Sports Outside the Beltway

Ohio State’s Jim Tressel Resigns

Jim Tressel has resigned as head coach of the Ohio State football team.

Columbus Dispatch (“Coach Jim Tressel out at Ohio State“):

Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel has resigned, university sources told The Dispatch today.

Less than three months after President E. Gordon Gee and Athletic Director Gene Smith said they fully supported their embattled coach, mounting pressure, a pending NCAA disciplinary hearing and new revelations about the culture of the program forced the university to act on their once-revered coach, sources said.

Neither Gee, Smith nor Tressel could be reached immediately for comment.

Sources said assistant coach Luke Fickell, who had been named to coach the first five games of the season while Tressel served his suspension for withholding information from the university compliance office and the NCAA, will serve as interim coach of the Buckeyes all of next season.

The Dispatch has obtained a memo Gee sent to OSU trustees this morning:

“I write to let you know that later this morning we will be announcing the resignation of Jim Tressel as head coach of the University’s football program. As you all know, I appointed a special committee to analyze and provide advice to me regarding issues attendant to our football program. In consultation with the senior leadership of the University and the senior leadership of the Board, I have been actively reviewing the matter and have accepted Coach Tressel’s resignation.

“My public statement will include our common understanding that throughout all we do, we are One University with one set of standards and one overarching mission. The University’s enduring public purposes and its tradition of excellence continue to guide our actions,” Gee wrote.

Ohio State’s football program came under fire in December when six players were suspended by the NCAA for selling or trading uniforms and other memorabilia to a Columbus tattoo-parlor owner. The NCAA also drew criticism for allowing the players to participate in the Sugar Bowl instead of serving their suspensions immediately.


He leaves Ohio State with an impressive coaching resume, having led the school to its fifth national title as well as directing impressive runs of Big Ten championships and victories over archrival Michigan.

The coach who came to Ohio State from Division I-AA Youngtown State University leaves OSU as one of the most recognizable figures in college football and all sports with a record of 106-22 at OSU. His winning percentage of .828 was better than the legendary Woody Hayes (.761).

It’s been drip . . . drip . . . drip since this scandal first broke a few months ago. Tressel’s eventual ouster had become inevitable, so his resignation now saves both himself and his program additional agony. It’s a little late in the day to switch coaches but Ohio State is one of the five or six best jobs in the country; they’ll have little trouble finding a good coach.


Report: Big Ten Makes Expansion Offers To Four Colleges

If this report from a Kansas City sports radio station is to believed, the Big Ten Conference is thinking big when it comes to expansion:

big_ten_mini_pennant_set_23109bigThe Big Ten Conference has extended initial offers to join the league to four universities including Missouri and Nebraska from the Big 12, according to multiple sources close to the negotiations.

While nothing can be approved until the Big Ten presidents and chancellors meet the first week of June in Chicago, the league has informed the two Big 12 schools, Notre Dame and Rutgers that it would like to have them join. It is not yet clear whether the Big Ten will expand to 14 or 16 teams but sources indicated Missouri and Nebraska are invited in either scenario.  Notre Dame has repeatedly declined the opportunity to join the Big Ten.  If Notre Dame remains independent, Rutgers would be the 14th team.  The Big Ten would then decide whether to stop at 14 or extend offers to two other schools.  If Notre Dame joins, sources say an offer will be extended to one other school making it a 16-team league.

All four are interesting choices, for different reasons.

Notre Dame, of course, is a prize that the Big Ten has been pursuing for years, but it’s always been the one that got away. Given their lucrative television contract and national fan base, remaining independent has always seemed to be to Notre Dame’s advantage. Times are changing, though, and the Fighting Irish aren’t what they used to be. Putting them at the center of a conference where they would be instantly competitive might just be what’s needed to reinvigorate a program still hurting from the Charlie Weis years.

Rutgers seems like a odd choice at first because of it’s geographic distance from the rest of the Conference, but there are two reasons why it makes sense. Under Greg Schiano, the Rutgers football program (and make no mistake, this expansion is mostly geared toward football) has become credible in a way that it never was before. When I attended there in the late 80s and the Scarlet Knights played a rare game against Michigan State, it was an occasion for laughter in Lansing, Michigan. Not anymore. Second, bringing in Rutgers gives the Big Ten access to two of the biggest media markets in the country, which would be a big deal for both football and basketball.

