Tag Archives: Chris Petersen

Is P.J. Fleck The Answer At Minnesota?

It has been a tumultuous past month to say the least for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The university administration fired head coach Tracy Claeys in part for publicly supporting 10 players, who were suspended for the Holiday Bowl due to their roles in an alleged sexual assault. None of the players involved were convicted due to lack of evidence but Claeys felt they should have been given due process instead of being suspended. Fair or unfair (my fellow writer Tim Bach certainly thinks so), Claeys was dismissed and it looked like the Minnesota football program was headed for big trouble with an uncertain future. But just 72 hours after the controversial firing, the university made a monumental splash by hiring one of the most coveted coaches in America, Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck.

Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle said he wanted strong leadership to address challenges in recruiting and the culture of the program. He also said Fleck “is a proven winner and a strong leader [and] his infectious energy and passion make him a terrific coach and dynamic recruiter.”

It certainly appears like Coyle struck gold as Fleck has already received 10 verbal commitments since he was introduced as head coach on Friday, including nine former Western Michigan commits. Though, starting center Tyler Moore is transferring and three players who made verbal commitments to Claeys decommitted on Monday.

When I initially heard that Fleck was going to be the Gophers next head coach, there were already several reports praising the decision but I had a burning question. How successful would Fleck be in a bigger conference when he spent the past four seasons in the much smaller Mid-American Conference? This isn’t saying the MAC is weak but the past few coaches hired by the Big Ten from that conference haven’t fared the best. Tim Beckman left Toledo for Illinois in 2012 and compiled a 12-25 record over three seasons before being fired over accusations of player mistreatment, while Darrell Hazell left Kent State for Purdue in 2013 and went 9-33 before being let go.

Then again, at the same time, Urban Meyer started his career at Bowling Green and that translated into great success at Utah, Florida and now Ohio State. Also, though it wasn’t a MAC school, Chris Petersen helped turn once-lowly Boise State into a very competitive, respectable program before taking the head coaching position at Washington, where he has done the exact same thing, turning the Huskies into a playoff contender this season.

The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that one of the biggest reasons they were successful as opposed to the former was due to recruiting. With his boundless energy and contagious enthusiasm, almost everyone has talked about Fleck’s recruiting prowess. In fact, his 2016 class at Western Michigan ranked No. 64 in the nation by rivals.com, ahead of Big Ten schools Illinois (68), Purdue (74) and Rutgers (78).

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that in four seasons at Kalamazoo, Michigan, Fleck went 30-22 overall and 21-11 in the MAC. He took the Broncos to a bowl each of the last three seasons after a 1-11 debut in 2013 and led Western Michigan to a 13-1 overall record (8-0 MAC) in 2016 with wins over Northwestern and Illinois. In the final game against Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl, though it was a loss, Fleck showed he could keep pace with a premier program.

Another thing to keep in mind is that this is a unique situation in that Minnesota is not rock-bottom like Western Michigan was. The team won nine games this year and has appeared in 14 bowl games in the last 18 years. This isn’t a total rebuild from scratch and if he can remain strong in recruiting, the future looks bright.

My gut instinct tells me he will win games at Minnesota but I still have reasonable doubts. Will there be unrealistic expectations given all the success he has achieved? What if Minnesota never wins ten games, never makes a Big Ten championship or never makes a New Year’s Six bowl? What is considered a successful season for a program that has enjoyed just moderate success in its recent history and will fans turn against him if he doesn’t replicate the results his predecessor’s achieved? No matter how likeable a guy is, how good at recruiting he is or how savvy of a game-planner he may be, there’s only so much a coach can do and I’m worried he is being overhyped. Plus, Wisconsin and Nebraska are still ahead of the Gophers and the thought of them being able to dethrone those two is something I won’t believe until I see it for myself.

Maybe I’m over-analyzing all of this and focusing too much on the negative. Maybe he will be just as good if not better than advertised. I’m not sure exactly will happen and only time will tell but there is no doubt, Fleck has brought a great deal of excitement to the Gophers and the Big Ten.

E-mail Mike at mike [dot] tews [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

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College Football Playoff Preview: Peach Bowl

Poor Washington. They are literally going to be traveling into the heart of Alabama Crimson Tide country for the Peach Bowl this year. I am fairly certain that the ambiance will be that of a ‘Bama home game back in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban has yet to prove that he is mortal, but maybe, just maybe, Washington is the team destined to prove this fact. Chris Petersen returns to the bowl game spotlight once again as a heavy underdog who no one thinks can do the improbable. Maybe we’re all right and the Huskies don’t stand a chance. But perhaps Chris Petersen has been waiting 10 years just to amaze us all once again.

I fully expect both the Alabama offense and defense to play at Nick Saban levels, so there is little use talking about what they “need to do to win.” Statistically, Washington is in a whole lot of trouble. Alabama has the best defense around, and after seeing Jake Browning struggle a bit with the pressure from Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship, it would be unsurprising to see mistakes from the Washington QB. Washington needs to find a way to have its running back corps break through “The Great Wall of Alabama Defensive Linemen.”  Truly, Washington’s offense needs to play at, if not above, its top level in order to win.

Though Alabama’s offense isn’t on God tier like its defense, it certainly is in no way, shape, or form, a pushover. Washington’s defense needs to hang on for dear life and hope that the Huskies offense can keep the defense off the field long enough to get a breather. Florida, a team with a superior defense to Washington, did well against Alabama until the offense stopped any and all progress. At that point, the Gator defense simply became too tired to keep up. If this happens to Washington, the game is effectively over.

