McNabb, McPherson to have Syracuse numbers retired

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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.

NCAA denies ex-Alabama assistant’s appeal of two-year show-cause

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Recruiting restrictions will remain in place for one former member of Nick Saban’s coaching staff.

The NCAA announced Thursday that former Alabama and current UT-San Antonio assistant coach Bo Davis must serve a two-year show-cause order instituted earlier this year.  Davis had appealed to the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee to have the sanction removed.

The NCAA announced in April of this year that Davis was found by the Committee on Infractions to have “acted unethically when he provided false or misleading information about impermissible recruiting contacts” and was slapped with the order as a result.

In late April of last year, reports surfaced that Davis was expected to resign or be fired as Alabama’s defensive line coach after the school opened an inquiry into possible NCAA violations on the recruiting trail.  A day later, the Tide announced that Davis had, ahem, “submitted his letter of resignation.”

The show-cause order runs from April 14, 2017, through April 13, 2019; Davis had argued in his appeal that the clock on the order should’ve started on the day he resigned from his job at Alabama.  From the NCAA’s decision:

However, the appellate committee noted that neither NCAA rules nor past cases consider timing other than the announcement of penalties as the start date. The committee also noted the infractions panel provided substantial leniency to the former assistant coach given that he was subject to a show cause order ranging from a minimum of five years to a maximum of 10 years with a prohibition on all athletically related duties. The infractions panel noted in its decision that this shorter show-cause penalty was due to the nature of the underlying recruiting violations and the university’s swift action once the violations came to its attention.

As part of the NCAA-mandated sanctions, Davis is barred from all off-campus recruiting activities until the order runs out in April of 2019.  Davis was hired by UT-San Antonio in February of this year as defensive line coach, and, at least for now, is still serving in that same capacity.

Georgia LB Natrez Patrick sees pot charge dropped; status for playoffs still uncertain

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Finally, there is some positive news off the field for the Georgia football program, even as some clarity on one player’s status moving forward is still needed.

According to ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach, the Barrow County district attorney’s office has decided to drop a marijuana possession charge against UGA linebacker Natrez Patrick. Earlier this month, Patrick was arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.  That was the junior’s third marijuana-related arrest and fourth pot-related incident in a little over two years.

Patrick was arrested in early October of this year on a charge of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana and ultimately served a four-game suspension.  In November of 2015, Patrick was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor marijuana possession and suspended for one game per university policy.  A year later, Patrick and a teammate, Roquan Smith, were investigated by police for alleged pot use although no charges were ever filed.

In this latest incident, Patrick was a passenger in a vehicle driven by teammate Jayson Stanley that was pulled over for speeding shortly after the Bulldogs won the SEC championship.

“When you get into someone’s car, you’re not going to search it to see if there’s marijuana in the car,” Patrick’s attorney, William Healan III, told Schlabach. “My client didn’t know the marijuana was there. If you’re sitting on a little piece of marijuana that you didn’t know was there, you’re not knowingly in possession of it.”

As for Stanley, he saw a driving under the influence charge dropped.  In exchange, the little-used wide receiver pleaded guilty misdemeanor possession of marijuana and speeding.

Despite the fact that the linebacker’s charge was dropped, Schlabach writes that “[i]t wasn’t immediately known whether Patrick would be available when the No. 3 Bulldogs take on No. 2 Oklahoma in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game… on New Year’s Day.” The Macon Telegraph, meanwhile, writes that when “[a]sked if this decision meant Patrick would not be considered a third-time offender under the UGA student-athlete handbook, athletics director Greg McGarity declined to comment.” Three drug-related offenses are grounds for dismissal according to university policy.

Patrick started seven of the nine games in which he played at inside linebacker this season.  Even as he missed nearly one-third of the regular season, Patrick is still sixth on the Bulldogs in tackles with 35.

Rice makes hiring of Michigan assistant Brian Smith as DC official

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Rice’s new head coach has officially plucked an assistant from Jim Harbaugh‘s Michigan coaching staff to fill a key position on his first with the Owls.

The Conference USA football program confirmed Wednesday night that Brian Smith has been named by Mike Bloomgren as his first defensive coordinator. Smith spent the past two seasons as the Wolverines’ defensive backs coach.

The stint in Ann Arbor was Smith’s first coaching job at a Power Five program. His first coaching job at the FBS level came at his alma mater UMass, where he was linebackers coach in 2004 and wide receivers coach in 2005.

In between those two collegiate stints, Smith spent eight seasons (2007-14) with the NFL’s New York Jets, beginning as a quality control/offensive coach before moving up to help with the secondary his last couple of seasons with the organization.

In addition to Smith, Bloomgren, who came to Rice earlier this month after serving as offensive coordinator at Stanford, also announced the hiring of North Carolina Central University head coach Jerry Mack as his coordinator on that side of the ball. Mack had previously coached at this level as wide receivers coach at Memphis (2011) and South Alabama (2012-13).

In his four years heading the FCS program, Mack guided the Eagles to a 31-15 record and three Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships.

Two-time winner Dabo Swinney one of seven finalists for Bear Bryant coach award

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Not surprisingly, yet another coaching award has a decidedly familiar feel to it.

Wednesday, a group of seven finalists were announced for the 2017 Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award, one of the nation’s top award for college football coaches. Named in honor of the Alabama legend, those seven finalists are:

  • Paul Chryst — Wisconsin
  • Clay Helton — USC
  • Scott Frost — Nebraska, for his work at UCF
  • Gus Malzahn — Auburn
  • Jeff Monken — Army
  • Kirby Smart — Georgia
  • Dabo Swinney — Clemson

Swinney is looking to become the first coach in the 32-year history of the award to win it three consecutive years, after becoming the first to win it in back-to-back years. In January of 2017, Swinney joined Boise State’s Chris Petersen (2006, 2009) as the only two-time winners.

In addition to Swinney, one other College Football Playoff semifinalist, Smart, is up for the honor.

Smart, Swinney, Helton and Frost all led their respective teams to conference championships, while Chryst and Malzahn made it to their league title game. Monken guided the service academy to its best season in over two decades and has the chance to, with a bowl win, become just the second Black Knights coach (Bob Sutton, 1996) to reach 10 wins in a single season.