As for Missouri and Nebraska, it’s interesting that the Big Ten would be so brazen about poaching from the Big 12, but both schools would be excellent additions on the football side to a conference that has come to be dominated in recent years by Ohio State and Penn State. Bringing the Tigers and Cornhuskers into the conference, along with Rutgers and Notre Dame, would instantly make football season much more competitive.

All in all, this seems like a smart move for the Big Ten.


U of Minnesota Golf Coach Brad James resigns

The Gophers were National Champions in 2002 and won the Big 10 Championship three times under James leadership. From AP-

Minnesota golf coach Brad James resigned on Tuesday to take a position in his native Australia.

James is leaving to become the high performance director of Golf Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport. He will oversee the men’s and women’s national teams and also be responsible for developing the country’s young talent.

James has served as the Minnesota men’s coach since 2001 and has presided over both the men’s and women’s teams as the school’s director of golf for the past 2{ seasons.

He guided the men’s team to the 2002 NCAA championship and has four NCAA finals appearances on his resume.

James had a impressive record. Maybe former Minnesota gopher and 1996 British Open Champion Tom Lehman would be interested in replacing him.


Michigan football players allege NCAA violations

They claim Wolverine coaches are exceeding the time limits set for football practice. From AP-

Several Michigan football players claim the program regularly violates NCAA rules limiting how much time they can spend on training and practice sessions, according to a published report.

Players from the 2008 and 2009 teams told the Detroit Free Press for a story published on the newspaper’s Web site on Saturday that the amount of time they spend on football activities during the season and in the offseason greatly exceeds the limits. The players spoke to the newspaper on condition of anonymity because they feared repercussions from coaches.

Coach Rich Rodriguez and the university’s compliance director, Judy Van Horn, both denied that the football program was violating NCAA rules.

“We know the practice and offseason rules, and we stay within the guidelines. We follow the rules and have always been completely committed to being compliant with all NCAA rules,” Rodriguez said in a written statement to the newspaper.

Clearly a case of he said, he said. I tend to believe the players. They have more to lose and Rodriguez has always struck me as person lacking in integrity.


Beer may be banned at Univ. of Minnesota football games

What are fans supposed to cry over after a loss next season? From AP-

This fall’s eagerly awaited return of Minnesota football to campus after 27 years will feature nostalgia, pageantry and fresh air. But no beer.

University President Robert Bruininks is expected to recommend Friday that regents ban alcohol from the new TCF Bank Stadium following a dispute with state lawmakers.

“We know people will drink before they get to our games. We’re not naive,” Bruininks told The Associated Press on Thursday. “But we do think this is the best, most responsible way to manage our game days and to really make this a high-quality experience for our fans.”

Lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty had set conditions for a stadium liquor license, saying the school could sell alcohol stadium-wide or not at all. They also blocked the university from serving free alcohol to fans in premium seating areas, such as luxury boxes and club rooms.

Trying to enjoy a sporting event as some drunk makes a fool out of himself, always made me wish I had stayed home. In fact, I haven’t been to a major team sporting event in over a decade. Who needs drunks on top of high prices for food and parking and the cost of a ticket when you can just watch it on television?

By the time the Gophers host their first game Sept. 12, Bruininks said the university will have settled on a plan for keeping intoxicated people from entering the stadium and removing unruly fans who do get in.

Checking fans before game time would appear to be an impossible task unless you require 40,000 people to show up five hours early for the game. Does the University plan on doing breathalyzer tests at the gate?


Penn State coach Joe Paterno given three-year extension

The coach who will turn 82 later this month, has led the Nittany Lions since 1966. From AP-

Penn State coach Joe Paterno has a new three-year contract extension to go along with his new hip.

The Hall of Famer and winningest coach in major college football history has agreed to a new deal with the university, the athletic department said Tuesday in a statement.

