December 31st

Washington out-scored by Baylor in wild Alamo Bowl

When the calendar turned to November, Washington was sitting pretty, with a 6-2 overall record, 4-1 in Pac-12 play. The Huskies’ only losses were to nationally ranked Nebraska and Stanford. Washington had been ranked as high as No. 21, and, with a win at home over nationally ranked Oregon, would be in the conversation for the Pac-12 North title.

A 34-17 loss to the Ducks, though, put in motion a 1-3 November, including losses to USC and Oregon State. Instead of competing for a title, Washington was left to take on No. 12 Baylor in the Alamo Bowl, limping in with a 7-5 record.

The record-setting 67-56 bowl game set numerous records, including the most total touchdowns (17) and most total combined yards (1,397) in bowl game history. On the positive side, Washington sophomore quarterback Keith Price had a monster game, throwing for 438 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for three more scores. Still, it had to be painful for Washington fans, as Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III led the Bears to 777 yards of total offense – and wasn’t particularly effective. Three Baylor running backs ran for over 100 yards, including Terrance Ganaway, who had 200 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

While Keith Price may be on the short list of candidates for the Heisman trophy in 2012, there will be little national championship talk in Seattle until the defense makes some positive strides. The Huskies were 94th in total defense, 99th in scoring defense, and 116th in passing defense before Baylor went for 777 yards and 67 points against them. Overall, Washington’s 2011 defense was the worst statistically in school history.

It was not a huge surprise, then, when Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt and two other defensive assistants were fired two days Saturday.

The school announced the firing of Holt, linebackers coach Mike Cox and safeties coach Jeff Mills on Saturday. The university says all three had contracts for the 2012 season that will be honored. Holt was scheduled to make $650,000.

Washington will have two winnable home games in non-conference play next fall, hosting San Diego State and Portland State. Between those two home games, though, is a trip to Baton Rouge to play LSU (which could get ugly). In Pac-12 play, Washington will get Stanford and USC at home, but will have five league road games, including trips to Oregon, Colorado, and Washington State.

A total of 19 seniors played their last game against Baylor in the Alamo Bowl, including the team’s top two wide receivers, Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar. With Price returning, Washington will be able to continue to score.

The question will be whether the defense can keep the opposition from scoring.

 

December 29th

Cal falls to Texas in Holiday Bowl, 21-10

The Cal Bears fell to 0-5 all-time against Texas Wednesday night, falling 21-10 in the Holiday Bowl.

The loss left Cal with a final record of 7-6, 4-5 in Pac-12 play.

Cal’s season was much like its record suggests – mediocre and unbalanced. The Bears raced out to a 3-0 record, including a 36-33 non-conference overtime win over Colorado. The Bears then lost their next three games to the Pac-12 heavyweights, Stanford, Oregon and USC.

Cal then fought back to win three of their next four games, only to lose two of their final three to finish with a 4-5 conference record, good enough for fourth place in the Pac-12 North.

The Bears will have a number of stars returning next fall, including quarterback Zach Maynard, who finished the 2011 season just ten yards shy of becoming the first Cal quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers to pass for 3,000 yards in a seaason. However, Maynard will lose some of his star power at wideout, as Cal loses three senior wide receivers, including Marvin Jones.

Cal also graduates, amongst a senior class of 21 players, three offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, and four defensive backs.

The 2012 non-conference schedule has Cal traveling to the Horseshoe to take on Urban Meyer and Ohio State, with a home game against a decent Nevada squad. The third non-conference game has yet to be announced, but look for the opponent to be along the lines of 2011 foe Presbyterian College (a 63-12 walkover).

In Pac-12 play, Cal gets the three top teams in the North division – Oregon, Stanford, and Washington – at home. The bad news is that Cal will not likely be able to keep up with any of the three, which means that Cal, if it is to go bowling in 2012, will have to win a few games on the road.

Look for Cal in 2012 to be much like Cal of 2011 – hovering around the .500 mark, with a chance to go bowling with a few lucky bounces.

December 28th

Pac-12/Big Ten reach agreement on non-conference games

Just when you thought you were done with Nebraska …

It was announced Wednesday that the Big Ten and Pacific-12 are extending their partnership well beyond the Rose Bowl, that they’ll step up interconference scheduling, cross-promote on their respective television networks and even set up academic and cultural exchanges.

According to a USA Today article, by 2017, each team’s nonconference football schedule will include one game against a team from the other league. One could be featured annually as a preseason kickoff event, perhaps staged at the Rose Bowl. Others could be played in neighboring NFL stadiums, including the planned Farmers Field in downtown Los Angeles, the San Francisco 49ers’ new facility or Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Basketball games similarly could land in such NBA arenas as Los Angeles’ Staples Center or Chicago’s United Center, four teams sometimes gathering for doubleheaders.

Many sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, are expected to start bumping up interconference scheduling as soon as 2012-13. Football’s schedules typically are built years in advance and would require a ramp-up to 2017.

Officials are to start working out details.

“This makes a lot of sense,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said, “in terms of continuing to broaden our exposure and improving programming and improving the caliber of our schools’ matchups.”

He and Delany said they’ve had preliminary discussions with current TV partners ABC/ESPN and Fox. They’d carry football and basketball matchups while non-marquee sports would be on the 4-year-old BTN and a Pac-12 network to be launched in August.

With the additional one-game-a-season commitment to the Pac-12, Delany said the Big Ten — which added Nebraska as a member this year — likely will rethink its move to a nine-game conference schedule in football in 2017. Scott said his league will stick with nine.

From the Pac-12 press release …

“Through numerous conversations over the past several months with stakeholders from the Big Ten and Pac-12, we decided there would be great value in building upon the history and collegiality that exists between our member institutions, by initially committing to an increased frequency of play between our schools in all sports,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.

“In football, the objective is to create an annual 12 inter-conference game schedule between the two conferences by the 2017 season. The plan calls for each school to play an opponent from the other conference every year with some flexibility built into the process to respect existing post-2017 FBS non-conference match-ups. Additionally, more inter-conference games are expected to appear sooner based on schedule openings. Many sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, could see an increased level of inter-conference competition in the near term, possibly as early as the 2012-13 academic year. Over the coming months there will be a series of detailed scheduling planning meetings among administrators of both conferences to work out exact details.
 
“The Big Ten and Pac-12 share culture, tradition, values and a rich history of intercollegiate competition, dating back to the inaugural Rose Bowl Game in 1902. The two conferences have met in Pasadena on 62 occasions, including 55 consecutive meetings from 1947-2001. Both the Big Ten and Pac-12 have strong commitments to diversity, gender equity and the sponsorship of broad-based programs, with over 17,000 student-athletes competing on more than 550 teams between the two conferences.”

First reaction … I don’t mind the concept, but I see two issues with implementation:

1) I don’t like the idea of neutral site games. If I am going to see CU play Michigan, I want to go to Ann Arbor and be in the “Big House”. Detroit’s indoor stadium? Not so much;

2) With the Pac-12 sticking with nine conference games, the addition to the Big Ten game, plus the annual game v. CSU (contract runs through 2020), that would leave the Buffs with only one non-conference game to schedule each season. In order to not have the possibility of the seven road game / five home game scenario of the 2011 season, it would be difficult to schedule a home-and-home with a decent BCS team (not to mention making another extremely difficult schedule), so the Buffs would almost be forced to do a “pay-for-play” deal with teams willing to play CU in Folsom with no return date (translation: be prepared for more September games versus the Sacramento States and the Central Arkansas of the college football world).

