Getty Images

BYU turns to Rice assistant to round out coaching staff

Leave a comment

An offseason of coaching staff upheaval has come to an end in Provo.

AJ Steward, the football program announced Tuesday, has been named as the Cougars running backs coach.  The 28-year-old Steward, who played his college football at Kansas, had spent the past four seasons as the running backs coach at Rice before moving on to BYU.

Steward’s first job at the collegiate level came as a graduate assistant for the Owls, meaning this move marks his first coaching gig outside of that Conference USA program.

“AJ is known as an excellent recruiter and for his ability to develop players,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said in a statement. “He has done great things as a running backs coach and brings unique experience from an outstanding academic school, which helps him understand one of the important focuses we have here at BYU. I’m excited to welcome AJ to our coaching staff.”

“My wife and I are tremendously excited and are blessed to join the BYU football family,” Steward said. “I am grateful for Coach Sitake, Tom Holmoe, President Worthen and Coach Grimes for entrusting me with this amazing opportunity to come to Provo and be part of the rich football tradition at BYU. I sincerely look forward to not only making a difference on the field but also making a life-long impact on the young men in the program.

“I also want to express my appreciation to Coach David Bailiff and Rice University for such a great experience, which has granted me the opportunity to learn, build and grow into the coach that I am today.”

Including Steward, five of the 10 coaches on Sitake’s staff weren’t with the program a year ago.

Three weeks after putting the finishing touches on a 4-9 season, the lowest point for the program since a 3-8 1970 campaign, BYU hired LSU line coach Jeff Grimes as its new coordinator. Grimes replaced Ty Detmer, who was fired in late November after directing an offense that was 123rd (out of 129 teams) in scoring and 118th in yards.  In late December, three new offensive assistants were added as well.

On the defensive side, longtime assistant Steve Kaufusi stepped down from his post as linebackers coach last month and was replaced by Preston Hadley, who was named safeties coach.  Ed Lamb, who was responsible for safeties, will take over Kaufusi’s linebackers job.  All other coaches on the defensive side of the ball will maintain their current positions.

Arkansas moving back to natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s a new era at Arkansas with Chad Morris and a new athletic director in charge and not even the turf will be spared from seeing changes.

Per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the school will be moving to a natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium instead of replacing their current artificial turf again as it nears the end of its lifespan.

“Let me say my preference is I love natural grass,” Morris told the paper a few months ago. “That’s just me. Maybe that’s just the high school coach in me.

“Worrying about what the next surface out here looks like is irrelevant to me. I just want to get through a practice and get better today. But I prefer, I’m a natural grass type of guy. I love being on a grass field. There’s nothing better than that in college football, or football period.”

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek confirmed this weekend that the change was being made in Fayetteville after the 2018 season concludes. The current turf was put in back in the Bobby Petrino era in 2009 and will need to be replaced after a decade or so of heavy use.

This will not be the end of Razorbacks playing on turf however, as they will not only see the stuff for games at neutral sites and at other SEC opponents but also when they make their annual trek to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock — which had turf installed a dozen years ago.

West Virginia President on old Big 12 expansion craze: “It was a little bit messy”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

E. Gordon Gee is one of college athletics’ most recognizable figures, which isn’t exactly what you typically say about school leaders like him. The West Virginia President known for his trademark bow tie (and who has never shied away from an interview or a quip he didn’t like) is on the cusp of his first set of spring meetings in the conference as the new chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News about a range of issues around the league prior to meeting in Dallas, Gee seems to have come around on conference expansion from a few years ago and thinks it not only could have been handled better, but it probably shouldn’t be done in the first place because being the smallest Power Five league has its advantages too.

“I’m not certain it was the best way to do it,” Gee told the paper. “It was a little bit messy — and I was part of the mess.

“Intimacy gives us an opportunity to do something that a lot of other places can’t do… We’ll play to our strengths. We’re small, but we can be very aggressive in positioning ourselves uniquely.”

I’m sure the folks at places like Houston and BYU would agree the entire process was messy but will certainly disagree with Gee about the Big 12 sticking with just 10 members. It certainly sounds as though the issue has been put to bed for the foreseeable future but if the merry-go-round gets going once again, at least we know that the process everybody goes through will be a lot different.

College Football Hall of Fame adds title sponsor

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The College Football Hall of Fame is no longer the College Football Hall of Fame. Well, it is, but it isn’t.

It’s still a massive museum dedicated to honoring our nation’s greatest sport, but it will no longer be known by that name. The Atlanta-based Hall has added a title sponsor, and it’s the same corporation that sponsors everything else college football within Atlanta, from the Peach Bowl to Paul Johnson‘s sock drawer (presumably) — Chick-fil-A.

The new name and logo was unveiled Thursday.

As of press time, there was no word on if the first 100,000 CFT readers will receive a free 12-pack of nuggets upon entry.

Report: Cannabis oil not the reason C.J. Harris denied walk-on opportunity at Auburn

Getty Images
1 Comment

A major brouhaha broke out on social media last last week when it was reported that C.J. Harris was denied by the NCAA an opportunity to walk-on at Auburn because of his prescription for cannabis oil, which he uses to prevent epileptic seizures. Harris claims to be seizure free since January 2017 thanks to the medication.

“After Auburn coaches and staff took a second look at his medical records, they told Harris’ father Curtis that his son could not compete in NCAA athletics while he was taking cannabis oil,” reported WGXA-TV, which broke the story.

“You’re taking something away from a kid who’s worked so hard in his life to get there,” Curtis Harris, the player’s father, said. “And you’re just taking it away because he’s taking a medication that’s helping with his disability.”

But according to Brandon Marcello of Auburn Undercover, the story is more complicated than that. A source told Marcello that it was Auburn’s doctors, and not NCAA rules, that will prevent Harris from suiting up for the Tigers. Writes Marcello:

Auburn’s team physician did not clear Harris due to the pre-existing medical conditions, a source close to the Auburn football program said. The Auburn medical staff was concerned about the epilepsy and wanted to protect his well being in a full-contact sport that could lead to head trauma, the source said.

That information will not stop people from ripping on the NCAA, however, largely because it’s fun to rip on the NCAA.

But the Harris situation is a flashpoint in a larger cultural issue. Public opinion on marijuana is changing — 61 percent of Americans believe it should be legal, according to a Pew Research poll in January, an increase from 57 percent in 2017 and a massive leap from the 31 percent who thought the same in 2000 — and cannabis is already legal for purchase on a medical basis in 29 states. And the opinion of Auburn’s doctors doesn’t change the fact Harris would still be ineligible under current NCAA rules.

However, the NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports has discussed “medical marijuana and CBD products at recent meetings” and will do so again at its next gathering in June, according to SB Nation. The Harris situation — and the subsequent public reaction — should be a a topic of conversation.