, October 1.

“The ACC has consistently been a leader in appropriately balancing academics and athletics,” said Donna Shalala, Chair of the ACC Council of Presidents and President of the University of Miami, in a statement released by the ACC. “The list of priorities that we are submitting to the NCAA reflects our determination to continue improving our student-athletes’ experience as an integral part of the educational missions of our world-class universities.”

Per a release from the ACC, the initial priorities being sent forward by the ACC include:

  • Examination of scholarship protections for student-athletes;
  • Meeting a student-athlete’s cost of attendance;
  • Ensuring institutional flexibility to provide educational support for former student-athletes;
  • Examination of career-related insurance options for student-athletes; and
  • Ensuring that nutritional needs of student-athletes are met in a reasonable way

Most of this is rather straightforward at this point in the development of the autonomy structure. Cost-of-attendance has been discussed for a long time now, and the opportunities to expand on assisting former student-athletes looks like a nice benefit as well for players who may turn pro and return to school to finish their education.

It is somewhat expected the other power conferences — Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC — will echo these priorities in some form.

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New Jersey congressman asks Big Ten to review concussion policies

Bill Pascrell, Joe Crowley

It was only a matter of time before some government official decided to toss his name into the unfolding saga in Ann Arbor focusing on the handling of quarterback Shane Morris and his concussion. Enter New Jersey congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey, who has sent a letter to the Big Ten offices asking for the conference to re-evaluate policies related to head injuries.

Morris was on the receiving end of a hit Saturday afternoon that is believed to lead to a concussion. By now you know the story of how this was handled, with head coach Brady Hoke apparently being left in the dark about the whole process and athletics director Dave Brandon admitting there was a system failure in the line of communication. Rep. Pascrell took notice of what was happening, which is to be expected. Pascrell is the co-founder and co-chair for the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.

Pascrell’s letter to the Big Ten offices, which can be read in its entirety here, addresses the seemingly confusing statements made by Hoke during his Monday press conference regarding the status of Morris. Hoke was unaware Morris has suffered a concussion on Monday and said Morris would have practiced Sunday night if not for a high ankle sprain. Brandon’s statement raised a caution flag on the timeline of this news by admitting Morris had been diagnosed with a mild concussion on Sunday.

“Allowing a possibly concussed player to determine whether or not he is fit to return to play not only violates common sense, but is also an egregious violation of standard concussion protocol, including protocol set forth by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Big Ten Conference,” the letter from Pascrell claims. Again, if Brandon’s statement is to be taken at its word, it is plausible to believe Hoke really did have no idea a concussion was in play, as the medical staff cleared Morris to return to the field despite an ankle injury and nothing more known at the time.

Pascrell has previously contacted FIFA about concussion management and treatment as well, so sending a letter to the Big Ten in light of this recent development stays in line with his track record.

The entire response to this incident at Michigan has been a bit of a mess, and it may be time for the Big Ten to weigh on this issue on their own and cooperate with the requests from the congressman.

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Why a buyout of AD Brandon’s contract may not be likely at Michigan

Shane Morris

This Michigan mess is just that, and it does not appear to be getting any cleaner.

The students are uniting in a stand against Michigan athletics director Dave Brandon. Brandon’s job has been scrutinized from every angle. Brady Hoke may be destined to be hitting the unemployment line at the end of the year, but Brandon is a different situation. Michigan could, in theory, buyout the remainder of Brandon’s contract as AD for a reported $3 million.

As reported by MLive.com this afternoon, Michigan would owe Brandon $3 million if they fire him before the end of the year. The contract Brandon has as AD calls for a payout equal to the remaining total under the contract if he is removed from his position prior to July 1, 2016.

For a program that has been looking for ways to save a few bucks and fill a few seats, a decision to buyout the remaining contract of Brandon on top of a potential coaching change may not be the most desirable direction.

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Texas A&M completes installation of new turf

Kyle Field

Texas A&M has played just one home game so far this season at Kyle Field, and it was a hot mess when it came to the playing conditions of the field. While the Aggies have been taking their show on the road in recent weeks, Texas A&M paid $300,000 to bring in a brand new playing surface from North Carolina. The installation of the new field is complete and ready for the next home game, on October 11 against Ole Miss.

Here’s hoping the weather holds up and allows Texas A&M to keep their turf in good shape.

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Michigan student petition for firing of AD Brandon has 3,167 signatures and counting

Notre Dame v Michigan

Michigan students are doing their part to have their voices heard this week with regard to the handling of the football program. On Monday the student newspaper called for head coach Brady Hoke to lose his job. Today a petition demanding the athletics director Dave Brandon to be relieved of duties is gaining traction as well. As of this posting, over 3,100 students had signed the petition.

As summarized by the online petition, Brandon stated “athletic programs play [a role] in helping to shape the culture and image of our university community.” The petition then states the following;

“Unfortunately, under Mr. Brandon’s tenure, the football program, one of the most prominent programs at the University of Michigan and in the nation, has become a black eye for the University of Michigan. Instead of adding to the image and prestige of the university, the state of the athletic department has hurt the connection shared between alumni, fans, and the university. Furthermore, policies and decisions of the athletic department have alienated the current student body. As a result, the university risks producing a generation of alumni that are disinterested and disengaged. Finally, President Mark Schlissel previously stated that one draw of the athletic program is to provide an avenue for “public attention on to the other wonderful things that are happening on campus…” When the athletic department produces overwhelmingly negative media attention, it distracts from the main mission of the university.”

Brandon released a statement in the middle of the night addressing the handling and response to the injury to quarterback Shane Morris. It raised some questions while providing reason for the mishandling of the situation from the top down on the sidelines.

It is probably not likely Brandon will lose his job over this, but the reaction is fair for the most part. There is no question this has been mismanaged from all angles, but will ultimately take responsibility for the actions or lack thereof?

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