The agreement will provide “for the opportunity of Coach Joe Paterno leading the football program through the 2011 season,” the statement said. JoePa turns 82 on Sunday.

“It was also agreed that the parties might re-evaluate their circumstances and alter the arrangement by either shortening or extending its length as necessary,” the statement said.

The agreement ends months of speculation about Paterno’s future since his current deal had expired following this season. University president Graham Spanier and Paterno had announced in the spring that Paterno didn’t need something in writing to stay on a job he’s had a record 43 years.

Does anyone honestly think Paterno will be still coaching in 2011 when he’ll turn 85?


White powder scare at U of Michigan Football practice

This news comes just days before the Wolverines play arch rival Ohio State.

Michigan football practice was delayed nearly two hours late this morning after a player reported finding an unknown white powdery substance on the practice field. Head coach Rich Rodriguez immediately suspended practice while police and federal agents were called to investigate.

After a complete analysis, FBI forensic experts determined that the white substance, unknown to the players, was the goal line. Practice was resumed this afternoon after special agents decided the team was unlikely to encounter the substance again.

So what do you think the substance was? Baking soda? Talcum powder? Chalk for the football field?

Hat tip- Doug at Below the Beltway


NFL Draft 2008 – Round 1 #23 – Pittsburgh Steelers – RB Rashard Mendenhall

NFL Draft 2008 Logo The Steelers took approximately two seconds to grab Rashard Mendenhall, easily the best player left on the board, after the Cowboys stupidly passed on him for Felix Jones.

Scouts, Inc.: 7th

Strengths: Thickly and powerfully built back. Possesses adequate height, a strong lower body and enormous arms. Runs with adequate pad-level and will generate lots of yards after initial contact. Drives his legs and always seems to be falling forward. Vision and patience are adequate to good. Shows above-average initial quickness and outstanding burst when bouncing runs outside. Very few backs his size share such a noticeable second-gear (see: 2008 Rose Bowl vs. USC). He is a reliable pass-catcher with a good feel for getting open underneath. Can pluck the ball on the run and is dangerous in the open field with a head of steam. Is more than willing in pass pro and possesses the size/strength to anchor versus blitzing linebackers. Does not have a lot of wear on his tires and his best football should be ahead of him.

Weaknesses: Not overly elusive and won’t generate many yards by making defenders miss in space. Had some fumbling issues earlier in his career. Only one season as fulltime load carrier at collegiate level. Will need some time to adjust to blitz pickup in NFL. Awareness in that regard is only decent. While he has been a productive receiver, he needs to do a better job of catching with his hands rather than allowing it to frequently get into his body. Off-season conditioning has never been his strength. Doesn’t have much room left on frame to add bulk, so he will need to guard against adding unnecessary weight.

Overall: After graduating high school early and arriving on campus in the spring of 2005, Mendenhall contributed immediately as a true freshman. In 10 games, he ran for 218 yards on 48 carries and had 13 receptions for 82 yards and two touchdowns. In 2006, he ran for 640 yards and five TDs on a Big Ten-best 8.2 yards per carry, adding another 164 yards and a score on 12 receptions. As a junior, Mendenhall delivered 1,999 total yards and 19 TDs in 13 games. He led the conference and ranked eighth in the nation in rushing yards (1,681). Mendenhall peaked as a junior, which was his first season as a fulltime starter at Illinois. While he still can improve as a football player, there are no glaring weaknesses to his game. Mendenhall is a powerful runner with the burst to hit the occasional homerun. He also is more than capable in the passing game  both as a receiver and blocker. With good coaching and attention to detail, Mendenhall has a chance to rank among the upper-echelon starters in the NFL a couple years from now. Mendenhall is worth a mid-to-late first round pick and he should be the second or third running back selected in April’s draft.

Rick Gosselin: 10th

Mel Kiper: 10th

Authoritative runner with a major league burst through the hole. Mendenhall’s hard-charging style makes him difficult to get to the ground.

Great pick. The Steelers continue to be the best value drafters in the league. They probably didn’t need a running back here. But how do you pass up top 10 talent at the 23 spot?


