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Panthers AD says contract “close to being done” to extend Pitt-Penn State series, Nittany Lions AD says not so fast

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We’ve seen many great rivalry games get lost to the history books over the past few years but there have been a handful of big games renewed by schools as well. One of the most notable series to get revived in recent memory has been the Penn State-Pitt game, which returned last season as part of a four-game deal after a 16 year absence.

The two rivals have split the first two games, with the Panthers winning at home in 2016 and the Nittany Lions returning the favor during a 33-14 win in September. As fun as the series has been so far though, there are only two games left in the original deal and that’s led some to wonder about the future of the rivalry. In an interview with the Canton Repository this week, new Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke confirmed talks to extend the series and even went so far as to say that a deal is very close to being completed.

“We have two games left in football. We play them next year on Sept. 9 at Heinz Field and it’ll be the 99th meeting between Pitt and Penn State. Then we play the Century Game back in Penn State in 2019,” said Lyke. “We have a contract very close to being done and being sent to Penn State to extend the football deal and I think that’s a huge priority and a huge rivalry and it’s necessary, so we’re working hard on that.”

Sounds like it’s a done deal to see the two square off in the future for years to come, right? Well, maybe not.

While Lyke is trying to get the ducks in a row for new contract extension on the Pitt side, the Penn State side of things is pumping the breaks just a bit. Nittany Lions AD Sandy Barbour released a statement on Thursday to local media and seemed to indicate that the school is talking with their big city rivalries but are also keep their options open after 2019.

“As I’ve said many times before, I have strong appreciation for the history and tradition of the Penn State-Pitt series,” Barbour said. “Since Heather’s arrival at Pitt we’ve had conversations about the series. We (Penn State) have to determine how any possible future games might fit with our other scheduling requirements and objectives.”

Penn State does have home-and-home’s scheduled with Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Auburn from 2020-2025 but they would still have room to accommodate Pitt if they want to. It’s possible the series could be extended to 2020 and beyond or simply return in 2026 if PSU continues their current scheduling philosophy.

Either way, let’s hope that both sides come to their senses and realize that rivalry games need to continue on a consistent basis and not have to go through the rollercoaster of playing off and on over the years to come.

Report: Baylor LB DeMarco Artis, WR Rajah Preciado leave team

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Baylor linebacker DeMarco Artis and wide receiver Rajah Preciado have left the team, according to a report from SicEm365The site reports that the pair leave the program on good terms; both players are still on the online roster as well as the paper roster that was distributed at Big 12 media days on Monday.

Artis was a rising sophomore from Sanford, Fla. He appeared in six games as a true freshman in 2017, recording one tackle and one hurry.

Preciado was a junior from College Station, Texas. Appearing in 18 games over his freshman and sophomore seasons, Preciado did not record a catch but posted 14 career tackles and returned one kickoff for 10 yards.

 

 

Former Ohio State defensive MVP Mike Kudla passes away

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Former Ohio State defensive end Mike Kudla passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, according to a Facebook post from his high school alma mater, Highland High School in Medina, Ohio. Kudla was 34.

Kudla signed with Ohio State in 2002 and immediately helped the Buckeyes to their first national championship since 1968. He would go on to become one of the top 15 sack artists in Ohio State history, a First Team All-Big Ten performer and Ohio State’s defensive MVP in 2005. He recorded 41 tackles, 11.5 TFLs and 9.5 sacks.

Kudla worked in business after football and eventually returned to Ohio State in 2012 as managing director of development for the Fisher College of Business. At the time of his death, Kudla worked as the owner of Core Plex, which “built medical facilities all over the country.”

“Despite his success on and off the football field, Mike remained humble and was extremely generous with his time and resources,” Highland school district director of communications Dawn Marzano wrote in the Facebook post. “He was always willing to share his experience and mentor youth. He was loved and respected by many and will be missed terribly.”

Lincoln Riley suggests there is a competition for QB that nobody should believe

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It’s a standard procedure for a head coach to suggest there is an open competition for any number of positions on a football team, but nobody seems to be buying the idea there is a competition at Oklahoma to replace Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. And when one of the players supposedly in the running for the job has a lucrative baseball career on the table, the idea is a little more comical.

Kyler Murray was drafted by the Oakland A’s with the No. 9 overall pick in the recent amateur MLB amateur draft. His contract with the A’s guarantees him $5 million and still allows for him to play one more year of football, which Murray has stated is his plan at Oklahoma. Still, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley addressed the quarterback situation at Big 12 media days on Monday and suggested Murray will have to win the job against redshirt sophomore Austin Kendall.

“Kyler’s not the quarterback yet,” Riley said when asked how the offense will change with Riley at the position following the departure of No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Mayfield to Cleveland. “There’s a really good competition going on and Kyler’s gonna have to fight like crazy to win this job.”

Sure. OK. Whatever you say, Riley.

It is worth noting Murray appeared in seven games for the Sooners last season with 18-of-21 for 359 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in backup duty for Mayfield. Kendall redshirted last season and was named one of the team’s Offensive Scout Team Players of the Year. Kendall did make appearances in two games in 2016 in a back-up role. While Kendall may have a bright future in Norman, few are willing to accept Oklahoma is welcoming back Murray to potentially be a back-up quarterback when he could jump right into his pro baseball career right now.

But this could just be nothing more than the latest example of a coach simply setting the tone for the offseason and holding the bar high for even the most talented of players on the roster. Riley may be blowing smoke, but it could also pay off in the long run of the 2018 season.

Tennessee DL Ryan Thaxton suspended, charged with domestic assault

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Tennessee defensive lineman Ryan Thaxton has been suspended by the football program after being arrested and charged for an alleged domestic assault of his girlfriend. The incident leading to the arrest and charge occurred over the weekend.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Thaxton was arrested Sunday night and charged with domestic assault and false imprisonment. According to police records, Thaxton is accused of pushing his girlfriend to his dorm room while she refused to follow him. It is reported Thaxton than carried the unidentified woman to his dorm room and blocked the door so she could not leave as an argument continued inside the room.

“We are aware of the incident,” a statement from Tennessee read. “The student-athlete has been suspended from all team activities while law enforcement and the university investigates.”

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt is scheduled to address the media at SEC Media Days on Wednesday.