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UMass chancellor scoffs at talk of disbanding football

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This month we’ve already seen Eastern Michigan emphatically push back against faculty-fueled talk of moving the football program down to the FCS level or disbanding it completely.  Now it’s a former MAC member doing some pushing of its own on a similar effort.

Thursday, the faculty senate at UMass urged officials at the university to vote on a resolution “to end Division I football (Football Bowl Subdivision) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and either move to a different division or discontinue NCAA football altogether.”  That blast served as the latest salvo in a nearly four-year effort by the senate to rid itself and its university of the sport.

As has been the case in previous efforts, they appear to have failed miserably as the motion was defeated by a 2-1 margin.  Saying “[t]his is now the third time in my four years that they have brought up a motion and have not succeeded,” chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy went on to praise the direction of a program that is now a football independent after leaving the MAC following the 2015 season.

I think the program is in good shape and (headed) in the right direction,” he said. “This was simply a small group of senators who have been carrying on this agenda for some time. And they’re not getting the support they need. …

“I can’t control what the Faculty Senate does. It’s a waste of this important body’s time, in my opinion, to keep bringing up this issue. We have lots of issues on the curriculum and we have lots of issues on our future planning and so forth. So I think the academic senate’s time should be more wisely spent than debating something over and over again.”

Like their former conference counterparts at EMU, UMass has struggled mightily of late.  Since becoming full-fledged members of the FBS in 2012, the Minutemen have posted just eight wins versus 40 losses.

Despite those struggles, “we have strong support from the alumni base and our own student body,” Subbaswamy said, “which we’re going to build even more once we start playing even more games on campus.”

UMass faculty to push for dropping out of FBS

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 13:  Head coach Mark Whipple of the University of Massachusetts Minutemen speaks to an official during a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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It hasn’t been a good week for the lower rungs of FBS. Just a day ago Eastern Michigan warded off rumors the school would drop to Division II, and earlier today word broke Idaho will leave FBS for FCS. Now UMass will have to join the inauspicious group, as the university’s faculty senate will push to leave FBS or drop football altogether.

As with the Eagles and the Vandals, it’s not as if the naysayers don’t have a point. The Minutemen are just 8-40 since leaving the Colonial Athletic Association for the Mid-American Conference, and the MAC has since left them. UMass is now without a permanent home either in conference structure or in stadium, bouncing between an on-campus facility and the New England Patriots’ cavernous and distant Gillette Stadium.

In a regularly scheduled session, the faculty senate will on Thursday “urge Chancellor Subbaswamy, President Meehan, and the Board of Trustees of the University to end Division I football (Football Bowl Subdivision) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and either move to a different division or discontinue NCAA football altogether.” As noted by MassLive.com, this is just the latest in a three-and-a-half year effort to question the university’s alliance with big-time college football.

Will anything result of this latest push? Probably not, except a hastily written open letter to reaffirm UMass’s commitment to FBS.

But one thing is clear: as football gets more expensive, the political capital of losing games grows as well.

Long-time UConn assistant one of two hired to complete UMass staff

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 13:  Head coach Mark Whipple of the University of Massachusetts Minutemen speaks to an official during a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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With a week’s worth of spring practices already in the books, Mark Whipple was finally able to complete his UMass coaching staff yet again.

Mike Foley and Jason Palermo, the school announced Monday, have been hired as offensive line and tight ends coaches, respectively.  With the twin hirings, Mark Whipple, who said he’s known each new assistant “a long time,” has put the finishing touches on the restructuring of his Minuteman staff.

“Coach Foley brings many years of experience, especially with the offensive line,” the head coach said. “He’s a Massachusetts guy with an impeccable record as a coach and a recruiter.

“I’ve known Jason Palermo since we were recruiting him to the University of Massachusetts in 2002. I’ve followed his career – he was a great player at Wisconsin and an academic honoree. He’s a good, solid, young coach who’ll bring a lot of energy.”

Foley spent nine seasons (2006-14) as the offensive line and tight ends coach at UConn. Palermo, who played his college football at Wisconsin, was the line coach at FCS Austin Peay the past four seasons. This will be his first on-field job at the FBS level.

Hawaii, UMass add former players to coaching staffs

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Earlier in the day we noted that a former North Carolina football player had gone back to his alma mater to continue his coaching career.  As it turns out, both Hawaii and UMass have seen former players return home as well.

Hawaii late this past week announced that new head coach Nick Rolovich has added Craig Stutzmann as his passing-game coordinator.  Rolovich and Stutzmann were teammates with the Rainbow Warriors 15 or so years ago.

The past two seasons, Stutzmann, who left UH as the school’s fifth all-time leading receiver, spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Virginia’s Emory & Henry College.  This will mark Stutzmann’s first on-field role at an FBS program.

“Another Warrior returns to the ‘āina, a man who has succeeded as a student-athlete and person in this program,” Rolovich said. “Stutz understands our culture, has lived aloha and played warrior. Since leaving our shores in 2009, he has acquired a wealth of knowledge in various offensive schemes and has paid his dues in the coaching world. I am convinced there’s no place he’d rather be than Pride Rock.”

Meanwhile, out in Amherst, Mass., UMass confirmed that a former football Minutemen, Matt Dawson, will serve as Mark Whipple‘s tight ends coach.  The former UMass linebacker will also assist with special teams.