Nick Saban is going to take the Washington Huskies very seriously. His demeanor, while a serious impact on his players, however, may not rub off on them quite enough. Some, if not many, of the Crimson Tide players are going to come into Atlanta being told by family and friends that this will be an easy win, and the large contingent of Alabama faithful in Atlanta will further this ego among the Alabama players. On the other hand, Washington knows that no one thinks they even have a shot. I think that will motivate each and every player for the Huskies to play above and beyond their potential. I think Washington is going to catch the Alabama players off guard, and this game will be get very interesting. Time will tell if Chris Petersen can do it again, but I’ve been on the Washington Huskies “believer” train all season (if you don’t believe me, check out how highly I’ve ranked Washington all season) and y’know what? I’m not stopping now. Viva la resistance!

 

Final Score: Washington Huskies 48, Alabama Crimson Tide 47 (OT)

 

Email Cooper at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 8

Welcome back to week 8 of Campus Pressbox’s Playoff Rankings. We are back to full force this week. As always, any previous rankings can be found right here.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)

Every single position in this week’s rankings changed hands, except for the No. 1 spot. Alabama continued to show its dominance by beating top 10 Texas A&M by 19 in a game that was never truly even close. It is honestly hard to tell if any team in college football can compete with the Crimson Tide, much less win the game. Nick Saban continues to build incredible teams year after year, earning the highest praise from everyone, including Alabama basketball coach Avery Johnson. The only crack in the Tide’s armor is the surprisingly tight 5-point win over Ole Miss (a team that is now below .500). LSU and Auburn are the only true challenges left for Alabama. 2016 Alabama is the biggest shoo-in we have seen in the three years of the College Football Playoff.

  1. Washington Huskies (4)

Remember when we all shook our heads at Chris Petersen when he left perennial Group 5 powerhouse Boise State, a team, no, a program that he had built with his own two hands, for the miserable Washington Huskies, whose national ranking had not risen into the top ten since the AP preseason poll of 2002? Well, Peterson has gone and proved all of us, myself included, wrong. Peterson has turned the Huskies into a mammoth powerhouse in only three years as head coach. Only a single one of Washington’s current wins has been by less than 24 points. That is a ridiculous statistic. Next week is Washington’s largest remaining challenge, a showdown in Salt Lake City against the 17th ranked Utah Utes. Washington has shown nothing to prove that it won’t treat the Utes the same as Oregon, Stanford and every other team the Huskies have left desolated in their wake. However, because Utah is a very good team, we will hold off on defining Washington’s CFP aspirations until Sunday morning.

  1. Michigan Wolverines (5)

The Beneficiary of this week’s “lucky dog”, Michigan was able to get back on the lead lap after Ohio State lost in Happy Valley on Saturday night. Michigan finally controls its own destiny and will most likely take big advantage of this fact. Like Washington, the Wolverines have proved ridiculously dominant (against sub-par opponents) and have shown no reason to believe Michigan won’t make it to Columbus, Ohio undefeated. And, frankly, there is also no reason to believe that the Wolverines won’t leave Columbus at a perfect 12-0.

  1. Clemson Tigers (3)

Clemson was off this week, and got passed up by Michigan as the Tigers’ win the previous week over N.C. State was, how should we say, uninspiring. Clemson has been very inconsistent in its play this season, and the Tigers need to be sure to come to play this week, or the Florida State Seminoles will walk all over Clemson’s playoff dreams.

  1. The Ohio State Buckeyes (2)

Just like the cliché of the teenage daughter getting caught coming home late by her parents, Ohio State left the weekend bawling. The only way to appropriately describe what happened to Ohio State on Saturday is the word embarrassing.  The Buckeyes failed to show up in Happy Valley, and Penn State made Ohio State pay big time. This is the same Penn State team, mind you, that lost to the Michigan Wolverines by 39. I guess if you are the Buckeyes, you just try to block the previous week’s nightmare from your memory and start prepping for Michigan, whom the Buckeyes would actually prefer to be undefeated going into week 12.

  1. Louisville Cardinals (7)

If anyone was wondering: Yes, the Louisville Cardinals do still exist. It seems like many people seemingly forgot and/or dismissed the Cardinals after the loss to Clemson. However, Louisville is still just as dominant as the week it beat Florida State by 43. That being said, Louisville may not get a second chance, unless Clemson loses this weekend. If that does happen, you may ask, “Well what happens now?” The answer, my friends, is chaos.

  1. Baylor Bears (9)

Baylor hasn’t beaten anyone spectacular thus far, but the undefeated record plus the win over SMU, who would go on to beat Houston, allow the Bears to jump over the third best Big Ten team, Nebraska. Even if Baylor wins out, which is pretty unlikely in my opinion, the Bears and the Big 12 will be the odd ones out of the Playoff. The question going into this season was which Big 12 or Pac-12 team would be good enough to make the playoff, a category that Washington clearly leads over Baylor by a wide margin.

  1. Nebraska Cornhuskers (8)

Hey, its everyone’s favorite top ten team without a good win over a solid opponent. I’m going to keep this brief people. Nebraska, needing a statement win, is going to lose to Wisconsin this weekend and then turn around and lose to Ohio State the next. Well, “Why put Nebraska in your top 10?” you might ask. Well, the truth is, I have no earthly idea. I guess, somewhere in my mind, it is more fun to give Nebraska the benefit of the doubt only to watch the Cornhuskers struggle. What can I say, I love good, old fashioned, schadenfreude.

