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Pac-12 calls for sweeping change, greater urgency in “Big Five” reform

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The Associated Press obtained a letter sent from Pac-12 university presidents to their colleagues in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC pushing a greater sense of urgency in making sweeping changes to the NCAA model to give more autonomy to “Big Five” schools.

Spurred by Northwestern’s unionization vote, the Pac-12 presidents want to get out of in front of the concerns raised by Kain Colter and the NLRB. The letter, in part, reads:

it is clear from the recent statements of any number of individuals that, while they may share or view that labor unions are not the answer, the time has come for a meaningful response both to the student-athletes’ grievances and the need to reassert the academic primacy of our mission.

The complete list of proposals in the letter are in the AP story, but a few jumped out:

— Decrease the demands placed on the athlete in-season, correspondingly increase the time available for studies and campus life, by preventing the abuse of organized “voluntary” practices to circumvent the limit of 20 hours per week and more realistically assess the time away from campus and other commitments during the season.

— Similarly decrease time demands out of season by reducing out-of-season competition and practices, and by considering shorter seasons in specific sports.

— Further strengthen the Academic Progress Rate requirements for postseason play.

— Liberalize the current rules limiting the ability of student-athletes to transfer between institutions.

The first two there would seem to be designed to provide student-athletes with more time both in and out of season for studying, though perhaps those “voluntary” workouts are so ingrained in college football’s culture that curbing them would be difficult. The same goes for weight training, conditioning, film study, etc. — unless someone is monitoring what a player does 24/7, it’ll be impossible to tell that player to not focus on football outside of practice.

In short: Players still may find a way to spend 40-60 hours a week on football, even if there’s a mandate against it.

Strengthening the APR requirements for postseason play could get interesting — Oklahoma State became the first power conference school to lose practice time due to a poor APR. Programs that don’t place as much emphasis on academics may have to … or they could find loopholes and ways to skate by to stay bowl eligible.

The last one would be a much-welcome change. However that liberalization of the transfer rules would manifest itself, it’d likely be for the better.

There’s more in the letter — more money and longer guarantees for scholarships, extended medical care, allowing some form of agent contact — that the Pac-12 presidents are pushing. They hope to receive responses by June 4 and continue to move quickly on these issues.

“We acknowledge the core objectives could prove to be expensive and controversial, but the risks of inaction or moving too slowly are far greater,” the letter reads. “The time for tinkering with the rules and making small adjustments is over.”

Report: QB Shane Morris to leave Michigan as grad transfer

Shane Morris
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With Wilton Speight seemingly holding down the quarterback position for the foreseeable future, Shane Morris has decided his time at Michigan should come to an end. Reportedly.

According to ESPN.com‘s Tom VanHaaren, Morris is planning to pursue a graduate transfer from UM. Should Morris leave the Wolverines in such a manner, he’d be immediately eligible to play at another FBS school in 2017.

He has one year of eligibility remaining.

Morris came to Ann Arbor with significant hype, a four-star 2013 recruit rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country by 247Sports.com. In four years with the program, he started a total of two games.

The first start came at the end of his true freshman season, with an injury to Devin Gardner opening the door for Morris to start the bowl game that year. His second was memorable as well.

Morris shot to the epicenter of what became a national debate over concussion protocols after his apparently concussed self was reinserted into a mid-October game in 2014. The situation brought significant criticism on the football program, but also led to the Big Ten adopting a conference-wide standard for concussion treatment.

In 2015, Morris not only lost out on the starting job to graduate transfer Jake Rudock but also fell behind Speight on the depth chart. Spight then beat him out for the starting job this season.

Both Speight and John O’Korn, who served as the primary backup in 2016, will return for the 2017 season.

During his time at UM, Morris completed 47 of his 92 pass attempts for 434 yards, zero touchdowns and five interceptions. In mop-up duty this season, he went 4-5 for 45 yards.

Alabama LB Shaun Dion Hamilton reportedly tore an ACL

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03:  Shaun Dion Hamilton #20 of the Alabama Crimson Tide returns an interception in the first quarter against the Florida Gators during the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Shortly after Alabama’s SEC championship game win over Florida Saturday, Nick Saban stated that Shaun Dion Hamilton is “probably going to be out for the year” because of an unspecified knee injury. If one report is accurate, you can take “probably” out of the equation.

