Ed Orgeron named USC’s interim head coach

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It’s not often that you see a head coach fired five games into a season, but USC pulled the plug on Lane Kiffin hours after its 62-41 loss to Arizona State, which meant the Trojans were in need of someone to take over coaching duties the rest of the way.

Enter Ed Orgeron.

USC’s current defensive line coach was handed the reins of the football program on Sunday by the school’s athletic director, Pat Haden, and tasked with ‘bringing joy and fun’ back to the team for its final eight games of the 2013 season.

He’s the first interim head coach in the history of USC football.

“I want to thank Pat Haden for trusting me to be the interim head coach at USC,” said Orgeron. “We had a very positive staff meeting this morning and then we met with the team and came out with a positive vibe.  We made a commitment to give all we have for the Trojan family. I’m excited to be this team’s coach for next eight games and see where it takes us.”

Orgeron’s passion and enthusiasm contrasts sharply with Kiffin’s introverted, almost sullen personality, and was cited by Haden as a prime reason for his selection.

“This game is supposed to be fun,” Haden said.  “Ed’s love for the game and passion for the game means a lot to us. There is a lot to be played for still this year.”

The 52-year-old Louisiana native has previous head coaching experience, a forgettable three-year stint at Ole Miss from 2005-2007. The Rebels went 10-25 during that time and Orgeron was fired after going 0-8 in SEC play. But Orgeron credited his time in Oxford as a learning experience that will help him with his current undertaking.

“Coaching there helped me learn how to handle days like today,” he said. “I learned how to handle a full team and not just a defensive line. I learned how to handle adverse situations, how to play LSU and Alabama in a hostile environment, how to react and interact with the players and how to organize recruiting.”

Orgeron said offensive coordinator Clay Helton would call plays, but that the offense probably wouldn’t change that much schematically.

“We’re going to have some lengthy discussions about it this week and I totally trust we’ll put a great product on the field,” he said.

Whatever the case, the tone and feel of this team will be much different with Orgeron at the helm.

“I want to play with energy,” said Orgeron. “I want our guys to believe and have a little fun. We need to circle the wagons a bit, have some fun and let the chips fall where they may.”

Unless a miracle happens, don’t look for Orgeron to end up as USC’s permanent head coach. Haden made it clear that the search would soon begin, but that it wasn’t time to talk about any possible hires just yet.

“We’re going to try to find the best coach we can possibly find,” said Haden. “But it’s not fair to our team to talk about that right now. Let’s worry about that search in our future.”

USC has a couple months to get that coaching search right. Until then, the high-energy Orgeron is its man.

Oklahoma State punter Zach Sinor launches campaign for… Heisman Trophy

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Move over Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph, because it appears there is another college football player from the state of Oklahoma who has his eyes set on winning the Heisman Trophy.

Oklahoma State punter — yes, punter — Zach Sinor has officially launched his Heisman Trophy campaign with a fun video promotion from the Oklahoma State football social media team. In it, you get a real sense of what is motivating the Cowboys punter, who was left off the Ray Guy Award list a year ago.

I shouldn’t have to remind you that a punter has never won the Heisman Trophy award, but that does not mean we can’t have some fun and laughs along the way as Sinor looks to state his case this season.

Vanderbilt suspends three players connected to parking lot shooting incident

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Days after two Vanderbilt football players were shot in an incident involving a stolen phone, head coach Derek Mason has suspended three players connected to the incident. Defensive backs Tae Daley and Frank Coppet and wide receiver Donaven Tennyson have all been indefinitely suspended from all football activities in Nashville.

Daley and Coppet were shot outside a Nashville Target on Monday night. Neither player suffered what is considered a critical injury, which is good to hear, but the entire incident centering around a meeting in which Tennyson was attempting to recover a cellphone that had been stolen from him. Tennyson brought his teammates with him in what has been described by authorities as “an ill-conceived plan.”

Mason clearly agreed.

No arrests have been made, but police are continuing to work the case to identify the shooters.

