Tyler Wilson says Hogs ‘gave up’ vs. Tide

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You thought Arkansas’ season had spiraled out of control with an upset loss at the hands of Louisiana-Monroe and a woodshedding by Alabama in back-to-back weeks?

Tyler Wilson has has trumped that on-field ineptitude with an off-field outburst that will likely reverberate for weeks to come.

The starting quarterback missed Saturday’s game against the Tide after suffering a head injury in the ULM loss, and watched from the sidelines as his teammates were embarrassed 52-0 in Fayetteville.  Shortly before the end of the game, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Wilson told UA’s “media relations guys… he needed to deliver a message” following the final gun.

That message came as Wilson marched into a press conference, called his teammates quitters — the exact quote: “Do I feel we gave up? Absolutely.” — and then marched right back out.  Message delivered in a very public forum.

Perhaps in response to the flurry of tweets regarding Wilson’s post-game comments, UA sent out a release that contained the QB’s entire statement — and it doesn’t really soften the verbal blow:

“I’ll start with the football game. First of all, it wasn’t very pretty to watch. It wasn’t pretty to sit on the sideline and watch as a player, it sucks I can’t do anything about it.  Do I feel that we, at times, gave up out there? Absolutely.  As a leader it sucks to see people not do their jobs and to see things go wrong, there has been a lot of things go that way. As a leader, at this point you have to look forward. There has been a lot of people jump off of the bandwagon and it is my job to keep everyone in this organization and this team in that locker room together. I am going to make sure of it going forward. We’ve got a big game against Rutgers next week. I am going to do everything in my power to be a part of it and be the starting quarterback when we run out onto the field. And most importantly, get a win. You have to start with one before you can get the rest of them. I give you my word, I am going to do the best I can to make that happen.”

Chris Bahn of Arkansas360.com later tweeted that the senior told “UA’s in-house TV crew his message to teammates is: ‘If you’re not in the boat, get the heck out.'”

(Writer’s note: yes, I’m quite aware of the fact that it’d be hard to get out of a boat you’re not actually in, even if said boat belonged to Yogi Berra.  You get Wilson’s point, though.)

How this very public tongue-lashing by a senior leader will play in the Razorbacks’ locker room in the coming days and weeks is an unknown.  Will it become Wilson’s Tim Tebow moment, or will it create a rift that’s too great to overcome over the next nine games?

Who knows, but it’s becoming abundantly clear that the clock is fast ticking toward midnight and the end of John L. Smith‘s brief tenure as the Hogs’ head coach.

Ex-UCLA OC helped convince Wilton Speight to transfer to Westwood

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When Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight announced he was going to graduate and transfer to UCLA, many were caught by surprise given that the 6-foot-6 pro-style passer is not your typical fit for Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. While the new Bruins’ head coach brought up how Sam Bradford and Nick Foles ran his system to convince the quarterback to pick the school for the 2018 season, it was a former assistant at the program who appears to have been just as convincing in bringing the big QB to Westwood.

That would be Jedd Fisch, who was Speight’s coach in Ann Arbor for two years before he left to take the offensive coordinator job with the Bruins when Jim Mora was still in charge last season. The veteran coach returned to the NFL as an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams shortly after Kelly was hired but he reconnected with his old pupil to give him an honest assessment of how he’d fit in with a school sporting a different shade of blue.

“As a coach, you can kind of sniff out the B.S.,” Speight told the LA Times, “and he was able to do that and say, ‘Look, you’re getting what you see at UCLA and I think it’s the right fit,’ and I couldn’t have agreed more.”

Speight will join a very competitive race to be the starter for the opener against Cincinnati when fall camp rolls around. Devon Modster is the incumbent having gotten experience last year when Josh Rosen was held out of several games while incoming freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson is considered the future at the position and figures to see early playing time.

It remains to be seen just how good UCLA will be in their first season with Kelly in charge but the head coach will certainly have a variety of options to choose from at the most important position on the field this year.

