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Injuries, ejections and penalties the story of the first half of Music City Bowl

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Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson was taken off the field for further medical examination after appearing to injure his right leg on a trick play. Not long after that, an official tossed Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. from the game after making contact with an official. It’s been quite a first half in the Music City Bowl, where Northwestern leads Kentucky by a score of 17-7 at the half.

After Thorson hauled in a pass from Jeremy Larkin, Thorson appeared to injure his right leg before contact was made by the nearby Kentucky defender. The 23-yard gain was the result of a brilliant play call from the Northwestern sideline, but the loss of starting quarterback put the game on pause for a few moments before play resumed after Thorson was carted off.

Justin Jackson scored a touchdown on a five-yard run shortly after the Thorson injury. The run gave Northwestern a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. Earlier in the drive, Jackson became the 10th all-time leading rusher in college football history, passing Damion Fletcher of Southern Miss and Anthony Thompson of Indiana to move to No. 10 among FBS players. Jackson would add a second touchdown later in the second quarter to extend the Northwestern lead to 17-7. Matt Alviti came in to play quarterback for the Northwestern Wildcats.

On the ensuing possession, Kentucky’s top running back was ejected from the game after making contact with an official. The call, however, has left many wondering if the ref went a tad overboard with his decision. You decide for yourself if Snell should have been ejected for this?

The ref show once again popped up late in the second half when Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops and the Kentucky sideline appeared to want a late hit out of bounds call against Northwestern when quarterback Stephen Johnson was taken down on the sideline. No flag was called, until a ref decided to throw one on the Kentucky sideline for unsportsmanlike conduct. Johnson was taken off the field for possible medical attention, and he was seen jawing at a ref on his way off the field.

The officials didn’t just have all of their controversial calls on the Kentucky side. Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fisher was tossed from the game late in the first half for targeting, although it was one of many very questionable targeting calls we have seen in college football. It has not been a great day for this officiating crew, to say the least.

As the Music City Bowl goes to the second half, it is still up for grabs between the Wildcats of the Big Ten and SEC, if there are enough players to actually finish this game. Kentucky is looking for their first bowl victory since 2008. Northwestern is looking for back-to-back bowl wins

Art Briles named head football coach at Texas high school

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Still a pariah at the collegiate level — and the professional level in North America, for that matter — Art Briles has returned to his coaching roots in dipping his scandal-stained toes back into the profession’s pool.

Mount Vernon High School in Texas announced Friday evening that its Board of Trustees has approved a two-year contract for Briles to serve as the program’s head football coach.  Briles spent nearly three decades as a head coach in the state of Texas before, after a three-year stint as an assistant at Texas Tech, landing head jobs at Houston (2003-07) and, most infamously, Baylor (2008-15).

“High school football is a Texas institution.  As a coach, it’s my first love,” Briles said in a statement provided by his new employer. “You’ll make no bigger impact in this world than when you shape the lives of young people — one practice, one game, and one life at a time.

“I am excited to be coaching at Mount Vernon this fall.”

In its release, the school system noted “that Briles never incurred a single recruiting infraction during his time at the collegiate level, and previous supervisors and other references also provided strong recommendations.” It was further stated that the hiring was made because, “[a]fter a thorough due diligence process and several earnest conversations, we believe our students will benefit greatly from his skills and experience.”

Given Briles’ past, the school’s wordsmithing in announcing the decision is understandable considering the amount of heat and outside public pressure the system is set to endure.

Briles was fired by Baylor in May of 2016 amidst a sexual assault scandal involving his Bears football program.  In August of 2017, the disgraced coach was hired by a CFL team; a couple of hours later, after the hiring was denounced by fans and sponsors, the organization announced that Briles would no longer be joining the team.

In late January of 2017, damning details in one of the handfuls of lawsuits facing Baylor University emerged, with that suit alleging that 31 Bears football players had committed 52 acts of rape over a period of four years beginning in 2011.

Not long after, a legal filing connected to the libel lawsuit filed by a former BU football staffer produced emails and text messages that painted a picture of the former Bears head coach and/or his assistants as unrestrained rogue elements concerned with nothing more than the image of the football program off the field and its performance on it. The details in a damning document dump included allegations that Briles attempted to circumvent BU’s “judicial affairs folks” when it came to one player’s arrest… and on Briles asking, in response to one of his players brandishing a gun on a female, “she reporting [it] to authorities?”… and asking “she a stripper?” when told one of his players expected a little something extra from a female masseuse… and stating in a text “we need to know who [the] supervisor is and get him to alert us first” in response to a player who was arrested on a drug charge because the apartment superintendent called the police.

In reference to a woman who alleged she was gang-raped by several Bears football players, Briles allegedly responded, “those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?

“Hindsight is a blessing and a curse. I’ve always been about trying to be fair and honest with everyone I came into contact with,” Briles said in July of last year on his unceremonious and controversial ouster from the Bears. “The thing that hurts me as much as anything [was] the culture at Baylor at the time; I don’t think victims, I know they didn’t feel comfortable going to report assaults that took place. I don’t think they were represented and taken care of with the level that needed to be handled with. That’s something that through all of this and as time goes will become more clear.

