Northwestern Wildcats

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WATCH: Pat Fitzgerald went nuts celebrating basketball team’s historic tournament win

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Northwestern won its first NCAA tournament game in program history on Thursday with a victory over Vanderbilt in first round action. After such a thrilling experience on the court that Northwestern fans for decades have only been able to dream about, the Wildcats had to regroup and focus on the next objective at hand in the tournament. Football coach Pat Fitzgerald was having none of that. He wanted to hulk out and celebrate with the entire basketball team.

As Northwestern men’s basketball coach Chris Collins attempted to get his team to focus on No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the second round, a somewhat familiar voice chimed in with his feedback to remind the team they are among the best teams in the country. This is the moment players in the room recognized the football coach was in the room. As they thanked the coach for his compliment, Fitzgerald made his way through a group of people to hulk out in celebration.

Fitzgerald knows a thing or two about breaking some droughts at Northwestern. In 2012, Fitzgerald coached Northwestern to the first bowl victory in school history since the 1948 season. He added a second bowl victory this past bowl season, meaning that for the first time in school history the students got to celebrate a bowl victory and a victory in the NCAA tournament in the same academic year. That used to be just a dream scenario for decades in Evanston.

If Northwestern can pull the upset of Gonzaga, hopefully somebody will keep a camera locked in on Fitzgerald for his reaction.

Northwestern adds Oregon WR Jalen Brown as grad transfer

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High school seniors won’t be the only new additions to Pat Fitzgerald‘s Northwestern roster.

NU announced via a press release Thursday morning that the football program has added Jalen Brown to its personnel ranks.  Brown is expected to graduate from Oregon in June, meaning he’ll be eligible to play for the Wildcats immediately in 2017.

In addition to the upcoming season, the wide receiver will also have a second year of eligibility that he could use in 2018 if he so chooses.

Last season, Brown was fifth on the Ducks in receiving yards (318) and receiving touchdowns (three), while his 19 receptions were good for sixth.  His 16.7 yards per catch was tops on the team for players who had 10-plus receptions.

Brown, a four-star 2014 recruit, finishes his Ducks career with 26 catches for 407 yards and four touchdowns.

According to the school, Brown will pursue a master’s degree in sport administration at NU.

NLRB general counsel says private college football players are employees

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The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board released a memo Tuesday stating he believed football players at private colleges qualify as employees.

Published Wednesday by Inside Higher Education, NLRB general counsel Richard Griffin wrote to the organization’s regional directors that “scholarship football players in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision private-sector colleges and universities are employees,” according to his interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act.

While nothing in Griffin’s memo is legally binding, it is a step forward to end amateurization in college football.

“It’s definitely historic,” Ramogi Huma told IHE. “By declaring that these athletes are employees, the general counsel is saying that his office is committed to protecting college athletes’ employee rights under the labor laws, and I think that can’t be understated. It’s what the players at Northwestern set in motion, and this is a major milestone.”

Huma led unionization efforts at Northwestern in 2014, an effort that initially resulted in a win for Wildcats players before a reversal ruled in favor of the school in 2015.

However, Griffin wrote Tuesday that FBS players “clearly satisfy the broad definition of employee and the common-law test.”

“Scholarship football players should be protected [by the NLRA] when they act concertedly to speak out about aspects of their terms and conditions of employment,” he wrote. “This includes, for example, any actions to: advocate for greater protections against concussive head trauma and unsafe practice methods, reform NCAA rules so that football players can share in the profit derived from their talents, or self-organize.”

He continued: “We determine here that the application of the statutory definition of employee and the common-law test lead to the conclusion that Division I FBS scholarship football players are employees under the NLRA, and that they therefore have the right to be protected from retaliation when they engage in concerted activities for mutual aid and protection. It is our hope that by making our prosecutorial position known, we will assist private colleges and universities to comply with their obligations under the act.”

The NCAA’s general counsel Donald Remy disagreed with Griffin’s stance, of course. His entire organization foundationally exists to disagree with Griffin’s stance. “The NLRB previously decided that it would not exercise jurisdiction regarding the employment context of student-athletes and their schools,” Remy told IHE. “The general counsel’s memo does not change that decision and does not allow student-athletes to unionize. Students who participate in college athletics are students, not employees.”