  1. West Virginia Mountaineers (10)

West Virginia has been fighting to make a name for itself the entire season. The Mountaineers already have a plethora of solid wins, including victories over Missouri, BYU, and TCU (my preseason pick for Big 12 champion). It will be interesting to see if the Mountaineers can keep pace now that they have the public’s attention. West Virginia needs to prove itself more as a Washington and less as a Miami, who dropped its first game after gaining public attention.

  1. Florida Gators

There were a good number of teams who could’ve easily gotten the No. 10 spot on this list. However, I believe the Gators are the best of the bunch. Florida’s defense is second in the nation only to Michigan, and has made opposing offenses cry themselves to sleep. Despite the Tennessee meltdown (which was largely due to the offense’s inability to stay on the field in any way, shape or form) the Gators have been impeccable this season. Not to say Florida has very much of a chance against Alabama, but the Gators now control their own destiny, which gives them the advantage over any of our honorable mentions.

Drop Outs and Honorable Mentions

Texas A&M, this weeks sole dropout, is also one of the top honorable mentions. Along with Wisconsin, Florida St., and Boise St, all the honorable mentions have one thing in common. Despite all of the big wins and even bigger abilities, none of these teams are in control of their own destines, keeping them off this week’s list.

 

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @uf_goetz
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Jim Mora Isn’t Afraid of the Challenge at College Station and that’s Refreshing to Hear

Being able to talk to coaches during game week is something that many media types enjoy because of possible story lines being made. It can also very mundane because all you get is “coach speak”. Coaches are going to let you know what they want you to know and dodge any tough question. With that being said, the Pac-12 had their weekly conference call on Tuesday.

The coaches were talking in general terms, but there were a couple coaches that were not afraid of being up front about things. Hearing that confidence was like getting a nice, cool breeze on your face in the summer.

What was said during this conference call?

Let’s start with the biggest name in the conference. USC.

The USC Trojans have the most difficult schedule in the country. They are lining up against National Champion Alabama. Head coach Clay Helton is very familiar with the OC of the Crimson Tide Lane Kiffin and what he likes to do. According to Helton, he certainly is trying to use what he knows about Kiffin against him.

“Every team has tendencies. You try and find tendencies by groupings and personnel groupings. Lane has things he likes in short yardage, on the goal line, and between the 20’s. I’m looking forward to the chess match.” Helton said.

Through all the questions on Kiffin, Clay Helton let nothing but compliments fly out over the phone. No surprise there. Helton and Kiffin worked together. Lane Kiffin gave Clay Helton his shot at coaching at USC, so expecting anything but praise from Helton would be a surprise.

Washington head coach Chris Peterson has a team that is receiving a lot of hype was excited about getting the season started. I was expecting him to deflect the hype.

“We have talked about the hype. They know that we have to prove it on the field. We were only 7-6 last season and now we are supposed to be some great team. The players know the hype means nothing unless we show it on the field.”

With Peterson and his Husky squad fully taking on the hype, knowing it’s there, but realizing it means nothing is refreshing to see. There is talent on the Huskies, but they absolutely have to show it on the field. The number 14 ranking they got by the AP was too high in my opinion. That ranking was based on pure speculation that the talent they have takes the next step.

Prove me wrong Washington. I’d love to see a return of the Dawgs.

UCLA comes in as the favorite in the south division. Jim Mora is looking forward to the game with Texas A&M.

“Our young men love to compete. We are getting that opportunity on Saturday. An SEC environment, a chance to compete is what our guys are after. We want to take advantage of that.” Mora mentioned.

Mora’s Bruins do not want to back down from anybody this year. They know the target is on their back.  He is certainly putting it out there that his Bruins are not afraid about getting a tough first game.

If people think the Bruins will be bothered by the noise at College Station, think again. Dealing with noise is nothing new for UCLA.

“Oregon, Arizona, and Washington all have some of the best stadiums in terms of crowd noise, so College Station won’t be anything new for us.” Mora explained.

“The players know that College Station is going to be loud, but we practice with noise to try and help with communication.” Mora said.

Mora is doing his part to make sure his team is ready for the challenge of an SEC team.

Coaches don’t let anything out of the bag on a game week and hearing them talk about their upcoming games that was evident.

However, I liked how both Chris Peterson of Washington and Jim Mora of UCLA were straightforward in their answers about the season. They both had a matter-of-fact tone in their voices.

Dodging questions about your opponent or not saying what you think about your chances in a particular game is pretty stupid. Don’t be afraid of bulletin board material.

Putting up bulletin board material up for the other team is overrated to me. Fans and media make too much about that. Peterson and Mora sound like they expect to win and really are not afraid to say so. I like it when coaches show the confidence in their team. A little bravado doesn’t hurt anybody.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @pigskinopinion.

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Ranking the Power 5 Conferences for 2016

The SEC has been running college football for about a decade now. When will it end? 2020? 2030? Never? It certainly doesn’t look to be anytime soon. Though the SEC went on a two-year championship drought, it still felt like it was the best conference overall. With Alabama winning it all in 2015, it stamped another year of SEC supremacy.

Even if no conference challenges the Southeastern Conference for the top spot in 2016, it is important to look at the perceived strength of the remaining conferences since it always gets talked about once the playoff rankings roll around.

2016 could be an interesting year because of the relative strengths of the Power 5 conferences. The past two years it was somewhat easy to have four conference champs in the playoff while leaving the fifth conference champ out. Looking forward to 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the first year in the era of the college football playoff that we see two teams from the same conference make the four-team field. So with that, here is my ranking of the Power 5 conferences heading into 2016.

