O’Brien: restoring of scholarships ‘tremendous news’

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While all of the sanctions levied on the Penn State weren’t rolled back Tuesday, the one that most harshly penalized the football program was, at least partially.

As you have no doubt heard by now, the NCAA announced today that the scholarship penalties against Penn State have been reduced, with an additional five scholarships added back next year and increasing by five each of the two years after that.  It will allow the Nittany Lions to reach the full complement of 85 scholarship players in 2016; under the original sanctions, PSU would’ve been limited to 15 new scholarships offered through 2016, with the 85-man limit unreachable until at least 2018.

It was a monumental day for the Penn State football program; for a handful of student-athletes who will now enjoy the benefits of a free college education that would have otherwise been unavailable at Penn State; and for head coach Bill O’Brien, who has maintained his allegiance to the Nittany Lions despite the crippling sanctions and significant offseason overtures from the NFL.

Suffice to say, O’Brien was overjoyed upon learning of the easing of sanctions this morning.

“Today’s announcement by the NCAA is tremendous news,” O’Brien said in a statement. “As a staff, we are especially pleased for our players, who have proven themselves to be a resilient a group of young men. Penn State has long been known for graduating its student-athletes and providing them with a world-class education. The scholarship additions will allow us to provide more student-athletes with a tremendous opportunity to earn that degree and play football for Penn State.”

The NCAA announced the sanctions against Penn State in July of 2012, a little over six months after O’Brien had been hired to replace the legendary Joe Paterno.  There has been legitimate concern both inside and outside of Happy Valley that the sanctions might cause O’Brien to look for a job elsewhere, a place where both his recruiting hands weren’t tied behind his back.

In late December of last year and early January of this year, O’Brien interviewed for head coaching vacancies with both the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns.  While O’Brien stated that money was not a factor in his decision to stay at Penn State, he reached an agreement on an amended contract in July that increased his pay by nearly $1 million annually.

After his flirtation with the NFL — O’Brien claimed he was not offered either job — the coach stated that “I made a commitment to these players at Penn State and that’s what I am going to do. I’m not gonna cut and run after one year.

The fact that the scholarship sanctions were reduced will go a long way in ensuring that O’Brien doesn’t cut and run after two years… or three years… or four years, and so on.  While O’Brien viewed the development as “tremendous news” for his players, it’s also a huge win for a university doing everything in its power to fend off overtures to their head football coach and keep him on the Beaver Stadium sidelines.

“I am very happy for Coach O’Brien, the football coaches and staff and the players; especially pleased for our current and future student-athletes, who are the most important reason why we love working in intercollegiate athletics,” athletic director Dave Joyner stated. “We will continue to work hard within the Athletics Integrity Agreement to fully comply and to achieve excellence in everything we do at Penn State.

Virginia stays in-house to fill coaching void

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Bronco Mendenhall didn’t have to look far to find someone to fill the hole on his Virginia coaching staff.

The football program announced in a press release that Mendenhall has promoted Vic So’oto (pictured, No. 37) to defensive line coach.  Last season, his first with the Cavaliers, So’oto, who played his college football for Mendenhall at BYU from 2005-10, served as a graduate assistant.

So’oto replaces Ruffin McNeill, who left Charlottesville earlier this month for a spot on Lincoln Riley‘s staff at Oklahoma.

“Vic was Ruffin’s understudy for the last year-and-a-half,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “He was my very first commitment at BYU when I became the head coach. He was a very good player for us and someone who has experience playing in the NFL.

“He’s very passionate. He is very knowledgeable about defensive football and our system. He knows the defensive line play in our system, inside and out. He’s a great teacher and fits perfectly and seamlessly into this position because he was taught and mentored by Ruff this past year. Our defensive front won’t miss a beat.”

Kerry Coombs adds assistant DC to Ohio State coaching responsibilities

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Heading into the 2017 season, Kerry Coombs will have an additional title on his coaching résumé.