Citing unnamed sources, al.com has reported that the starting inside linebacker sustained a torn ACL in his right knee during the win. An MRI confirmed the severity of the injury, although the football program has not yet acknowledged any specifics..

The injury will keep Hamilton sidelined for the College Football Playoff semifinal and, should ‘Bama get past Washington, the championship game as well.

Entering the league title game, Hamilton was second on the Tide in tackles. His 64 tackles are now third on the Tide.

He’ll be replaced in the starting lineup by Rashaan Evans.

Report: USF’s Willie Taggart to be named Oregon’s new coach

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 28: South Florida head coach Willie Taggart celebrates with his team after a first quarter touchdown against the Navy Midshipmen at Raymond James Stadium on October 28, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images)
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It was reported over the weekend that Oregon could have its opening at head coach filling by Tuesday.  A day later than that timeline, it appears the Ducks are on the verge of doing just that.

According to a tweet from ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, Willie Taggart of USF will be named as the next head football coach at Oregon.  No timeframe for an announcement was given.  FootballScoop.com subsequently confirmed the initial report.

The latter site added that Taggart was informed the job was his last night and that the coach wanted to let his Bulls players know today, presumably prior to an announcement being made.

Taggart was interviewed by UO athletic director Rob Mullens in Dallas last Thursday. Tony Dungy, whose son played his football for both the Ducks and Taggart at USF, has publicly stumped for the coach to be hired by the Pac-12 program.

In his fourth season with the Bulls, Taggart has seen his win total increase every year, going from two in his first season in 2013 to four to eight to a 10-win season this year that has another game to go. It’s unlikely Taggart sees this season through, however.

Taggart has also been the head coach at Western Kentucky. After a 2-10 start, he guided the Hilltoppers to a pair of seven-win seasons before leaving for the Bulls.

In addition to Taggart, Boise State’s Bryan Harsin also reportedly interviewed for the Ducks job. The program reportedly offered the position to Matt Rhule, who left Temple after he was named the head coach at Baylor Tuesday.

With Oregon apparently closed, there are no current Power Five jobs open, which seemingly means that P.J. Fleck will be staying at Western Michigan for at least another season. Counting USF, there are currently eight Group of Six jobs that will need to be filled — Cincinnati, FAU, Georgia State, Houston, Nevada, San Jose State, Temple

Jeff Tedford adds four to first Fresno State coaching staff

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 02: Head coach Jeff Tedford of the California Golden Bears argues a call with head linesman James Wharrie during their game against the Washington Huskies at California Memorial Stadium on November 2, 2012 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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After nearly a month on the job, Jeff Tedford has made his first official hires at Fresno State.

Tuesday, Fresno announced that Tedford has added four assistant coaches to his first Bulldogs staff — Jamie Christian (running backs/special teams coordinator), Kirby Moore (wide receivers), Scott Thompson (tight ends) and J.D. Williams (defensive backs). Those four represent nearly one-half of what will be a nine-man coaching staff.

Just two of the four have been position coaches at the FBS level before — Christian and Williams.

The former spent the 2016 season as the running backs coach at UNLV, his second season with the Rebels. Christian has also spent time at FBS programs like Houston (2012-14, special teams coordinator/tight ends/inside receivers), Arizona State (2007-11, special teams coordinator/inside receivers) and Idaho (2006, special teams coordinator/running backs).

The latter was also an assistant at UNLV the past two seasons, serving as the corners coach as well. That was his second stint at UNLV, the first coming 2010-13. He’s also been a defensive backs coach at Utah (2009), Washington (2006-08) and Cal (2002-05).

Moore was an offensive grad assistant at Washington last year, his second year in the profession. Thomas was an offensive assistant at USC in 2016. Prior to that, he held football staff positions at USC (2010-15) and Tennessee (2009).

Christian, Thompson and Williams are all former Bulldogs football players. Williams also served as an assistant at his alma mater (2000-01).