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  • The Michigan story has officially gone off the rails

    AnnArbor.com

    AnnArbor.com

    Here’s a good rule of thumb for athletics departments and coaches. Heck, it’s a good rule for all of us. If Congress starts poking around in the way you do business, something has gone wrong.

    We’re now at that point in Ann Arbor.

    Following the Shane Morris incident during Michigan’s 30-14 loss to Minnesota Saturday and the Wolverines’ disastrous follow-up culminating in a 1 a.m. press release, New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr., has sent a letter to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany urging him to change the league’s concussion protocol.

    I’ll spare you the 10 paragraphs of grandstanding and cut to the end (you can read the entire letter here, courtesy of MLive):

    I strongly urge you to investigate the circumstances surrounding Shane Morris’s injury and the decision to return him to play. Additionally, I ask that you reexamine the protocols in place and determine what changes can be made to improve them. I also urge you to establish penalties for violations of concussion protocols. Every concussion is brain damage and must be diagnosed and treated by appropriate medical personnel, who prioritize players’ health, safety, and well-being.

    Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your response.

    Sincerely,

    Bill Pascrell, Jr.
    Member of Congress

    Back in Ann Arbor, a petition is circulating for athletics director Dave Brandon’s ouster. It will have passed 8,000 signatures by the time you read this. (A competing petition to keep Brandon in his current post has three. It’s summary? And I quote: “I like Brandon. He’s a nice guy.”)

    It reads: Dave Brandon is the current Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Michigan. He has held the title since 2010. Upon being named the Athletic Director, Mr. Brandon stated “athletic programs play [a role] in helping to shape the culture and image of our university community.” Unfortunately, under Mr. Brandon’s tenure, the football program, one of the most prominent programs at the University of Michigan and in the nation, has become a black eye for the University of Michigan. Instead of adding to the image and prestige of the university, the state of the athletic department has hurt the connection shared between alumni, fans, and the university. Furthermore, policies and decisions of the athletic department have alienated the current student body. As a result, the university risks producing a generation of alumni that are disinterested and disengaged. Finally, President Mark Schlissel previously stated that one draw of the athletic program is to provide an avenue for “public attention on to the other wonderful things that are happening on campus…” When the athletic department produces overwhelmingly negative media attention, it distracts from the main mission of the university.”

    On top of that, commenters on the popular blog site MGoBlog.com have organized a “Fire Dave Brandon” rally at 6 p.m. on campus. Students were also heard chanting “Fire Brandon” during the loss to Minnesota.

    The ire of the Michigan fan base has fallen on Brandon rather than head coach Brady Hoke, although the tide has turned against both.

    None of this is good for Hoke, but it seems the swarm of hornets has bypassed him in favor of his boss. Letters to the Big Ten commissioner, petitions to fire the AD, on campus rallies, that’s ultimately out of his sphere of influence. What Hoke can control, though, and really topping off a long four days for Michigan: the 2-3 Wolverines are three-point underdogs at Rutgers on Saturday night.

  • Video: LSU’s trailer for the Auburn game is sick

    Despite being in the same conference for 82 years now, LSU and Auburn will meet for just the 49th time on Saturday. It certainly seems like the Tigers and, uh, the Tigers have made the most of their previous 48 meetings, tough.

    Let’s just look at the last 10 years: No. 14 Auburn beats No. 5 LSU 10-9 on a Jason Campbell touchdown pass – the game’s only touchdown – with 1:14 to play in 2004. No. 7 LSU gets payback a year later in Death Valley by topping No. 16 Auburn 20-17 in overtime. No. 3 Auburn out-defensed No. 6 LSU 7-3 at Jordan-Hare in 2006. Matt Flynn’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Byrd with one second left to push No. 5 LSU past No. 18 Auburn 30-24 in 2007. A year later, No. 6 LSU again beat No. 10 Auburn on a last gasp touchdown, 26-21.

