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Jim Harbaugh fires back at Luke Fickell over James Hudson’s waiver denial

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The last Ohio State head coach to lose to Michigan and the current Michigan head coach who has never beaten Ohio State have found themselves entangled in a very public beef that, ostensibly, has absolutely nothing to do with The Game.

The very extended backstory, for those unaware:

After James Hudson transferred from Michigan to Cincinnati late last year, the offensive lineman cited “mental struggles” that arose at U-M as the basis for his appeal for an immediate-eligibility waiver that was denied by the NCAA, a denial that was in very large part based on Hudson never speaking up about the mental health issues while at U-M.  That could’ve been the end of it… except Jim Harbaugh decided to weigh in during the Big Ten Media Days on mental health claims by transfers seeking waivers through the NCAA.

“And the other piece that bothers me about it is, the youngster that says ‘this is a mental health issue, I’m suffering from depression.’ Or that’s a reason to get eligible,” the Wolverines head coach said in July. “And once that’s known that ‘hey, say this or say that’ to get eligible. The problem I see in that is you’re going to have guys that are ‘OK, yeah, I’m depressed.'”

The intimation that some transfers lie about mental health issues didn’t sit well with either the offensive lineman’s mother or his new head football coach Luke Fickell, with the latter very passionately stating in a very well-done piece that appeared in The Athletic this week that U-M could’ve gone to bat for its former player in the appeals process but chose not to.

“Here’s what I believe in the whole waiver process: the number one, most important thing, and all the power, comes from the school that a kid is leaving. No matter what,” Fickell told website. “(Michigan) didn’t back the waiver. They can say what they want to say, but the only thing they said that was positive was that if the NCAA chooses to make (Hudson) eligible, then they would accept it — that they didn’t have an angle. They are just trying to cover their ass. And I’m really, completely disappointed in it. …

“All the power is in the hands of the school a player is leaving. If they want to help, they can help them become eligible. … They can say they didn’t undermine it, but they didn’t work to help the kid out. ”

Tuesday night, Harbaugh fired back at his fellow head coach.  From mlive.com:

Unless I’m reading them wrong or mistaken, I believe [Fickell’s] under the impression that these waivers are decided coach-to-coach in some kind of deal fashion. That is not the understanding I’m under. I’m under the understanding that the NCAA decides these waivers.

“Unless he has something that he has and can bring forth and share, enlighten us and the entire football world, I would really like to know what that is. …

“And I told him, ‘Coach, I believe in telling the truth. Forthright, honest. What I told James, what I tell you, what I tell compliance is going to be the truth. I read the article. He asked the question in the article: ‘What’s most important, your personal beliefs or what’s in the best interest of the kid?’ And I can answer that: What’s most important is the truth.

“I’m astounded that he’s gotten to where he’s at by not knowing the answer to that question.

Bottom line?  Harbaugh and the U-M football program could’ve done something above and beyond to help Hudson in the waiver process but chose to do the absolute bare minimum, which is absolutely their right.

Juxtapose that, though, with Ohio State supporting and actively assisting Blue Smith‘s appeal for immediate eligibility at Cincinnati even as the wide receiver will potentially, after being granted a waiver, face his former team this coming season as the Buckeyes and Bearcats will square off in Week 2 of the 2019 campaign.  And then there was Alabama earlier this offseason supporting a run-off waiver for Kyriq McDonald, who was granted an immediate-eligibility waiver months after transferring from the Crimson Tide to the Bearcats.

“What Alabama did, what Ohio State did, they didn’t have to,” Fickell said in The Athletic piece.

There’s one way to handle these situations and there’s another way a classy program wouldn’t.  There is a right way and a petty way to do it.  Here’s to guessing that prospects on the recruiting trail, with the aid of rival coaches, will figure out which is which.

Rutgers hires search firm to help find new football coach

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Rutgers has officially been in the market for a new head football coach for over a week, and now the school is going to get some help from a search firm.

Rutgers announced a new partnership with Ventura Partners on Monday. The firm will help Rutgers in searching for a new head football coach and may assist in helping to hire other new leaders in the future as Rutgers looks to revitalize their entire athletics department.