We’ll see …

December 27th

Oregon still waiting for NCAA investigation results

While Oregon fans are all abuzz about the Ducks’ new Rose Bowl uniforms, there is an undercurrent in Eugene.

The headline in the Oregonian Monday inquired as to whether this year’s Rose Bowl could be last for the Ducks for some time.

Not that the top-five Ducks are in any danger of not qualifying for a bowl game in 2012, but that the NCAA might step in to ban Oregon from bowl participation.

USC received a three-year loss of scholarships – ten per year – plus a two-year bowl ban for all of its issues. Ohio State lost a handful of scholarships for its transgressions, and will sit home next year during the holidays.

Where will Oregon’s penalties fit in?

Probably somewhere in between.

According to the Oregonian, Oregon hired the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King last March to conduct an internal investigation into the matter. According to a heavily-redacted invoice released after a records request from the Oregonian, the firm was still conducting interviews and conferencing in November.

This has been going on since March, so clearly there has been plenty of ground to cover, possibly involving more than Houston-based talent scout Willie Lyles.

Remember, the allegations first surfaced about Lyles’ mentorshiup of five-star recruit Lache Seastrunk. Seastrunk, from Temple, Texas signed with Oregon in 2010. Shortly thereafter, Oregon purchased a $25,000 national recruiting package from Complete Scouting Services, which was owned and operated by Lyles.

The materials received for the 25-grand were revealed to be largely outdated and useless. Lyles since has suggested that perhaps the Ducks were paying more for his access and influence than for his scouting service.

As it turns out, he had advisor/mentorship roles with a number of Texas prep players who turned out at Oregon, including Seastrunk, LaMichael James, Dontae Williams, Tra Carson and Marcus Davis. Lyles’ connections with other schools, such as LSU and California, have also been called into question.

Documents made public by Oregon in response to records requests reveal a number of phone calls between Lyles and coaches and employees of the UO football program, particularly around important dates on the recruiting calendar. So there is plenty of smoke surrounding the Lyles-Oregon relationship.

But the documents, which include email exchanges, also reveal a cordial working relationship between the Bond, Schoeneck & King attorneys, UO administrators and the NCAA investigators. It appears from what we’ve been allowed to see, that Oregon is cooperating completely with the NCAA.

This is important. Greg Sankey, associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and a member of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, said Ohio State “met its obligation to cooperate” with the NCAA.

By contrast, former USC athletic director Mike Garrett thumbed his nose at NCAA investigators.

In the end, the NCAA hit Ohio State with the charge of “failure to monitor” Jim Tressel’s football program. USC was hammered with the more serious “lack of institutional control.”

So Oregon has – at least – cooperation with the NCAA helping to bolster hopes that it will not be the Ducks turn to miss the Pac-12 title game next fall.

December 26th

Arizona State ends season with five game losing streak

Just like Arizona last season, Arizona State ended the 2011 campaign with a five game losing streak, including a devastating loss to the in-state rival.

Unlike Arizona last season, Arizona State didn’t wait to fire its head coach.

The Wildcats fired Mike Stoops in October, after Arizona followed up its five game losing streak to end 2010 with five losses in six games to open the 2011 campaign.

The Sun Devils, though, has already fired its head coach, Dennis Erickson, and replaced him with former Pitt coach Todd Graham.

Arizona State had a chance to send Erickson out a winner, but were dominated by Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl, 56-24.

To give the Sun Devils some credit, they did not quit on their former coach, even after falling behind, 21-0, early in the second quarter. Arizona State had it back to 28-10 early in the third quarter, and had a first-and-goal against the Broncos. On fourth-and-goal at the one, though, Brock Osweiller threw an interception which was returned for a touchdown. Instead of 28-17, the score became 35-10, and the rout was on.

Erickson finished his tenure at Tempe with a 31-31 overall record, and new head coach Todd Graham was certainly not the first choice of many Sun Devil fans.

So, what do the Sun Devils have to work with in 2011, coming off of a 6-7 season and carrying the burden of a five-game losing streak?

Well, like Arizona this season, Arizona State faces the distinct possibility of opening Pac-12 play with a losing record. The Sun Devils face Northern Arizona from the Big Sky Conference (the only team Mike Stoops was able to defeat before being fired at Arizona this past fall), but also play Missouri and Illinois, both bowl teams this past year (though Illinois has its own problems, having also fired its coach after finishing the regular season with a six game losing streak).

In Pac-12 play, Arizona State does miss Washington and Stanford from the Pac-12 North, but must travel to Cal, Arizona, USC, and, of course, Colorado.

The Sun Devils will have talent returning, including junior quarterback Brock Osweiller, who threw for over 4,000 yards this season. However, Arizona State was billed as the 2011 preseason favorite to play in the USC-less Pac-12 title game, in large part due to the significant number of senior starters and contributors who were coming back.

As a result, look for Arizona State to be picked to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-12 south next fall. The reasons which will be given in the preseason magazines:  1) five-game losing streak to end the 2011 campaign; 2) new (and not particularly popular) new head coach; 3) tough schedule; and 4) significant senior losses.

Still, before Buff fans can plan on posting CU’s first-ever victory against Arizona State (0-3 all-time), there is this sobering fact …

Arizona State not only finished the 2011 season with a five-game losing streak, the Sun Devils in fact lost six of their last seven games.

The only victory?

A 48-14 thrashing of Colorado …

December 25th

Merry Christmas!

Leach opting out of scholarship offers to Wulff recruits!

Scrooge …

New Washington State head coach Mike Leach has made it clear that some of the 19 players who received scholarship offers from the Cougars, and had given their verbal commitments, will not be invited to be a part of the new program.

Leach said he wouldn’t put a number on how many of those 19 would be honored, but he answered “no question” when the Seattle Times asked about the notion that the new staff is setting its own course to some extent.

A whole bunch of players have kind of opened their minds and listened to our message,” Leach said. “They’re excited about the Cougs and what we have to offer.”

Last December, new Colorado head coach Jon Embree did not fact a similar dilemma. The 2010 lame duck season under Dan Hawkins only saw verbal commitments from a handful of players, with all of those commitments honored by the new regime.

Utah may not make a splash with new offensive coordinator hire

When Kyle Whittingham, Utah’s head coach, picked up former BYU, USC, and UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow last off-season, it gave the Utes some instant credibility.

The Utes were stepping up into a BCS conference, and now had a coordinator who was a proven success at the BCS level of competition.

A year later, with Chow off to coach at Hawai’i, Whittingham is again in search of a new offensive coordinator. This time, though, the new name might not be as familiar to football fans.

Some options, according to the Deseret News:

Aaron Roderick: Currently coaching wide receivers at Utah, Roderick was the co-offensive coordinator and play caller for a season before Chow’s arrival.

