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.

NCAA extends recruiting dead period through May 31

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The NCAA has officially extended its dead period for all recruiting activities, shutting down the key spring evaluation period for college football in the process.

In a brief statement released Wednesday afternoon, via Twitter, the NCAA announced the recruiting dead period, which was originally put into effect in mid-March, was extended through May 31. The decision was made following advice and information from experts monitoring the ongoing pandemic linked to COVID-19.

The extended dead period means no face-to-face contact for coaches and recruits, official and unofficial visits, Junior Days, and more. The decision is not unexpected given the current climate in the sports world and with various stay home orders being extended on a state-by-state basis and federal guidelines and recommendations being adjusted.

As with the previous announcement of the dead period, texts and phone calls (and Zoom conference calls?) are all still allowed to keep communication on the recruiting trail open during these unique times.

The NCAA had originally planned to have a dead period lasting until April 15, at which point the NCAA would evaluate the situation before making another decision. As previously noted, April 15 is traditionally the day when coaches were allowed to visit recruits for the spring evaluation period. This extended dead period will wipe that out, at least for now.

Ex-Duke OT Jaylen Miller grad transfers to Tulane

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Tulane is preparing to fill one spot on the offensive line with a graduate transfer from Duke. Offensive tackle Jaylen Miller has committed to the Tulane Green Wave, as reported by NOLA.com on Tuesday. Miller reportedly made his announcement with a message on his Instagram account.

“[I] am beyond excited to start my new journey at Tulane University,” Miller said in his Instagram post. “I am looking forward to grinding, sacrificing, and winning with my new family. Let’s get it.”

As a graduate transfer, Miller will be eligible to play this season for Tulane. It will be expected Miller will be a candidate to fill a starting vacancy on the offensive line for Tulane given his previous experience at Duke.

Miller’s 2018 season was cut short in mid-October due to a fractured ankle. Although Miller eventually missed practicing in the spring of 2019 for the Blue Devils while rehabbing, he did serve in a backup role for the Blue Devils last fall. Miller appeared in nine games.

Rutgers adds commitment from Div. II corner

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Whether on the recruiting trail or transfer portal, Rutgers football is working it on the personnel front under Greg Schiano.

On his personal Twitter account this week, Keenan Reid announced that he will be continuing his collegiate playing career with the Rutgers football team.  The cornerback spent his first three seasons at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.  Because he’s moving up from the Div. II level, Reid would be eligible to play immediately for the Scarlet Knights in 2020.  He also has a redshirt available if the need arises.

The move will serve as a homecoming as Reid went to high school in Somerset, NJ.

Reid actually enrolled in classes at Rutgers before he even received an offer from the football team.  He participated in walk-on tryouts in late January.  That tryout led to a preferred walk-on offer from Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano.

“I wanted to take a chance on myself. I grew up around Rutgers in Franklin Township right down the street,” the 6-0′, 175-pound Reid told 247Sports.com. “I just wanted to take a chance, come back home and be where I wanted to go from the beginning. This is big for me and my family.”

Reid was a three-year starter for the Lions.  He finished with a pair of interceptions.  He also blocked six kicks during his time at the lower-level school.

Rutgers football hasn’t been shy in dipping into the transfer portal under its first-year coach.  In early February, the program confirmed the addition of four transfers from Power Five programs.  Three of those came from the Big Ten.  Late last month, an FCS offensive lineman was added to the roster as well.

Michigan State sees one punter leave team, another pull his name from transfer portal

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It was a busy day personnel-wise on the punting front for the Michigan State football program.

Last year, Bryce Baringer placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  This week, it was reported that Baringer had pulled his name out of the portal, an indication that the punter has decided to remain as part of the Michigan State football team.

Conversely, Michigan State confirmed that Jack Bouwmeester is no longer part of the Spartans football team.  According to mlive.com, Bouwmeester has returned to his native Australia.  No reason was given for the development.  It’s unclear at this point whether the move is permanent.

Baringer began his collegiate career at Illinois.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman in 2017, Baringer transferred to Michigan State prior to the start of the 2018 season.  Because of injuries that year to the two punters ahead of him on the depth chart, Baringer played in four games.  In that action, he averaged 32.4 yards on 15 punts.  Four of those punts landed inside the 20-yard line.

Mlive.com wrote that “Bouwmeester, who Michigan State found through ProKick Australia, was the program’s first incoming punter recruit to land a scholarship since [Jake] Hartbarger.” Bouwmeester was a three-star 2019 signee, rated as the No. 9 punter in the country.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman after not playing in any games.

Hartbarger served as the primary punter for Michigan State last season.  As a sixth-year senior, Hartbarger’s eligibility has expired.

Baringer is one of three punters currently on the Michigan State roster.  The others are redshirt junior walk-on Tyler Hunt and redshirt freshman walk-on Evan Morris.  Hunt was the second of the two punters injured during that 2018 season.  Hunt, who replaced the injured Hartbarger that year, started five games, punting 36 times for an average of 40.1 yards per.