Brian Kelly

Is Notre Dame football getting a raw deal with ACC partnership?

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Notre Dame’s decision to leave the Big East as it was crumbling led to a new deal with the ACC that would provide a conference home for all sports except football and ice hockey. As far as Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is concerned, the Irish may be getting the short end of the stick of the deal compared to the rest of the athletic programs in South Bend.

“Football had to give up a little bit, relative to flexibility and scheduling by taking on with the ACC,” Kelly told Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports in a recent podcast interview. “Therefore, it’s put us in a very difficult situation scheduling and unfortunately it’s taken some of the schools like a Michigan and Michigan State, off our schedule. Because we’re going to keep Navy, we’re going to keep Stanford and we’re going to keep USC. Those three schools are not coming off and those are etched in stone. So now, add your ACC schools with those three schools and you’re really limited as to where you can go.”

Notre Dame’s scheduling agreement with the ACC requires the Irish to play as many as five ACC opponents each season, with Notre Dame rotating through the conference on a yearly basis to allow every school to get a chance to have Notre Dame on the schedule. The more important part of the deal for Notre Dame is the ability to retain its football independence, which allows for a separate television deal (with NBC) and has been of significant value to the university for years.

As a result of the scheduling agreement with the ACC, Notre Dame will play five games against ACC opponents each season in addition to the previously referenced match-ups with traditional rivals Navy, Stanford and USC. That helps keep the Irish playing west coast teams every season and ensures a steady east coast presence as well. Although Notre Dame resides in the thick of the Big Ten and the midwest, the importance of getting exposure coast to coast is not to be overlooked for recruiting and media rights negotiations in the future. If that means football, the most visible and noteworthy program in the athletic department needs to give a little for the benefit of the rest of the university and department, that is just what has to happen. Kelly understands that.

“All I can do is voice my – as a football coach, and especially one that’s been in the Midwest, I love the ability to play Michigan and Michigan State and the tradition of it, but the reality of it is for our athletic department to enter into the agreement with the ACC we have to give up a little bit from a football perspective relative to scheduling,” Kelly told Feldman. “And to make our athletic department whole, relative to soccer and lacrosse and basketball, that ACC agreement was absolutely crucial for our athletic teams.”

So is Notre Dame football getting the raw deal here? Hardly. The Irish can take advantage of the ACC’s bowl tie-ins under certain circumstances and will benefit by having that exposure in the east and southeast in addition to the west coast and any other national opponents Notre Dame ends up scheduling. Notre Dame has always attempted to schedule nationally and that is not going to change. In fact, in an era where some conferences have increased the number of conference games or scheduling commitments, having the security of the ACC scheduling arrangement actually helps Notre Dame move into this new era with a bit more ease and less stress on having to schedule games against quality opponents. With five guaranteed games against the ACC and commitments to play Stanford and USC, Notre Dame is in much better shape than another independent program (BYU) is dealing with right now. And with Notre Dame being formally recognized as an opponent equal to a power conference opponent to satisfy non-conference scheduling requirements, the Irish remain in a uniquely position in the new college football era.

You can listen to the full podcast conversation between Kelly and Feldman on FOXSports.com.

Helmet sticker to Dr. Saturday.

Temple adds recent NFL assistant, long-time college coach

MIAMI - 2009:  George DeLeone of the Miami Dolphins poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by NFL Photos)
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With the Cleveland Browns (again) changing regimes, George DeLeone found himself on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  A couple of weeks later, DeLeone is back on the inside, and in a familiar locale at that.

While the school has yet to officially confirm it, the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that DeLeone has been added to Matt Rhule‘s coaching staff at Temple.  Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com subsequently confirmed the report.

According to both outlets, DeLeone will serve as the Owls’ running-game coordinator.

The past two seasons, DeLeone worked as an assistant line coach with the Browns.  Prior to that, however, the vast majority of his 46-year coaching career had been spent at the collegiate level.  And a sizable chunk of that time was spent in the Northeast.

DeLeone’s first FBS job came at Rutgers from 1980-83.  Two different stints at Syracuse (1985-96, 1998-2004) were sandwiched between his the job at the NFL level with the Miami Dolphins (1997).  Temple was his home from 2006-07, and then UConn from 2011-13 before the Browns called.