5. Big 12

The Big 12 is used to being picked on when it comes to conference rankings. Being the only Power 5 conference with just 10 teams and without a conference championship game certainly hasn’t helped matters. This offseason hasn’t exactly seen a lot go right for it either. The conference seemingly can’t decide whether it should expand or not, and in the end will probably have to do what Oklahoma and Texas want it to do anyway.

The conference’s on-field prospects don’t exactly look great heading into this fall either. Oklahoma will be ranked highly to start the year with Heisman hopeful Baker Mayfield returning under center after leading the Sooners to the playoff a year ago. Looming however is Oklahoma’s history of falling apart whenever it starts the year ranked highly. If it happens again this season, the conference may not have another team to fall back on to lead its charge.

Baylor looked to be the other contender for the conference, but with the recent off-field turmoil and dismissal of coach Art Briles it is difficult to expect much from the Bears. I wasn’t sure Baylor would make a run at a playoff spot to begin with and replacing the head coach three months before the season starts has only added to those doubts.

There are nothing but question marks among the rest of the teams. Oklahoma State had a nice season in 2015 on its way to a surprising ten wins but got blasted in its final two games against good competition. TCU has to replace Trevone Boykin at quarterback and WR Josh Doctson, who was picked in the first round. Then there’s Texas, who is in the vast group of former powerhouse programs that have to show something before we buy in again.

Being a top conference is largely based on the contenders at the top. I don’t see the Big 12 having that strength at the top or the depth to make up for it.

4. Pac-12

It certainly looks like the Pac-12’s opportunity has passed it by. A couple years ago the conference had gained enough steam where an argument could be made that it was the nation’s best. The past year and a half has seen a swift fall that culminated in the Pac-12 being left out of the college football playoff in 2015. It’s going to be tough for the conference to claw its way back up the conference rankings, at least in 2016.

There’s a decent chance the Pac-12 will be the only Power 5 conference to not have a team ranked in the pre-season Top 10. Stanford has to replace Kevin Hogan who, while not the most dynamic quarterback, has the most wins in Cardinal history. It is also hard to expect Christian McCaffrey to duplicate his historical 2015 season. They may be the favorite again, but they aren’t nearly in the same class as the Alabama/Michigan/Clemson’s of the world heading into this season.

The Cardinal’s main competition in the Pac-12 recently, the Oregon Ducks, will be trying to bounce back from their first season of under ten wins since 2007. They’ll have to do it with just five starters returning on defense and relying on another FCS transfer at quarterback.

Elsewhere in the conference you have USC which hasn’t been able to get back to national prominence, UCLA who has folded under the weight of pre-season expectations multiple times recently, and a group of average teams that were a disaster on defense a year ago (Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State).

The two teams that battle for the Apple Cup, Washington and Washington State, give the conference some hope in providing quality depth. The Huskies will be a popular sleeper pick to be the conference champion, and the Cougars Mike Leach-led offense will have a field day against Pac-12 defenses after ranking first nationally in passing a year ago.

There is a lot of uncertainty in the Pac-12 and a lot of that comes down to the unknowns behind center. The conference has just six returning starters at quarterback (all other Power 5 conferences have at least nine). The Pac-12 may not have elite level teams, but it still has some quality depth throughout the conference which is why I rank it ahead of the Big 12.

3. Big Ten

There isn’t nearly as much uncertainty in the Big Ten where Ohio State and Michigan may both be ranked in the top 10 to start the year, two teams that didn’t even play for the conference title in 2015. Michigan should challenge for a playoff spot and even with just six starters returning, anything less than double-digit wins would be a disappointment in Columbus.

Then we get to Michigan State and Iowa, the two teams that did play for the Big Ten Championship a year ago. Regardless of who they lost, the Spartans can’t be counted out after what they’ve done under Mark Dantonio. Aside from 2012, Sparty has notched at least 11 wins every year this decade. The Hawkeyes will be doubted again after being treated to much of the same throughout their surprise 2015 campaign, but I don’t think they should be. They should have one of the best defenses in the country led by future first-round cornerback Desmond King. That defense, along with a returning signal-caller and a solid running game, will keep them in each contest.

The difference when it comes to the Big Ten is that I believe the bottom of the conference is more of a disaster than the ACC, which is why I could only put it at three.

2. ACC

The ACC can thank Clemson for getting it out of the conference-rankings basement in recent years. The conference needed a team to step up to challenge Florida State on a yearly basis and the Tigers have done more than that. Clemson has reached SEC-level respect nationwide under Dabo Swinney as they are expected to be a contender every year no matter who they lose to the NFL.

This year they’ll have a tougher path in an Atlantic Coast Conference that may be as good as it has been in recent memory. The Seminoles have the look of a top 5 team with athletes all over the defense and every single starter returning on offense.

A large number of returning starters is a common theme among ACC teams in 2016. Eight of the conference’s 14 teams return at least 15 starters, and 11/14 have their starting quarterback returning (a nation high). While this doesn’t mean all of those teams will necessarily be good, it does mean a lot of those teams should be improved, increasing competition in the middle and bottom off the conference. Boston College, Syracuse, and Wake Forest were at the bottom of the conference a year ago, but with 15+ starters back including the quarterback, should be less of a pushover than they were in 2015.

There’s also hope for the ACC in the tier below Florida State and Clemson. Louisville has eight starters back on a defense that was 18th in the country last year. If they can get consistency from an offense with 10 starters returning, they’ll be a dark horse in the conference.

