Rutgers makes B1G gender history with athletic director hire

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Still a little over a year away from officially joining the Big Ten, Rutgers has already plowed some athletic department territory rarely before seen in the history of the conference.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Rutgers announced that it has hired Julie Hermann as the university’s new athletic director, ending a search that had stretched nearly six weeks.  Hermann comes to the Scarlet Knights from Louisville, where she served as the Cardinals’ executive senior associate athletic director.  She had been at the U of L for the past 15 years.

Hermann will become the second-ever female athletic director in the Big Ten (Michigan State’s Merrily Dean Baker) when the Scarlet Knights move their athletic programs from the Big East next July.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome Julie Hermann to the Rutgers community,” said president Robert L. Barchi. “She is one of the most respected athletics administrators in the country and she was deeply involved in moving Louisville from Conference USA to the Big East and from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Her 15 years of leadership experience will be an invaluable asset to the university as we prepare to enter the Big Ten.”

The Hermann hiring culminates a tumultuous few months for the university in general and the athletic department specifically.

In April, popular and highly-successful RU athletic director Tim Pernetti resigned his post thanks in large part to the public backlash over his handling of the Mike Rice situation.  Hermann will now be charged with cleaning up the mess left by her predecessor — and enjoy the fruits of his labor as well.

“Rutgers is poised to soar,” said Hermann. “With a world-class faculty and academic reputation, a strategic location and the power and reach of the Big Ten, the university is positioned to create a best-in-class experience for every student who accepts the challenge to learn and compete at Rutgers.”

Not only will Hermann become the second athletic director of the female persuasion in Big Ten history, she also joins a rather exclusive club at the FBS level.  Of the 124 schools that played FBS football in 2012, just five of them had females in charge of their athletic departments; just two of those female athletic directors — Maryland’s Debbie Yow, Cal’s Sandy Barbour — were from so-called automatic qualifying conferences.

It should also be noted that Georgia State will be transitioning to the FBS level, and their athletic department is headed by Cheryl Levick.

All told, there are 26 female athletic directors at the 300-member-plus Div-I level, including 10 at FCS schools.  Below is a brief look at the five female FBS athletic directors (Texas has separate athletic directors for men’s and women’s sports) and whose company Hermann will join:

Sandy Barbour, Cal
Per her bio on the school’s official website, Cal has claimed 17 team national titles and another 81 individual crowns since Barbour assumed control of the athletic department in 2004.  Two major facility upgrades have taken place on Barbour’s watch: the 142,000-square-foot Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance and a massive renovation of Memorial Stadium.  She also performed a massive renovation on the stadium’s tenant by firing longtime head football coach Jeff Tedford following the 2012 season.

Cary Groth, Nevada
One of the first-ever female athletic directors when hired by her alma mater Northern Illinois in 1994, Groth has been with the Wolf Pack since March of 2004.  Groth’s greatest success at Nevada was the move from the WAC to the Mountain West.  She retired in April of this year after more than 30 years working in collegiate athletics.

Debbie Yow, North Carolina State
One of the most respected athletic directors of any gender by those in athletics, Yow has been at NCSU since 2010 after leaving the same job at Maryland after 16 years.  Yow has served as president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and the national Division I-A Athletic Directors Association, and is a member of the National Football Foundation board of directors.  The most significant move of her three-year tenure was the firing of Tom O’Brien as head football coach and hiring Dave Doeren away from Northern Illinois.

Lynn Hickey, UT-San Antonio
Hickey has been at UTSA since 2000, adding three sports program to the athletic department roll during that time.  Her most notable achievement, however, was moving the Roadrunners to the WAC in 2012 and then, with that conference folding football-wise, jumping to Conference USA beginning this season.

Kathy Beauregard, Western Michigan
The longest-serving athletic director in the MAC, Beauregard will be entering her 17th year in that post and her 33rd overall at the school.  Facility upgrades have been the hallmark of her long tenure at the university.