Advantage: Knows the personnel and is familiar with what Whittingham wants, worked closely with Norm Chow this season.

Disadvantage: Was replaced a year ago in the same position.

Dave Schramm: Currently coaching the running backs at Utah, Schramm was the co-offensive coordinator with Roderick for a season before Chow’s arrival.

Advantage: Helped to coordinate and develop the running game that was the cornerstone of Utah’s offense this season.

Disadvantage: Was replaced a year ago in the same position.

Dirk Koetter: Currently the offensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Koetter helped build the Boise State football program from 1998-2000. Has been an offensive coordinator at UTEP, Missouri, Boston College and Oregon.

Advantage: Knows the region, having grown up up in Pocatello, Idaho. Has run successful offenses just about everywhere he’s been.

Disadvantage: Currently in the NFL and might not want to return to college as an offensive coordinator.

Seth Littrell: Currently unemployed and the former offensive coordinator at Arizona, Littrell was on Mike Stoops’ staff at Arizona for three seasons and before that he was on Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech.

Advantage: Helped to coordinate one of the top offensive attacks in the Pac-12 last season at Arizona. Tight with Mike Leach, who is good friends with Whittingham.

Disadvantage: Littrell is a spread offense guy. If Utah plans to stay with a pro-style attack he may not fit.

Not exactly a marquee list – but we’ll see what Whittingham comes up with …

December 23rd

Remember …

Alexandru Ceachir? He was/is the junior college offensive lineman who took an official visit to Colorado in early December. Here was his bio from a few weeks ago …

Alexandru Ceachir – OL – Just the facts … Ceachir is a junior college offensive lineman from Santa Monica Junior College. Ceachir is 6’5″, 300-pounds. Ceachir is considered a three-star prospect by Rivals, but a two-star prospect by Scout. Ceachir has other offers from … several other schools, most notably Utah and Arkansas. After visiting Colorado this weekend, Ceachir will take an official visit to Utah next weekend, and then likely Arkansas the following weekend. “I know on December 2nd I am probably going to go to Colorado, then on the 9th I am probably going to Utah, and I definitely want to visit Arkansas,” Ceachir told HawgSports.com. “We are planning but it’s not sure yet. My semester ends on December 20, so after then I am going to be good to go. I want to sign as soon as possible because I want to start lifting and learning the playbook. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff to do.” Rivals bio  Scout bio

Well, Ceachir loved his trip to Boulder, but his ability to transfer in right away kept him from becoming a Buff. Ceachir wanted to enroll in January, but some of his credits would not count by CU standards, forcing Ceachir, if he wanted to become a Buff, to take more classes in Santa Monica this spring, and then enroll next summer. Not wanting to do that, Ceachir gave his commitment to Utah.

Which lasted a little over a week …

On Thursday, Ceachir de-commited from Utah, and commited to UCLA. The Utes loss of offensive coordinator Norm Chow to Hawai’i reportedly played a role.

Jake Heaps?

The No. 1 quarterback recruit from the Class of 2010 committed to BYU, but decided to transfer at the end of the 2011 season after failing to crack the starting lineup.

Now Heaps has landed at …

Kansas, with former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis.

In 2010, Heaps took over as the starter after Riley Nelson suffered a shoulder injury. The Cougars won four of their final five regular-season games and the New Mexico Bowl. Heaps was the MVP of the bowl game.

He set BYU freshman records for passing yards (2,316), attempts (383), completions (219), passing touchdowns (15), wins (six), games started (10) and games played (13).

He was the Cougars’ starter to open the 2011 season, throwing for 1,452 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine games. However, he struggled early in the year and lost his starting job after Nelson led a late comeback against Utah State.

Heaps will have to sit out a year, and then will compete with former Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist, who also announced Thursday that he was transferring to Kansas.

Rock chalk, Jayhawk!

December 22nd

UCLA down four for bowl game

UCLA Bruins backup quarterback Richard Brehaut has been suspended for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, and three others have been ruled academically ineligible, the school announced Wednesday.

Starting free safety Tony Dye, starting offensive lineman Albert Cid and backup linebacker Isaiah Bowens will join Brehaut on the list of players who will not make the trip to San Francisco for the Dec. 31 bowl game against Illinois.

“The only thing I’m going to say with Richard is that he’s going to be suspended because of a violation of team rules,” Johnson said. “Richard is not going to be here, he’s going to be suspended and therefore I’ve got to move on and go to the next guy.”

Kevin Prince will be the starter, and either Nick Crissman or Darius Bell will be the backup.

Mora ditches UCLA senior “ditch day”

Incoming UCLA coach Jim L. Mora on Wednesday blasted the team tradition of going “over the wall” to ditch practice as the Bruins did on Tuesday, calling it “completely unacceptable” and “disrespectful,” and vowing to end the practice during his tenure as coach.

“I can tell you in no uncertain terms that that tradition will not be part of tradition going forward,” Mora said when he stopped by practice for about 15 minutes Wednesday afternoon. “My general feeling is that if they want to skip out on practice and jump over a wall, then they might as well keep going because they are not a part of what I want to be a part of.” 

UCLA’s seniors organized what amounted to a ditch day Tuesday, running off the practice field and hopping the wall that surrounds the facility just after the team had completed pre-practice stretching. It is a decades-old tradition for the Bruins, but one that didn’t go over well with some players and definitely didn’t go over well with Mora, who will not begin coaching the team until after the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31.

“I’ve never heard of anything like it in college football and I don’t ever want to hear about it again here,” Mora said. “I’ve never been around anything like that and nor will I ever be around anything like that.”

December 21st

Who is next in line at Utah?

With Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow in line to become the next head coach at Hawai’i (story under December 20th, below), the question becomes: Who will take over for him at Utah?

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, since offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig departed after the Sugar Bowl in January 2009, the Utes have had three play-callers — Dave Schramm, Aaron Roderick and Chow — over the past 38 games. Coach Kyle Whittingham claimed he demoted Schramm and Roderick only because Chow was available last winter. So will he promote one of them again, or go outside the program for another high-profile coordinator, having recognized what it takes to compete in the Pac-12?

One of the calling cards for the Utes, as new members of the Pac-12 conference, is that they had Norm Chow, fresh from UCLA and USC, to guide their offense. It gave Utah instant credibility in recruiting battles for quarterbacks and skill position players. Now that advantage has been lost, or at least mitigated.

So, here is how the Pac-12 South lines up for this recruiting season:

USC – Still the 200-pound gorilla in recruiting, the Trojans are still limited to 15 scholarships, while every other school has 25 (or more, counting gray-shirts) to work with;

Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State – New head coaches, new coordinators, new schemes; and

Utah – New offensive coordinator to hire, with only a month to go  before Signing Day.

It would be difficult to imagine a scenario for the future in which Colorado would have an advantage – in one form or another – over every other team in the division when it comes to recruiting.

Strike while the iron is hot, gentlemen. The opportunity is there …

 

December 20th

Norm Chow hired as head coach at Hawai’i

The good news is that Colorado will not have to face a Norm Chow offense at Utah ever again.

The bad news is that Colorado will have to face a Norm Chow offense against Hawai’i in 2014 and 2015.

