Rutgers Announces Move to Big Ten Conference

B1G backing for Pac-12 on autonomy push

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Since it’s one of those slow weekend days in the offseason, we figured we’d share a statement from the Big Ten.

In it, the (kinda) Midwest conference addresses the autonomy issue that SEC commissioner Mike Slive stumped for late this past week while also (again) dropping the “D-IV” thermonuclear option.  In said Sunday address, the Big Ten essentially locked arms with the Pac-12 and its letter last month urging the Power Five conferences — ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC — to make sweeping changes to the current NCAA athletic model, especially as it relates to football and men’s basketball.

While there was no direct secession talk in the Big Ten’s statement, there was certainly the hint that, as Slive stated Friday, all options would be considered if the NCAA steering committee and/or the Board of Directors vote thumbs down on the autonomy issue in August and fail send it to the full membership for a vote next January.

The statement comes at the conclusion of the June meeting of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors (COP/C). That (very lengthy) statement appears below, in its entirety:

The Big Ten COP/C discussed a variety of important topics during its annual June meeting, while taking part in an open house and tour of the new conference office building in Rosemont, honoring outgoing presidents and welcoming new presidents. Key areas of discussion focused on NCAA restructuring, the need for autonomy for the 65 institutions comprising the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, and ensuring accountability for delivering reform. While the NCAA Board of Directors’ Steering Committee on Governance has made good progress in the area of autonomy, more work needs to be done as we seek to implement a 21st century governance structure that preserves the collegiate model while allowing each school to focus on improved student-athlete welfare.

As such, the COP/C discussed the recent letter shared by the Pac-12 presidents with their colleagues on May 14. The Big Ten has been engaged in substantive discussion over the last year on many of the principal objectives for reform referenced in the Pac-12 document, including concepts presented by Commissioner Delany to media last July in Chicago along with meetings and teleconferences in October, December and February. The majority of these objectives have long been supported by the Big Ten and its member institutions.

The Big Ten continues to strongly support full cost of attendance scholarships, reasonable on-going medical or insurance assistance to student-athletes, continued efforts to reduce the incidence of disabling injury, guaranteed scholarships to complete a bachelor’s degree, decreased time demands and enhanced time to fully engage in campus life, adjusted restrictions on preparing for careers based on advice and counsel of agents and a meaningful role in governance for student-athletes.

The COP/C also examined three other principal objectives for reform proposed by the Pac-12 presidents – strengthening the Academic Progress Rate (APR) requirements for post-season play, the “one and done” culture in men’s basketball and liberalizing current limits on transfer rules. While the concept of increasing APR requirements has not been discussed in the past, the Big Ten has long supported increased academic standards for all institutions. With respect to the issues of the “one and done” culture and transfer rules, the COP/C agrees that these are important issues that should be examined and addressed in cogent ways.

In addition to the substantive concepts raised in the Pac-12 letter, the conference continues to support certain procedural elements of governance restructuring including increased inclusion of faculty representatives, a voting process that does not set a bar so high that it prohibits change, and the ability to interpret and waive autonomous rules. The COP/C looks forward to further discourse on these topics with our colleagues in other conferences and Big Ten faculty, administrators, student-athletes and coaches, as we continue to discuss the best use of autonomy to give more than 9,500 conference student-athletes the support they deserve to best shape their future.

The COP/C also received an update on the traumatic brain injury (TBI) research collaboration between the conference, the Consortium on Intercollegiate Cooperation, and the Ivy League. The collaboration, begun in June 2012, continues to foster multi-institutional, cross-conference research efforts centered on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of TBI and sports concussion. The COP/C also reviewed the recently announced joint initiative for concussion research between the NCAA and Department of Defense, a $30 million initiative that will include research managed at three Big Ten institutions: Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

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.