Mike Leach

Pac-12 concludes no abuse of players by Wazzu staff

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Amidst allegation leveled by former wide receiver Marquess Wilson that he and his teammates had been subjected to “physical, emotional and verbal abuse… in the locker room and on the field,” an internal investigation last month concluded that “there was no report or detection of abuse or inappropriate behavior on the part” of head coach Mike Leach or his Washington State staff.

That was part of a two-pronged investigation into the situation, with the Pac-12 assuming the second part of the probe.  Today the conference backed up the school’s findings, although this may not be the last we hear of it.

In a release, the Pac-12 announced that, “[b]ased on the evidence developed in this investigation, there is no basis to conclude that there were any instances of physical, emotional or verbal abuse by University football coaches.”  Suffice to say, the university was pleased with the report, which can be viewed in its entirety HERE.

“I am pleased with the outcome of both reviews,” WSU president Elson Floyd said in a statement. “The well-being of all WSU students is our highest priority, and it was important to take seriously allegations against the program. Now that the reviews are completed and have rejected those allegations, we will continue to move forward with our goal of establishing a successful program while maintaining the high standards shared by Washington State University, WSU Athletics and Coach Leach.”

However, based on an article published by Deadspin.com this afternoon and prior to the release of the Pac-12’s report, this situation may be far from over.

In the piece, unnamed parents of current players expressed their concern over the treatment of members of the team at the hands of Leach and the football staff, with one of them writing in an email to the university and obtained by the website that “[s]ooner or later you’re going to get sued over Leach.”

An email from Bill Drake, the school’s head athletic trainer who was removed from his day-to-day dealings with the football team by athletic director Bill Moos, expressed concern that revolved “around certain practices of the coaching staff that put the health and safety of the student athlete at risk.”  Workouts used as punishments were described as “dangerously excessive.”  It was during one of these “workouts” out of which Wilson walked, setting the stage for the current brouhaha.

There appears to be a disconnect between the WSU coaching staff and parents as to what exactly constitutes abuse.

“If you run players and roll them in sand till they puke, is that abuse?” one player’s parent said to Deadspin. “I don’t know. There are no rules or laws and nothing defined in any handbook that says rolling a kid in the sand until he pukes is abusive. But some people might say, ‘That seems abusive to me.”

There appears to even be a disconnect between the various parents of players on the team.

“Some said, ‘I don’t care, that’s what football is, kick my kid’s butt if you want, suck it up and get it done.’ And some parents had a different opinion and didn’t think this was reasonable. There was no consensus among parents but it was certainly talked about.”

“A lot of it has to do with how you classify abuse,” the parent said. “Obviously Marquess felt like it was bad enough for him to personally leave. I think until someone defines it, it’s really hard to term it. I think there’s a big gray area.”

Leach completed his first season in Pullman with a 3-9 record.  He had been out of the game for two years following a messy departure from texas Tech, with his firing coming amidst allegations of the abuse of a player.

Fourth Georgia Tech player to transfer since end of season

DUBLIN, IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Christian Philpott of Georgia Tech celebrates victory over Boston College in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic Ireland 2016 at Aviva Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by Patrick Bolger/Getty Images)
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Late last month, leading rusher Marcus Marshall become one of a trio of Georgia Tech football players who have announced their decisions to transfer since the end of the regular season.  Thursday, that trio became a quartet.

On his personal Twitter account last night, Christian Philpott (pictured, No. 82) announced that he will be transferring from the Yellow Jackets in January.  The wide receiver said he came to the decision after talks with family and friends, although he didn’t detail precisely why he was leaving the football program.

If Philpott decides another FBS program will be his next collegiate stop, he’d have to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws. Beginning in 2018, he’d then have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

A three-star 2015 signee, Philpott took a redshirt as a true freshman because of an injury. This season, Philpott caught one pass for nine yards in three games this season.

UNC’s Nazair Jones leaving Tar Heels early for NFL

CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 14:  Nazair Jones #90 and Dominquie Green #26 of the North Carolina Tar Heels tackle Mark Walton #1 of the Miami Hurricanes during their game at Kenan Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Another day, another college player giving up the college football life for a professional payday.

North Carolina announced Friday that Nazair Jones has elected to forego his final season of eligibility and make himself available for the 2017 NFL draft.  The defensive tackle will play in UNC’s Sun Bowl matchup with Stanford Dec. 30 before shifting his focus to preparing for the draft.

“I’m so thankful for this amazing university,” statement from Jones began. “The University of North Carolina has changed me so much since the first day I stepped on campus. Throughout my career, I have been with a family of brothers and found people that have become my closest friends. I want to thank our amazing coaching staff, support staff and an incredible fan base. I know Tar Heel nation will always have my back!”

“It’s been a pleasure coaching Naz throughout his career at UNC and watching him grow as a person both on and off the field,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “He has overcome great physical adversity and improved tremendously since he came into the program in 2013. This season he was the leader of our defensive line and someone everyone on the team respected. I believe he has a bright future in professional football if he continues to work hard and focus on being the best he can be.”

Jones has started 21 of the 34 games in which he’s played.  The past two seasons, he was named third-team All-ACC.

Urban Meyer could lose two OSU assistants to FBS head-coaching jobs

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 15:  Head coach Luke Fickell of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches as his team takes on the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 17-7.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Thanks to a flurry of activity the past couple of days, there are just five head coach openings at the FBS level remaining.  Depending on how things play out the next 24-48 hours, it may be a couple of Ohio State assistants who fill two of those openings.

The speculation with the most traction appears to involve Luke Fickell, with the OSU co-defensive coordinator reportedly the frontrunner for the Cincinnati job.  According to one report, negotiations between Fickell and UC officials is currently underway; another says there have been talks but no negotiations.

The only certainty in this situation, it seems, is that an announcement on a new Bearcats coach won’t come today.  It could, though, come this weekend.

Losing Fickell could actually cost Urban Meyer two assistants at once to an in-state school as, the speculation goes, cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs would potentially follow the coach to UC as defensive coordinator.

In addition to those two assistants, Buckeyes’ co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner is in play for the head-coaching vacancy at Western Kentucky.

In addition to UC and WKU, the remaining FBS openings include Florida Atlantic, Temple South Florida. Charlie Strong is the overwhelming favorite for the USF job and an announcement of his hiring could come as early as today.

Matt Rhule adds Texas high school coach association president to Baylor football staff

Baylor University's new football coach Matt Rhule speaks during a public event at the Ferrell Center, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Waco, Texas. Rhule replaces Jim Grobe, who led the Bears to a 6-6 record as interim coach this season after Art Briles was fired May 26. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald via AP)
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This is about as smart a move as Matt Rhule can make.

Baylor’s hiring of Rhule was widely hailed as a masterstroke by the scandal-plagued football program; Wednesday, the coach showed the class he will be bringing to Waco.  The biggest negative to the hire?  Rhule has absolutely no ties to the state of Texas as either a coach or a player.

Friday, Rhule began the process of rectifying the deficit in that area by hiring San Antonio Reagan head football coach David Wetzel to be a part of his BU football staff, the Dallas Morning News confirmed.  Wetzel, who played his college football for the Bears, has been a head coach in the state for two decades, and is currently the president of the Texas High School Coaches Association.

Wetzel has been in the San Antonio area for a dozen years.  Prior to that, he was in the Killeen area of Texas.

The News writes that “Wetzel is not expected to be an assistant coach but will serve in another capacity, such as player development.” While he may have been the first, Wetzel certainly won’t be the last Rhule hire with extensive ties to the state.