NCAA considering changing transfer rules

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The NCAA’s Division I Council Transfer Working Group on Wednesday unleashed a set of suggestions that could either radically change or slightly tweak the way transfers are handled in college sports’ highest level.

Let’s start with the (possible) radical changes. The working group is considering a suggestion that would make all transfers immediately eligible, provided they hit certain academic benchmarks:

Establishing uniform transfer rules — which would require everyone to follow the same rules regardless of the sport they play — was a topic that the group agrees will likely take longer to resolve. While most members agreed the concept of uniformity would be positive, what the specific rules would be is less clear.

Members discussed two models: One model would require every transfer student to sit out a year to acclimate to a new school; the other would allow all transfers to play immediately provided they present academic credentials that predict graduation at the new institution.

Walking back from that, the working group did recommend changing the transfer process to where players seeking new destinations would no longer need their former school’s approval. Considering the NCAA formally argues its athletes are merely students, and there is no limit on normal students receiving financial aid upon transferring to a new institution, this change should pass without a word to the contrary. But, you know, the NCAA is the NCAA.

Group members believe financial aid should not be tied to whether a school grants permission to contact. They want to know if others in the membership feel the same way. The group also agreed that enhancements should be made to the formal process students use to notify a school of their desire to transfer. The group will seek input from the membership on appropriate enhancements.

To curb a possible spike in transfers, the working group suggested upping penalties for coaches caught tampering with scholarship athletes at other schools.

The group expressed interest in increasing the consequences for coaches who break recruiting rules to seek out undergraduate and potential graduate students. The working group will ask the Committee on Infractions and enforcement staff to review the concept and provide feedback.

Finally, the working group suggested adding academic accountability to the graduate transfer market by either making graduate transfers count against the 85-man scholarship limit for two years or tweaking the APR formula to up the impact graduate transfers’ academic progress has in the system.

One potential approach could be to require that the financial aid provided to graduate students count against a team’s scholarship limit for two years, regardless of whether the graduate student stays for two years or leaves when their eligibility is complete.

Another concept for increasing that accountability is through the Academic Progress Rate calculation, specifically the eligibility and retention points for which a student would be held accountable as they pursue a graduate degree. The Committee on Academics discussed the calculation and the working group plans to continue conversations on the topic.

“I am thrilled with the great progress made this week, and I’m confident we can move forward with some initial concepts for consideration in this year’s legislative cycle,” South Dakota State AD and working group chair Justin Sell said in a statement. “We are working toward academics-based, data-driven decisions that benefit student-athletes, teams and schools.”

Any changes proposed by the working group are merely suggestions. The earliest any proposals could be voted on would be April 2018.

Michigan WR Grant Perry pleads guilty to felony resisting of a police officer

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Michigan wide receiver Grant Perry on Wednesday pleaded guilty to resisting of a police officer in a Lansing, Mich., court, according to the Lansing State Journal. The charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

Perry also pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of assault and battery, but did so to avoid two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault and one alcohol charge.

The case stemmed from an October incident in which Perry was accused of groping a female outside an East Lansing bar. (The Wolverines were off that weekend.) A Michigan State student said Perry “started licking his lips and smiling and pushing his chest up against her chest” before groping her.

Police were called to the scene, and Perry attempted to escape.

“When (police) arrived on scene, we tried to grab onto him, and we had to chase him,” East Lansing P.D. spokesman Lt. Scott Wriggelsworth said at the time. “In the midst of that fracas, one of our officers suffered a minor hand injury.”

Prosecutor Christina Johnson said Wednesday she has not ruled out sentencing Perry under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which, pending Perry’s completion of certain requirements, would wipe Wednesday’s conviction from his record by his 24th birthday.

In the meantime, Perry has been suspended by Michigan but has since resumed practicing with the team. Jim Harbaugh has said Perry will not play for the Wolverines until his case is resolved, which it will be by the time Michigan opens the season against Florida on Sept. 2. Sentencing for the case is set for Aug. 2.