The Coastal division should be a three-team race between UNC, Pitt, and Miami. The Tar Heels will be the favorite, but it’s hard to expect them to run away with it again if they repeat a defensive performance that left them 97th in the country in 2015. The Panthers return eight starters on each side of the ball after going 6-2 in conference play a year ago. Then there’s Miami, which could see improvement with new head coach Mark Richt and a quarterback that could be taken very highly in the 2017 NFL Draft.

1. SEC

Was there any doubt? As much as I’d like to see another conference take over the top spot, it’s hard to make that argument for 2016. After last year, it’s time for anyone (myself included) who doubted Alabama to stop expecting less than an SEC championship for the Tide. It’s better to just be surprised if it doesn’t happen.

LSU could be the team to overtake them this year. After a couple of disappointing seasons, the Tigers have the look of a championship contender once again. Everyone will point to the needed improvement at quarterback, which is surely necessary. Really though, it’s the defense that needs to get back to playing the way it used to. The Tigers’ run defense imploded last year during the team’s losses, but should revert to form with nine starters back and new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda on board.

Tennessee was looked at as a bit of a disappointment last year, but still went 9-4. This year they bring 17 starters back from that team, including a dynamic backfield in Josh Dobbs and Jalen Hurd. Along with Tennessee, Ole Miss could help give the SEC four pre-season Top 10 teams. Say what you want about pre-season polls, but they are generally about the most talented teams, and the SEC has more talent than anyone.

The talent discrepancy shows up among the second-tier of the SEC, where teams like Tennessee, Arkansas, and Ole Miss had dominating bowl wins over other Power 5 teams. Other conferences may have a couple teams as good as the SEC’s top teams, but it’s the quality of that middle tier that keeps the SEC on top.

Feature image courtesy Ken Lund

The Blame for Baylor

I would like to pretend that the people defending Sam Ukwuachu, even after the guilty verdict was reached, were just doing so for shock value. I would like to pretend that the people claiming Baylor should get the dreaded NCAA “Death Penalty” had no ground to stand on. I would like to pretend that covering up sexual assault on a collegiate level was something that didn’t happen nationwide. The situation surrounding Baylor University and the either blissful ignorance of facts or heavy attempt at covering up the details is about as real as can be. Sam Ukwuachu was sentenced to 10 years of felony probation and placed in county jail for 180 days. There is no taking sides on the fact Ukwuachu was found guilty and was facing up to twenty years in prison.

Art Briles was told by Ukwuachu’s former coach, Chris Petersen, the reason for Ukwuachu leaving was due to being “depressed” and needing to get closer to home. This, of course, is according to Art Briles. What Petersen claims he told him was the exact situation and the grisly details of Ukwuachu’s issues with aggression and horrible temper. In the documents obtained by Texas Monthly, the relationship was determined by Boise State staff members to be “NOT a healthy relationship.”

The sentence Sam Ukwuachu is actually serving is nothing compared to the lifetime of issues his victim will face.

 

Read those statements by the victim. Feel the emotion and the pain behind the fact that she can’t even trust the male gender anymore because of what Ukwuachu did to her without her consent. Where does the blame fall now? Where exactly do fingers point when the victim can no longer live a normal life and suffers from PTSD over the entire situation? The blame can only be placed squarely on Ukwuachu’s shoulders. Without his forced actions, there would be no rape and there would be no cover up scandal going on.

There is no defending Ukwuachu now that he has been found guilty of second degree sexual assault. Somehow, of course, people in the media have found the ability to victim blame. One example:

Sadly, some people view the Boise State girlfriend as lying about her experiences with Ukwuachu because she went to visit him at Baylor. The people agreeing with such statements as seen above must know little to nothing about the cycle of domestic violence. One of the main reasons that my sports blog is raising money for our local domestic violence victim’s shelter is because of the intense process that it takes to break the behavior patterns associated with abuse. These women will be going through intense therapy for a long time (if not their entire life) as well as having to live with the judgement and criticism from others that usually comes with a high profile case like this. The 180 day sentence with ten years of felony probation doesn’t seem like much compared to living with PTSD and trust issues of the opposite sex for the rest of your life.

[Lindekugel: When Winning on the Field is More Important Than Losses Off it]

Baylor University did not provide a safe environment for one of their female students. Art Briles did not do enough background research on why Ukwuachu was let go from Boise State’s team. Chris Petersen did not make it as clear as he could have about Ukwuachu’s past. Bethany McCraw did not do her job to her best ability. The media did not pry enough into the reason Ukwuachu wasn’t playing. Boise State did not make a public statement about Ukwuachu’s release from the team being due to his violent nature. Whatever angle it is that you want to talk about, the blame rests solely on one person. Sam Ukwuachu should not have sexually assaulted anyone.

Where do we go from here? The answer is obvious to me, but might not be the answer coaches across this country want to hear. If a student athlete has violent history, temperament issues, accusations of sexual assault, character issues, etc. then it needs to be made known to the college looking to take them in. Someone on the Boise State staff knew of Ukwuachu’s violent temper, enough to write it down in his dismissal paperwork. Someone knew that he needed help of a different sort and didn’t feel the need to assist in the process of getting said help for Ukwuachu. The NCAA has an incredibly revolting past of dealing with female accusations of sexual assault in the wrong manner and it is time they start handling these situations differently. The Southeastern Conference has already made it known that they will not accept transfers who have been dismissed at their previous school for “serious misconduct.” That term was defined as sexual assault, domestic assault and other forms of sexual violence. It’s time that every conference adapts this rule and makes it impossible for those with charges related to sexual violence to play college football.