According to the Hawai’i Star Advertiser, The University of Hawai’i administration has authorized athletic director Jim Donovan to negotiate a contract to make Norm Chow the next Warriors football coach. Chow emerged as the top choice from three finalists after a meeting of key UH officials Monday night, according to an official familiar with the situation but not yet authorized to speak publicly.

A press conference could be held Thursday, depending on negotiations and Chow’s travel availability.

The 65-year old Chow, who is the offensive coordinator at Utah, could receive up to a five-year contract. Salary figures and other details remain to be worked out.

Chow, a graduate of Punahou School in Honolulu, has spent 38 years in college coaching at Brigham Young, North Carolina State, USC, UCLA and Utah, but this will be his first head coaching job. He has also been an offensive coordinator in the NFL.

December 16th

Pac-12 Underclassmen start to make declarations

According to draftcountdown.com, 13 players are going to forego 2012 eligibility and declare for the NFL draft. Of the 13, five are from the Pac-12:

Andrew Luck – quarterback, Stanford

LaMichael James – running back, Oregon

Matt Kalil, offensive tackle, USC

David DeCastro, offensive guard, Stanford

Nick Perry, defensive end, USC

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is January 15th, so there will be many more early entries to list over the next month.

December 15th

Report: LaMichael James to declare for the NFL draft

The Oregonian is reporting that Oregon junior running back LaMichael James will declare for the NFL draft after the Ducks play Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl January 2nd.

UPDATE: James issued a statement through the Oregon athletic department on Thursday denying that he has made a decision as to whether or not to enter the 2011 draft.

UPDATE II: The Oregonian is sticking by its story. “It was reported (Wednesday) that Oregon running back LaMichael James, a fourth-year junior, will forgo a fifth season to enter the 2012 NFL Draft,” writes Aaron Fentress. “Allow me to repeat: A fourth-year junior running back will forgo a fifth season to enter the NFL Draft … We stand by the reporting and the source, who has not retracted the original statement.” 

James, who will finish his career in Eugene as the team’s all-time leading rusher and scorer, could have declared for the NFL draft as a red-shirt sophomore after last season, but chose to return to play in 2011. James was injured mid-season, and missed several games, taking him out of the race for the Heisman trophy (though he was still named 2nd-team All-American). Fear of additional injury could certainly have played a role in the decision to go pro.

While the loss of James will certainly have an impact on the Oregon offense, the Ducks are still stock-piled with talent. Kenjon Barner, who had almost 1,000 yards rushing in 2011, will likely return for his senior season. And then there is DeAnthony Thomas, who made every freshman All-American team. Thomas had only 53 carries this fall, but they went for 440 yards (a nifty 8.3 yards per carry average) and five touchdowns. Thomas also led the team in receptions, with 42 catches for 571 yards and another nine touchdowns.

Pac-12 defensive coordinators are certainly ready to wish James well in his NFL career, but the Oregon offense will not likely miss a beat.

December 14th

Arizona State hires Pittsburgh coach

In the “from out of nowhere” department … Pitt coach Todd Graham is going to become the next head coach at Arizona State.

“I have resigned my position at Pitt in the best interest of my family to pursue the head coaching position at Arizona State,” Graham said in a text message sent to players on the Pittsburgh team. “Coaching there has always been a dream of ours and we have family there. The timing of the circumstances have prohibited me from telling you this directly. I now am on my way to Tempe to continue those discussions. God Bless. Coach Graham.”

Thanks, coach, for the one year of undying loyalty …

Graham spent just one season in Pittsburgh, where he led the Panthers to a 6-6 mark and a tie for second place in the Big East. He took the Panthers’ job on Jan. 10 and pledge to be in the job for the long haul. He left after just over 11 months.

“I take a nap for 2 hours, wake up to find out my head coach is gone,” backup quarterback Trey Anderson posted on his Twitter feed.

Graham, a Mesquite, Texas native with a background as a defensive coordinator but who has built his head coaching resume at Rice, Tulsa and Pittsburgh with what he calls a “high-octane” offense. Graham was 43-23 at Tulsa after going 7-5 in his one season at Rice.

Graham’s system worked with the Owls and the Golden Hurricane but not at Pittsburgh. The Panthers were tabbed to finish second in the Big East in the preseason but found a way to let winnable games get away while quarterback Tino Sunseri struggled to grasp the complex system.

Pitt let double-digit second-half leads get away three times, most painfully in a 21-20 loss to rival West Virginia the day after Thanksgiving. There was no word on who would coach Pitt in their bowl game.

Graham joins three of his assistants who are also heading west. After the last Pittsburgh game, three coaches — Calvin Magee, Tony Gibson and Tony Dews — left to join new Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez. Magee will be Arizona’s offensive coordinator and running backs coach.

The Arizona/Arizona State game just got a little more interesting …

“Doing it the Graham way”

With the way Graham left Pitt, after only one season, it is not surprising that Graham is not very popular in Pittsburgh right now.

ESPN blogger Andrea Adelson has an interesting article  on the subject …

“Todd Graham arrived in Pittsburgh talking a big game, throwing around his ideas for a high-octane offense, for doing everything the Pitt way, for making the city and its fans get behind him and his players with the special brand of football he had to offer.

“But from the start, it was obvious Graham did not do anything the Pitt way.

“He did it the Graham way.

“Graham took a sledgehammer to Pitt football in every way imaginable, gutting the true essence of what this program represented. He was flashy. Self-absorbed. Concerned for his own advancement. When his high-octane offense looked as exciting as a jalopy riding in a NASCAR race, he blamed his players — not himself.

“And when his first opportunity came to bolt, he did, taking a page out of the Randy Edsall Book of Class to deliver the message to his players via text message. Graham lasted less than a year at Pitt, compiling a 6-6 record after setting preseason expectations so high, the Panthers were picked to finish second in the conference.

“So in came Graham, who professed his love for Pitt, for this being a dream opportunity, for all the amazing things he could do to get this team back into a BCS game. I sat down with him for the first time during the Big East spring meetings last May, and he went over all his talking points when I asked him why he wanted to coach at Pitt.

“I’ve spent my whole life working to get this job,” he said. “This is the best job I’ve ever had. To get an opportunity in a conference like this in a place like Pitt where you can compete to win it all … our goal is to win championships. We’re extremely motivated.”

“Not motivated enough. In hindsight, perhaps Pederson should have seen the signs. Graham now has two one-year tenures on his résumé, a man so completely consumed with finding a bigger, better opportunity that he has no sense of loyalty, relationships or how to tell the truth.

“Just ask Pitt receiver Devin Street, who took to Twitter on Wednesday to deliver one harsh message after another:

“I feel like dirt and I was just abused. For a year”

“I’m literally sick. That man pulled me in his office one on one and lied to me”

“He’s an actor he did it to rice then us now he’s gonna do it to ASU… That energy is fake he has them fooled”

“Or defensive end Brandon Lindsey, who tweeted, “For someone who said they read the bible everyday, he must’ve missed the pg that said ‘thou shall not lie'”

“It is understandable for the players to be reacting this way. They are going on their fourth head coach in a year. But we all know coaching changes are a necessary part of college football. Coaches lie to advance themselves. None of this is new to Pitt or to the sport itself.

