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Tracy Claeys fired at Minnesota

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Minnesota AD Mark Coyle has fired head coach Tracy Claeys after a highly publicized come-to-Jesus meeting, the program confirmed on Tuesday.

Claeys actually excelled on the field this season, booking a better-than-expected 9-4 mark on the year.

But AD Mark Coyle, who arrived from Syracuse over the off-season and has embraced Claeys at arm’s length ever since, was never impressed with the direction of the Gophers’ program. The players’ highly-publicized threatened boycott of the Holiday Bowl did not help matters, a fact Claeys acknowledged when he told the club he’d be fired if the team did not make the trip to San Diego. (They did, and they won the game to boot.)

Coyle released a lengthy statement announcing the firing:

I made a difficult decision today on behalf of the University of Minnesota. With the support of Board of Regents’ leadership and President Eric Kaler, I have decided to take the Gophers football team in a different direction with new coaching leadership.

I determined that the football program must move in a new direction to address challenges in recruiting, ticket sales and the culture of the program. We need strong leadership to take Gopher football to the next level and address these challenges.

This decision is about the future of Minnesota football.

Moving forward, we need a leader who sets high expectations athletically, academically, and socially.

I also want to address the unfortunate blurring of the football suspension decision.

On December 13, 2016, Coach Claeys, Deputy Athletics Director John Cunningham and I met to discuss 10 student-athletes.

I informed Coach Claeys of my judgment that athletic suspensions were appropriate.

Without any objection, Coach Claeys said he understood that decision to bench student-athletes.

Coach Claeys, Deputy Athletics Director John Cunningham, and I met with the student-athletes to advise them of our decision. Coach Claeys subsequently informed me that he agreed with the suspension decision.
And let me be clear: this was the right thing to do.

Coach Claeys’ Tweet later that week was not helpful. I accept that Coach Claeys intended it to support the boycotting players. Understandably others did not see it that way. I hope you will appreciate I cannot say more about the athletic suspensions in this case.

I will say, as a general matter, athletic suspension decisions – essentially a decision to bench a player – are different from a prosecutor’s decision to charge someone with a crime.

Different standards, different policies.

An athletic suspension decision is also different from a panel decision whether there has been a student conduct code violation.

Different standards, different policies.

For example, we suspend student-athletes for attitude problems. We suspend student-athletes while criminal investigations are ongoing. We suspend student-athletes when University investigators present credible evidence of inappropriate conduct. What happens in a student conduct process is not for me to say. Like the U and all involved, I simply want a just and fair process. That is not determined by who prevails; if justice is done, then the University of Minnesota and the public win, no matter the outcome.

Again, this has been a difficult decision. I thank Coach Claeys and his staff for their years of service. Coaches Dan O’Brien and Mike Sherels have agreed to remain during the coaching transition to ensure that our student-athletes have strong and active leadership in the interim.

While Coyle defended the decision to remove Claeys, his players ripped it — and him.

Claeys took over the program in the middle of last season after Jerry Kill stepped down for health reasons. He led the Gophers to an 11-8 overall mark with wins in the Quick Lane and Holiday bowls.

But it’s clear Coyle wanted his own man to run the program, with speculation he could target Bryan Harsin for the role. The pair worked together at Boise State before Coyle left for Syracuse.

Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.