Johnny Manziel

Setting the stage for the 2013 Heisman Trophy ceremony


Saturday night, and even as anyone with an Internet connection or television set already knows who it will be, one of six players will take home one of the most prestigious awards in all of sports, the Heisman Trophy.

More than likely, viewers won’t be tuning in to see who wins; rather, they’ll take a peek to see if Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston can make it a historic night vote-wise while also becoming the second straight redshirt freshman to claim college football’s highest honor.

Ahead of that ceremony, here’s a quick primer on tomorrow’s activities as well as a brief historical look at the iconic stiff-armed trophy.

WHAT: the 79th Annual Heisman Memorial Trophy
WHERE: New York City
WHEN: Sat., Dec. 14, at 8 pm ET on ESPN
WHO: In addition to Winston, the finalists are Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Auburn running back Tre Mason, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Boston College running back Andre Williams.

Winston, in his first year as a starter at this level, has already set a slew of school and national freshman records in helping FSU to its first BCS title game since the 1999 season.  Winston finished the regular season leading the nation in passing efficiency; second in passing touchdowns and yards per completion; and eighth in passing yards.

Manziel, of course, is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, becoming the first redshirt freshman to capture the award last year.  In attempting to become the second player to win back-to-back Heismans, Manziel has actually thrown for more yards (3,732-3,706), has more touchdown passes (33-26) and a higher completion percentage (69.1-68) than he did last season.  Where Manziel has lagged is with his feet; after rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2012, the A&M quarterback totaled “just” 686 and eight in 2013.

In leading the nation in rushing with 2,102 yards, Williams has topped the 200-yard mark five times and the 300-yard mark once in putting up the ninth-best single-season rushing performance in FBS history.  He’s also just the second BC Eagle to be named a finalist, joining 1984 winner Doug Flutie.  While Lynch plays quarterback, he’s second to Williams in rushing yards with 1,881 and is tied for third in the nation with 22 rushing touchdowns.  The NIU senior is just the third player ever from the MAC to be named a Heisman finalist, joining a pair of players from Marshall — wide receiver Randy Moss (1997) and Chad Pennington (1999).

Tied for third in the country in rushing touchdowns with Lynch is Mason, who, like his Tigers team, seemingly came out of nowhere toward the end of the season to put both himself and his program in the national spotlight.  Mason’s 1,621 yards are sixth in the nation and played a significant role in putting the Tigers into the BCS title game against Winston’s Seminoles.

In McCarron’s three years as a starter, the Tide has gone 36-3 and won a pair of BCS championships.  He’s eighth in the country in passing efficiency this season after finishing No. 1 in 2012, and has thrown just 15 interceptions — and 75 touchdowns — in 996 career attempts.

Finally, some historical tidbits on college football’s biggest award.

FIRST AWARDED: Dec. 9, 1935
FIRST WINNER: University of Chicago running back Jay Berwanger
2012 WINNER: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel
: Ohio State running back Archie Griffin (1974 & 1975)
TAINTED WINNER: USC running back Reggie Bush, who had his 2005 win vacated because of NCAA improprieties.
: 56 seniors, 17 juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.  Just one senior (Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, 2006) has won the award the past nine years.
POSITION BREAKDOWN: 38 running backs, 31 quarterbacks, three fullbacks and one cornerback; Yale’s Larry Kelley (1936) and Notre Dame’s Leon Hart (1949) are listed as ends on the official Heisman website.  While running back is the position most often awarded, quarterbacks have won 11 of the last 12, the lone exception being Alabama’s Mark Ingram in 2009.
VOTER BREAKDOWN: The Heisman Memorial Trophy electorate is comprised of 928 sports journalists and every living former Heisman winner — 870 of the former, 58 of the latter. The United States is broken down into six sections (Far West, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, South and Southwest), with 145 media members from each section.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

Associated Press
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Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.

Rutgers taps Chris Christie aide to serve as new AD

Patrick Hobbs
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The chair in Julie Hermann‘s office hasn’t even cooled yet, but Rutgers has already found her replacement.

The Scarlet Knights have hired Seton Hall emeritus dean of law Patrick Hobbs as its new full-time athletics director. Hobbs served as the Pirates’ interim AD in 2010-11 but has no athletics experience outside of that.

He does, however, have significant experience managing scandal-ridden institutions.

In the same letter announcing the firings of Hermann and head football coach Kyle Flood, Rutgers president Robert Barchi detailed Hobbs’s hiring.