“What is so unsettling about this situation is the way Graham went about leaving. He asked for permission to interview at Arizona State but was denied. So he resigned anyway, after 11 months on the job and a .500 record to show for all his bravado. Whatever his reasons, his final day proved to fit Graham to a tee:

“He did it the Graham way.”

Ouch.

Welcome to the Pac-12, Todd Graham.

Texas A&M defensive coordinator in line to become next head coach at Fresno State

Sorry, no Dan Hawkins …

Even though Kyle Ringo at the Daily Camera hinted that former Boise State and Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins might be interested in the head coaching vacancy at Fresno State, it doesn’t sound like that is going to happen.

The next head coach at Fresno State, who will take on the Buffs next September, is going to be …. Tim DeRuyter.

Okay, I wasn’t familiar with the name, either.

“Throughout his career Tim has continuously displayed the passion, integrity, expertise, innovation and commitment to his student-athletes that are the common trademarks of successful head football coaches,” Fresno State athletic director Thomas Boeh said in a news release. “He has a clear plan for the future of our football program and shares our vision for the continual development of the Athletics Department.”

DeRuyter (pronounced da-ROOT-er) has spent the past two seasons as an assistant head coach/defensive coordinator at Texas A&M; he was named the Aggies’ interim head coach for their bowl after Mike Sherman was fired.

DeRuyter said his three keys will be recruiting, discipline and development.

“My vision and plan is for a championship Fresno State football program,” DeRuyter said in a statement. “We will build student-athletes into champions, both on and off the field. Fresno State is where I can live out my dream of building a team that can accomplish this. Along with that, I want to help fulfill the dreams of the Red Wave by winning conference championships and becoming a player once again on the national stage.”

Here is a brief bio for Tim DeRuyter:

Education: Air Force Academy (gradutated in 1985); Regis University, MBA 1992

Coaching career:

2010-11: Texas A&M, assistant head coach/defensive coordinator
2008-09: Air Force, associate head coach/defensive coordinator
2007: Air Force, defensive coordinator
2005-06: Nevada, co-defensive coordinator
2002-04: Ohio, defensive coordinator
1999-2001: Navy, assistant coach
1995-98: Ohio, defensive coordinator

Under California law, publicly funded jobs have to be kept open for ten days. Fifteen-year head coach Pat Hill was let go on December 4th, so the earliest an announcement could be made will be today (Wednesday). 

December 13th

Larry Scott in China

One of the goals of Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott for the new Pac-12 Network was to broaden the league’s influence in the Pacific rim. With the Pac-12 Network beginning to take shape, Scot is on the road.

Scott will give a keynote address this week on The Structure and Business Model of Intercollegiate Athletics in the United States at the 2011 China International Sports Leadership Forum, an annual summit that featuressome of the most significant developments in sports from around the world. Scott joins a roster of speakers that includes Wei Di, General Secretary of the China Football Association, Sun Daguang, General Secretary of China’s Sports Culture Development Centre, Sir Dave Richards, Chairman of the English Premier League and Sir Rodney Walker, Chairman of the British Sports Council.
 
Scott will also meet with government officials, Chinese and U.S. sports leagues, event promoters and media companies interested in partnering on events and sports and culture exchange as well as distributing Pac-12 content.
 
“This is an important priority for our universities, as world-renowned research institutions located in the West, representing the gateway to the Pacific Rim,” Scott said. “We are uniquely positioned as a Conference, given the international makeup of our student body, the international brandrecognition of our schools, and our geographic location, to make a big impact in Asia. This is our first step in pursuing new frontiers.”
 
“We prepare our students to compete and connect globally through our international exchange programs and recruitment of international students and faculty to our campuses,” said Ed Ray, President of Oregon State University and Chairman of the Pac-12 Board.  “The Olympics demonstrate the power of athletics to open gateways to competition as well as culturalexchange and understanding. We believe international activities by Pac-12 in athletics can enhance the effectiveness of many of the programs our individual institutions already have in place with China and other Asian nations.”

Scott said in a telephone interview with the New York Times Saturday that he expected the Pac-12 to play games in China in the next three to five years, and that he hoped the league’s cable network would someday be available there.

There have been college football games played overseas, and dozens of colleges have sent teams in other sports on foreign tours, but the Pac-12’s initiative to become more involved in China is believed to be the first concentrated effort by a league to establish itself overseas. Pac-12 presidents and athletic directors say there is a strong desire for the results to transcend sports, hoping that an increased presence in China will lead to recruitment of future students and positive cultural experiences for their athletes who travel there.

Notre Dame and Stanford have discussed playing their 2013 football game in China instead of in California. Oregon, with its strong Nike ties through the company’s chairman, Phil Knight, also has a strong interest in China, a focal point for Nike.

The future of football in China is not as certain as that of other sports with more traditional ties to the country. Scott said he was optimistic that sports like men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball could be played in China soon because there is plenty of infrastructure to accommodate them. Scott said that the relationship would probably begin with off-season tours and lead to regular-season games.

Bob Bowlsby, Stanford’s athletic director, said: “It’s an emerging market educationally as well as athletically. It seems to me that international strategy is good for Stanford and the Pac-12 universities in general. All of them, especially along the West Coast, are heavily engaged in the Pacific Rim.”

Go get ’em, Mr. Scott!

December 12th

Mountain West Conference wants automatic BCS bid

Can’t blame a girl for tryin’ …

The Mountain West Conference will ask for an automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series for the 2012 and ’13 seasons.

The MWC announced Monday that its board of directors approved making the request.

The BCS rules allow a league without automatic qualifying status to request an exemption for the next two seasons if its teams met certain performance standards from 2008-2011.

The MW met those standards, with the help of TCU earning bids in 2009 and 2010. The Mountain West was also aided by Boise State and TCU’s performances this season.

Of course, all of the teams mentioned are no longer part of the conference. In fact, the only teams which will be a part of the Mountain West Conference in 2013 which are going to bowls this season are …

… I’ll give you a second on this one …

Wyoming (8-4)  and Nevada (7-5).

Yeah, let’s put the Cowboys in the Fiesta Bowl against those other Cowboys – from Oklahoma State.

Remember the 1988 Holiday Bowl?

I won’t make you look it up … Oklahoma State 62, Wyoming 14.

December 10th

UCLA hires Jim Mora, Jr.

Jim L. Mora, who spent the last two years as an analyst with NFL Network, will be the new head coach for UCLA.

This is the first college head coaching job for Mora, who spent the 1984 season as a graduate assistant at the University of Washington, where he played football. The rest of his experience is in the NFL, as an assistant with the San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, and the San Francisco 49ers, and as a head coach with the Falcons and Seahawks.

Mora was 26-22 with the Falcons from 2004 to 2006. Atlanta reached the NFC championship game in 2004. The Seahawks had a 5-11 record in 2009 in Mora’s only season as head coach.

“As someone who has been around the game of football my entire life, I have always held the UCLA job in the highest esteem,” Mora said in a statement. “Given its location and its tradition, UCLA is truly a sleeping giant and I realize that an opportunity of this magnitude doesn’t present itself more than once in a career, so I jumped at the chance to be a Bruin.”

