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Rutgers avoids scholarship reductions, other harsh sanctions as NCAA issues ruling

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The Rutgers football program can officially breathe a huge sigh of relief.

As the culmination of a two-year investigation into the football program, the NCAA on Friday announced its final ruling on a case involving Rutgers.  Despite a failure to monitor charge, the NCAA essentially accepted the sanctions the university had previously self-imposed on itself for violations ranging from academic improprieties to drug-testing irregularities to lack of oversight in the recruiting ambassador program.

Below are the original penalties self-imposed by the program:

  • a 1-year probation period
  • a $5,000 fine
  • a reduction of 10 off-campus recruiting days (five in the fall of 2017-18 and five in the spring)
  • a limit of 36 official visits hosted, 26 lower than the limit
  • a 1-week ban on initiating phone calls, contact on social media and written correspondence to recruits

The only change made by the NCAA was bumping the probation period from one year to two.  Additionally, former head coach Kyle Flood, now an assistant with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, received a one-year show-cause.

The NCAA had particularly pointed words for Flood.

“The former head coach took a casual approach to compliance as it relates to the host program,” the panel said in its decision. “He exercised little, if any, oversight of the group, permitting recruiting staff to administer the program with no supervision. As the individual who had ultimate oversight of all aspects of the football program, it is implicit that the head coach was also responsible for the actions of football hosts and, ultimately, the violations they committed.”

In September of 2015, Flood was suspended for three games in the wake of a university investigation into his alleged actions.  The probe centered on an email that Flood sent from a private email account to an RU faculty member regarding the eligibility of one of his former football players.

That situation was highlighted in the committee’s decision:

In the last instance of not following university policy, the former head coach contacted a student-athlete’s instructor, contrary to university policy, to arrange for extra coursework after the conclusion of the term so the student-athlete could pass the class and be eligible for the fall 2015 season. After contacting the instructor and before meeting with her, the former head coach reached out to an academic support administrator, who warned against contacting the instructor. The former head coach stated he was unaware of university policy prohibiting him from contacting faculty members.

The former head coach provided the student-athlete with an impermissible academic extra benefit when he contacted the instructor to arrange extra coursework, an arrangement that is not available generally to the student body. The instructor ultimately did not accept the extra coursework, and the student-athlete was ineligible for the fall 2015 season.

The NCAA kicked off its probe of the football program in the spring of 2015, prior to Flood’s suspension.  The head coach, along with athletic director Julie Hermannwas dismissed in late November of 2015.

Ex-LSU, Rutgers QB Hayden Rettig leaves FCS school, too

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The well-traveled Hayden Rettig is packing his suitcase.  Again.

Earlier this week, it was reported that, at some point this month, Rettig was removed from the roster of the Tennessee Tech football team.  Thursday, Rettig confirmed to nj.com that he had left the FCS program for what were only described as “personal reasons.”

The decision to leave came after Rettig played in his one and only game for Tech, a 27-point loss to Western Illinois in the season opener.

With this move, Rettig’s long, winding journey continues.  To where it will continue remains to be seen.

Rettig, a four-star 2013 recruit, transferred from LSU to Rutgers in June of 2014.  After sitting out that season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws, Rettig played in five games (one start) the next two years; none of those appearances came in 2016.

He was named Academic All-Big Ten following the 2015 season.

In early December of last year, Rettig decided to transfer from RU as well.  Three months after that, he landed at Tennessee Tech.

Big Ten, Conference USA swapping bowl tie-in for 2017

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The middle of September isn’t typically the time that bowl arrangements are tweaked but that doesn’t mean they can’t happen.

Conference USA confirmed details of a bowl tie-in “swap” with the Big Ten on Wednesday, causing a bit of a Texas two-step in the postseason picture for both leagues in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. The move on the Big Ten’s end was originally announced back in May but it appears the CUSA end is just now being confirmed officially.

As a result:

  • A Conference USA team will now play in the Armed Forces Bowl. They’ll play against Army if the Black Knights are eligible,
  • The Big Ten will place a team in Heart of Dallas Bowl against vs. a Big 12 opponent

While the exact reason for the swap is unclear, it certainly makes a little more sense for a Big Ten team to be in Dallas against a fellow Power Five conference like the Big 12. In addition, the Big Ten has not had a team filled a slot in the Heart of Dallas Bowl since 2014 and have actually never scored a victory in the game either.

There was supposed to be a B1G squad in the bowl last season but, because of shortages elsewhere in terms of eligible teams, the game wound up being an Army win over an eventual 5-8 North Texas squad.  Conference USA apparently remains contractually tied to the Heart of Dallas Bowl until 2019, just not this year.

The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 23 in Fort Worth while the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl is slated to be played on Tuesday, Dec. 26.

Jerry Kill back to work at Rutgers after seizure

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A key piece of Chris Ash‘s second coaching staff at Rutgers is back on the job after a brief medical respite.

Over the weekend, RU offensive coordinator Jerry Kill, who had a well-chronicled history with epileptic-related seizures while he was the head coach at Minnesota, was hospitalized after suffering what was described as a minor seizure. It’s believed that the seizure may have been triggered after a player collided with Kill on the sidelines of Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan.

At the time, it was expected that Kill would be back shortly; Tuesday, that came to fruition.

“Jerry is fine, he’s back to work, he was in our offices yesterday working,” Ash said according to nj.com. “As usual, he’ll coach this week, coach the game, and moving forward no concerns at all. It was a minor setback. So we’re excited that Jerry is fine and back in the office, back with our football team.”

Left unsaid is whether Kill will remain on the sidelines for this Saturday’s game against Morgan State as RU looks for its first win of the 2017 season and its first victory since Sept. 17 of last season. That’s a streak of 11 straight losses for the Scarlet Knights, for those curious.

According to Ash, Saturday’s seizure was the 56-year-old Kill’s first in two years. In late October of 2015, Kill stepped down as the Golden Gophers head coach, citing increasing health concerns connected to the seizures. At the press conference announcing his decision to step down, Kill stated that he had suffered two seizures the day before on his way to practice.

Kill is in his first season as the Scarlet Knights’ coordinator.

Big Ten releases 2020-21 conference schedules

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We don’t even know yet how the 2017 season will shake out, but we can already pencil in how we think the 2020-21 Big Ten seasons will play out.

The conference released its league schedule for both seasons, which can be found here and here. And while it’s useless to break down the relative strengths and weaknesses of a season three and four years in the future, these schedules are notable in one way:

The Big Ten is going all-in on the opening weekend.

Following the success of this year’s Ohio State at Indiana opener, the Big Ten has stacked more games to be played on Labor Day weekend. The 2020 season will feature Northwestern at Michigan State, Purdue at Nebraska and Indiana at Wisconsin on Sept. 5.

The 2021 season will open with Michigan State at Northwestern, Ohio State at Minnesota, Indiana at Iowa and Penn State at Wisconsin on Sept. 4.

All games are scheduled for Saturday for now; TV will make its Thursday and Friday designations (of which there will be a few) as the games actually approach. Three and four years from now.