    No. 5 Auburn finally got late-game payback by edging No. 6 LSU 24-17 in 2010 – the remembered by Cam Newton’s first Heisman moment – and then last year’s rain-soaked 35-21 win by No. 6 LSU.

    All in all, these teams have staged six games pitting Top 20 teams that were decided by seven points or less in the last 10 years. I don’t have the research in front of me, but I think you can make a case that no annual series is more consistently edge-of-your-seat entertaining.

    LSU holds a 27-20-1 lead and a three-game winning streak, but Auburn is a 7.5-point home favorite this week.

  • College coach challenges the ethics of his university and resigns

    mcgill

    Second chances are a tricky thing. Some people believe in them, while it depends on the offense for others. Domestic violence is one of those hot topic issues that divides people from all walks of life, and it’s an issue that has reared its ugly head in our profession over the past 12 months with NFL names like Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Jonathan Dwyer in the media spotlight. It’s a real world issue that has given many franchises an unwanted black eye.

    Many, if not most, college coaches have set rules that place a premium on treating women with respect with steep consequences for those that break that rule. No questions asked.

    Up in Canada at McGill University, located in Montreal, Quebec, head coach Clinton Uttley holds the belief that players deserve second chances in life. He’s so firm in that belief that since the University didn’t share that same vision during a recent player’s run in with the law, he has given up his coaching position.

    On September 24th, junior running back Luis-Andres Guimont-Mota was charged with assault and uttering threats in connection to an incident with his wife, but according to his lawyer, Guimont-Mota is actually the victim in the assault.

    The prior assault conviction dates back to 2010 in Quebec City, but because of coach Uttley’s deep-rooted belief in second chances, he was recruited anyway and the opportunity helped the young star blossom into a standout running back, winning last year’s offensive MVP award.

    However, the University was apparently unaware of the 2010 conviction until the most recent incident on the 24th, and released a statement saying that Guimont-Mota should have never been allowed to attend the university in the first place and has thus been suspended.

    “In line with the university’s varsity athletics guidelines, effective immediately, this player is suspended from the football team pending resolution of his case by the court,” deputy provost Ollivier Dyens added in McGill’s official statement.

    That release conflicted so starkly with coach Uttley’s coaching philosophy, and overall approach to life that he decided to resign. He released a full statement after informing the team of his decision yesterday. The full statement can be read below, courtesy of CBC News:

    I have resigned as the Head Coach of the McGill Redmen Football team. The University released a statement on Friday, September 26, 2014 regarding allegations against an individual from our team.
     
    “A member of the McGill Redmen football team was in Court on Thursday to face criminal charges. T his individual had previously pleaded guilty to an assault charge arising from a 2010 incident in Quebec City. This individual should not have been invited to join our team. That was not in accordance with the values of our community.”
     
     
    The above statement does not represent my personal morals or values with regards to sport, recruiting, and life in general. I believe in rehabilitation. The student athlete accepted his conviction and did his punishment, a fact that was not hidden from the University. At the time of his arrival, the University tolerated and accepted his presence and then proceeded to celebrate his accomplishments thereafter.
     
    For McGill University to say now that this individual should not have been allowed on our team in the first place because of his past, deeply troubles me and in good conscience I cannot work for an organization that does not embrace equity and inclusiveness. Postsecondary education should be accessible for all, not just the ones’ who have no known incidences. How can someone aspire to rehabilitation when the leading institutions of Quebec and Canada shun those who have made an error in judgment?
     
     
    I believe that University is exactly the place to shape and mold young adults to reach their full potential. If this were not the case, I would not be here before you today. If the football coaches in my life had not provided me with an equal opportunity, I would not have completed a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Education, and a Masters of Education in Inclusive Education. I wanted to give back to those who mentored and influenced me in a positive way through the use of sport as those who offered their support to me.
     
    If providing young men with a second opportunity has effectively cost me my position as head football coach at McGill, then I accept that consequence in order to maintain a higher moral standard then what’s been dictated.
     
    -Clinton J. Uttley
     

    Take a second and put yourself in coach Uttley’s shoes. Would you stand up to your employer? Or are there particular offenses that simply can’t be forgiven? Where do you draw the line?