Mora takes over a UCLA program that has wallowed in mediocrity since the Bruins’ last Rose Bowl game appearance following the 1998 season.

The 13 seasons UCLA has gone without a Rose Bowl appearance is the longest in school history. The Bruins have not been ranked for 75 weeks, also the longest stretch in school history.

UCLA has won more than eight games only once in the last 13 seasons, leading to the firings of head coaches Bob Toledo, Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel.

Before deciding on Mora, UCLA officials approached Boise State Coach Chris Petersen, who turned down the job. They also reached out to Miami Coach Al Golden, who told them he was not interested.

What to make of the hire?

According to ESPN blogger Peter Yoon, Mora is a step in the right direction …

“Making the outside-the-box hire of Mora (Mora is the first head coach at UCLA since 1957 without ties to the program) is only the first step in the culture change needed at UCLA if the Bruins are to again reach national prominence, but Mora will need help. Toledo, Dorrell and Neuheisel were hampered by a lack of commitment from the administration to make UCLA a nationally prominent football school.

“The school has to allow boosters to pump money into facilities upgrades so potential recruits don’t get turned off by the 80-yard practice fields currently used by the Bruins. The administration needs to pony up the cash for elite assistant coaches so game planning and technique improve, and also needs to relax admission standards a bit more for football players so that UCLA isn’t turning away potential recruits based on GPAs and test scores.

“Surely Mora asked for these things before signing his contract because these are the types of things that have kept big-name coaches away from UCLA in the past. Athletic director Dan Guerrero has promised that some of those things are changing in order to get UCLA on a level playing field with other elite football schools.

“If Mora gets those things, he has a head start on his predecessors. That, and the change of pace he brings, will give UCLA football a new business model, one that is current with the modern college football landscape.

“And one that breaks the recent Bruins tradition of mediocrity”.

My take?

Not overly impressed.

Mora has no coaching experience at the collegiate level, save one year as an assistant 27 years ago.

And Mora is expected to take on USC in recruiting? At least Rick Neuheisel was familiar with the NCAA rules when it came to recruiting – I didn’t say he always followed them, but at least hewas familiar with them.

It will be interesting to see what assistant coaches are retained/hired by Mora, and what type of offense and defense he plans on implementing. If Mora goes with the “pro-style” NFL offense, then Colorado and UCLA will be going head-to-head for recruits.

UCLA fans were looking for a “splash” hire. Chris Petersen would have been a splash hire. Kevin Sumlin would have been a splash hire. Mike Leach, Al Golden … splash hires.

Instead, the Bruin Nation gets a coach who has been out of coaching for two years. A coach who had moderate success in the NFL and has no experience coaching in college.

I may be proven wrong here, but of the three Pac-12 hires to date – Mike Leach (Washington State), Rich Rodriguez (Arizona) and Jim Mora (UCLA) – the least imposing of the three is certainly Mora.

Fresno State down to final two candidates

Colorado takes to the road next September to face the Fresno State Bulldogs. For the first time in 15 seasons, the opposing coach will not be Pat Hill.

It appears now that Fresno State is down to its final two candidates to replace Hill.

According to the Fresno Bee, Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain and Oakland Raiders assistant coach Kelly Skipper were interviewed by Fresno State administrators on Friday in Dallas. That’s according to two prominent boosters who are close to the search but asked not to be identified because the school has not provided official updates on its finalists.

“We need a coach with a fresh view of the game – a good, quality coach who knows how to coach football,” one of the boosters said. “I know Thomas and his people are working hard to get the best man for the job.”

Both McElwain and Skipper have ties to Fresno State and fit one of Boeh’s preferences of having worked at a successful college program. Neither McElwain nor Skipper has been a head coach.

McElwain, 49, served as Bulldogs offensive coordinator in 2007, then left for Alabama to coach under Nick Saban. McElwain has helped the Crimson Tide reach two national championship games in the past four seasons. If the name sounds familiar, McElwain was a serious candidate for the Colorado job just a year ago.

Skipper, 44, was a star running back at Fresno State and a former Bulldogs assistant (1991-97). He left to become an assistant under coach Bob Toledo at UCLA and served as Bruins offensive coordinator from 2001-02. Skipper has spent the past five years in the NFL and oversaw a Raiders running game that ranked second in the league in 2010.

He is the brother of current Bulldogs assistant Tim Skipper, and his father, Jim, is a longtime NFL assistant.

An annoucement is expected this upcoming week.

December 8th

CSU no closer to a hire

New Colorado State athletic director Jack Graham came back to Ft. Collins with no experience in running an athletic department …

We’ll just leave it at that.

Graham is paying a national executive search firm, Spencer Stuart, $250,000 to assist with the coaching search. Graham wouldn’t say where he was yet in his plan to identify 50 to 70 initial candidates, pare that list down to 30 or 40 that he hoped to actually talk to and then to four or five finalists, from which he would decide who to bring to campus for additional interviews.

“We’ve been at work since Sunday night, so a lot of progress has been made,” Graham told the Coloradoan. “I think we have a great story to tell, and a number of quality coaches would love to be here, in my opinion.

“And I could fall flat on my face, too, but that’s not my intention.”

Graham reiterated his desire to find a new coach quickly to minimize the effects on recruiting. Mid-year junior college transfers can sign beginning Dec. 19, and the signing period for high school seniors begins Feb. 1. CSU students begin final exams Monday, but Graham said he didn’t feel it was necessary to name a coach before students head home for the holidays.

“We want to complete this as rapidly as we can, without compromising quality in any way.”

With a number of other schools looking for coaches, including other mid-majors, it will be interesting to see who ends up in Ft. Collins.

But the clock is ticking. Colorado State has exactly two commitments for the Class of 2012.

December 6th

June Jones to Arizona State – on again; off again

It appeared earlier on Wednesday that former Hawai’i and SMU head coach June Jones would become the next head coach at Arizona State …

Now it appears to be off again.

According to AZCentral.com, a source close to the negotiation said that talks between Arizona State and June Jones broke off Wednesday afternoon, there is no plan to talk again anytime soon.

This came after multiple national and local outlets reported that a deal was done. Some reported that a press conference announcing Dennis Erickson’s replacement would take place Thursday or Friday.

“We’ve had a lot of good conversations with a lot of good candidates,” said a source with knowledge of ASU’s position. “The process is on-going.”

A source confirmed that both parties were in the process of finalizing the contract’s final details when ASU President Michael Crow ended the discussion.

Earlier, Dallas media reported that Jones had called his assistants off the recruiting trail to meet with him back in Dallas.

Arizona State fans are a fickle bunch. Here is an interesting column by Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley, entitled, “ASU Post is no dream job“. Bickley concludes:

“The anger is palpable because ASU fans expect the unrealistic. Old-timers resist new logos and pine for the good old days under Frank Kush, forgetful that it was a different time and a different country back then. The younger generation is impatient and half-vested. A school official sagely says ASU leads the nation in fans who scream their dissatisfaction from the couch.

“Together, they are an impetuous lot that loved the idea of Kevin Sumlin until they actually saw his team play. When Sumlin’s defense was shredded in the Conference USA title game, many jumped off that bandwagon so fast you could hear ankles snapping.