“Not only me but many of us felt betrayed because we were not privy to the information that was available in a way we wanted to respond. … With the way things are going, with some of the transparency starting to take place, I am confident the truth will come out. It’s not just important for me.”

In August of last year, Briles was named as the head coach of the Guelfi Firenze American Football team in Florence, Italy.  That was his first coaching job at any level since his ouster in Waco.

Brenda Tracy, a gang-rape survivor and victim’s advocate, is the most high-profile of many already publicly questioning the high school’s hiring of Briles.

ACC revenue reaches $465 million but distributions lag behind other power conferences

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Like most other power conferences, the ACC saw a boost in total revenue in the 2018 fiscal year. According to data acquired by USA Today, the ACC saw an increase of about 11% from the previous year, and each ACC member received a distribution of $29.5 million. The total amount of revenue reported by the ACC on its most recent tax filings came in just under $465 million, which is up from the $418.1 million reported a year ago.

Not that $29.5 million is chump change by any stretch of the imagination, but the ACC revenue share is more on par with the payments received by Pac-12 members than those received by members of the Big 12, Big Ten, and SEC. Notre Dame received $7.9 million from the ACC for their revenue share for being a partial member of the conference outside of football. Big Ten revenue totaled nearly $760 million with distribution shares of $54 million. SEC schools received payouts of $43.1 million from $627 million in revenue, and Big 12 schools received between $33.6 million and $36.6 million from the $373.9 million in revenue. The Pac-12 was the outlier with a decrease in revenue. With all of those figures in place, the 14-team ACC stands relatively low on the revenue ladder among power conferences.

It is worth a reminder the Big 12 is splitting its revenue distributions in uneven fashion among 10 members instead of 12 or 14 like the Pac-12 and ACC. The ACC could also be in for a bit of a windfall in the coming fiscal year with the recent national championship runs by Clemson’s football team and Virginia men’s basketball team. The upcoming launch of the ACC Network will eventually lead to some more potential revenue growth, although the impact of that will not be known for another two years once the tax return information for the 2019-2020 fiscal year are documented.

Naturally, revenue growth in a conference leads to salary growth for the commissioner. ACC commissioner John Swofford is no exception here with a compensation of $3.5 million for 2017, up from $3.3 million the previous year.

NHL Winter Classic forces First Responder Bowl to relocate in 2019

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The First Responder Bowl has been calling historic Cotton Bowl Stadium home since its debut in 2011 as the TicketCity Bowl. But for one year, the First Responder Bowl will take up residence in another stadium to make way for some professional hockey.

The NHL Winter Classic between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators will be played in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 2020. Because the historic venue will be setup to host some outdoor hockey, the First Responder Bowl will be held on SMU’s campus in Ford Stadium. The bowl game will return to the Cotton Bowl the following season.

“We are looking forward to the new venue and date as part of the celebration of the 10th year of this bowl game’s history,” executive director of the First Responder Bowl Brant Ringler said in a released statement. “In addition to those changes, we hope to grow the number of first responders who attend the game and find new ways to say thank you to them for their service in our communities.”

SMU’s football stadium previously hosted a bowl game in 2010 and 2011. The Armed Forces Bowl, which is typically played in TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, was played in SMU’s stadium in those two seasons because of stadium renovations at TCU.

Last year’s First Responder Bowl ended shortly after it began. The bowl matchup between Boise State and Boston College was called off due to inclement weather with Boston College leading the Broncos 7-0 in the first quarter. The game had been in a lightning delay for over an hour before the game was ruled a no contest.

Mario Cristobal reportedly working on extension with Oregon

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The Oregon Ducks appear to be in good hands under the leadership of head coach Mario Cristobal. After one nine-win season in 2018, Cristobal has Oregon gaining some offseason hype for the first time in a few years, and the school is reportedly looking to tack on some additional time to his current contract.

According to a report from The Oregonian, Oregon is working out a deal for a one-year contract extension for Cristobal. If worked out, the new contract would extend Cristobal’s contract with the Ducks through the end of the 2023 season. A one-year extension may not seem like a lot for a college football coach, but that would give Cristobal job security for the next few recruiting cycles, assuring incoming recruits Cristobal is under contract in Eugene for the foreseeable future. And if things continue to trend in the direction they could potentially are now, it will only be a matter of time before another long-term extension is on the table for discussion. But that can wait another few years at this point.

After taking over for a bowl game at the end of the 2017 season following the abrupt departure of Willie Taggart to Florida State, Cristobal returned to being a full-time head coach for the first time since 2012 at FIU by guiding the Ducks to a 9-4 record in 2018. Cristobal’s first season as head coach of Oregon resulted in a Redbox Bowl victory over Michigan State and saw the Ducks fly as high as No. 12 in the AP poll. The 2019 season is coming with some lofty expectations within the Pac-12 as Oregon is expected to compete for the conference championship with division foe Washington and other contenders such as Utah, Stanford, and Washington State.

Cristobal came to Oregon as an assistant coach under Taggart after previously being an assistant coach for Nick Saban at Alabama. Cristobal was the head coach of FIU from 2007 through 2012, accumulating a record of 27-47 that turned a 1-11 program into one with back-to-back winning seasons, but FIU moved on from Cristobal following a 3-9 season in 2012.