It's official: Kiffin heading to Southern Cal

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USC’s website has made the news official: Lane Kiffin is heading back to Southern Cal as the head football coach, leaving Tennessee after only one season.

We are excited to welcome Lane Kiffin back to USC,” athletic director Mike Garrett said in a release. ” I can’t tell you how delighted we are to have Ed Orgeronback on staff and to have Monte Kiffin join us. They are some of thepre-eminent coaches in the game. Ed did a marvelous job during hisprevious time at USC and we all know that Monte is a defensive guru. Iknow Lane will fill out his staff with other outstanding assistantslike them, ones who Trojan players and fans will really like.”

The hiring of Kiffin completes a whirlwind day out of Heritage Hall, where less than 24 hours ago they offered the head coaching job to Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio.

Kiffin’s hiring also leaves Tennessee Volunteer fans in shock. Kiffin leaves Rocky Top after one season, taking with him his two most important coaches and staining a program that had stability on top of the program for over three decades, with Johnny Majors, Phillip Fulmer, and Kiffin the only coaches since the late seventies. Kiffin’s hire energized the program, but was a major shift for the program, bringing in an outsider to coach a program that hadn’t done so since the days of General Robert Neyland. 

“This was not a very easy decision and it happened very quick,” Kiffinsaid in a one-minute statement to assembled Tennessee media. “I really believed that this was probably the only place I’d haveleft here to go.”

Kiffin didn’t allow cameras to roll during his impromptu news conference, only adding that in his fourteen months that he gave everything he had and that the program was in a better place than he found it, before walking off to hordes of unanswered questions. 

Bringing Kiffin back to Southern California brings a coach back to a school where he has recruiting relationships and experience in the conference, and a relationship with many of the holdover members of the Trojans staff. Furthermore, ESPN is reporting that Kiffin is bringing back with him Norm Chow, a major defection from Rick Neuheisel’s UCLA’s staff, and the first shot fired across the bow at his new rivals from Kiffin in his return to Southern Cal. 

Kiffin’s hiring is a much needed victory for Trojan athletic director Mike Garrett, who had been widely ridiculed in the days following the news that Carroll was leaving. But the hiring could also be considered a brazen move for the athletic department long seen as lackadaisical under Garrett, and could draw the ire of the NCAA.

Kiffin ran afoul with the NCAA in his one season in Knoxville, racking up a multitude of minor infractions in his short tenure at Tennessee, and currently has an investigation still open regarding the misuse of recruiting hostesses at out-of-state high school football games.

The decision to bring Kiffin, Chow and Orgeron back to USC reunites the supporting cast from the apex of the Trojan dynasty.  We’ll find out soon if the Trojan program can be what it was without its former star.

Talk about a story made for Hollywood…

Florida Gulf Coast says someone was extending football offers for club program

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Florida Gulf Coast University does not have a football program, nor does the school have any plans to add a football program to its sports department. So when some football players started receiving offers to come play football at FGCU, there was bound to be some confusion.

According to a statement released by Florida Gulf Coast University on Wednesday, a non-employee was extending offers to for a club team at FGCU. So anyone receiving an offer could have potentially thought the university itself was looking to recruit that player to the university to play for an NCAA football program.

“Unfortunately, we have been notified that a non-employee, volunteer with the football sport club has extended “offers” to come to FGCU and play football to more than 100 individuals across the country,” the statement said. “This has been done without FGCU’s knowledge or sanction, and has caused a great deal of confusion to not only the individuals receiving the “offers” but to others reading accounts on social media.”

On the one hand, it is deceptive to pose “offers” to come play football at a university that doesn’t field a football program and those responsible should pay whatever consequences there may be for such a deception. On the other hand, that is one savvy way to try and recruit actual football talent to improve the skill on a club team. What’s next, boosters for club teams? Well, actually, let’s not give anyone any bad ideas.