“That’s the essence of Crow’s statement. He’s reminding everyone that this short-term, reflexive mind-set is no way to build a football program or for the program to live .

“We all agree: The Sun Devils need a charismatic young coach who can recruit with the big boys, creating a winning brand that attracts the fickle masses, helping ASU finally turn the corner, overcome its recruiting disadvantages and make an occasional run at the Rose Bowl.

“Until then, let’s forget about the sleeping giant, the one that doesn’t exist.”

And the latest from UCLA ….

According to the LA Times, UCLA has now turned its attention to former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks coach Jim Mora Jr.

Mora, 50, had a record of 26-22 with the Falcons from 2004-06. During his first season, Atlanta reached the NFC championship game, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10. Mora had a 5-11 record with the Seahawks in 2009, his only season as coach before he was replaced by Pete Carroll.

Just to recap – UCLA is 0-3 so far in its choices to replace Rick Neuheisel, having been spurned by Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin, and Miami head coach Al Golden.

Golden, who was a team captain at Penn State, also coached for the Nittany Lions and at Virginia before breaking in as a head coach at Temple. In five years at Temple, Golden’s records improved from 1-11 to 4-8 to 5-7 and then 9-3 and 8-4. He was 6-6 this season in his first year at Miami, and the school recently rewarded him with a contract extension through 2019.

People with knowledge of UCLA’s actions in its search said the school reached out to Golden, though Guerrero denied it.

Miami President Donna Shalala told the Miami Herald, “Of course UCLA and other schools are going to call … When you’re really good, you get phone calls.

“This guy wants to be with the University of Miami.”

But not with UCLA …

Stay tuned.

December 5th

Arizona down to one quarterback

Good thing the Buffs have their quarterback recruits, Connor Wood and Shane Dillon, lined up … because new Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez will be in the market for quarterbacks this recruiting cycle.  

The Wildcats announced Monday the transfer of two quarterbacks, freshman Daxx Garman and junior Tom Savage, who just a year ago transferred from Rutgers.

While senior Matt Scott was expected to win the 2012 starting job — even more so now that new coach Rick Rodriguez brought a spread-option to Tucson — there are no scholarship quarterbacks on the roster behind him. This year’s starter Nick Foles and backup Bryson Beirne are both out of eligibility.

Andrew Luck heading to New York, Barkley staying home

As expected, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be heading to New York this weekend for the unveiling of this year’s Heisman trophy winner. The front-runner for most of the season, Luck’s stock fell after the Cardinal fell to Oregon. Odds-on favorite for the No. 1 pick in next spring’s NFL draft, Luck was very good, but did not have many spectacular plays or signature victories (other than the three-overtime victory over USC).

Up against Luck are two players who will be participating in the BCS national championship game, LSU cornerback Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu and Alabama running back Trent Richardson. The other two attendees are Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and the late-season dark horse, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin, III.

Not invited to the Downtown Athletic Club from the Pac-12 were USC quarterback Matt Barkley and 2010 Heisman finalist, Oregon running back LaMichael James.

UCLA 0-3 in head coaching search

Maybe Rick Neuheisel is still available …

For most of the 2011 season, with Bruin head coach Rick Neuheisel at the top of most “hot seat” lists, there has been speculation as to Neuheisel’s replacement.

When Neuheisel was dismissed after losing 50-0 to rival USC, attention focused on Boise State head coach Chris Petersen. Whether Petersen was not interested, or Boise State told UCLA to back off, the end result was the same – Petersen was not moving to Westwood.

Next up was Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin. Again, whether Sumlin wasn’t interested, was more interested in Texas A&M, or UCLA couldn’t afford him, Sumlin appears to be off the table as well.

On Monday, the Bruins’ third choice, Miami head coach Al Golden, took his name off the list.

Next …?

SMU’s head coach June Jones, former Seattle Seahawk head coach Jim Mora, Jr., and former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz.

Mora may be the current front-runner.

Mora, 50, had a record of 26-22 with the Falcons from 2004-06. During his first season, Atlanta reached the NFC championship game, losing to the Philadephia Eagles, 27-10. Mora had a 5-11 record with the Seahawks in 2009, his only season as coach before he was replaced by Pete Carroll.

Mora’s only college coaching experience was as a graduate assistant with Washington in 1984.

December 4th

Reports: Fairchild out at Colorado State / Hill out at Fresno State

Okay, who had six?

Fully half of the teams Colorado will play in 2012 will take the field with a new head coach.

On Sunday, Steve Fairchild of Colorado State and Pat Hill of Fresno State joined Mike Stoops (Arizona), Dennis Erickson (Arizona State), Rick Neuheisel (UCLA) and Paul Wulff (Washington State) on the unemployment line.

While the ouster of Steve Fairchild, who led the Rams to three consecutive 3-9 seasons, was not a surprise, it was a mild surprise that Pat Hill, who has come to represent Fresno State, was let go after 15 years.

Hill built Fresno State into one of the top programs outside the major conferences early in his career with the mantra of playing anybody, anywhere, anytime. But he struggled to maintain that level of success in recent years. He had a 40-41 record over his last 81 games, beginning with a 50-42 loss to then-No. 1 Southern California in 2005.

Hill finished his tenure with a 112-80 record and went to 11 bowl games.

Latest Arizona State and UCLA rumors …

June Jones to Arizona State? … KTAR radio personality Paul Calvisi, citing multiple sources, reported that ASU had spent “a good part” of Saturday meeting with Jones.

Jones, 58, has both college and pro experience. In 2008, he took the challenge at SMU, a program that had not been to a bowl in 25 years. After going 1-11 in his first season, Jones guided SMU to an 8-5 record and a win in the Hawaii Bowl in his second. SMU is 7-5 this season and bowl eligible for a third consecutive season. In four years at SMU, Jones is 23-28.

Jones coached at Hawaii from 1999 to 2007. He led the Warriors to six bowl games during that stretch, including a 2007 BCS run to the Sugar Bowl.

Before arriving in Hawaii, Jones spent 11 years in the NFL. From 1994-96, he was the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. In 1998, he was interim head coach of the San Diego Chargers, winning three of 10 games.

After June Jones, other names which are being mentioned for Arizona State include former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, former Seattle Seahawks head coach Jim Mora Jr. and current Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

And UCLA … Having already been spurned by Boise State’s Chris Petersen, UCLA has moved on in its search for a new head coach to replace Rick Neuheisel, and according to the Los Angeles Times, UCLA is now focusing on Houston‘s Kevin Sumlin and Miami‘s Al Golden.

Sumlin, of course, has been linked to just about every job opening there is lately. Still, it seems UCLA’s biggest competition for his services would be Texas A&M, and the Aggies are reportedly ready to make an offer to Sumlin. Whether or not UCLA is prepared to make a better offer may be the ultimate factor in where he ends up next season.

As for Al Golden, he’s a name that hadn’t surfaced until now, and though UCLA may be interested I’m not nearly as sure that Golden is interested in leaving Miami. He’s made it pretty clear in recent weeks that Miami is where he wants to be.

