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Gary Pinkel to step down as Mizzou’s HC over health concerns

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In a week of tumult that included the school’s president and chancellor stepping down, Missouri’s football team has now seen its leader step down as well.

In a stunning turn of events, Mizzou confirmed in a press release Friday evening that Gary Pinkel has decided to step down from his post as the Tigers head football coach.  According to the school, and unbeknownst to the public, Pinkel was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer of the blood in May of 2015.

Pinkel received multiple treatments in May and June, with doctors indicating that the treatments wouldn’t interfere with his coaching duties.  At that point, Pinkel decided to coach the Tigers in 2015; however, Pinkel reassessed his situation during Mizzou’s bye week and opted to step down following the 2015 season.

“I made the decision in May, after visiting with my family, that I wanted to keep coaching, as long as I felt good and had the energy I needed,” said Pinkel, who informed his staff and players this evening, in a statement. “I felt great going into the season, but also knew that I would need to re-assess things at some point, and I set our bye week as the time when I would take stock of the future. After we played Vanderbilt (Oct. 24), I had a scheduled PET scan on Oct. 26th for reassessment, and then visited with my family and came to the decision on October 27th that this would be my last year coaching.

“I still feel good physically, but I decided that I want to focus on enjoying my remaining years with my family and friends, and also have proper time to battle the disease and give full attention to that.”

The 63-year-old Pinkel will remain on as the Tigers’ head coach through December of 2015 or until a new head coach is in place. The two sides will look for a role that will keep him connected to Mizzou athletics.

“It’s been an honor working with Gary since I joined the Mizzou family,” said athletic director Mack Rhoades. “Gary is truly a coaching legend as the winningest coach at two Division I institutions while leaving a profound impact on a countless number of young men. We are extremely appreciative of all that he has done for Mizzou. It’s tough emotionally knowing that his fight with cancer is bringing his run to an end sooner than any of us thought. I want to commend Gary with how open he’s been with me the whole time, from the first day he came to my office in May and told me about his diagnosis, all the way to now and when he met with me personally on October 28th to tell me he’d made up his mind. He’s been nothing but first class in how he’s handled the situation the whole way.”

Pinkel is in his 15th season as Mizzou’s head coach, posting a 117-71 mark at the school.  The Tigers are 4-5 this season.

Where Pinkel really made his mark, though, was in Mizzou’s move to the SEC.  After a rough 5-7 mark in the Tigers’ inaugural SEC campaign, Pinkel led Mizzou to back-to-back East division titles.

All told, Pinkel’s squads won five division titles across the SEC and Big 12.   In the 17 years prior to Pinkel’s arrival, Mizzou posting just two winning seasons; in the his first 14 seasons, the Tigers were above .500 10 times.

Including his time at Toledo, Pinkel has a career record of 190-108-3.  He’s also one of a handful of coaches who are the all-time winningest head coaches at two FBS programs.

“I want to make very clear that I’m not doing poorly, and that this is a manageable disease, but it’s one that will never go away,” Pinkel said in continuing his statement. “So many people have bigger struggles with other forms of cancer and other serious diseases, and I feel blessed that I’ve got something I can fight and still enjoy a good quality of life. I don’t know how many years I have left, but I want to turn my focus to life outside of the daily grind of football,” he said.

“Words can’t express how grateful I am to the University of Missouri and all of the amazing people who make it up, from the administration to the students and our fans. Obviously, I’m so appreciative to all of my coaches and athletes. Leaving them makes this decision so tough, but I do so feeling good that the Mizzou Football program is in a better place than it was when we came in 15 years ago. I feel that Mizzou is a great job at a great school and has so much going for it that they’ll find an outstanding coach to move the program forward.”

When it comes to a replacement for Pinkel, one name to keep in mind is Tom Herman. Herman is in his first year as Houston’s head coach, and was hired by… you guessed it, current Mizzou AD Mack Rhoads.

Herman will be in high demand, though, as, with Pinkel’s resignation, there are 10 FBS head-coaching openings.  Including Mizzou, seven of those are Power Five jobs: Illinois, Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, USC, Virginia Tech.  The other three openings are Hawaii, North Texas and UCF of Group of Five conferences.