Texas A&M linebacker entering transfer portal

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One member of the Teas A&M football program will begin evaluating his options to play elsewhere. Linebacker Brian Johnson has reportedly entered the NCAA transfer portal. News of Johnson entering the transfer portal was first reported by Matt Zenitz of Al.com, via Twitter.

By entering the transfer portal, Johnson is free to communicate with any other college football program interested in recruiting him. Johnson can always return to Texas A&M too by pulling his name out of the portal at any time. While not unprecedented, it seems most players that enter the transfer portal do eventually move on to a new home.

As noted by Zenitz, Johnson appeared in just four games this season. According to the NCAA redshirt rules, Johnson will be able to use a redshirt year for the 2019 season and preserve one year of eligibility. Having played as a true freshman in 2018, Johnson still will have three years of eligibility remaining. However, one of those years will be burned while Johnson sits out the 2020 season if he transfers to another FBS program. That will leave Johnson with two years of eligibility at his disposal beginning in 2021 at any other FBS program.

Big Ten and SEC each land two Bronko Nagurski finalists

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The final list of players left in the running for the Bronko Nagurski Award for the 2019 season has been released by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club. Two players from the Big Ten and two from the SEC are joined by one player from the ACC.

Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, Georgia safety J.R. Reed, Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, Minnesota defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr., and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young are the five finalists for the award for best defensive player in college football.

The winner for this year’s Nagurski Award will be announced at a banquet on Dec. 9. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day is the keynote speaker for the banquet this year and former UCLA linebacker Jerry Robinson will be honored as this year’s Bronko Nagurski Legends Award winner.

Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen won the Nagurski Award last season. Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State all have had one player win the Naruski Award before. Champ Bailey won the award for Georgia in 1998. Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis won the award in 2006. Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers won the award in 2010. Auburn and Minnesota have never had a Bronko Nagurski Award winner and hope to add their first this season. Other past winners include Pitt’s Aaron Donald, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Boston College’s Luke Kuechley, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh, Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs, Michigan’s Charles Woodson, and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald. The current head coach of the Northwestern Wildcats is the only two-time winner of the award, having done so in 1995 and 1996.

The Belk Bowl will be no more

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Get your last bit of Belk Bowl goodness this upcoming bowl season, because one of the quirkiest bowl games is about to have a new name.

According to a Joe Person of The Athletic, via Twitter, Belk will not be renewing its contract to be the corporate sponsor for the bowl game and early season kickoff game organized by the Charlotte Sports Foundation.

The Belk Bowl has been one of the more entertaining and fun bowl games to follow on Twitter due to the social media handler’s ability to be witty and charismatic with the college football Twittersphere, but the Belk Bowl has seen its share of good games over the course of the corporate sponsorship as well. While last year’s game was a dud (Virginia beat South Carolina 28-0), the previous season’s meeting between Wake Forest and Texas A&M was a 55-52 shootout won by the Demon Deacons.

The Belk Bowl was previously named the Meineke Car Care Bowl from 2005 through 2010, and before that was the Continental Tire Bowl from 2002 through 2004. The Belk Bowl certainly is not going to be dropping off the bowl schedule given how well it generally does with attendance with its partnership with the ACC and SEC (the Big Ten will begin alternating appearances with the SEC from 2020 through 2025), but now a new sponsor will have to take over the lead.

The Belk Kickoff Game, first played in 2015, still has three upcoming matchups locked in the schedule. So the kickoff game will live on, at least for the next three seasons, just with a new sponsor. It is expected the new sponsor of the bowl game will take on the sponsorship of the kickoff game as well. Wake Forest will meet Notre Dame in the 2020 game, followed by East Carolina and Appalachian State in 2021 and South Carolina and North Carolina in 2023. No game is currently booked for 2022. UNC topped the Gamecocks in this season’s opener in the Belk College Kickoff, 24-20.

This season’s Belk Bowl is scheduled for Dec. 31.