“We are excited to be working with Ventura Partners,” Rutgers Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs said in a released statement on Monday. “They provide a unique range of services, including talent acquisition and development. We will begin working together immediately to ensure excellent leadership for our football program. They will also be working with us throughout the engagement on strengthening our human resources and providing market data and intelligence.”

Rutgers fired Chris Ash as head coach on Sept. 29, which is a costly move thanks to a previous contract extension. The Scarlet Knights have since been dealing with a handful of players redshirting the remainder of the season and an abysmal performance on the road against Indiana in which the team gained just 75 yards of offense while giving up over 500 yards to the Hoosiers.

Mike Aresco expects to hear update on AAC championship game waiver “in the next month”

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With the upcoming departure of UConn from the American Athletic Conference, the staus of the AAC Championship Game is officially in question. Without 12 football-playing members, the AAC does not satisfy the NCAA requirement to play an official conference championship game without a waiver. Not wanting to give up the title game just a few short years after implementing it (and accepting the extra revenue generated in the TV contract), AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is hoping to get some positive word on a waiver request sometime soon.

How soon?

It looks like we may have an update on this situation within the month. The sooner, the better.

UConn is leaving the AAC after this current football season, and Aresco has made it clear the conference still wants to continue playing its conference title game. The current plan is for the AAC to scrap the two-division format entirely and pit the two best teams in a conference championship game at the end of the regular season (an idea that would work well in almost every conference, by the way). The AAC reportedly field a formal waiver to allow for the championship game to live on back in August.

The Big 12 currently only has 10 members and has been granted permission to field a conference championship game on top of the round-robin schedule played during the season. If the Big 12 can have a conference title game without 12 members, then the AAC should be getting confirmation their conference championship game will continue too. But waiting for the official word is needed before the conference can start making plans for 2020 and beyond.

At this point, there remains no sign the conference is looking to add a 12th member for football, which would negate the need for a waiver. But if the waiver is denied, for some reason, then expect the AAC expansion rumors to start flying once again.

Michigan Class of 2018 four-star TE Mustapha Muhammad enters NCAA transfer portal

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The NCAA transfer portal has been busy this Monday. Add Michigan tight end Mustapha Muhammad as one of the latest entrants into the transfer portal. Muhammad made the transfer portal news himself with an announcement on his Twitter account Monday afternoon.

Muhammad is a redshirt freshman. He will have to sit out the 2020 season if he lands at another FBS program, and he will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning 2021. By entering the transfer portal, Muhammad is free to have contact with any other football program looking to recruit him out of Ann Arbor. The Texas native signed with Michigan over offers from Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson, among others. Unfortunately, the highly rated recruit hasn’t been able to establish a key role in the Michigan offense early on, even with the Wolverines offense looking for playmakers.

Michigan’s tight end position appears to be settled with Nick Eubanks and Sean McKeon reaching the midway point of the season as Michigan’s leading tight ends when it comes to receiving yards. Eubanks is fifth on the team overall with 128 receiving yards and a touchdown. McKeon has added 96 yards and two touchdowns. Both players are seniors, however, but Michigan also has redshirt freshman Luke Schoonmaker as an option at the tight end position moving forward.

Oregon DB Kahlef Halassie steps into transfer portal

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Oregon defensive back Kahlef Hailassie is now officially on the market. Hailassie announced on his Twitter account on Monday afternoon he has officially entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal.

A sophomore and a member of Oregon’s Class of 2018, Hailassie is now eligible to have contact with any other college football program that may be interested in recruiting him to their program. when he committed to the Ducks out of high school, Hailassie chose Oregon over offers from Colorado and Washington State, among others. Hailassie had previously committed to Colorado during his recruiting process, only to de-commit shortly after an official visit to Boulder.

Hailassie played in just three games this season before being sidelined with an injury. Because he has played in fewer than four games, Hailassie can use the 2019 season as a redshirt year. Hailassie played in all 13 games for Oregon as a true freshman in 2018, recording one tackle as a reserve player and a special teams player. Hailassie will have to sit out the 2020 season if he ends up at another FBS program, which would make him eligible to return to the field with two full years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2021.