Leave a comment below, follow Gracey on Twitter @GAT_Attack or e-mail her at [email protected].

When Winning on the Field is More Important Than Losses Off it

It’s not worth it. The risk versus reward isn’t worth it to take on a player such as Sam Ukwuachu. In Baylor’s case, not only did the school fail to properly evaluate that risk, they failed as a university in their obligation to protect its students.

It is a coach’s job throughout recruiting to not only identify talent, but also to determine what type of kid the recruit is. This job doesn’t go away when a recruit transfers, and in Ukwuachu’s case, Baylor’s Art Briles didn’t have to guess. He already had a glimpse into what kind of person Ukwuachu is. Not excluding the player based on this was his first mistake. Boise State has been a solid program for a decade now, but they are not exactly in a position to just dismiss Freshman All-American type talent. That should have been a huge red flag. Ukwuachu referred to his dealings with Boise State coaches and ultimate departure from the Broncos as “A minor problem”. Again, I don’t think Boise State is simply letting that kind of talent walk away because of “a minor problem”. You would think that Baylor could have dug deeper into Ukwuachu’s departure and ultimately realized the situation. This is 2015, you can’t hide anything forever.

In the end Baylor decided, as most programs do, that a player with that much talent is worth bringing in. Barely two months into Baylor’s 2013 season, Ukwuachu sexually assaulted a freshman Baylor soccer player. This is where leadership in the Waco community failed miserably. The Waco (Texas) Police Department looked into the case but never pressed charges. Why not? The female went to the hospital the next day, and the rape kit showed signs of assault. No DNA from Ukwuachu was taken. What is the point of the rape kit if the results aren’t going to be taken seriously?

At least Baylor University would have done something, right? Since schools require a lesser burden of proof you would think they’d take the initiative in assisting one of their students who had just undergone a traumatic experience. Instead, the school performed a half-assed investigation and made the female adjust her schedule to avoid encountering Ukwuachu instead of the other way around. I can’t even begin to understand the rationale that went behind that. Considering the circumstances surrounding the (at that point) alleged assault, Baylor should have kicked the defensive end off the team right then. After his departure from Boise State, there was a pattern of aggression that indicates someone who needs help.

Instead, what happens appears to be a pretty blatant cover-up. In hindsight, this is where the story starts to look bad. In this day and age, how does NO ONE find out about what happened? An athlete can’t do anything without it ending up on TMZ. How does no one in the local media investigate to find out why a freshman All-American transfer is held out for a whole season? Now in a sense, I can understand why the football team wouldn’t want this getting out. We’ve seen what happens in 2015 when an athlete is being investigated for this type of crime. They’re immediately raked over the coals along with the program they are a part of. It doesn’t mean they’re innocent, but if they ultimately are, it was completely unfair to the player and university. I’m not assessing guilt or innocence of Jameis Winston, but remember how that situation was for Florida State.

If Briles wants to hide the reason why Ukwuachu was suspended, I kind of see where he’s coming from. That doesn’t mean I would have done the same thing, or that it was the right thing to do. And if Baylor went out of its way to hide or cover up the information, that’s a much bigger problem.

As if the secrecy of the whole situation wasn’t bad enough, the back and forth between Briles and former Boise Head Coach Chris Petersen has only made matters worse. Adding in Briles’ repeated “clarifications” of his initial comments has disintegrated any solid reputation he had left. Going against Petersen in a he said-he said war of words is just about the worst case scenario for Briles considering Petersen’s reputation as a respectable, up-standing coach. Having a player on your team commit sexual assault is a huge negative for a program, obviously. But a coach can survive that. If, however, Briles has been lying since the story broke then that is what will get him in the hottest of waters.

It really comes down to which coach you believe, and it feels like 99.5% of people outside of Waco are siding with Petersen’s story. But do we really know if either lied? It’s easy to connect the dots and say that because Ukwuachu’s ex-girlfriend at Boise State testified saying she was physically abused by him at Boise that Broncos coach Chris Petersen knew of this and it would have been included in his informing Art Briles. But I haven’t read anywhere that there was record of Ukwuachu abusing his ex-girlfriend at Boise. What I did read was that she had previously mentioned that she may not admit it if he harmed her physically. Isn’t it possible there was physical abuse that she never reported? If not, drunken aggression and punching through a window still could have been the last straw that pushed Petersen to dismiss Ukwuachu, on top of everything else. I only bring this up to illustrate that it’s possible Petersen did tell Briles everything, only that the “everything” he knew didn’t include a previous domestic assault. I am certainly not taking a side. Even without knowledge of domestic violence, the rest of Ukwuachu’s history should have been enough for Briles to walk away without providing him a second chance. If he did know of the domestic violence, he should probably be fired.

Normally in situations like this, I would expect the university to do just that. Fire the coach to save some face, perform some internal investigation to look good, and try to limit the damage. Because of how badly the school itself screwed this up, I’m not even sure firing Briles would help. He obviously looks bad, but most can chalk up the reasoning to ‘There’s another football coach trying to get any edge he can’. But what’s the school’s excuse? It’s their job to provide a quality, safe environment for its students. The administration shouldn’t let the football program control it, though many across the country probably operate this way. Once allowing that type of player into your school, how do you expose your students to him as a tutor? Then, once the assault occurs, to barely investigate and inconvenience the assaulted rather than the assaulter is mind-boggling. How could they expect anyone to respect or trust their school, let alone parents of college-ready high school girls across the country? Not only did the administration protect its precious football team, it failed to recognize the damage it could do to the academic institution itself.

