Donovan McNabb

McNabb, McPherson to have Syracuse numbers retired


A pair of standout Syracuse signal callers will not so unexpectedly be honored by their alma mater, the school announced Sunday.

In a press release, Syracuse confirmed that former quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Don McPherson will have their respective jerseys raised to the Carrier Dome roof during retirement ceremonies this coming season.  The latter will be honored during the Oct. 5 game against Clemson, the former during a Nov. 2 game against Wake Forest.

McNabb and McPherson will become the sixth and seventh players honored in this manner by the Orange, joining the likes of Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little and John Mackey.

“It is our pleasure to honor Donovan McNabb and Don McPherson and recognize their importance to the history of Syracuse football. Both of these men were catalysts for some of the greatest success in college football during their respectful tenures at Syracuse. We want to recognize these extraordinary men during our inaugural season in the ACC as we look to establish new success,” said Syracuse athletic director Dr. Daryl Gross in a statement. “We celebrate two individuals who were significant in branding Syracuse football as a national power. The nation’s eyes were fixated on these two amazing student-athletes as they helped elevate and maintain SU football’s prominence.

“We truly hope all SU fans will join us during the season to salute the jersey retirement of these two tremendous individuals and their families  as we look to compete at the highest level in the ACC as New York’s College Team.”

McNabb led the Orange to three Big East titles and two BCS bowl berths during his time with the Orange.  He was also the first player in conference history to be named first-team All-Big East four times.

15 years after last playing for the Orange, McNabb still holds Syracuse career records for most touchdown passes thrown, total offense, touchdown responsibility, and highest passing efficiency.

“It is an honor,” McNabb said. “Obviously the number 44 had its impact on the program and now #5 will be honored, too. Hopefully we will have more in the future. When you play high school football your goal is to earn a scholarship and a starting position and win the national championship. You do not think about individual honors such as this. It is really unbelievable. Syracuse prepared me for life away from the game. I came in with a mindset that after football I wanted to be in broadcasting. Syracuse taught me responsibility, maturity and played such a big role in developing me into the man I want to be, to be looked at not only as a great athlete, but a great person.”

McPherson was a 1987 All-American who finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting; won the Maxwell Award, which honors the college football player of the year; the Davey O’Brien Award, which recognizes the best collegiate quarterback; and was the first recipient of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He led the Orange that year to an undefeated regular season and a Sugar Bowl berth.

He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

“There are so many people who are responsible for this honor who should be standing next to me when this happens,” McPherson said. “In sports we wear jerseys because we are part of a team. The number on the jersey is meant to identify the player wearing it. To have my jersey singled out is more a moment of reflection than accomplishment. It makes me think about what I did to deserve this and that makes me think about all of the people who came before me, were at Syracuse with me and who have been there since I graduated. A significant part of my journey has been having somebody like Coach Mac in my life. When Daryl Gross called to tell me about this event, I started to write down the names of those who have impacted who I am and it quickly became too long to list everyone. I am blessed.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.