UAB football to be reinstated and return to C-USA play… eventually

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Earlier Monday it was reported that the shuttered UAB football program would be reinstated.  Now, we have some details of how the rebuilding will take place.

At a press conference Monday evening, president Ray Watts and athletic director Mark Ingram confirmed that the football Blazers will indeed be returning to the university.  It was Watts’ controversial decision to axe the football program in the first place last December.

When asked about the about-face, Watts stated that he didn’t want to dwell on the past.

“I don’t want pursue a lot of time looking back. … [It’s time for] healing and moving ahead,” Watts said in a press conference that essentially raised more questions than provided answers, adding in what will be a controversial comment that there was no “tangible” support financially when the initial decision was made.

The lack of details in the press conference, and the lack of contrition on Watts’ part, isn’t sitting well with some members of the media.

Watts explained to the Associated Press prior to the press conference that his reversal came after spending the weekend in meetings with supporters of UAB football.  According to the president, those supporters have agreed to cover the cost of a projected $17 million-plus deficit over the next five years. Watts added that supporters “raised about 10 percent of the estimated $12.5 million- $14.5 million needed for a turf practice field and new fieldhouse,” the AP wrote.

“Our students, our alumni, the city of Birmingham and now many community members have stepped up with commitments to cover that $17.2 million operational deficit,” Watts said. “That’s why we’re in a position today to make this decision.”

There are certain fundraising deadlines for bringing football back, but Watts declined to get into on specifics on that subject or the subject of just when the Blazers will begin play anew.

In his press conference, Watts confirmed that the Blazers will continue to play at the FBS level; there had been a school of thought that UAB could play at the FCS level for a year or two before moving back up.  Additionally, Watts confirmed that UAB will remain as a full member of Conference USA.

That league had previously stated that UAB could not continue as a member if it didn’t have a football program.  The conference has a rule that does not permit a member institution that does not have football as a sport, and was not inclined to rescind it.

The return of football to UAB won’t be immediate as the school won’t field a team until 2016 at the earliest.  That’s when bowling and rifle, cut at the same time as football, will make their respective returns.

Watts was unable to state explicitly when the Blazers would take the football field again.  He claimed in his press conference that it will be dependent on when the monies are raised, at which point he’ll make an announcement on a specific return date.

UAB will have a tough row to hoe in getting back to respectability in Conference USA, whenever they return.

After Watts cut the sport, all football players were permitted to transfer to another program without sitting out a transfer season.  An estimated 55 of them — FBS teams are permitted 85 scholarship players — took advantage of the one-time deal.  Reconstituting the roster and getting the team ready to play in 2016 will take a borderline Herculean effort for all involved.  The coaching staff will also have to be rebuilt as most left for other jobs.

The key there is most, not all as one bit of reconstruction good news is that one of those who will be involved in the effort is expected to be the man who led the Blazers to bowl-eligibility for the first time in over a decade last season.

Bill Clark had multiple opportunities to take other jobs, both head-coaching and assistant positions, after the program was shut down, but opted to remain employment-free in the hopes that his team would be resurrected.

Now that that’s happened, Clark will be charged with the task of essentially building a program from scratch.  Based on how he had already built the Blazers to a respectable level in Conference USA, I’m guessing this rebuild is in steady, firm hands.

LSU students will go to class on Saturday to make up for national title game

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LSU students who got to skip class for the national title game (and the ensuing celebrations…) were hit with a dose of reality returning to Baton Rouge on Friday.

According to an announcement from the university, classes that were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday for the championship game have been rescheduled. As a result, students will have to go to class on Saturday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 8.

So yes, Saturdays in the fall have resulted in a few Saturdays of work in the spring.

The school had received a bit of criticism when it was announced that classes were cancelled on the dates surrounding the championship game. While the practice has happened elsewhere, the nature of the game being less than an hour from campus in New Orleans certainly made things unique for the Tigers and their large fan base.

While some students no doubt had hoped that the classes at the time were indeed cancelled, it turns out they were in fact just being rescheduled. Going to school on a Saturday probably isn’t what many had in mind when signing up for the spring semester but there’s probably not a soul in purple and gold will take issue with the change given that it comes as a result of hoisting the ultimate football trophy on Monday night in the Big Easy.

Virginia safety Chris Moore enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal has claimed another name.

As first noted by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Virginia safety Chris Moore has entered his name into the database as he explores a move out of Charlottesville.

Moore started five of his nine appearances for the Cavaliers in 2019 and wound up recording 42 tackles. While he was in line to become one of the key members in the secondary going forward, a prior  suspension for violating team rules back in November may have wound up playing a role in his departure and standing with the team.

The safety had previously missed all of the 2018 season with an injury as well.

Moore was originally a three-star recruit out of Ashburn, Va. in 2016 and, assuming the redshirt senior has a degree, likely has a season remaining as a grad transfer.

DL Jay Tufele, WR Tyler Vaughns skipping draft to stay at USC

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Clay Helton has a lot of issues to deal with at the moment. Having a talented USC football team is not one of them.

The Trojans received a rare bit of good news on Thursday evening as two key players announced they were skipping the 2020 NFL Draft. In back-to-back announcements, defensive lineman Jay Tufele and wideout Tyler Vaughns confirmed they would remain in Los Angeles for the 2020 season.

Tufele is one of USC’s best defensive players. He recorded 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season as a redshirt sophomore despite dealing with a handful of injuries. With leading sacker Drake Jackson also back, there’s a nice tandem up front for whoever the team hires as defensive coordinator to work with going forward.

Vaughns returning also makes a dangerous receiving corps that much deeper. Michael Pittman Jr. was lost to graduation but the next three top wideouts are set to be back in 2020. Add in a group of solid tailbacks and both J.T. Daniels and Kedon Slovis at QB and USC will once again have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12.

Whether it will all help save Helton’s job again remains to be seen. If nothing else though, there’s at least there’s some positive news for the cardinal and gold this offseason with Tufele and Vaughns back in the fold going forward.

Nebraska and OC Troy Walters “mutually agreed to part ways”

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A year after significantly falling short of expectations, an offseason of change has commenced at Nebraska.

In one of the first big moves since Scott Frost took over at his alma mater, the Cornhuskers and offensive coordinator Troy Walters announced on Friday that they had ‘mutually agreed to part ways.’

“Troy has been a valued member of our coaching staff for the past four years,” Frost said in a statement. “Troy is a good mentor for his players, provides great energy on and off the field, and carries himself with a presence off the field that will be missed. I want to thank him for his work on our coaching staff, and wish him and his family all the best going forward.”

The duo first came together when Frost was hired at UCF and led a number of prolific offenses, including the undefeated 2017 team for the Knights. Walters was a finalist for the Broyles Award that same season though has not called plays for either team.

Walters had a distinguished career as a player at Stanford that included All-American honors and a Biletnikoff Award in 1999. He spent several years in the NFL before going into coaching during stops at Texas A&M, N.C. State and Colorado.

The departure of Walters could interestingly lead to a reunion between Frost and a familiar name in Mark Helfrich. The latter was head coach at Oregon when Frost was elevated to offensive coordinator for the Ducks and is in search of a job after being let go by the Chicago Bears from a similar role.