Bill O’Brien left Penn State for the Houston Texans for a number of reasons. The first is likely because it has been a long time dream and ultimate goal of O’Brien to be a head coach in the NFL. After that may be the unstable state of the leadership in place at Penn State and the broken promises left behind after two years on the job.
John U. Bacon, author of Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football, outlined what he believed to be the logic that helped lead O’Brien to accepting an offer made by the Texans earlier this month. His thoughts are mapped out in a column on The Post Game. As a number of Penn State fans may tell you, the assumptions are not all that surprising. Bacon blames the failed leadership at Penn State almost as much as the inviting nature of the sales pitch made by Houston.
From the infighting Penn State Board of Trustees and the handling and response to the somewhat infamous Freeh Report to the apparent lack of concern for O’Brien’s résumé, Bacon suggests there were a number of reasons O’Brien may have been concerned about the job. Many who read Bacon’s book will recognize some of the points illustrated in his column outlining the O’Brien departure. Much of the criticism is aimed at athletics director David Joyner. It didn’t stop there though. Bacon says O’Brien was made promises that simply were not kept by Joyner, including increased pay for assistant coaches and facilities and more. Those promises were not kept, according to Bacon. Perhaps having to pay off a $60 million fine and decreased attendance figures had something to do with that.
“I want to be clear: I love the Penn State fans and always will,” O’Brien told Bacon. “They were incredibly supportive, and the players were great. I love those guys. I just felt that this was the best move for me and my family.”
O’Brien was never a long-term solution for Penn State. He was always going to be more of a transition piece for Penn State from the downfall of the Joe Paterno era to the next face of the program (James Franklin?). O’Brien thrived under the pressure of the situation but always had the NFL on his to-do list. While he did some great things, miraculous even to some extent considering the circumstances, Penn State never should have believed O’Brien would be there for too long.
That said, that does not mean Penn State should not have done their part to hold up their end of the deal.
Dino Babers has added a very experienced trenchman to his Syracuse coaching staff.
The school confirmed Tuesday that Babers has hired Mike Cavanaugh as his next offensive line coach. In a coaching career that spans 32 seasons, Cavanaugh has been a line coach in some form or fashion for 31 of them.
“Mike has an outstanding track record of teaching and developing quality offensive linemen,” Babers said in a statement. “He’s done it successfully at every level in college as well as the pros. This was an opportunity to add someone whose knowledge and experience will greatly enhance our staff and benefit our players.”
The past three seasons, Cavanaugh was the line coach at Nebraska. At the FBS level, he’s also served as a line coach at Oregon State (2005-14) and Hawaii (1999-2004).
From 1997-98, Cavanaugh was the assistant offensive line coach for the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.
“I’d like to thank Coach Babers for this opportunity and for welcoming me into the Syracuse family,” Cavanaugh said. “He and his staff have coached some of the most prolific offenses in college football. I’m excited to learn from them and to be part of the championship-caliber program they are building at Syracuse.”
The 2018 season will mark the first time since 2004 Cavanaugh is not a part of a Mike Riley-coached staff.
At least in South Bend, Kevin Stepherson‘s freefall is complete.
According to 247Sports.com, Stepherson, along with three other Notre Dame football players — sophomore running backs CJ Holmes and Deon McIntosh as well as junior defensive tackle Brandon Tiassum — have been dismissed from the Fighting Irish program. No specific reason or reasons for the dismissals were given.
Stepherson was one of four Irish players who were suspended for the team’s Citrus Bowl matchup with LSU, with the wide receiver’s suspension stemming from a handful of off-field issues.
Dec. 15, Stepherson was arrested for shoplifting. The day before that arrest, Stepherson was pulled over on a traffic stop and charged with marijuana possession, driving without a valid license and speeding (he was clocked doing 80 in a 60 mph zone). To make matters worse, at the time of his twin arrests the receiver was already on probation for a marijuana-related arrest in August of 2016.
Adding to the off-field issues, Stepherson was suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season for reasons unrelated to the arrest in August of 2016.
At the time of the second suspension, Stepherson led the Fighting Irish in receiving touchdowns with five and yards per catch at 18.9 despite missing one-third of the regular season because of the first suspension. His 19 receptions and 359 receiving yards were both good for third on the team.
Another of the players who were dismissed, Holmes, was arrested along with Stepherson in the shoplifting incident. Holmes ran for 32 yards on eight carries this season.
McIntosh was the fourth of the four players suspended for the bowl game. At the time of his suspension, McIntosh was third on the team in rushing with 368 yards and five touchdowns.
Tiassum played very sparsely this past season, and wasn’t looking at much more playing time in 2018.
For those waiting for the renewal of the Backyard Brawl, we now know exactly how long you have to wait. The schools announced Tuesday that the Pitt-West Virginia rivalry will again be played on Sept. 3, 2022, in the season opener for both sides. The schools previously announced a four-game series from 2022-25, but the first matchup was set for Sept. 17, 2022.
The games in even numbered years will be held in Pittsburgh, while odd numbered games will switch to Morgantown.
Pitt and WVU last met on Nov. 25, 2011, a 21-20 Mountaineers win in Morgantown. West Virginia has won the last three meetings and 14 of the last 21, but Pitt holds a 61-40-3 all-time advantage in a series that dates back to 1895. Between 1929 and 1951, the Panthers and Mountaineers met annually, with West Virginia winning just once.
Pitt will complete its own rivalry renewal with Penn State over the next two seasons; the Panthers host the Nittany Lions on Sept. 8 of this coming season, and will visit Beaver Stadium on Sept. 14, 2019. Pitt hosts Notre Dame in 2020 and visits Tennessee in ’21. With today’s adjustment, Pitt is now set to open the 2022 season with back-to-back home games with West Virginia and Tennessee. Pitt is also set to visit both West Virginia and Notre Dame in 2023, and will face the Mountaineers and Irish again in 2025.
West Virginia opens this coming season with Tennessee in Charlotte, and visits NC State two weeks later. The Mountaineers visit Missouri and host NC State in 2019. WVU is set to double-up with Power 5 non-conference opponents every year through 2024: vs. Florida State (at Atlanta) and vs. Maryland in 2020, at Maryland and vs. Virginia Tech in 2021, at Pittsburgh and at Virginia Tech in 2022, at Penn State and vs. Pitt in 2023, and vs. Penn State and at Pitt in 2024.
The College Football Playoff is set to replace six selection committee members before next season, and the first one is in. Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione will join the committee, according to ESPN’s Heather Dinich.
Castiglione will replace Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt, who also served as the committee’s chairman.
This will be the third selection committee on which Castiglione has served, finishing the Big Three trifecta after he worked on the baseball and men’s basketball committees. He will be on the committee for the 2018, ’19 and ’20 seasons.
Castiglione will be forced to recusal himself from any discussions involving Oklahoma, a 2015 and 2017 participant in the College Football Playoff. Ohio State AD Gene Smith and Clemson AD Dan Radakovich also did the same regarding their programs. Radakovich is also set to cycle off the committee this year, along with former Arkansas AD Jeff Long, former NCAA executive Tom Jernstedt, former Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham and former USA Today reporter Steve Wieberg.