  • Photos: Oregon will wear black and pink uniforms on Thursday

    It’s October, which means pink is the new alternate color for every team in football. Oregon is participating in the breast cancer awareness drive by donning black and pink themed uniforms for the second year in a row.

    The Ducks wore pink helmets and pink cleats/ankle tape in a 62-38 defeat of Washington State on Oct. 19 of 2013.

    Oregon will wear the pink-themed uniforms Thursday night against Arizona.

    What do you think?

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  • Taking stock of the 17 undefeated teams remaining in college football

    Alabama Ole Miss

    A week ago there were 25 undefeated teams left in college football. Week 5 saw that number cut by a third. With five games pitting undefeated vs. undefeated this week, the maximum number of unbeaten teams left alive by Sunday morning is 12, but considering this week’s slate we could easily be in the single digits.

    The maximum number of undefeated teams the schedule allows by season’s end is nine, but history tells us the final number will be much closer to one or zero.

    American

    Cincinnati’s 50-28 loss at Ohio State means there are no undefeated teams left in the American.

    ACC

    Florida State: 4-0
    Next game: vs. Wake Forest
    Best chance for a loss: vs. Notre Dame (Oct. 18)
    Prognosis: For the second week in a row, the defending champs looked vulnerable, and for the second week in a row the defending champs escaped alive. This next two weeks should – should - be cakewalks, but this is a team that plays to its competition until it can’t anymore.

    Georgia Tech: 4-0
    Next game: vs. Miami (Oct. 4)
    Best chance for a loss: vs. Miami (Oct. 4)
    Prognosis: Georgia Tech was off last week, allowing the Yellow Jackets an extra week to prepare for Miami. Considering they’ve lost five in a row to Miami, this was fortuitous timing.

    Big 12

    Baylor: 4-0
    Next game: at Texas
    Best chance for a loss: at Oklahoma (Nov. 8)
    Prognosis: Baylor is ranked in the top 10, Texas is unranked. Baylor is a 16-point favorite over the Longhorns for the second year in a row. And no one blinks an eye. My how times have changed.

    Oklahoma: 4-0
    Next game: at TCU
    Best chance for a loss: at TCU
    Prognosis: Oklahoma had a week off before Saturday’s trip to Fort Worth. Problem is, TCU played SMU, so the Horned Frogs essentially did, too.

    TCU: 3-0
    Next game: vs. Oklahoma
    Best chance for a loss: vs. Oklahoma
    Prognosis: TCU gave Oklahoma a stiff challenge each of the teams’ two meetings since the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12, 24-17 in Fort Worth on the final day of the 2012 season, and 20-17 in Norman last year. Those TCU teams struggled to move the ball. This one hasn’t – so far. We’ll see how much of a difference Doug Meacham has really made with TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin on Saturday.

    Big Ten

    Nebraska: 5-0
    Next game: at Michigan State
    Best chance for a loss: at Michigan State
    Prognosis: No one has paid much attention to Nebraska this season – at least not when they’re escaping overtime against McNeese State – with good reason. They’ve beaten Florida Atlantic, McNeese State, Fresno State, Miami and Illinois. That changes with a win over Michigan State on Saturday night.

    Conference USA

    Marshall: 4-0
    Next game: at Old Dominion (Oct. 4)
    Best chance for a loss: at Old Dominion (Oct. 4)
    Prognosis: If the Thundering Herd survive their next two – at Old Dominion, vs. Middle Tennessee – I think they cruise to the season finale against Western Kentucky.

    Independents

    BYU: 4-0
    Next game: vs. Utah State (Friday)
    Best chance for a loss: at Central Florida (Oct. 9)
    Prognosis: I don’t know what to think about this team. Taysom Hill is really good, and the Cougars have the ability to physically overwhelm every opponent left on their slate. But I don’t think the defense is 12-0 material, and they commit too many penalties.