Arkansas places RB T.J. Hammonds back on scholarship

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The up-and-down career of one Arkansas football player is on the uptick.

In late February of last year, then-head coach Chad Morris confirmed that T.J. Hammonds was not a part of his Arkansas football team “right now” as the running back looked to get his academic house in order.  Three months later, Hammonds was back with the program.

In late August, however, Morris announced that Hammonds would be suspended for the first four games of the 2019 season.  Hammonds ultimately returned for the fifth game of the 2019 campaign.  Upon his initial return in May, however, Hammonds had his scholarship stripped.

Morris, though, was fired.  Wednesday, Morris’ replacement confirmed that Hammonds is back on scholarship.

We’re happy to be able to do that,” Sam Pittman said about the move. “He’s fast. He’s got a lot of speed. You can beat two ways as far as physically. You can beat them with speed or you can beat them bigness. You can eat them with large humans. Right now it’s a little faster for us to get fast guys than it is get a whole team of big guys.

“He’s fast, but the bottom line is he did what we asked him to do in school and he did what we asked him to do in the offseason in the eight-week program when we were here. He’s athletic and he did what we asked him to do so, in my opinion, he earned the right to get his scholarship back.”

His first three seasons with the Razorbacks, three seasons, Hammonds, a four-star 2016 signee, ran for 378 yards and two touchdowns on 57 carries. Just 28 of those yards came in 2018, although he did catch four passes for 84 yards and a touchdown that season.

After returning from his suspension last season, Hammonds ran for 65 yards and caught four passes for 10 yards.  He’ll be a fifth-year senior in 2020.

Penn State football players permitted to start returning to campus June 8

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Add Penn State to the burgeoning list of Power Five football programs returning.

Last month, the NCAA announced that it would allow schools to bring its student-athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts starting June 1.  The SEC subsequently confirmed its players would be permitted to start returning June 8Ohio State, Indiana and Illinois from the Big Ten will be doing the same on the same date.  And, as far as that goes, so are ClemsonLouisville and Pitt.  Nebraska, meanwhile, started June 1.

Thursday, Penn State announced a phased return of student-athletes, including football players, that will commence June 8.  The school stated that 75 football players will be returning on that date.  Currently, there are 106 players listed on the program’s online roster.

Exactly which players will be returning in the initial phase is unclear.

While the players will start returning June 8, they won’t begin voluntary workouts until a week later. “Student-athletes have begun a prescribed quarantine in preparation for their return to campus and will be tested and quarantined upon their return,” the school stated. “Those student-athletes who are medically cleared may then participate in voluntary on-campus workouts beginning June 15.” Those workouts will be overseen by a combination of Nittany Lions strength staff and medical personnel.

“We are looking forward to the return of our student-athletes in the coming weeks and hope this is the first steps to a full return for the fall,” said PSU athletic director Sandy Barbour in a statement. “We are appreciative of President Barron for including ICA in this first wave of students coming back to campus.

“We are very confident in our plan and will continue to keep the health, safety and wellbeing of our students, coaches, staff and community as our top priority,” continued Barbour. “Our outstanding sports performance group worked with medical experts at both the University, conference and national level, as well as University leadership to develop an extensive return to campus plan for our student-athletes, staff and facilities.”

The school also unveiled the protocols that will be in place upon the players’ return.

  • Education for all student-athletes, coach and staff on Penn State’s COVID safety protocols.
  • Mandatory daily health screening questionnaire and temperature check for student-athletes, coaches and staff.
  • Required use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Adherence to social distancing guidelines for meetings and workouts, including the use of smaller groups for performance enhancement session.
  • Enhanced cleaning for all athletics facilities.
  • Limited and monitored access to facilities.

Penn State is scheduled to open the 2020 football season at home against Kent State Sept. 5.

After being ruled out for 2020 season — and with his football future in doubt — Clemson WR Justyn Ross vows he’s going to ‘shock the world’

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If you’re betting against Clemson standout Justyn Ross, do so at your own peril.