Demoted by BC, Todd Fitch takes over as LaTech’s OC

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 19:  Head coach Skip Holtz of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs objects to a call during the first half of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 19, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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A promotion in 2015 was quickly followed by a demotion a year later for Todd Fitch.  Not long after the latter went down, Fitch left town for a fresh start to his coaching career.

Friday, Skip Holtz announced that Fitch has been hired as his offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech.  Additionally, Fitch will serve as the wide receivers coach for the Bulldogs.

Fitch had spent the past three seasons at Boston College, first as receivers coach and passing-game coordinator in 2013-14 before being promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2015.  However, BC head coach Steve Addazio announced in mid-January that he had hired Scott Loeffler as his coordinator, effectively demoting Fitch back to receivers coach.

Three weeks later, Fitch headed south.

“I am excited to be joining a staff that is part of growing something special,” Fitch said. “This coaching staff has laid the groundwork for a program that has already done some great things and is building a foundation for future success. I am excited for the opportunity to be on a staff with Skip Holtz again and to keep growing this program.”

In addition to BC, Fitch had also been a coordinator at East Carolina and USF. Holtz was the head coach at both of those stops.

San Jose State QB Malik Watson latest to take grad transfer route

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  The San Jose State Spartans marching band plays their fight song against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the second quarter on November 29, 2013 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, California.  The Spartans won 62-52.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a college football player has decided to ply his final season of college football wares elsewhere.

The latest to take that tack is Malik Watson, who announced via Twitter that he has “decided that I will not be returning to San Jose State for my senior and will be seeking elsewhere to pursue my dream.”  As Watson will graduate from SJSU this May, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2016 if he lands at another FBS school and enrolls in a grad program not offered at his former school.

Watson added that, as he awaits a new destination, he “will continue to train with my private QB coach in this meantime.”

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A California high school product who was born in Hawaii, Watson transferred from the junior college ranks to SJSU in 2014. After redshirting that first year, the 6-3, 208-pound Watson played in two games as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart.

In that time, Watson completed 9-of-15 passes for 59 yards and an interception. Of the 15 attempts, 14 came in the Week 3 loss to Oregon State.

Illini grad transfer T.J. Neal to visit WVU, Auburn

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMPER 27: Linebacker T.J. Neal #52 of the Illinois Fighting Illini arches of running back Ameer Abdullah #8 of the Nebraska Cornhuskersduring their game at Memorial Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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T.J. Neal does not yet know where he will continue his collegiate career, but it appears the linebacker has significantly narrowed the field.

A little less than two weeks ago, Neal, after being told by the coaching staff that they were planning to move him from middle to strongside linebacker, decided to transfer out of the Illinois football program.  As he will be a graduate transfer upon earning his degree in May, Neal will be eligible to play at another FBS program in 2016.

Enter West Virginia and Auburn, two teams which have been in contact with Neal and vice versa.  According to al.com, Neal will visit Morgantown this coming Monday, then head to The Plains a week later.

Upon the announcement of an impending departure, Illini head coach Bill Cubit said the Pennsylvania native “was talking about playing closer to home.”  Even as a move to Auburn would be the exact opposite of that, Neal seems genuinely excited over the prospects.

“Being able to play down there in Alabama, it’s like a dream come true,” Neal told Brandon Marcello of al.com. “From my high school, I never thought I’d play at a big-time school like Auburn. To have a chance now, it’s exciting to play against some of the top players in the country.”

According to blueandgoldsports.com, Penn State and Pittsburgh are/were also in play. It’s unclear if he’s visited or plans to visit those schools in his home state, although it was originally thought that the Nittany Lions could be high on Neal’s to-do list.

Not only is Neal a native of McKeesport, Pa., but Tim Banks, the Illini’s co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach the past four seasons, left in December to become the Nittany Lions’ coordinator.  PSU has also seen a pair of linebackers, Troy Reeder and Gary Wooten Jr., transfer out this month, meaning the opportunity for a starting job would certainly be on the table.

Regardless, Neal expects to make a decision shortly after the Feb. 15 visit to Auburn. He would then enroll in his new school of choice shortly after his graduation from Illinois.

Neal was a two-year starter for the Illini who finished second on the team in tackles (109) this past season.  He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten for his play in 2015.