Illini AD defends Beckman as new accusations surface

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Sunday evening, former Illinois football player Simon Cvijanović went thermonuclear on Twitter, accusing Illini head coach Tim Beckman of “misuse and abuse of power” and also, most damning, of attacking — physically, emotionally or mentally wasn’t specified at the time — a former teammate of Cvijanović’s.

Cvijanović, who had started 33 games along the offensive line during his time in Champaign, and his brother, also a former Illini football player, “developed mental-health issues, Simon said, as a result of their medical problems and the staff’s neglect,” ESPN.com wrote. In a statement released after his former player’s damning accusations, Beckman stated that “we have continued to support [Simon Cvijanović] with medical care, an academic scholarship and academic advising,” adding “[w]e cannot make any student accept our support.”

Monday evening, Illini athletic director Mike Thomas backed his beleaguered head coach while at the same time promising a review of the accusations.

“The feedback I get from the players and our players’ families is that these coaches genuinely care for them and treat them like their own children,” Thomas told reporters. “It’s been very positive from the kids and the families. They talk a lot about the family atmosphere. They talk about the culture. They talk about the caring of our coaches as it relates to their well-being. …

“We will have a follow-up. We will review, and the timeline and who’s to be involved will be determined very soon.”

The father of the two ex-Illini players, though, is coming from a different point of view. Much, much different as Frank Cvijanovic laid any future blame for a failed NFL career at the feet of the coaching staff.

“It’s really just ridiculous,” the dad told ESPN.com. “[Simon] is a kid who’s been looking to play in the NFL since he was 8 years old. Now that this has happened, he’s just been filled with anxiety — almost an identity crisis.”

And then there’s this, from the Chicago Tribune:

A former Illinois player, who spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity, backed up Cvijanovic’s claims of being berated for suffering an injury and of witnessing Beckman physically take down a player at practice.

“He overreacted,” the player said. “We all saw it and thought it was weird.”

Andrew Weber, a kicker who played at Toledo under Beckman, also said on Twitter he had similar experiences with the coach as Cvijanovic.

“We had the exact same issues,” he tweeted to Cvijanovic on Monday. “Thanks for standing up! Be proud!”

Beckman saved his coaching skin by seeing his Illini to a bowl berth in 2014.  Under fire for his team’s on-field performance, and now under fire for his reported treatment of his players?  That’s a potentially crippling combination for any head coach.

NFL Network to air 10 Conference USA games each fall

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The NFL Network and Conference USA struck a deal that will see the league air 10 C-USA games, starting this fall.

“While exploring new media options for football, NFL Network stood out as an excellent opportunity for national exposure,” C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “We look forward to showcasing our conference through their tremendous platform and reach.”

The contract runs for four years, and will see NFL Network air one game a week for 10 weeks.

“We are excited to showcase the next generation of NFL athletes to our fans on a weekly basis,” said Hans Schroeder, Chief Operating Officer of NFL Media. “Our fans crave live football, and partnering with Conference USA – a conference which boasts several Hall of Fame players – provides us with an excellent opportunity to do so.”

Specific game announcements will be named at a later date. It’s an important move for C-USA, who has seen more and more of its games moved off of TV and onto streaming platforms, such as ESPN Plus, Stadium and Facebook. The league also has a TV deal with CBS Sports Network.

June Jones resurfaces as XFL Houston head coach

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The last we saw of June Jones, at least in the continental United States, he was mailing it in as SMU’s head coach. After leading the Ponies to four straight bowl trips from 2009-12, Jones watched SMU slip to 5-7 in 2013, then walked out the door after losing the first two games of the 2014 campaign by a combined score of 88-6. (That SMU team would finish the ’14 season at 1-11.) It seemed the then-61-year-old had given football all he had to give, at least on a competitive level.

Jones took 2015 off, then spent 2016 in a semi-retirement gig as the offensive coordinator at a high school in Hawaii.

But Jones must have really missed football, because he gave up the Hawaiian life to spend the past two seasons as head coach of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and now he’s back stateside as the head coach of the XFL’s Houston franchise.

“I’ve spent a few years coaching in Houston, and having a chance to return to be a head coach in the XFL is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Jones. “I had a really great time coaching in the CFL, but this new fresh opportunity to build a team from the ground up is extremely rare in this game, and I’m looking forward to working with Brian Cooper and our coaches to give football fans in Houston a team that’s truly exciting to watch and worthy of their support.”

He was formally announced in a press conference at the University of Houston, and the as-yet-unnamed club will play its games at the Cougars’ TDECU Stadium.

It will be the fourth different professional league Jones has coached in, following stints in the USFL and NFL, in addition to six-plus seasons at SMU and eight at Hawaii.

The eighth of eight head coaches to join the league, Jones will join a roster that includes Bob Stoops and former Michigan offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
 

Father of LSU CB Kelvin Joseph says he’s not entering transfer portal after all

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Well, hold all that.

It was reported Monday morning that LSU sophomore cornerback Kelvin Joseph had entered the transfer portal, but on Monday afternoon Joseph’s father, Kelvin Joseph, Sr., told the New Orleans Times Picayune his

“He’s staying,” Joseph told the paper. “He’s not going anywhere.”

Joseph, Sr., confirmed to the paper that Kelvin had put his name in the portal, doing so Thursday after a trip to Florida with Baton Rouge-native rapper NBA YoungBoy. But by the time Joseph returned to Baton Rouge, whatever issue between he and LSU had been resolved — just in time for Joseph’s name to appear in the portal.

A top-50 recruit in the class of 2018, Joseph, a Baton Rouge native, played in five games as a true freshman last fall, collecting 12 tackles with a pass breakup. He is expected to battle with 5-star recruit Derek Stingley, Jr. for a starting role opposite senior Kristian Fulton. With Fulton out for the spring game, both Stingley and Joseph earned starts, a sign that the sophomore is in line for major snaps this fall.

And it appears Joseph intends to take those snaps after all.

USC considering dropping prohibition on scheduling FCS opponents

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Since Division I split into two subdivisions in 1978, only three FBS schools have refrained from scheduling FCS opponents — Notre Dame, UCLA and USC. That number soon could drop to two.

USC senior associate AD Steve Lopes sat down for an interview with The Athletic on USC’s scheduling philosophy and said the Trojans could soon schedule games with FCS opponents.

“If you start looking at the teams that are available, it’s very limited,” Lopes said. “We’re looking at schools that might not even be FBS, which I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. We may get criticized if and when we do it, but everybody does it. …  Are you going to die on that sword? You can play very good FCS schools that are better than some of the FBS schools you’ll play, the directional schools you’ll play.”

The purists will be upset by this… but they’ll be the only ones. It won’t affect the Trojans’ College Football Playoff chances — Alabama and Georgia already play FCS opponents each year. USC faces a nine-game Pac-12 regular season, an annual game with Notre Dame and, if the Trojans prove worthy, the Pac-12 North champion in their path to the Playoff.

And it likely won’t affect the Trojans’ gate, either. How many USC fans would have stayed home had the Trojans dropped UNLV from their 2018 opener for a game with Sacramento State?

Perhaps the purists would stay home, but nobody else would.