Suspended Michigan State staffer receives another contract extension

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Michigan State has added another one-month extension to the contract of suspended football staffer Curtis Blackwell as the school continues to investigate several sexual assaults involving the Spartans.

A schools spokesman confirmed the extension to the Detroit Free Press on Friday.

The move comes on the heels of a previous one-month contract extension for Blackwell that came at the end of March. His official title is that of the team’s director of college advancement and performance and he was hired by head coach Mark Dantonio back in 2013 after running a number of major recruiting camps in the region.

Blackwell was originally suspended back in February as the school and police began multiple investigations related to sexual assaults. According to reports, one Michigan State staff member had an arrest warrant issued for obstructing an investigation but he was never publicly identified by the school.

Probes into the matter, including a Title IX investigation, remain ongoing in East Lansing. The football team recently wrapped up practice missing over a dozen players in the spring game so it appears this wide-ranging scandal that has embroiled the Spartans is not going to be over anytime soon.

Ex-USC coach finally lands court date with NCAA over Reggie Bush case

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After years and years of meandering through the court system, former USC running backs coach Todd McNair finally has his day in court with the NCAA.

ESPN is reporting that the two parties will meet in Los Angeles County Superior Court on April 18, 2018. The trial will finally get underway next year after nearly a decade of appeals on both sides.

McNair was the Trojans’ running backs coach during the glory days under Pete Carroll and responsible for coaching or recruiting many of the team’s top players. He was one of the few links to the program that the NCAA cited when determining that former star Reggie Bush received extra benefits, later leading to brutal sanctions back in 2010. McNair was given a one-year show-cause as a result of the Committee on Infractions findings and never coached again after the school let his contract expire shortly thereafter.

That wasn’t the end of the story however, as McNair later filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA in which he accused the association of violating protocol and showing bias against himself and the program in order to level unprecedented sanctions. Documents in the case have continued to seep out that have given credence to McNair’s case and the NCAA’s lawyers have fought bitterly at every turn in order to prevent the trial from actually getting underway.

Those efforts were unsuccessful however and it appears an already nasty legal battle is still not over. It remains to be seen if the trial will even happen, as a settlement could eventually take place between now and next April. If it does indeed go in front of a jury though, it just might be one of the most fascinating insights into one of the biggest NCAA scandals of the past few decades.

Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Jonathan Giles announces transfer from Texas Tech

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Thursday may have been a high point for the Texas Tech football program upon learning that former quarterback Patrick Mahomes was taken in the top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft.

On Friday afternoon though, the Red Raiders dipped right back down as star wide receiver Jonathan Giles took to Twitter to announce that he was leaving the program and transferring out of Lubbock.

Giles was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist a season ago after catching 69 passes for 1,158 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those numbers led the team in each category despite trailing off a bit down the stretch as Tech missed out on a bowl game.

Playing time could have been a big factor in the decision to leave the program as both Cameron Batson and Keke Coutee emerged as the top receiving targets and Giles was relegated to second-team status coming out of spring practice.

Tech’s Air Raid system and NFL quarterbacks had a lot to do with Giles’ big numbers but it’s fairly rare to see such highly touted and productive wideouts hit the transfer markets. While the decision probably isn’t what some Red Raiders fans wanted to hear on Friday, the receiver probably won’t be lacking for options when it comes to his next stop.

Pitt dismisses senior defensive tackle for disciplinary reasons

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Bad news in college football is typically reserved for Friday and it appears the Pitt Panthers just got a taste of some.

Per Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Jerry DiPaola, head coach Pat Narduzzi has dismissed starting defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni for disciplinary reasons.

Taleni emerged as a starter down the stretch for the Panthers and will be a big loss up front for the team as they already have to replace the stellar production from the soon-to-be-drafted Ejuan Price.

No further comments were given when the school confirmed the news so it might be a while before we find out what led to Taleni’s dismissal and whether he plays college football at all next season.