Big Ten National Signing Day recap: Ohio State lands historic class, Michigan not far behind

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The Big Ten is the same as it ever was after National Signing Day with Ohio State and Michigan once again leading the way thanks to a boat load of talent headed their way. Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh both have proven to be some of the top coaches in college football and that is certainly apparent every February when the two land a pair of top five classes like they did this year.

The Buckeyes’ haul is particularly notable as one of the few groups that can keep pace with No. 1 ranked Alabama, even edging the Tide’s class when it comes to the average star ranking of the 21 signees. That historic haul for OSU includes the top cornerback, outside linebacker, offensive guard and top junior college defensive back. As if that isn’t enough talent headed to Columbus, the second-ranked defensive end, dual-threat quarterback and all-purpose back are also in the fold.

The Wolverines were no slouch either and managed to already enroll 11 top players early. In addition, Harbaugh and his staff reached into the South for defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon and several IMG Academy stars. Defending champion Penn State made a late surge as well and Nebraska made a very nice push into Southern California to land a quality class.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 7 overall Jeffrey Okudah (CB, Ohio State), No. 8 overall Chase Young (DE, OSU), No. 11 Baron Browning (LB, OSU), No. 12 overall Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR, Michigan)

Top 25 classes: No. 2 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan, No. 15 Penn State, No. 18 Maryland, No. 23 Nebraska

Biggest storyline: Ohio State, Michigan find plenty of success nationally

Everybody knows the two Big Ten powerhouses will perform well on the recruiting trail given their coaching staffs, history of success and ability to put players in the league. But what might be most impressive this year is the amazing reach the two displayed in mining the entire country for talent. Meyer went to Nevada for a top quarterback, landed more blue-chippers from Texas than any in-state school and beat out just about everybody in the South for prospects from Florida. The Wolverines, meanwhile, beat out Alabama and Georgia for a five-star defensive tackle and recruited even more nationally than Notre Dame with signees from 14 different states.

Biggest surprise: Maryland lands a top 20 class

There’s always a head-turner in the team rankings each year and in 2017 that might be the fact that Maryland landed a top 20 classes and the fourth-best in the Big Ten. That includes a whopping nine four-star recruits for D.J. Durkin’s team, led by tailback Cordarrian Richardson straight from the heart of SEC territory. The team had a nice turnaround last season and appear primed to climb more based on how they did Wednesday.

Don’t sleep on: Nebraska, Iowa

Mike Riley is no stranger to the West Coast thanks to his days at USC and Oregon State and he’s clearly leaning heavily on those ties in putting together a great group for the Cornhuskers in 2017. Big Red wrestled away Nevada receiver Tyjon Lindsey away from Ohio State and beat out a bunch of names for early enrollee quarterback Tristan Gebbia from Southern California. There’s been a major infusion of speed and quickness with this class. As for the Hawkeyes, they managed to lure a surprising commitment from a five-star defensive end and really upgraded some of the skill position talent.

We’ll see about: Michigan State, Wisconsin

The usual suspects dominated the top spots in the team rankings but that wasn’t quite the case for two teams that love to recruit, develop and then crank out talent for the next level in Michigan State and Wisconsin. The two schools combined for just six four-star players on Wednesday but still managed to finish with a pair of top 40 classes. Given how well the coaching staffs have been able to find some hidden gems, chances are high that will be the case once again with their 2017 signees, even if it takes a few seasons before those results will be realized.

Les Miles reportedly ‘out’ as a candidate at Western Michigan

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Well, at least theoretically it was fun while it lasted.

In a television interview Wednesday, former LSU head coach Les Miles intimated that he would be open to the Western Michigan job if it was offered. Based on one report, there will be no decision for the Mad Hatter to weigh.

How serious a candidate, if at all, Miles was remains to be seen — FootballScoop.com noted they had heard the two sides spoke earlier in the week — although it always just seemed like he would end up in broadcasting for a year before getting back into the coaching game on the next spinning of the coaching carousel.

As for the WMU opening moving forward, it appears the search could be wrapped up as early as this weekend.

Tim Lester, a former Broncos quarterback who’s in the school’s Hall of Fame, and Northwestern assistant Matt MacPherson have interviewed for the job, as has Michigan running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley. It appears though that, like Miles’, Wheatley’s candidacy has come to an end.

Finally, FootballScoop is also reporting that WMU is planning to meet with current Alabama offensive line coach and former FIU head coach Mario Cristobal at some point Friday. Speculation is that Cristobal and Lester are the front-runners and that a decision — and even an announcement — could come as early as Saturday.