When I made the decision last week that we needed a change in leadership, I set out to find an interim Director of Athletics who could stabilize the Department before launching a national search.  On a strong referral, I met with Patrick Hobbs, Dean Emeritus of the Seton Hall University School of Law, who previously led the athletics program at Seton Hall University during a period of major change.

In addition to these assignments, Pat has served on various state legal and ethics boards and commissions and most recently was appointed by Governor Christie to serve as an independent ethics ombudsman to the Office of the Governor.

In my meetings and conversations with Pat, and also with Board Members Greg Brown and Ken Schmidt, it was clear to all of us that Pat had the attributes required for our next Director of Athletics.  We offered Pat the permanent job on Friday and we are proud to welcome him as our new Director of Athletics.

Hobbs left his full-time post at Seton Hall in 2014 to serve as the ombudsman to New Jersey governor Chris Christie‘s office in the wake of the George Washington Bridge scandal, where his job was to police the ethics and policies among Christie’s staff members. In addition to that, Hobbs served on the New Jersey Commission of Investigation from 2004-14, chairing the commission the final four years.

Hobbs joined Seton Hall’s law faculty and was named dean of law in 1999.

Hobbs arrives at an athletics department plagued with scandal and dysfunction. He’ll have to replace a football coach fired in part for attempting to violate the church-state relationship between football and academics in an attempt to influence a players’ grade. Hermann, a storm of controversy in her own right, was hired after the school cleaned house when it was discovered men’s basketball coach Mike Rice was abusing players, and his replacement Eddie Jordan came under fire for not owning a college degree.

And, by the way, Rutgers has won just six of 34 football and men’s basketball games in Big Ten play.

Iowa State announces Matt Campbell as head coach

Matt Campbell
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Twenty-four hours after the news first broke, Iowa State has announced Matt Campbell as its new head coach.

Campbell, who turns 35 today, went 35-15 in four seasons in the same capacity at Toledo.

“Matt’s coaching and playing achievements are extraordinary, but we were even more impressed by his character, leadership and commitment to his family,” Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard said in a statement. “I could not be more excited to welcome Matt, Erica and their children to the Cyclone Family.  We are truly blessed to have one of the industry’s rising stars leading our football program.”

Iowa State represents the first time Campbell will leave the state of Ohio on a permanent basis — save for a brief stint as a player at Pittsburgh. A native of Massillon, Ohio, he played at Division III power Mount Union and deposited coaching stints at Bowling Green, Mount Union and Toledo.

“I couldn’t be more excited to receive the opportunity to coach at Iowa State,” Campbell said. “Two years ago after we played the Cyclones in Ames, I called my wife (Erica) and said you simply would not believe this place. Their fans, the game-day environment and facilities are all incredible.  I could see us living in Ames and me coaching the Cyclones some day. My family and I are truly humbled.”

Campbell signed a six-year contract with the Cyclones worth $2 million a year.

Oklahoma jumps from fifth to third in latest AP poll

Sterling Shepard

A 35-point win on the road in a de facto conference championship game was enough to push Oklahoma past Iowa for the third spot in the latest Associated Press top 25.

Clemson and Alabama retained the top two spots, while a trio of Big Ten teams in Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State occupied numbers four, five and six. Stanford moved to No. 7 after its last second win over Notre Dame, who tumbled from fourth to ninth. Ohio State jumped from No. 8 to No. 6, while Michigan tumbled to No. 19 after a 42-13 Buckeyes win in Ann Arbor.

Florida State moved into the top 10 after a 27-2 blowout of Florida (who fell from 10th to 18th), while TCU past Baylor after its double overtime slop-fest win on Friday night.

Utah, USC, LSU and Wisconsin moved into the poll, while Washington State, Mississippi State, Toledo and UCLA fell out.

The full rankings:

1. Clemson – 1,511 total points (53 first-place votes)
2. Alabama – 1,469 (8)
3. Oklahoma – 1,367
4. Iowa – 1,345
5. Michigan State – 1,318
6. Ohio State – 1,197
7. Stanford – 1,137
8. North Carolina – 1,085
9. Notre Dame – 1,022
10. Florida State – 951
11. TCU – 927
12. Baylor – 842
13. Northwestern – 711
14. Oklahoma State – 699
15. Oregon – 616
16. Ole Miss – 584
17. Houston – 571
18. Florida – 566
19. Michigan – 518
20. Temple – 269
21. Utah – 244
22. Navy – 206
23. LSU – 199
24. USC – 189
25. Wisconsin – 124