Proposed California amendment would cap coaches salaries at $200,000

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Some states do everything they can to help out athletics programs in their borders, that is something that California has never really been accused of doing. A state-wide travel ban has already caused some ripples with regards to scheduling for some teams and it seems lawmakers in Sacramento are back with a new constitutional amendment that could hamper schools ability to pay their coaches.

UCLA student paper The Daily Bruin passes along news that a new constitutional amendment was announced last week “that aims to restrict the University of California’s autonomy by reducing staff salaries, the length of regents’ terms and the authority of the UC president.” That first item is the biggest to take note of, which would institute a cap on non-faculty salaries to $200,000 per year — something that would affect everybody from coaches to the athletic director and everybody in between.

The University of California (UC) system most notably includes Pac-12 schools like UCLA and Cal, which means coaches like Chip Kelly and Justin Wilcox could be affected. To take Kelly as an example, he signed a five-year contract worth a total of $23.3 million when he was hired by the Bruins this offseason.

Head football coaches salaries are not typically paid completely by a school directly however, so there is some wiggle room should this amendment wind up passing. Often a separate athletics organization will foot most of the bill using funds raised from donors while other outside companies sometimes also get involved. Things might be a little more interesting when it comes to assistant’s salaries or non-football/men’s basketball head coaches and support staffers however, who could fall under the purview of the cap.

In other words, some creative accounting practices might have to be implemented by schools like UCLA or Cal or else they’ll be at a significant disadvantage compared to their private school peers like USC or Stanford as well as conference rivals like Arizona or Oregon.

It’s far from certain the amendment will pass given that it requires a two-thirds vote in the state legislature as well as passing muster on a state-wide ballot measure during a general election. We don’t typically see college coaches wade too far into political waters but, in this case, they might be forced to because its one that directly affects their wallets.

Arkansas moving back to natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019

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It’s a new era at Arkansas with Chad Morris and a new athletic director in charge and not even the turf will be spared from seeing changes.

Per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the school will be moving to a natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium instead of replacing their current artificial turf again as it nears the end of its lifespan.

“Let me say my preference is I love natural grass,” Morris told the paper a few months ago. “That’s just me. Maybe that’s just the high school coach in me.

“Worrying about what the next surface out here looks like is irrelevant to me. I just want to get through a practice and get better today. But I prefer, I’m a natural grass type of guy. I love being on a grass field. There’s nothing better than that in college football, or football period.”

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek confirmed this weekend that the change was being made in Fayetteville after the 2018 season concludes. The current turf was put in back in the Bobby Petrino era in 2009 and will need to be replaced after a decade or so of heavy use.

This will not be the end of Razorbacks playing on turf however, as they will not only see the stuff for games at neutral sites and at other SEC opponents but also when they make their annual trek to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock — which had turf installed a dozen years ago.

West Virginia President on old Big 12 expansion craze: ‘Little bit messy’

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E. Gordon Gee is one of college athletics’ most recognizable figures, which isn’t exactly what you typically say about school leaders like him. The West Virginia President known for his trademark bow tie (and who has never shied away from an interview or a quip he didn’t like) is on the cusp of his first set of spring meetings in the conference as the new chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News about a range of issues around the league prior to meeting in Dallas, Gee seems to have come around on conference expansion from a few years ago and thinks it not only could have been handled better, but it probably shouldn’t be done in the first place because being the smallest Power Five league has its advantages too.

“I’m not certain it was the best way to do it,” Gee told the paper. “It was a little bit messy — and I was part of the mess.

“Intimacy gives us an opportunity to do something that a lot of other places can’t do… We’ll play to our strengths. We’re small, but we can be very aggressive in positioning ourselves uniquely.”

I’m sure the folks at places like Houston and BYU would agree the entire process was messy but will certainly disagree with Gee about the Big 12 sticking with just 10 members. It certainly sounds as though the issue has been put to bed for the foreseeable future but if the merry-go-round gets going once again, at least we know that the process everybody goes through will be a lot different.