Justyn Ross was very limited as Clemson worked its way through a spring football practice that was ultimately scuttled because of the coronavirus pandemic.  In lieu of an official explanation from the program, rumors of the seriousness of Ross’ health issues had been bouncing off the vast expanses of the Internet.

In mid-March, Dabo Swinney attempted to clear the air, saying that the standout wide receiver is “perfectly fine” even as he’s dealing with what’s being described as “stinger symptoms.” Late last month, however, it was reported that Ross will undergo surgery this month.  A Clemson football official subsequently confirmed that a medical procedure is in the offing.

This past Monday, Swinney confirmed that Ross will undergo surgery this month.  In doing so, Swinney also confirmed that the receiver will miss the entire 2020 season.  And, it’s a congenital neck issue that could potentially end his playing career.

On Twitter Thursday, though, Ross vowed to “shock the world.”

Ross was the No. 1 player in the state of Alabama in the Class of 2018, and he has more than lived up to the recruiting hype.

His first two seasons with the Clemson football program, Ross has totaled 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns on 112 receptions.  This past season, caught 66 passes for 865 yards and eight touchdowns.

In four career College Football Playoff games, Ross has a statline of 23-424-3. for the Tigers

Texas WR Brennan Eagles tweets he’ll ‘never play another snap’ amidst racial injustice, police brutality

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Not sure how I missed this on a very eventful Thursday, but the heartfelt thoughts of a Texas football player deserve to be heard by everyone.

Amidst protests against racial injustice and police brutality, Tom Herman has been one of a handful of head coaches who have been very vocal on issues that directly impact his Longhorn players.  Most of whom are black.

“[I]f you’re going to cheer them and love them for three-and-a-half hours a Saturday in the fall, you better have the same feelings for them off the field, because they’re human beings,” the Texas football coach said earlier this week. “They deserve the same amount of respect and human rights that all of us do in this country when we agreed on the social contract to be a member of the United States.”

In that same conversation, Herman also talked about not censoring any of his players on social media. “[S]ay what’s on your heart. You have a voice. Use it. And you know, I support them in that,” the coach said.

In that vein, UT wide receiver Brennan Eagles took to Twitter very early Thursday morning.  And suggested that he could very well sideline himself from football for the foreseeable future because of the current climate.

Below are the wide receiver’s own words.

Okay so for all my brothers out there that are student-athletes, do you really think athletics should be a man focus right now during this time that we live in? At the end of the day if that is the main focus I find you blind to the fact that your platform can change this.  Thousands of people come to watch for entertainment, revenue is built from that, money is generated from us. If it wasn’t for athletics we wouldn’t have coaches/trainers. Doctors wouldn’t [perform] as many [surgeries], etc. the list goes on. I’ll be [damned] if you think I’ll play another snap with the platform I have that [affects the] majority of people that contribute to the sport who don’t actually play. Know your value is all I’m saying. Athletics brings people together all over but at the end of the day I’m not going to play another snap knowing what’s going on in our society due to color and the system being broken… I just can’t… let’s look at the bigger picture. Don’t care if you yellow or blue that goes for every athlete/supporter out there.

Last season, Brennan was third on the Longhorns in receptions (32) and receiving yards (522).  He was also tied for second on the team in receiving touchdowns (six).  With the departures of Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson, Brennan will be UT’s leading returning receiver.  If he actually returns, of course.

One final note: Thursday evening, Texas Longhorn football players, coaches and UT staffers, along with members of the University of Texas and City of Austin police departments, marched from Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium to the footsteps of the Texas State Capitol building.  In solidarity against racial injustice and police brutality.

“If you fail to realize what’s going on in front of you, when you see it every day, on social media you see how we’ve been viewed throughout history and the way we’ve been treated, you’re close-minded and you’re part of the problem,” safety Caden Sterns said after the march.

“You have to educate yourself. As white people, you got to educate yourself, because it’s right in front of you. All you’ve got to do is just look. The only way not to see this is if you clearly just turn around.