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As players begin speaking out on social media, Louisville ‘evaluating’ football stadium naming rights amid Papa John N-word controversy

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A rapidly-developing situation could have steep repercussions for one Power Five football venue.

Wednesday, John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s, resigned not only as the chairman of the pizza giant but also gave up his seat on Louisville’s Board of Trustees after he acknowledged that he used the N-word during a business conference call this past May.  The slur usage came during a call that involved, among others, a marketing agency that was helping “prepare him for an interview to try to repair his public image” in the wake of the NFL’s national anthem controversy.

Papa John’s Stadium, of course, is the home of the U of L’s football Cardinals.  Given the controversy surrounding Schnatter, U-L president Neeli Bendapudi confirmed Thursday that she and the university are “evaluating” the status of the stadium’s naming rights.

“We haven’t had a chance to discuss it formally but yes, certainly we are aware that there is a lot of interest in this and we are hoping to come together to discuss it,” Bendapudi said by way of WDRB.com, adding that she needs more time “to think this through.”

Schnatter contributed $20 million toward the construction of the stadium that bears the name of the company he founded.  Of that total, $14 million came from Schnatter personally and the remaining through Papa John’s International on a deal that runs through 2040. The structure of that deal, though, could prove troublesome for U-L officials.  From ESPN.com:

In a complicated arrangement, the school’s deal is with Schnatter himself, not the Papa John’s brand, and provides that if he leaves the company, Schnatter can rename the building. His current deal with the university runs through 2040.

Another complication could come from the players themselves as a pair of prominent Cardinals took to Twitter Thursday to voice their opinions on the development, with a handful of others, including tight end Jay Banks (HERE), linebacker P.J. Blue (HERE), wide receiver Josh Johnson (HERE), defensive lineman GG Robinson (HERE) and wide receiver Keion Wakefield (HERE), retweeting the tweets below in a show of solidarity.

So, if players — and a growing segment of the fan base — get their wish and the name of the stadium is changed, what should it be moving forward?  While defensive lineman Henry Famurewa had an admirable idea recognizing the recent past…

… it was Wakefield who had a slamdunk suggestion and one that Schnatter should seriously consider if his agreement does indeed allow him to rename the stadium if he leaves his company.  Which he has.

You win, Mr. Wakefield.  There are a lot of ways to honor the life and legacy of the Louisville Slugger, and this would be one of the greatest ones for The Greatest — especially given the circumstances that led to this discussion in the first place.

Matt Wells adds former assistant Mark Tommerdahl as special teams coach at Texas Tech

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Texas Tech officially announced the hiring of Mark Tommerdahl to be the new special teams coach for the Red Raiders on the staff led by Matt Wells. Tommerdahl takes on the title of associate head coach as well as special teams coordinator and assistant offensive line coach.

Wells previously had Tommerdahl as a special teams coach at Utah State in 2017. Tommerdahl spent the 2018 season as special teams and tight ends coach at Purdue. He has had previous stops at Cal, Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M, Alabama, TCU, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Wyoming during his coaching career since 1984.

During their one season together at Utah State in 2017, Wells and Tommerdahl had a special teams unit that ranked fourth in the nation in blocked punts and owned a top 25 kickoff return defense. Last year, Tommerdahl’s Purdue special teams ranked 39th in punting (while Texas Tech ranked 61st) and 29th in punt return defense (Texas Tech was 40th). Purdue kicked just one kickoff out of bounds last season, while Texas Tech kicked six kickoffs out of bounds.

Troy LB Tron Folsom says he will enter NCAA transfer portal

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One of Troy’s top defensive players will be looking to play somewhere new in 2019. Tron Folsom announced he will enter his name in the NCAA transfer portal to begin evaluating any potential options for his final year of eligibility on the football field.

“After talking it over with my family, I will enter my name in the transfer porta and re-open my recruitment as a graduate transfer in the spring,” Folsom said in a message posted on his Twitter account on Friday. “I have no specific schools in mind and will be open minded during this process.”

As a graduate transfer, Folsom will be eligible to play immediately for whatever his new program may be this fall. He will have just one year of eligibility remaining after playing in a total of 38 games for Troy over the past three seasons.

Folsom recorded 9.0 tackles for a loss among his 82 total tackles for the Trojans last season. Folsom also had three sacks and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

30-year old Aussie punter from Maryland enters transfer portal

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After starting each of Maryland’s last 24 games, punter Wade Lees is ready to explore his potential options. According to a report on Friday, Lees has entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal, allowing him to be in contact with other programs who may be in need of a new punter on their football roster.

The oldest player in the Big Ten last season, Lees has one year of eligibility remaining.

Lees punted 67 times with a punting average of 40.93 yards per punt last season for Maryland.  He punted five times inside the opponent’s 20-yard line in a game against Penn State last November. It was the second time he had downed five punts inside the 20-yard line in a game during his Maryland career. In 2017, Lees punted 64 times for an average of 39.23 yards per punt. Those numbers put him right about in the middle of the Big Ten punting categories with the second-highest average number of punts per game. Lees started for Maryland for all 13 games played in his freshman season of 2016 as well.

With Lees potentially on the move, Maryland’s roster has just one player listed as a punter on the official team roster published online. Bentley Faulkner, who did not appear in a game in 2018 as a true freshman, figures to take over the punting duties during spring football practices. Expect Maryland head coach Mike Locksley to try adding a punter before the fall, if just for depth as the worst-case scenario.

Mike Leach’s final lecture will stream live through the magic of the internet

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Technology is a wonderful thing. And because of it, we’ll all be able to witness to Mike Leach instructing his class this spring semester at Washington State. Specifically, the world will be invited to observe the final session of Leach’s course, Leadership Lessons in Insurgent Warfare and Football Strategies, in late April.

Leach’s course is an extracurricular course being offered by Washington State with four separate sessions beginning in late March. The course is only available to WSU students, of course, but WSU knows there is much to be gained by allowing Leach’s class to be viewed by others outside of Pullman.

According to a statement released by Washington State, the final session will summarize all four previous lectures and there will be a live Q&A session. Those watching the live feed will be invited to submit questions in text form for the Q&A too.