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Comcast drops Big Ten Network from some out-of-market areas

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Finding something to replace the Michigan spring game on the schedule is suddenly the least of the Big Ten Network’s worries this week. The same could be fans of the conference who live outside the league’s footprint too.

Reports started surfacing Thursday afternoon and evening that cable giant Comcast (who, full disclosure, is the parent company of NBC Universal) had dropped BTN from its lineup in a rather unexpected move given there was no word about any potential carriage battle between the two. As it turns out, this isn’t some wild rumor spreading on social media, the company is indeed dropping BTN from certain packages outside states within the Big Ten footprint.

Straight from the Comcast corporate account:

Markets in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will continue to receive the BTN feed like normal.

While some might worry first about whether or not they’re able to watch a certain game, there is a financial aspect to this news that should not go unnoticed. Comcast pays to carry the Big Ten Network and has a different price they pony up each month for the channel depending on what market it is. The out-of-market price is significantly lower than the in-market price but, when you add it all up over 12 months a year and millions of subscribers, this is still a potentially huge hit worth millions of dollars to the bottom line of BTN and, in turn, the schools themselves.

Needless to say this does not impact other providers such as Time Warner, DirecTV, Dish, Verizon and others but this remains an issue for those who have Comcast and want to watch BTN outside Big Ten territory. Based on the states listed above, even those near Big Ten areas like Maryland fans who live in Northern Virginia or Rutgers alumni in Connecticut could also be facing some changes.

You can still likely get the channel in your area on Comcast but it may now require a change to a different package so if you’re a Buckeye in Oregon or a Wolverine in California, you might want to double-check your channel lineup after today’s news.

Former Northwestern assistant Jeff Genyk returns as special teams coordinators

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Make it three stops for Jeff Genyk in Evanston.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald announced Friday afternoon that Genyk has rejoined the football program as special teams coordinator.  Genyk was a part of the Wildcats football program from 1994-2003, with the first three years of that stint overlapping with Fitzgerald’s last three seasons as a Wildcats linebacker.  Fitzgerald was also in his first three seasons as defensive backs then linebackers coach at NU during Genyk’s final three seasons.

Genyk also had a second stint at NU, serving as a consultant in 2015.

“We are thrilled to welcome Coach Genyk back to our Northwestern football family,” stated Fitzgerald. “Jeff is a tremendous football coach, but more importantly an outstanding leader who will make our young men better, both on and off the field. I was fortunate to learn from him first hand as a player and know his expertise will play a pivotal role as we continue to build towards a Big Ten championship.”

In the two years prior to this third stint at NU, Genyk was the special teams coordinator and running backs coach.  Genyk was also the head coach at Eastern Michigan from 2004-08.

Pat Narduzzi hires longtime Northwestern assistant as new Pitt DC

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Pat Narduzzi has turned to an old Big Ten foe to fill in a big hole on his Pitt coaching staff.

Confirming reports that surfaced earlier in the day, Pitt announced Saturday evening that Narduzzi has hired Randy Bates as his new defensive coordinator. Bates will replace Josh Conklin, who left earlier this month to take over as the head coach at FCS Wofford.

This will be Bates’ second coordinator job at the FBS level, with the first coming at Louisiana Tech from 2000-05.

“I’ve known Randy for a long time and have the utmost respect for him as a teacher and recruiter,” Narduzzi said in quotes distributed by the school. “He is a tireless worker, always learning and always striving to improve as a coach. I’ve shared many phone calls with him discussing techniques, schemes and opponents.

“But what is most impressive about Randy is the type of person he is. He values relationships and is really invested in the student-athletes under his watch. Randy will bring great passion and knowledge to Pitt and I know he’ll put a great mark on our very promising defense. I’m really thrilled to welcome to the University of Pittsburgh not only Randy but also his wife, Tracey, and three daughters, Samantha, Alexandra and Olivia.”

The past dozen seasons, Bates, a retired Naval lieutenant, was a member of Pat Fitzgerald‘s coaching staff at Northwestern as the Wildcats’ linebackers coach.  Bates had been with Fitzgerald for each of his 12 seasons as the head coach in Evanston.

“I knew it would always take a special place and outstanding opportunity to draw me away from Northwestern,” Bates said. “After talking with Pat Narduzzi, I knew Pitt was that type of place. It is a tremendous honor to join a program with such a rich tradition and history. But more importantly, it has an even brighter future under Coach Narduzzi. I can’t wait to meet our players and get started.”

Classy as always, Fitzgerald congratulated his longtime assistant on the promotion, adding that Bates’ new boss “got a good one.”

Report: Former Wildcat Louis Ayeni hired as new Northwestern running backs coach

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A former Wildcat is returning home to Evanston.

According to Yahoo! Sports‘ Pete Thamel, Northwestern is hiring current Iowa State associate head coach/running game coordinator Louis Ayeni as their next running backs coach.

Ayeni played the position during his time at NU from 1999-2003 but made the transition to safety his final year on campus — which eventually led to a short NFL career. He was a team captain in 2003 and later served as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 2008 and 2009.

Most recently, Ayeni has been coaching running backs at Iowa State since 2014 and coached at Toledo prior to that. Given that he helped recruit and coach Kareem Hunt to the Rockets and David Montgomery to the Cyclones, this figures to be a quality hire for Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald in addition to being a bit of a homecoming for a former player.

Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson suffered torn ACL in Music City Bowl

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Clayton Thorson announced last month he will return to Northwestern for the 2018 season, but preparations for that season have become much more difficult. Northwestern announced Tuesday that Thorson suffered a torn ACL in the No. 21 Wildcats’ 24-23 win over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl on Friday.

Thorson exited the game after leading a touchdown drive early in the second quarter, with Northwestern leading 10-7. He completed 4-of-8 passes for 35 yards and was sacked twice. Matt Alviti nursed the game home, completing 4-of-11 throws for 50 yards, while Justin Jackson carried the load with 32 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns.

The junior finished his season hitting 60.4 percent of his throws for 2,844 yards (6.6 per attempt) with 15 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. He is the winningest quarterback in Northwestern history, and his 44 touchdown passes are a school record.

In a release, Northwestern said Thorson will spend the next two or three weeks in prehab with the anticipation of going under the knife in mid-January.