Michael Sam

Missouri honored by SEC for support of Michael Sam

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One of the best parts of the Michael Sam story at Missouri, where Sam informed his teammates he was gay and nobody made a peep about it the entire season, was how respectful the entire football program was of a historic moment in sports. Sam became the first openly gay football player at the highest level of college football and later went on to become the first openly gay football player drafted by an NFL team, the St. Louis Rams. Now the entire program is being recognized for how it handled Sam and his news.

The SEC awarded Missouri’s football team with a sportsmanship award for how the entire team responded and respected Sam’s wishes to keep the focus on football last fall. In this day and age of instant news and social media and networking, to keep this a secret among the entire team is a testament to the commitment to the team each person associated with the Tigers had, although former quarterback James Franklin said it was more about acceptance instead of support. What makes it even more impressive is the fact the Tigers made a run to the SEC Championship Game, garnering more and more attention from the media along the way in the SEC, the top conference in college football. Sam opened up to his team, asked for it to be kept private until he was ready to go public with it, and everybody bought in, from the players to the coaches.

“Sportsmanship, civility and social responsibility are marks of character that last a lifetime,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive in a release from the SEC. “We are proud of these teams from Missouri, Tennessee and Georgia and the women’s golf coaches of the SEC for setting an example for us all.”

The sportsmanship award is voted on by the SEC’s athletic directors. The football teams at Tennessee and South Carolina were each awarded the male sportsmanship award in 2013. Sam was presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in May.

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).

Deshaun Watson wins Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 31:  Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates after throwing a touchdown during their game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on October 31, 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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He probably won’t win the sport’s most important individual award, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson took home a nice consolation prize on Tuesday.

Watson was announced as the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the top senior or fourth-year junior quarterback in college football. A three-year starter for the Tigers, Watson has completed 775-of-1,115 career passes for 9,489 yards with 86 touchdowns against 30 interceptions while also adding 1,829 yards and 23 scores on the ground.

Most importantly, he’s led Clemson to back-to-back ACC championships and consecutive trips to the College Football Playoff. His 2nd-ranked Tigers will face No. 3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31.

Watson was named a Heisman Trophy finalist on Monday for a season in which he’s thrown for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Recent winners of the Unitas award are Colt McCoyAndrew LuckMarcus Mariota and, in 2015, Connor Cook. Watson will accept the honor at a ceremony in Baltimore on Friday night before jetting up for the Heisman ceremony on Saturday.

Navy to don 1963 throwbacks vs. Army on Saturday

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 13:  Brendan Dudeck #81 of the Navy Midshipmen carries the American flag on the field before the start of their game against the Army Black Knights at M&T Bank Stadium on December 13, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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On Monday, Army displayed the World War II-themed uniforms the Black Knights will wear against Navy on Saturday.

On Tuesday, it was Navy’s turn.

With President-elect Donald Trump in attendance, the Midshipmen will put their 14-game winning streak on the line by channeling one of the best Navy teams of all-time — the 1963 bunch.

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That 1963 team was led by Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach and finished the season ranked No. 2 in both polls, falling to No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

The ’63 game remains one of the most memorable in the 116-year history of the game, played on the insistence of Jacqueline Kennedy amid talk of canceling the contest following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

And, oh by the way, Navy won that fabled game, 21-15.