NFL Draft 2008 – Round 1 #1 – Miami Dolphins – OT Jake Long

NFL Draft 2008 Logo Unlike past years, where teams with the 1st overall pick wasted 15 minutes of our time despite having months to make their decision, the Miami Dolphins signed Jake Long before the draft started and Commissioner Goddell announced his selection immediately upon kicking off the draft.

Scouts, Inc. ranked Long #4 overall, with the same 98 grade as four other players.

OT | (6’7″, 313, 5.219) | MICHIGAN

Strengths: An experienced, technically sound OT prospect with great size-potential. Is versatile; has experience at left and right tackle and could play either/both in the NFL. Also has proven capable of performing at a high level in power-run scheme and new zone-blocking scheme. Possesses excellent height, adequate bulk and the frame to get bigger if necessary. He has a massive wingspan with long arms and big hands. A natural knee-bender; he gets set quickly in pass pro, plays with good body lean and rarely gets caught lunging. He shuffles his feet quickly and can get back inside to defend double move. Uses long arms and powerful punch to jar defenders and run them wide as pass rushers. Shows excellent awareness in pass pro; consistently gives inside help and does an great job of picking up stunts, twists and blitzes. He takes very good angles as a run blocker. Has adapted very well zone-blocking and shows the mobility to execute in a similar scheme in the NFL. He has good upper-and-lower body strength as a run blocker. Also works hard to sustain and shows a good mean streak. Great intangibles. A leader and hard worker on-and-off the field. Good student in the classroom and intelligence carries over to the field, where he picks up techniques, schemes and assignments quickly.

Weaknesses: Lacks elite mobility for an elite OT prospect. Has enough quickness and balance to perform at a high level in the NFL, but he is not as nimble as former top OT prospects such as Orlando Pace (Rams), Jonathan Ogden (Ravens), D’Brickashaw Ferguson (Jets) and Joe Thomas (Browns). Had some trouble versus Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston’s elite speed rushers. Durability is somewhat of a concern after he missed the first seven games of the 2005 season with an ankle/foot injury.

Overall: Long was redshirted in 2003. In his first active season at Michigan (2004), he appeared in 12 games, starting the last 10 at right tackle, and was selected to the Freshman All-America team. As a sophomore in 2005, played five games (four starts) at right tackle. He moved to left tackle in 2006, and went on to start all 26 of the Wolverines’ games over his final two seasons. He was a first team All-America selection and the Big Ten Lineman of the Year in each of his last two seasons. Long missed the first seven games of 2005 while recovering from spring shoulder surgery and suffering from foot and ankle injuries. Long has outstanding experience to go along with his massive frame, above-average quickness for his size, a powerful upper body (37 reps), long arms (35.6 inches) and big hands (11 inches). He is not as athletic as last year’s top tackle prospect Joe Thomas (Browns), but Long has more than enough range to effectively protect the quarterback’s blindside in the NFL and he’s bigger, stronger and more physical than Thomas was coming out of school. One year later, Long grades out slightly lower than Thomas (No. 3 overall in 2007) but he could actually come off the board earlier in what projects to be a weaker class.

Rick Gosselin ranked him 4th as well.


Cam Cameron says he is not interested in Michigan job

A year has passed and we hear rumors of another Nick Saban like departure from Miami.

Cam Cameron attempted to make it clear Wednesday that the Dolphins won’t lose their coach to the college ranks for the second straight year, denying his interest in the University of Michigan’s coaching vacancy.

Cameron’s name has appeared in two Detroit papers in a laundry list of potential candidates to replace departing coach Lloyd Carr, who resigned on Monday.

“I’m the head football coach of the Miami Dolphins. This is the place that I am and I’m committed to getting this place turned around, period,” Cameron said.

Cameron served as an assistant, alongside Carr, at Michigan, working for both Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller for 10 seasons before breaking into the NFL in 1994 as a quarterbacks coach for the Redskins.

I believe Cameron, which is in stark contrast to last year’s Saban rumors. Cameron could be involuntarily looking for work again when the season is over. If Miami goes 0-16 and draft picks Ted Ginn and John Beck look like busts. I’m betting Cameron will be back in 2008.


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