E. Gordon Gee set to ‘retire’ next month

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A handful of days after an awkward and asinine attempt at standup comedy led to an avalanche of criticism from both his targets and the public at large, E. Gordon Gee‘s time at Ohio State is quickly coming to a close.

In an emailed statement to the Columbus Dispatch, Gee confirmed that he will be stepping down as OSU’s president on July 1.  While the move is officially being called a retirement, it comes five days after a letter from the Board of Trustees, signed March 11, surfaced and which stated that one more misstep on the part of the bow-tied one would likely cost him his job.

It also comes after Gee spent the past five days apologizing to, well, pretty much everyone.

Gee will officially inform faculty, students and staff of his decision this afternoon — via email.

“Without question, the university has achieved remarkable success, and it has been my honor and calling to lead it,” Gee’s email to the Dispatch read. “Ohio State is well-positioned for the future. I love this university, and my relationship with it will continue.”

The self-described Orville Redenbacher look-a-like will complete his second stint as OSU’s president, with this term lasting six years.  He also headed the state’s flagship university from 1990-99.  And before you ask, no, I have no idea if moving on to become Rutgers’ next athletic director would be the most logical step in his employment arc.

In remarks made at a university meeting last December that first saw the public light last week, Gee offended an entire religion (“You just can’t trust those damn Catholics”); referred to Bret Bielema as “a thug”; intimated that Louisville doesn’t have academic integrity; and continued playing off the dumb, redneck SEC stereotype (“You tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we’re doing).

This wasn’t exactly the first time he has needed to “go over to the surgical suites and get my foot extricated from my mouth,” though.

In December of 2010, shortly after ridiculing the likes of Boise State and TCU by referring to them as “the Little Sisters of the Poor” — and riling up the actual Little Sisters of the Poor — Gee was quoted as saying, “I need to keep my mouth closed. … I have no business talking about college football.”

In the end, and thereby bringing a premature end to his tenure, Gee proved he was very self-aware albeit unable to control his tongue.  Or, to paraphrase the noted wordsmith Ron White, Gee had the right to remain silent… but didn’t have the ability.

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.

Ohio State claims 2017 national championship… for spring game attendance

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For the third consecutive year, Ohio State is your national champion in the all-important category that is spring game attendance. The Buckeyes once again had the largest attendance for its spring game this month despite stadium renovations cutting out 20,000 seats from Ohio Stadium. After a weekend that saw Alabama and Penn State prove to be the final hurdles necessary to clear, the Buckeyes can once again boast about having the highest attendance this spring, for whatever that is worth.

Alabama (73,426), Penn State (71,000) and Georgia (66,133) made their final push to round-out the top five spring crowds this year over the weekend. The only power conference programs remaining on the spring game schedule are Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and UCLA this coming weekend. If you took the combined spring attendance of each of those schools, they would collectively fall shy of Ohio State’s spring crowd total for this season.

Spring Game Attendance Top 10 for 2017 (as of 4/24/2017)

  1. Ohio State – 80,134
  2. Nebraska – 78,312
  3. Alabama – 74,326
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Georgia – 66,133
  6. Clemson – 60,000
  7. Michigan – 57,418
  8. Florida – 48,000
  9. Auburn – 46,331
  10. Oklahoma – 43,723

How valuable the attendance figures for the spring game varies from fanbase to fanbase, and even within each fanbase there is a wide range of opinion on what the significance of the spring game attendance really is. It does help inject some reason to be enthusiastic about the program on the recruiting trail, but it ultimately is open to interpretation just like so many other recruiting tools. Remember, the majority of schools out there hardly make an effort to promote their spring game and make it an event fans look forward to. There may be no conference that demonstrates the wide range of affection for the spring game than the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is led by Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and, recently, Michigan when it comes to spring game crowds, but then there is the curious case of Wisconsin. The Badgers have a loyal following, but have not cracked the 10,000-fan mark since 2014, when I began tracking spring game attendance figures. Northwestern has never even kept track of its spring scrimmage numbers, and neither has Indiana for the past three years.

You can check the updated spring game attendance numbers and sort them by conference HERE.

Edgerrin James’ nephew to transfer from Miami

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Last season, Jeff James was one of seven players  suspended for Miami’s Russell Athletic Bowl game against West Virginia.  Nearly four months later, he’s gone.

In a press release, Miami announced that the defensive back “is no longer a member of the football program.” No reason was given for the nephew of former Hurricane great Edgerrin James deciding to leave The U.

“I talked to Jeff and we both felt it was in his best interests to get a fresh start somewhere else,” head coach Mark Richt said in a statement released by the school. “We wish him all the best in his future plans.”

James was a three-star member of UM’s 2016 recruiting class.  247Sports.com had the Orlando high school product rated as the No. 112 safety in the country and the No. 1,678 player in its composite rankings.

The defensive back played in one game as a true freshman, the season-opening win over FCS Florida A&M.