North Carolina Tar Heels

Getty Images

Ex-North Carolina LB Tommy Thigpen returns to Tar Heels as assistant

Leave a comment

For the umpteenth time in the last couple of months, a coach has proven you can indeed go home again.

In a press release, North Carolina announced Tuesday that Tommy Thigpen has been hired as part of Larry Fedora‘s Tar Heels’ coaching staff.  Just what specific title Thigpen will hold or duties he’ll perform weren’t specified by the program.

Thigpen played linebacker for the Tar Heels from 1989-1993 and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UNC from 1998-99.  He also served as a linebackers coach at his alma mater from 2005-08.

“We are excited to bring Tommy back to Carolina,” Fedora said in a statement. “He will bring intensity into the building both as a coach and as a recruiter, and I know he has a great passion for this program and this University. We welcome him, his wife Jacinda and their two daughters back into the Tar Heel family.”

“I am very thankful to be coming back home and even more thankful to Coach Fedora for giving me the opportunity to be a part of his staff,” said Thigpen.

The last five seasons, Thigpen was the linebackers coach at Tennessee.  From 2009-2012, he was an assistant at Auburn.

Mack Brown, Frank Beamer, Ed Reed highlight College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018

Getty Images
1 Comment

Some very familiar names highlight the most recent additions to the College Football Hall of Fame.

In conjunction with the Hall, the National Football Foundation announced Monday morning a total of 13 individuals — 10 players and three coaches — who will be inducted as part of the Class of 2018.  One of those, Michigan’s Charles Woodson, was announced as an inductee on ESPN’s NFL pregame show Sunday.

Below are the baker’s dozen inductees:

TREVOR COBB – RB, Rice (1989-92)
KERRY COLLINS – QB, Penn State (1991-94)
DAVE DICKENSON – QB, Montana (1992-95)
DANA HOWARD – LB, Illinois (1991-94)
CALVIN JOHNSON – WR, Georgia Tech (2004-06)
PAUL PALMER – RB, Temple (1983-86)
ED REED – DB, Miami [Fla.] (1998-2001)
MATT STINCHCOMB – OT, Georgia (1995-98)
AARON TAYLOR – C/OG, Nebraska (1994-97)
CHARLES WOODSON – DB, Michigan (1995-97)

FRANK BEAMER – 280-144-4 (65.9%); Murray State (1981-86), Virginia Tech (1987-2015)
MACK BROWN – 244-122-1 (66.6%); Appalachian State (1983), Tulane (1985-87), North Carolina (1988-97), Texas (1998-2013)
MEL TJEERDSMA – 242-82-4 (74.4%); Austin College [Texas] (1984-93), Northwest Missouri State (1994-2010)

“We are extremely proud to announce the 2018 College Football Hall of Fame Class,” said College Football Hall of Famer and NFF chairman Archie Manning in a statement. “Each of these men has established himself among the absolute best to have ever played or coached the game, and we look forward to immortalizing their incredible accomplishments.”

The newest class will be inducted Dec. 4 of this year at the annual NFF awards dinner.

UNC linebacker Andre Smith heading off to NFL

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

North Carolina linebacker Andre Smith will pass on his final year of eligibility to go play in the NFL in 2018. UNC officially announced Smith’s intention to declare for the NFL Draft on Sunday, and Smith shared the new son his Twitter account.

Smith started 17 games for the Tar Heels but missed most of the 2017 season after going down with a season-ending knee injury in a September 9 game against Louisville. SMith’s college career ends with 187 tackles, a pair of sacks and two interceptions. In 2016, Smith averaged 8.7 tackles per game. He had 21 tackles in two games this season, including a 73-yard interception return against Cal.

Given his recent injury history, it makes sense to go into the NFL Draft now rather than return to play college football next season. Returning for another season may have served his NFL Draft stock well if he was at full strength for a full season and proved an ability to come back from the knee injury, but if the advice of those he trusts suggested he would fare well in the draft next spring, then there is little incentive for coming back next season.

NCAA grants extra year for North Carolina linebacker after appeal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s not every day that you hear the NCAA has granted a waiver for another season for a football player, much less because charges for sexual assault were dismissed.

That’s the case at North Carolina however as the NCAA has given Tar Heels linebacker Allen Artis another season of eligibility, after he was suspended for most of the 2016 season by the program after misdemeanor charges for sexual battery and assault were filled against him but later dismissed.

“We asked the Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee to restore Allen Artis’ 2016 season of competition, and the committee has done so,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham told the Associated Press.

Artis will have to sit out two games in 2018 for the team as he played in the same number prior to his suspension.

The senior was reinstated by the team this past July and played in the 2017 campaign after charges were thrown out by the local district attorney earlier in the summer. Artis recorded 11 tackles on the year as a backup but did play in all 12 games for the Tar Heels.

James Madison signs head coach Mike Houston to 10-year extension

James Madison athletics
Leave a comment

This won’t stop bigger programs from sniffing around its head coach, but James Madison is doing its best to show its commitment to the man.

The FCS powerhouse announced Tuesday that it has reached an agreement on a 10-year contract extension with Mike Houston. The new deal would technically keep Houston with the Dukes through the 2027 season.

Houston’s old contract had him signed through the 2021 season.

“Mike Houston has proven to be the perfect fit as football coach at James Madison University, and we are thrilled that the Houston family has found JMU to be its perfect home,” JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne said in a statement. “While Mike’s accomplishments on the field speak loudly, his most valuable role is guiding the student-athletes in our program, teaching them about leadership and about life, helping them to succeed in the classroom and building a culture of genuine care and compassion for each other. We look forward to many more victories on and off the field with Mike Houston at James Madison.”

Houston is in the midst of his second season as the sideline boss of the football program. In those two years, the Dukes have gone 27-1, with the lone loss coming to North Carolina in the third game of the 2016 season. He is 26-0 vs. FCS teams, capping his first season with a national championship by beating five-time defending champion North Dakota State.

JMU has also won 25 straight games, the second-longest winning streak in FCS history, behind only NDSU’s 33-game streak from 2012 through 2014.

Houston has the Dukes zeroing in on back-to-back titles, with top-seed JMU facing fifth-seed South Dakota State Saturday afternoon in one of the two FCS semifinal matchups.

“James Madison is a special place. Amanda, our boys and I want to be here and consider this home,” Houston said. “JMU approached me in the second half of the regular season to discuss an extended contract. During negotiations, there was significant interest from multiple FBS programs. Throughout the process, JMU was proactive in wanting to make a long-term commitment while ensuring that our staff could remain intact. I’ve turned down opportunities at the FBS level, and I did it because I believe in James Madison University. I believe in the leadership of Jeff Bourne, Senior Vice President Charlie King and President Jonathan Alger. I believe in their vision for our university and our athletics programs. I also believe in our student-athletes, everyone in athletics who supports us and the passionate fan base that cheers for us. I am committed to ensuring that the JMU football program is one that is a reflection of our outstanding institution. I’m committed to staying here because JMU is different.”