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Pitt announces death of College Football Hall of Famer Johnny Majors

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In Johnny Majors, the sport has lost another legendary head coach.

Monday, Pat Dye died at 80.  Wednesday, Pitt has confirmed that Johnny Majors died at 85.

A native of Lynchburg, Tenn., Majors played his college football at the University of Tennessee from 1953-56.  His senior season, he was runnerup in the 1956 Heisman Trophy voting.  He began his coaching career at his alma mater, first as a graduate assistant (1957) and then as a backfield coach (1958-59).

Majors’ first head-coaching job came at Iowa State, where he spent five seasons with the Cyclones.  He led ISU to its first-ever bowl win in 1971.  Majors then moved on to Pitt, coaching the Panthers for four years (1973-76).  In his last year at the school, the Panthers claimed the 1976 national championship.  That’s the last title claimed by Pitt.

From there it was back to his UT as Majors served as the head coach of the Volunteers from 1977-92.  In those 16 seasons, Majors compiled 116-62-8 record.  The Vols won three SEC championships (1985, 1989, 1990) in that span.

Majors and his alma mater parted ways in the middle of the 1992 season.  It has long been rumored that his replacement, Phillip Fulmer, helped push the coach out the door.

Following that split, Majors returned to Pitt for four more seasons on the sidelines.  All told, Majors compiled a 185-137-10 lifetime record as a head football coach.  In 1987, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame for his exploits as a player.

After his coaching days were over, Majors served as the assistant athletic director and chancellor at Pitt until 2007.

NCAA to allow football programs to bring players back to campus starting June 1 for voluntary workouts

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With each passing day, it’s looking more and more likely there’ll be a college football season.  At least, there will be one in some form or fashion.

Wednesday, the NCAA confirmed that some sports will be permitted to resume voluntary on-campus activities beginning June 1.  Included in that limited group (for now) are college football players.  Men’s and women’s basketball are permitted a limited resumption as well.

The NCAA made sure to stress that the on-campus activities are voluntary.Voluntary on-campus athletics activity must be initiated by the student-athlete. Coaches may not be present unless a sport-specific safety exception allows it, and activity cannot be directed by a coach or reported back to a coach.

“We encourage each school to use its discretion to make the best decisions possible for football and basketball student-athletes within the appropriate resocialization framework,” said Division I Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “Allowing for voluntary athletics activity acknowledges that reopening our campuses will be an individual decision but should be based on advice from medical experts.”

With the NCAA’s announcement, it will be up to each individual conference — and each individual institution — to reopen the doors for college football players to return to campus.  In accordance with local and state guidelines, obviously.

It’s already been confirmed that the SEC will vote this Friday on whether to bring student-athletes, including college football players, back to campus June 1 or June 15.  Of the 14 athletic directors in the conference, just one, Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer, is not in favor of the June 1 date for a return.  The Big Ten is also expected to allow players back to campus early this month, with schools such as Ohio State targeting June 8.

The Big 12, meanwhile, is eyeing a mid- to late-June return date for student-athletes.  The Pac-12 will make a determination next week.  The ACC is expected to do the same.

Exactly when these various conferences can start actual practices for the start of the 2020 college football remains to be seen.

In addition to the resumption of on-campus workouts, the NCAA also announced a handful of waivers have been granted.  Those related to the highest level of football includes:

  • Waiving the minimum football attendance requirement for Football Bowl Subdivision members for two years.
  • Financial aid minimums for FBS schools were waived to permit an institution to award at least 75% of the maximum FBS financial aid limit for three years. In addition, institutions will be permitted to award a minimum of 150 athletics grants-in-aid or expend a minimum of $3 million on grants-in-aid to student-athletes for a period of three years. Gender equity requirements and rules governing nonrenewal/cancellation of aid remain in effect.
  • FBS schools will not be required to play 60% of their games against FBS members or play five home games against FBS opponents.

The latter waiver is nearly as important as the resumption of on-campus workouts. The easing of those restrictions will allow athletic directors across the country the flexibility to get in a full slate of games — or as close to a full slate of games — as we continue to weave our way through the coronavirus pandemic.

Jim Harbaugh open to creative ideas for return of college football

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As the leaders of the sport figure out the hows, Jim Harbaugh is open to any and all ideas to safely get college football back.

The Michigan head coach appeared on NBC SportsLunch Talk Live with Mike Tirico Wednesday afternoon.  As a growing number of administrators have started to acknowledge, Jim Harbaugh is fully aware that, even when it does return, games won’t be played in front of capacity crowds.

Harbaugh also stated that, to a man, his players would choose to play football games with no fans at all as opposed to not playing at all.

During the course of the interview, Harbaugh also applauded his university’s creativity when it comes to allowing students, including his football players, back onto campus.  And allowing them back on safely.

During a previous interview, Harbaugh broached the very same subject.

“Heck yeah, I’d be comfortable coaching a game without any fans,” Harbaugh said. “If the choice were play in front of no fans or not play, then I would choose to play in front of no fans.”

It’s expected that the NCAA will vote to lift the ban on on-campus workouts.  That would begin clearing the way for football players to return.  Once the NCAA makes that official — it’s already being reported, but the NCAA hasn’t yet announced it — it will be up to the individual conferences to reopen its doors for college football players to return to campus.  In accordance with local and state guidelines, obviously.

It’s already been confirmed that the SEC will vote this Friday on whether to bring student-athletes, including college football players, back to campus June 1 or June 15.  Of the 14 athletic directors in the conference, just one, Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer, is not in favor of the June 1 date for a return.  The Big Ten is also expected to allow players back to campus early this month, with schools such as Ohio State targeting June 8.

The Big 12, meanwhile, is eyeing a mid- to late-June return date for student-athletes.  The Pac-12 will make a determination next week.  The ACC is expected to do the same.