Nobody comes out looking good in this. The firestorm escalated so quickly it’s hard to determine what the gasoline was and what the match was. Was the worse issue the second chance that Baylor initially gave Ukwuachu? Or was it the apparent cover-up of the initial indictment, followed by Briles’/Baylor’s actions once it came to light? Regardless, it’s clear, and has been clear for a while, that coaches need to do much more homework on players and be a little more stringent in doling out second chances. You can be sure that they will, at least in the immediate future. No coach wants to be in a similar position as Art Briles. And you can bet every school is feeling the same, because an athlete isn’t worth the risk of tarnishing an entire university’s reputation and the safety of its students.

Leave a comment below, follow Jason on Twitter @JLindy87 or e-mail him at [email protected].

The Pipeline – August 22, 2015: When Administrators fail to Protect Those who Cannot Protect Themselves

  1. Baylor’s Ukwuachu Convicted, Sentenced

The first story out of the Pipeline this week is another disturbing tale of sexual violence.

On Friday afternoon Baylor defensive end Sam Ukwuachu was sentenced to felony probation for 10 years following a conviction of second-degree sexual assault on Thursday.

There are a plethora of details surrounding this case.  Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon of Texas Monthly have connected dots that go back even before the night of October 19, 2013 when the incident in question occurred. In this storyline we have a previous accusation of sexual assault, a transfer, a questionable investigation, a shady cover-up, a denial of any prior knowledge, overall a very sticky situation for everyone involved at Baylor.  Go read the full report for all the details. In addition, we have two premier college coaches with conflicting stories.  Former Boise State head coach (and current head coach at Washington) Chris Petersen has said that he informed Baylor head coach Art Briles why he had dismissed Ukwuachu from his team.  Briles, on the other hand, has maintained that he knew not of Ukwuachu’s violent past at Boise State, insisting he likes “the way we’ve handled it as a university, an athletic department, and a football program.”

Follow the fallout here.  We will update as more relevant information becomes available.

  1. Injury Bug Continues to Bite Tennessee Guards

Redshirt sophomore Austin Sanders will miss the 2015 season due to a torn biceps tendon.  This news, just a week and a half after the Vols learned they would be without Marcus Jackson this fall.

Ironically, Sanders and Jackson, who play the same offensive guard position, suffered the same upper arm injury.

These losses could result in a lack of depth on the interior of the line.  Head coach Butch Jones is staying positive, saying, “The good thing, the positive thing going in is we’ve recruited the have some depth at the offensive-line position.”  He went on to suggest that incoming freshmen Chance Hall and Jack Jones are possible fill-ins.

This is bad news for a Tennessee team that finished 13th in the SEC (ahead of only Vanderbilt) in rushing yards per attempt (3.6), and per game (146.4) in 2014.

  1. Sprained MCL for Alabama Receiver Foster

Alabama football beat writer for AL.com Matt Zenitz reported on Thursday that redshirt sophomore Robert Foster sprained an MCL in a scrimmage last Saturday, according to a source.  The injury, however, has not kept Foster off of the practice field this week.

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Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Foster caught just six balls for 44 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2014, but is looking at a drastic increase in playing time this fall due to the departures of Tide receivers Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones.

Foster has impressed his coaches in spring practice and fall camp.  He and ArDarius Stewart, another redshirt sophomore, were named co-MVPs of the Alabama spring game in April.  Foster racked up 125 yards on six receptions that day.

Replacing the explosive Amari Cooper becomes even more difficult for the Tide if one of their top targets is hobbling around on a bad leg.

  1. Three Gators Suspended for Season Opener

Alex McCalister, Marcus Maye, and Latroy Pittman will not be on the field when Florida opens the season at home against New Mexico State.  The suspensions were handed down on Friday in accordance with “University Athletic Association policy.”

McCalister, a defensive lineman, and Maye, a defensive back, are both projected starters for the Gators in 2015.  Pittman is a role player at receiver.

Luckily, the 36-point favorite shouldn’t need all hands on deck to defeat the lowly Aggies.

  1. Ricky Town to Transfer from USC to Arkansas

Finally, we have a bit of good news for someone this week.

Before he even really started his freshman season in southern California, Ricky Town has announced he will be heading to Fayetteville.

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Credit: 247Sports

Town enrolled early at USC to participate in spring practices.  Now he will join the Razorbacks just before the start of the season.  The highly touted recruit competed in the U.S Army All-American game and the Elite 11 camp after his high school senior season.

This is a big win for Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks whose offense relies on a strong pro-style quarterback.  Town fits that profile, and will have four years of eligibility starting in 2016.

Washington Huskies: Return of The Dawgs?

When I was growing up you could count on a few things in life. First, you could always watch “Looney Tunes” on a Saturday morning, “The Love Boat” on a Friday night, and knowing that the Washington Huskies would be reigning supreme in the Northwest and the Pac-12 in football. The “Dawgs” as everybody in the Northwest called them were the premier program in the region. Rose Bowls after Rose Bowls, conference titles, and even a National Championship were the norm and what was expected. Anything less was viewed as failure. Oh, how have times changed.

The Huskies are not the “team” in the Northwest anymore. To most of the alumni, their rival in Eugene is now the team in the region. That alone drives Husky fans up the wall. They hate the Duck program with a passion and with every win over the Huskies, every Rose Bowl, or National Championship appearance, that hatred grows deeper. Fans and everybody associated with the Husky program wants that dominance back with the program. Here is the question. What has happened to the once mighty Husky program?

