It has been a rough evening for Northwestern football fans, and head coach Pat Fitzgerald. In a matter of minutes news broke the Wildcats will be losing top offensive player Venric Mark to a transfer and one of the top wide receivers, Christian Jones, will miss the entire 2014 season due to a knee injury.
Mark’s desire to transfer comes as a shock for Northwestern, this despite a recent suspension to start the 2014 season. Mark was suspended for Northwestern’s first two games of the season for a violation of team policy. Mark only played in three games last season, but he led the Wildcats in rushing with 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. A desire to play closer to home is what Mark is seeking now. Mark is a native of Texas, which could open the door to a number of programs at the FCS or FBS level. Mark only has one year of eligibility remaining. The NCAA granted a fifth year of eligibility due to his injury in 2013.
“Northwestern has been an indescribable experience for me,” Mark said in a release, per CSN Chicago. “It has been my home for four years, and has molded me into the man I am. I’m one class shy of the Northwestern degree I’ve worked so hard for, and I will graduate. I’m devastated to leave my second home, but life is full of challenges and I’ve been presented with another one. Right now this is what is best for me and my family.”
As for Jones, the Wildcats are losing last season’s leading receiver. Jones recorded 668 receiving yards and four touchdowns. His production may not be as difficult to replace as Mark’s on th ground, but it does hurt the veteran depth at the position for Northwestern in the fall.
The curious case of Francis Bernard has taken yet another twist.
In mid-August, it was announced that Francis Bernard, a 12-game starter at linebacker for BYU in 2016, would miss the entire 2017 season because of unspecified “personal reasons.” Very early Saturday morning, Bernard (pictured, No. 13) was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, driving without a valid license and failing to register his vehicle/having an expired registration.
With him during the traffic stop was teammate Marvin Hifo, who was cited for having an open container.
Monday, Kalani Sitake was asked about the situation. In addressing it, the head coach revealed that both players had previously left the team in the last couple of weeks — Bernard withdrew from school and requested a release from his scholarship, while Hifo, a senior defensive back, decided to simply quit.
Notably, Sitake seemingly indicated that, as of at least a couple of weeks ago, he was leaving the door open for a potential Bernard return at some point in the future.
“[Bernard] was looking at all of his options, and one of them was possibly returning here with a release in hand,” the coach said according to the Deseret News. “I wish him the best in finding what is the best place for him and I care about him.”
Bernard was third on the Cougars last season in tackles. Should he continue playing football at the collegiate level, he would presumably be a fourth-year junior in 2018.
Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something. Regardless, it’s something that bears watching.
Losers of two in a row and off to a 3-3 start to the season, Florida has underperformed and underwhelmed to say the least. So much so, in fact, that head coach Jim McElwain indicated Monday that he, his family, his coaching staff and players have been subjected to death threats by unknown individuals.
The head coach went into no detail publicly regarding the nature of the threats. Apparently, it was the same privately when discussing the situation with his employer.
Again, it could be in the same neighborhood as naked shark humping — nothing. Bears watching, though, as one very outspoken member of the Florida media is very much already doing publicly about a situation that was apparently reported to the media before it was reported to the police or even the university.
Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.
The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.
Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.
Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.
“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”
Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.
How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.
“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”
In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.