Ohio State announced Thursday that Coombs has been promoted to assistant coordinator, defense, by Urban Meyer.  Coombs will retain his titles of special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach as well.

Greg Schiano will remain in his role as defensive coordinator.

“Kerry Coombs is absolutely deserving of this promotion to assistant coordinator, defense,” the head coach said in a statement. “He is an outstanding coach, instructor and mentor to the young men in this program. He is one of the best recruiters in the nation. He is incredibly loyal, and we at Ohio State are very fortunate that he loves this school and loves being a Buckeye.”

Coombs will be entering his sixth season with the Buckeyes, one of two assistants, the other being wide receivers coach Zach Smith, who have been with Meyer all five of his seasons in Columbus.

The past two years, three of Coombs’ corners — Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley in 2017, Eli Apple in 2016 — have been selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Another, Bradley Roby, was taken in the first round of the 2014 draft.

Frank Kush, winningest coach in Arizona State history, dies at age 88

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The most famous head coach in the history of Arizona State athletics has passed.

The university confirmed Thursday that the legendary Frank Kush died earlier in the day of unknown causes.  He was 88 years old.

After finishing his collegiate playing career at Michigan State and a stint in the Army, Kush’s first job in coaching was as the line coach for the Sun Devils in 1955.  When Dan Devine left to become the head coach at Missouri in December of 1957, Kush was promoted to head coach.

Kush spent the next 21½ years as the head coach at ASU, leading the Sun Devils to a 176-54-1 mark that included seven Western Athletic Conference championships.  The wins are the most in the football program’s history; in fact, he’s the only coach in the school’s history who has accumulated more than 60 wins during his time in Tempe.

From 1969-73, Kush’s ASU squads won five straight WAC titles.  They lost just six games total in that span against 51 wins.  In 1975, they went a 12-0, capping off the second perfect season under Kush with a win over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.

In part because of Kush’s on-field success with the Sun Devils, ASU began play in the then-Pac-12 conference in 1978.

Kush’s tenure at the school ended in controversy, however, as he was fired in the middle of the 1979 season after a player accused the coach of mental and physical abuse in a September lawsuit.  The coach was ultimately fired because the university accused him of hindering the investigation into the allegations.

Suspended Oklahoma DB Will Sunderland now facing felony burglary charge

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Will Sunderland‘s legal issues just got a whole lot more serious.

Earlier this month, an arrest warrant was issued for Sunderland after he allegedly sold stolen property to an Oklahoma City business in mid-March.  At the time, it was believed that the Oklahoma defensive back did not steal the items in question, which included a Playstation 4, controllers and games.

Wednesday, however, Sunderland was charged with felony burglary.  According to both the Norman Transcript and  The Oklahoman, this most recent charge is likely related to Sunderland allegedly stealing electronics from the dorm room of a pair of OU baseball players — that he then sold, leading to the original misdemeanor charge.

The latter newspaper went on to report that there may be video evidence of the incident.

According to the affidavit submitted by OUPD, Sunderland was seen on recorded video using a OneCard Swipe to enter Headington Hall, and his identity was later confirmed by the OneCard Swipe log. Video then shows Sunderland entering the third floor and walking down the hall that also leads to his room. Then, according to the affidavit, Sunderland appears to be walking toward the elevator lobby but is not seen again on the security footage until eight minutes later when he returns to view with a large unidentified object.

Cameras show Sunderland repeating similar actions for about 36 minutes before he is seen carrying a large red bag into an elevator alone. Once outside, cameras show Sunderland placing the red bag in the trunk of a vehicle parked outside Headington Hall. He then returned to Headington Hall with an unidentified male, and 31 minutes later, they exited carrying two white trash bags.

While Sunderland has turned himself in on the misdemeanor charge, he hasn’t as of yet on the felony.

After the misdemeanor charge, Sunderland was indefinitely suspended. What the felony charge does to his status with the football program moving forward remains to be seen.

Last season as a sophomore, Sunderland played in eight games.  This season, Sunderland was expected to stake his claim to one of the starting safety jobs.