Analyzing Bob Diaco and the uphill climb at UConn

4 Comments

Kevin Ollie succeeded in pulling off an improbable run to a national championship last night for UConn basketball, but on the gridiron Bob Diaco has a much steeper climb just to get the Huskies back to respectability.

Diaco, who took over the program in December after spending the last four seasons as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, is tasked with the challenge of getting a team that floundered to a 13-23 record after longtime coach Randy Edsall left for Maryland. UConn football is still in its relative infancy, only being revived at the Division I level in 2000.

But Edsall showed winning in Storrs isn’t impossible — from 2007-2010, UConn won 33 games and made an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl — though it certainly is difficult. Connecticut and the Northeast aren’t fertile recruiting grounds, and that shows in UConn’s recruiting class rankings in the Rivals era:

2002: No. 104
2003: 88
2004: 99
2005: 80
2006: 86
2007: 65
2008: 71
2009: 76
2010: 84
2011: 102
2012: 78
2013: 65
2014: 117
Average ranking: 85.77

In 2014, the state of Connecticut produced just two three-star recruits (who didn’t sign with UConn). Massachusetts offers some more fertile recruiting territory, though Diaco will have to pry the state’s top players away from Boston College (which signed six of Massachusetts’ top 10 players in 2014).

But Diaco does have good recruiting connections in the Northeast and is a native of the talent-rich state of New Jersey. While at Notre Dame, Diaco signed a number of highly-recruited players from the area he’ll have to hit hard at UConn:

New Jersey: ATH Rashad Kinlaw (3 stars), S Elijah Shumate (4 stars), WR Bennett Jackson (3 stars)
New York: DL Jarron Jones (4 stars), DE Ishaq Williams (5 stars)
Massachusetts: OL John Montelus (4 stars)

Not all these guys panned out — Kinlaw, for one, was just kicked off Notre Dame’s football team last week — but Jackson was a two-year starter and senior captain as a cornerback, while Jones and Williams are likely starters on this year’s Irish squad.

Notre Dame, of course, is an easier sell to recruits that UConn. But plenty of Irish players loved playing for Diaco, raving about his energy on the practice field and enthusiasm for player development.

It’ll take a few years to find out if Chef Diaco’s cake at UConn tastes good (seriously, he loves that cake analogy). But if he can start pulling talent from the areas he did while at Notre Dame, he’ll at least give his proud basketball school some hope on the football field.

Kansas AD Sheahon Zenger signs extension, vows to fix football

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kansas athletics director Sheahon Zenger has signed an extension to remain on the job through the 2020-21 academic year, the school announced Sunday.

Zenger has been on the job since 2011, meaning the new deal will take him past the decade mark in Lawrence.

“Since Sheahon’s arrival in Jan. 2011, Kansas Athletics has enjoyed success on and off the field,” Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a statement. “I am confident that under Sheahon’s leadership Athletics will experience even more success in the coming years.”

Zenger did not hire Bill Self, but he did hire Charlie Weis, which cost KU more than $5.6 million in buyout money after he was fired for going 6-22 leading the Jayhawks from 2012-14.

David Beaty was since hired to run the program, who has infused an outlook brighter than his 2-22 record would suggest.

Zenger said the new contract will allow him to fix football. Via the Kansas City Star:

Under Zenger’s watch, KU has most notably added numerous construction projects, including Rock Chalk Park and the DeBruce Center, which houses the original rules of basketball. He has spoken previously about completing those ventures to “clear the deck” financially so focus could be placed on football and Memorial Stadium renovations — two things he now says are “really the top priorities for me in the next four years.”

“We want it to be a place that people just love to come to,” Zenger said of Memorial Stadium. “We have such history there. I think it’s the greatest setting in the nation for college football. We just need to get it to the point where it’s a place that’s just revered.”

The extension includes a raise from a base salary of $619,000 to $700,000.

Alleged victim of Tennessee WR Josh Smith threatens $3 million civil suit

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Earlier this month, Tennessee wide receiver Josh Smith was charged with domestic assault following an incident at an off-campus house with his roommate. Now, the roommate is seeking damages of $875,000. If that sum is not paid, then the alleged victim may bring a $3 million civil suit to the court.

According to Jimmy Hyams of WNML, Kennedy Foster suffered a broken nose, broken teeth and damage to his eyes and right ear in the incident earlier this month that led to the charges filed against Smith. Foster sent a settlement demand letter to the attorney representing Smith.

“I’m not accusing him (Foster) of extortion, but that’s what it looks like,’’ Smith’s attorney, Keith Stewart said according to Hyams. “Given my understanding that Mr. Foster’s attempts to press charges against Malcolm Stokes were unsuccessful, it seems his motives are clear.’’

“I think when the truth comes out, Josh will be exonerated,” Stewart said of his client.

The deadline for paying the settlement demand is set for May 30 (tomorrow) by 5:00 p.m. and is to be delivered in the form of a cashier’s check along with a letter of apology for the incident. If the Smith family does not pay the requested sum, the legal team for Foster will move forward with a $1.5 million lawsuit seeking compensatory damages and a $1.5 million lawsuit for punitive damages. How either will hold up in court remains to be seen.

How some college football teams are recognizing Memorial Day on Twitter

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s not Memorial Day until the social media teams at college football programs start pumping out branded Memorial Day messages on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. As expected, teams and conferences are busy at pumping out the social media content for their followers today. Here is a sampling of what has been seen so far.

If you have not already done so, please take a few minutes to read John’s annual Memorial Day post.

This Memorial Day, take time to remember

Getty Images
1 Comment

(Reprinted and reposted with permission for an eighth straight year from, well, me.)

You have to admit that, despite the ongoing partisan slap-fights and political in-fighting and every other really crappy thing going on, we have a pretty damn good life, living in these United States of America.  It’s a far-from-perfect country, but, dammit, it’s ours.  Ours because our own have and will continue to shed their blood in the ultimate sacrifice.  Gave and will continue to give their lives, their hopes, their dreams so that we — and our children and our children’s children and their children — may live and realize ours and theirs.

As you go about your day today, doing whatever it is that you do on Memorial Day, take a second or two or sixty — or more — to reflect on what exactly this day is all about.

Please.  Just take a moment.  Take a moment to God bless those who have given so much.

God bless those who have paid the ultimate price for the freedom we enjoy day-in and day-out.

God bless those hundreds of thousands of millions who’ve lost fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in the ultimate sacrifice paid forward to every single one of us, for our freedoms.

And thank you — thank you, thank you, thank you with every fiber of my being — to those who continue serving this country and keep this great nation safe.

And, again, God bless families torn apart and made lesser by the heartbreaking losses, hellish and unthinkable holes in the soul that allow us to do whatever the hell it is we want to on this day and every other day of the year…