December 3rd

Sumlin out – who’s next for Arizona State?

With the Texas A&M job opening up, it appears that Arizona State is out of the running for Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin. College Station is just a short drive from Houston, and Sumlin is certainly the leading candidate to become the new head coach for the Aggies.

So, who is left for the Sun Devils?

One of the top candidates, as is turns out, is the Southern Mississippi coach, Larry Fedora, who made Houston’s Kevin Sumlin look bad in the Conference USA championship game.

ASU likes Fedora, according to azcentral.com . Problem is, everyone does. Over the past few weeks, Fedora has been linked to openings at Ole Miss, North Carolina, Kansas and Illinois. Reports surfaced Friday that he will interview with North Carolina. Entering Saturday, Fedora, 48, had led the Golden Eagles to a 10-2 record this season. In four seasons at Southern Miss, he was 32-19 with three bowl appearances.

If not Fedora, there are several other names being bandied about, including SMU head coach (and former Hawai’i head coach) June Jones. In four seasons in Dallas, Jones is 23-28, including a 7-5 record this season.

How about Oregon offensive coordinator – and former Colorado offensive coordinator – Mark Helfrich? Or Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn?

With the big splashes being made by Arizona and Washington State, in hiring Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach, respectively, would Arizona State be willing to settle for an internal hire, Noel Mazzone, the offensive coordinator?

Time will tell …

What about UCLA?

The Bruins thought they were going to get Boise State’s Chris Petersen, but either the Broncos said “hands off”, or Petersen said, “no thanks”. In either event, Petersen is off the table for the Bruins.

Second choice?

Names being mentioned include Houston’s Kevin Sumlin, who is apparently mostly interested in Texas A&M. Next in line might former Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti or former UCLA assistant (and former Buff assistant) Tom Cable, most recently the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Other names, according to ESPN, includes two coaches with ties to the Cincinnati Bengals, Butch Jones and Jay Gruden.

Perhaps Washington State and Arizona got the best of the hiring frenzy … at least in terms of name recognition.

December 2nd

Petersen not interested in UCLA … Sumlin to Arizona State?

Well, at least someone is not interested in joining the Pac-12 list of Who’s Who of coaching.

Boise State’s Chris Petersen was apparently UCLA’s first choice to replace ousted head coach Rick Neuheisel, but Petersen isn’t interested.

According to ESPN, UCLA inquired about Boise State coach Chris Petersen, but the school has been told he will not be a candidate.

Petersen would have been the first coach UCLA approached about their vacancy, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Newly hired Boise State athletic director Mark Coyle made it known in his introductory news conference Thursday that keeping Petersen was one of his top priorities.

“My No. 1 goal is to keep Chris Petersen at Boise State University,” Coyle said. “He’s raised the bar. How do we help him move the needle and take it to the next level?”

Meanwhile, in Tempe …

KTAR-AM (620), Arizona State’s flagship station, reported that the university is offering a the Sun Devil head coaching position to Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Sumlin has a 35-16 record in four years at Houston. Behind quarterback Case Keenum, this season’s team ranks first nationally in scoring offense (52.7 points per game) and total offense (613.3 yards per game).

Sumlin is making between $1 million and $1.2 million this season, and is in line for a large pay increase. On Wednesday, Washington State signed former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach to a five-year deal that reportedly will pay a guaranteed $2.25 million annually. Dennis Erickson made $1.5 million at ASU this past season.

The Sun Devils also could increase the amount of money paid to assistants. Last season, defensive coordinator Craig Bray had a base salary of $220,000 and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone had a base of $206,500.

Sumlin has not talked publicly about job openings, and he has denied contact from any school. With his name reportedly on top of so many coaching lists, he has leverage. This week, Sumlin told reporters that he has had initial talks with Houston about extending his contract.

Texas A&M fired head coach Mike Sherman on Thursday night. The Aggies just wrapped up a disappointing 6-6 season in which they lost four of their final five, including last week’s setback to rival Texas. With his Big 12 background, Sumlin would be an ideal fit, but it is unknown if Texas A&M would go in his direction.

With UCLA being shunned by Boise State’s Chris Petersen, the Bruins might also make an offer to Sumlin.

Who else is out there?

The Pac-12 is only halfway home in its naming of new head coaches. In are Rich Rodriguez at Arizona, in place of Mike Stoops, while Mike Leach has replaced Paul Wulff at Washington State.

This leaves both Arizona State and UCLA still looking for a new face to their football program.

ESPN reports that Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora, SMU coach June Jones and former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti are names you may be hearing over the next few days or weeks …

Embree losing sight of coaching brethren

In 2011, Colorado head coach Jon Embree was the second-lowest paid head coach in the Pac-12. His $750,000 base salary was better than only one other coach, Paul Wulff at Washington State, who got by on $600,000. Now, with the Pac-12 television money on the horizon, the head coaching arms race has left Colorado and Jon Embree in its wake.

The latest figures, with the two new coaches hired this week in bold:

Chip Kelly, Oregon, $2,800,000
Jeff Tedford, California, $2,300,000
Steve Sarkisian, Washington, $2,250,000
Mike Leach, Washington State, $2,250,000
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona, $1,910,000
Kyle Whittingham, Utah, $1,700,000
Mike Riley, Oregon State, $1,313,471
Jon Embree, Colorado, $725,000

Not listed are the new head coaches for Arizona State and UCLA, which will likely command salaries along the lines of Rodriguez and Leach. Also not listed are the salaries for Lane Kiffin at USC and David Shaw at Stanford, both private universities which are not required to list coaches’ salaries. However, it is widely reported that Kiffin is in the $4 million annual salary range, and Shaw is not far behind.

So, why is Jon Embree being paid about 1/6th of what Lane Kiffin makes, and only about half of what the 11th-best paid Pac-12 head coach is receiving?

Part of it has to do with the structure of Embree’s contract. It is loaded with incentives (which, if you ask me, is the way it should be for all coaches). Embree will definitely reach seven figures this season, even with a 3-10 record. As the Buffs march up the Pac-12 standings, so too will Jon Embree’s status amongst his peers. Still, Embree will continue to lag behind the rest of the head coaches in the Pac-12, at least in terms of salary.

Which leads to the very real possibility that Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn, a year from now, might be faced with the exact same situation he had in front of him in 2007 …

Dan Hawkins, in his first season in 2006, went 2-10. The following year, the Buffs won six games, and earned a bowl bid. For his efforts, Hawkins was given a contract extension, a move which was widely criticized by Buff fan in later years, as Hawkins was retained after the 2009 season, in part, because it would cost too much to buy him out.

Fast forward to 2011.

Jon Embree, in his first season, went 3-10. It is not outside the realm of the reasonable that the Buffs, in 2012, could win six games and earn a bowl bid. Jon Embree and his staff, looking at the improvement of the program and the inequities in salaries across the league, may well be looking to restructure their contracts.

You’re Mike Bohn, and it’s December, 2012 …

Do you pull the same trigger as you did in 2007, and face similar criticism (and likely the loss of your job) if Embree and Co. do not work out?

Or do you hold off on a contract extension and pay raise, waiting for future results, risking the loss of coaches to better paying jobs?

Tough choice …

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