The month of October hasn’t been kind to the Wake Forest football on or off the field, particularly on the latter front.
A week or so ago, the Demon Deacons announced that six players, including four starters, had been slapped with one-game suspensions, reportedly due to random drug tests that came back dirty. Over the weekend, two more players were indefinitely suspended following their arrests on marijuana-related charges.
With Wake-and-bake jokes and one-liners flying all across the vast expanses of the Internet, the school decided to take a proactive and very public approach to the numerous situations that have cast a negative light on both the program and the university.
A letter attributed to head coach Jim Grobe and athletic director Ron Wellman was sent out to fans by the school, and the same letter was also distributed to the media via a press release. Here’s the school’s note to its fans, in its entirety:
As a loyal supporter of our football program, you deserve to know the reasons for the decisions that have been made over the last couple of weeks about some players on our team. The off-the-field incidents have been embarrassing to all of us and it is important that you understand our approach to matters like this. We want you to know that we do not minimize the seriousness of these matters.
Parents understand that children do make mistakes and sometimes do things that are seemingly self-centered or amazingly thoughtless. We can assure you that we never take a young man into our program without recommendations from coaches, teachers, counselors, and school administrators. Recruiting is certainly not an exact science and we diligently try to bring student athletes to Wake Forest who will try their best to do what is right both on and off the field.
Coaches are teachers. Everyone in our program takes that role very seriously. A primary goal is to develop our players for life after school and football. The hardest decisions a coach has to make are those that may sacrifice winning a game in order to teach a player that making good decisions and caring for others are more important. Parents are most heartbroken when their children make foolish decisions but coaches run a close second. We are disappointed in the behavior of a few of our players but feel that our team will grow from the experience. Lost in the distractions of a few are the overwhelming number of players who are working hard to be the best each and every day.
We want to assure you that every decision we make in our football program and throughout our Athletic Department is with the future and well-being of Wake Forest and our student-athletes at heart. Winning is VERY important but it will not be pursued at the expense of our integrity. Our players need a reminder sometimes that their commitment to football extends beyond the practice field. We want our players to look back years from now and know that they were more important to us than winning a football game.
Thank you for all your support and loyalty to our program! We look forward to sharing many wonderful moments with you in the future.
In April, Fotu Leiato was arrested on a couple of charges related to the illegal removal of a parking boot from his vehicle. A month later, we’ve learned Leiato was given the boot from his current football program for good measure.
247Sports.com was the first to report that Leiato has been dismissed by first-year Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal. Further to the point, the linebacker’s dismissal came a day after his April arrest but the news didn’t surface until Thursday.
In the April incident, Leiato was arrested on charges of second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree theft and criminal trespassing. That was actually his second arrest this year as he was charged with misdemeanor trespassing in January.
The combination of the two arrests led Cristobal to pull the trigger on a dismissal.
Coming to Eugene as a three-star safety, Leiato played in 37 of 38 games the past three seasons. The Washington native earned the first start of his collegiate playing career during the 2017 season.
The senior had been in line to earn a starting job exiting spring and heading into the summer phase of the offseason.
Darren Kirkland‘s injury-plagued time on Rocky Top has come to an end.
On his personal Twitter account Thursday evening, Kirkland announced that he has decided to transfer out of first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt‘s Tennessee football program. The linebacker gave no specific reason for his decision to move on from the Volunteers.
“Tennessee will always hold a special place in my heart,” Kirkland wrote. “These moments have been priceless and I’m a better player and man from this experience.”
As a graduate transfer, Kirkland would be eligible to play for another FBS program in 2018. Not only that, but he will have two seasons of eligibility remaining counting this year.
A four-star 2015 signee, Kirkland started 10 games as a true freshman and then another six in a sophomore campaign marred by a high-ankle sprain that forced him to miss four games. In summer camp last year, he suffered a knee injury severe enough to sideline him for the entire 2017 season.
The rehab from that injury kept Kirkland from being a full participant in Pruitt’s first spring practice this year.
Seth Littrell has done a great job turning around the program at North Texas but fans getting a look at the 2018 edition of his team will notice something right away that’s different when they take the field for the home opener: new turf. The Denton Record Chronicle reports that UNT is ponying up $625,245 for the latest “FieldTurf CoolPlay” turf at Apogee Stadium.
“We are excited about the turf,” Littrell said recently, according to the paper. “It was much needed. That turf has been used a lot and has gotten worn down. The new field will improve safety and will be a great resource for our kids.”
The old turf had a good run at the stadium after being installed back in 2011 but obviously the summer heat and 300+ pound bodies playing football will cause a little wear and tear. The Record Chronicle says that “North Texas” and “Mean Green” will be the end zones text while the midfield school logo will include a “dark green outline of the state of Texas.”
Completion of the project is expected to be done well in time for the first game against SMU in September. The school has released some shots of Apogee Stadium without the old turf and it certainly looks kind of wild to see a stadium sans a playing field:
Conference realignment ended a bunch of big rivalries, from the major (Texas-Texas A&M) to the mundane. Former Big 8 and Big 12 rivals Kansas State and Nebraska were somewhere on the middle of that scale after playing each other in football for decades. While nobody is clamoring for the two to get together quite like they are the Longhorns and Aggies, there’s plenty who would still love to see them schedule a non-conference series given how close Lincoln and the Little Apple are to each other (135 miles across the border).
Wildcats athletic director Gene Taylor has been in the job just over a year and it seems like he’s very aware of the scheduling situation between the two schools and is open to getting something done eventually. He was asked about adding the Cornhuskers to the slate in a Q&A on the school’s website and had this to say:
“That is a school that makes a lot of sense,” said Taylor. “We are pretty well-scheduled out in football with our one Power Five opponent, but we do play them in baseball and have had conversations in men’s basketball. If the opportunity were to arise, they are someone we would certainly entertain if it made sense for us.”
KSU is fully booked on the scheduling front through 2022 but have been open to adding home-and-homes with former Big 12 opponents with Missouri on tap for 2022/23 and Colorado on 2027/28. They’ve got a Power Five opponent on the docket until 2031 so it seems like the team wouldn’t be able to get something done with Nebraska until after then. That is, to say the least, a long ways away.
Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to meet in a bowl game at some point over the next few years. The Cornhuskers and Wildcats last met in 2010 in a series that is heavily weighted to Big Red. At least Taylor is leaving the door open and leaving a chance of the two programs hooking back up on the gridiron.