    Notre Dame: 4-0
    Next game: vs. Stanford
    Best chance for a loss: vs. Stanford
    Prognosis: No one has come within 16 points of the Fighting Irish this year, but then again their best opponent thus far has been Syracuse. That changes Saturday.

    MAC

    There are zero undefeated teams remaining in the Mid-American Conference. #SadMACtion.

    Mountain West

    There are zero undefeated teams remaining in the Mountain West Conference. #SadMWaction.

    Pac-12

    Arizona: 4-0
    Next game: at Oregon (Thursday)
    Best chance for a loss: at Oregon (Thursday)
    Prognosis: This goes one of two ways. Either the Wildcats are gone from this list and receiving zero votes in both polls, or they’re still here and ranked among the Top 15 nationally.

    Oregon: 4-0
    Next game: vs. Arizona (Thursday)
    Best chance for a loss: vs. Arizona (Thursday)
    Prognosis: A trip to the Rose Bowl with No. 8 UCLA and a certain visit from College GameDay waits on the other side of this game, but Oregon must first contend with the team that beat them 42-16 last November.

    UCLA: 4-0
    Next game: vs. Utah
    Best chance for a loss: vs. Utah
    Prognosis: This was going to be a fun undefeated undercard to what’s happening elsewhere on Saturday, until Utah blew a 21-0 lead and lost to Washington State at home. Still, this Utes bunch is capable of taking down UCLA if they provide the type of effort they did in their last home game, a 42-35 squeaker over Memphis.

    SEC

    Alabama: 4-0
    Next game: at Ole Miss
    Best chance for a loss: at Ole Miss
    Prognosis: Here’s what Alabama has waiting after Saturday: a trip to the same Arkansas team that nearly beat Texas A&M on a neutral field, a Texas A&M whose offense has bedeviled Nick Saban the past two years, a constantly improving Tennessee team, a visit to LSU, a home game with Mississippi State, Western Carolina, and then Auburn.

    Auburn: 4-0
    Next game: vs. LSU
    Best chance for a loss: vs. LSU
    Prognosis: Here’s what Auburn has waiting after Saturday: a trip to Mississippi State, a home game with South Carolina, a visit to Ole Miss, a home game with Texas A&M, a visit to Georgia, Samford, and then a visit to Alabama.

    Missississippi State: 4-0
    Next game: vs. Texas A&M
    Best chance for a loss: vs. Texas A&M
    Prognosis: What Mississippi State has waiting after Saturday: Auburn, a visit to Kentucky, home games with Arkansas and Tennessee-Martin, a visit to Alabama, a home date with Vanderbilt, and then the Egg Bowl in Oxford. Much lighter load than the two schedules above, but the degree of difficulty for reaching Atlanta unbeaten feels about the same.

    Ole Miss: 4-0
    Next game: vs. Alabama
    Best chance for a loss: vs. Alabama
    Prognosis: The Rebels remaining slate after Saturday’s visit by Alabama: at Texas A&M, vs. Tennessee, at LSU, vs. Auburn, vs. Presbyterian, at Arkansas, vs. Mississippi State. The Rebels play four Top 15 teams in the next five weeks, plus a Tennessee team that nearly knocked off Georgia.

    Texas A&M: 5-0
    Next game: at Mississippi State
    Best chance for a loss: at Mississippi State
    Prognosis: Finally, Texas A&M’s remaining schedule after Saturday’s trip to Starkvegas: Ole Miss, at Alabama, vs. Louisiana-Monroe, at Auburn, vs. Missouri, vs. LSU. Only two road games, but those road games happen to be against two of top five teams in the country.

    The point of this exercise? If any team survives the SEC West and whatever the SEC East throws at them in Atlanta unscathed,  and then beats the No. 4 team (let’s not kid ourselves, this would be the Playoff’s No. 1 team) and then the winner of the No. 2 vs. No. 3 semifinal, we’re talking about possibly the greatest season in college football’s modern era.

    Sun Belt

    There are zero undefeated teams remaining in the Sun Belt Conference. #SadFunBelt