The past two seasons, Dawson served as linebackers coach at Rhode Island.  Like Stutzmann, this will be Dawson’s first on-field job at the FBS level.

“Matt Dawson is Massachusetts alum who truly embodies everything our university and program are about,” the Minutemen’s head coach said in his statement. “I’m excited to have him. He brings great knowledge and expertise.”

In another tweak of his staff, Whipple announced that graduate assistant Scott Woodward has been promoted to quarterbacks coach. Woodward replaces Liam Coen, who left to become the offensive coordinator at Maine.

Interestingly, Woodward was Coen’s backup at quarterback when the they played for the Minutemen a decade ago.

2016 early NFL draft entries fall just shy of ’14 record

2014 NFL Draft
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So close, yet so far.  Well, technically speaking it is.

With the deadline for early entry into the NFL draft in the rearview, the NFL announced Friday that 96 players “have been granted special eligibility for the 2016 NFL Draft” and will be eligible to be selected during the April 28-30 event in Chicago. While that’s significantly more than 74 draft-eligible sophomores and juniors who declared last year, it falls two shy of the record 98 who declared early for the 2014 draft.

For some perspective, the number of players combined who declared early for the 2007 (40) and 2008 (53) falls short of the number for this year alone.

Another 11 players with eligibility remaining “have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements” and are thus eligible for the draft as well. Those 11 are…

2016 NFL Draft I

Of the 96 deemed by the NFL as having special draft eligibility granted, 48 played defense and 46 were from the offensive side of the ball. There were also two kickers in this category — Southern Oregon’s Aldrick Ross and British Columbia’s Quinn van Gylswyk.

A total of 18 defensive ends and tackles are included, while the secondary, combining both cornerbacks and safeties, has 17. On the offensive side, 16 running backs are in the group, joined by 12 offensive linemen and 10 running backs. Just four draft-eligible quarterbacks cannonballed into the pool: Cal’s Jared Goff, Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, Ohio State’s Cardale Jones and Memphis’ Paxton Lynch.

The SEC, naturally, leads all conferences in NFL-designated special draft eligibility — The Shield differentiates this year between them and those who have eligibility remaining but earned degrees — with 25 players leaving early.  12 of the 14 teams in that conference have at least one player in the group, the lone exceptions being Kentucky and Missouri. Next up is the 15 of the Big Ten and Pac-12; the only other conference in double digits is the ACC (11).  The lone remaining Power Five conference, the Big 12, just missed with nine.

The most of any Group of Five league is the Mountain West’s four.  Two conferences, Conference USA and the Sun Belt, had no players granted special eligibility.

Individually, Ohio State saw seven players deemed to have met the NFL’s criteria for special eligibility, followed by UCLA with six and Clemson with five.  Below are the other individual schools with more than one player in this category:

4 — Notre Dame
3 — Arkansas, Baylor, Mississippi State, Ole Miss
2 — Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Cal, Indiana, LSU, Oklahoma, West Virginia

And, below this, are all of the 96 players with special eligibility for the NFL draft:

Bralon Addison, WR, Oregon
Dominique Alexander, LB, Oklahoma
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Demarcus Ayers, WR, Houston
Peyton Barber, RB, Auburn
Vonn Bell, DB, Ohio State
Caleb Benenoch, OL, UCLA
Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
Dariusz Bladek, OG, Bethune-Cookman
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
Daniel Braverman, WR, Western Michigan
Beniquez Brown, LB, Mississippi State
Artie Burns, CB, Miami
Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Trenton Coles, DB, Duquesne
Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska
Jack Conklin, OL, Michigan State
Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina
Kamalei Correa, DL, Boise State
Su’a Cravens, LB, USC
Elijah Daniel, DT, Murray State
Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
Thomas Duarte, WR, UCLA
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
Jared Goff, QB, Cal
T.J. Green, S, Clemson
David Grinnage, TE, North Carolina State
Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
Jerald Hawkins, OL, LSU
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
Willie Henry, DT, Michigan
Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State
Austin Hooper, TE, Stanford
Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana
Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor
Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Quinton Jefferson, DL, Maryland
Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State
Cayleb Jones, WR, Arizona
Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State
Jayron Kearse, DB, Clemson
Denver Kirkland, OT, Arkansas
Darius Latham, DL, Indiana
Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal
Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
Roger Lewis, WR, Bowling Green
Steve Longa, LB, Rutgers
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Jalin Marshall, WR, Ohio State
Alex McCalister, DE, Florida
Brett McMakin, LB, Northern Iowa
Keanu Neal, S, Florida
Yannick Ngakoue, DL, Maryland
Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss
Marquez North, WR, Tennessee
Emmanuel Ogbah, DL, Oklahoma State
Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA
C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame
Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Alex Redmond, OL, UCLA
Hassan Ridgeway, DT, Texas
A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU
Aldrick Rosas, K, Southern Oregon
Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma
Isaac Seumalo, OL, Oregon State
Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida
Ron Thompson, DE, Syracuse
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Quinn van Gylswyk, K, British Columbia
Nick Vigil, LB, Utah State
Cleveland Wallace III, CB, San Jose State
Dwayne Washington, RB, Washington
Stephen Weatherly, LB, Vanderbilt
De’Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi State
Daryl Worley, CB, West Virginia
Scooby Wright III, LB, Arizona
Avery Young, OL, Auburn