One thing that has happened is that they are not recruiting the type of players it takes to sustain dominance like they had. Don James, the old Husky Head Coach built a fence around the state of Washington and the Northwest and all the great players were coming to him. With his Rose Bowl appearances, Don James could also get his hands on some of Southern California’s best talent and that added to the dominance of the program. When you dominate, you win, so the recruits come to you. Now, Chris Peterson, the current Husky Head Coach has to fight very hard to keep the best Washington recruits from leaving the state. Peterson has vowed to put a fence around the state and keep all the talented in-state. He’s only entering his second season with the Huskies, so his fence is still in the build stage.

The program has languished in mediocrity for the past 20 years after Don James, “The DawgFather”, resigned amid sanctions that found that many of the players at Washington were getting improper benefits. As stated earlier, there was a ton of success in James time as coach. He even had three national coaching honors and a 22 game winning streak to add to the allure of the program. The program had their knees cut from underneath them with these sanctions and they really haven’t recovered. Enter Chris Peterson 20 years later.

Let’s face facts here. Chris Peterson and all his accolades he got in his tenure at Boise State, needs to come up with some success at Washington in his second year. Husky fans are tired of being average and want the return of fear when the Huskies come to town or when the opponents have to enter into Husky Stadium. Husky Stadium can be a very difficult place to play. When I was youngster, and went to Husky Stadium for a couple of games, it was so loud and the fans were right on top of you. Much like it is at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. I didn’t think a stadium could be so loud, but this is something Peterson has to restore to the program as well.

Chris Peterson has his work cut out for him, but I do think he is the guy to restore the honor to the program. To me he’s a proven commodity, even though he did the majority of his winning at a smaller school at Boise State. He proved he could beat the bigger schools or at the very least compete with the likes of Oregon, Georgia, and let’s not forget the Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. One of the best college football games I have ever seen. It’s not like he DOESN’T know how to get the job done. Entering this second season at the helm of the Huskies, fans want results yesterday. The honeymoon is over. Was there ever one?

Peterson needs to do better against ranked opponents too. They were 0-5 against those type of teams and that will also cause some more angst in latte’ capital of the world. They also have to win the bowl game they go to as well. They came up short against the Cowboys of Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl in Tempe. That didn’t sit well with the UW fan base, plus if you factor in the near upsets by the likes of Eastern Washington and Hawaii and you have a thought that Peterson was lucky to finish with the 8 wins that the team had. Peterson nearly had a very dismal opening in season number one.

The facilities and resources at Washington are such that Peterson can just be average in recruiting or any aspect of major college football. He needs to get the top recruits to the school and build those players into a cohesive unite to compete with the likes of Oregon, Stanford, USC, UCLA, ASU, Arizona, and Utah. Sounds pretty tough doesn’t? Well, if you are the coach Washington, you can’t be scared of a scenario like that in the Pac-12. I don’t think Peterson is scared of anything, if anything he likes a challenge because he faced challenges coaching at Boise State, so something like this challenge is nothing for him. It’s just on a much bigger scale than normal.

In his second year the Huskies and Peterson need to get a big time win, such as beating Oregon or Stanford, plus make strides to being in contention for the Pac-12 title in future years. If this can be accomplished, Peterson will get more of a leash (no pun intended), but if the program continues to be mired in mediocrity then he may not be around that much longer.

One of things that may make that a little more difficult is the huge amount of change on the defensive side of the ball. They lost probably the best DT in the Pac-12 in Danny Shelton and all-everything Shaq Thompson. With the type of wide open offenses in the conference, replacing talent like that is going to be difficult. Offensively he loses Cyler Miles, a quarterback, who has stepped away from football for personal reasons. There will be questions all around this team, but Peterson knows he won’t get any extra leash because his depth chart is shallow. He is known for building programs and he is in the midst of probably his toughest job yet.

The one question I have is…. will Chris Peterson be around long enough to see the success he wants and the success the fans want? I hope so. Go Dawgs!

The Crossroads: The SEC East Needs to Improve Quickly

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Welcome to the calm before the storm. The only matchup of ranked teams takes place late Thursday night between two teams that could be starting backup quarterbacks. ESPN Gameday is at South Carolina, where Steve Spurrier has been ripping his team for three straight days. The SEC East could very well hang in the balance though. And the ABC primetime game features Syracuse, who just got whipped by Maryland.
Alas, good things come to those who wait since there are 6 Top 25 matchups next Saturday.
If you’re unfamiliar, this column looks as those under the most pressure this week:

Missouri

In my opinion, Indiana’s win over Missouri was the biggest upset of the season so far. It is so rare to see a high quality team lose at home to a big underdog. You can explain away games like USC losing at Boston College because of the road factor, but to lay an egg at home against a team that just lost to Bowling Green? How do you recover from that?
Well, fun for Missouri, they have the opportunity this Saturday. ESPN Gameday is showing up for reasons only they know – cough, cough SEC money cough, cough – and there’s a giant spotlight on the team. While a loss to Indiana would end the playoff hopes of nearly any team, Missouri plays in the right conference. Their margin of error is zero but if they win the SEC, they will likely make the playoff.
All they have to do now is travel to South Carolina and beat a Gamecock team that has been torn apart in the media by its coach. Yikes.

Mike Bobo

Rarely does one call in a game in September define a season, but that’s what happens when you don’t give the ball to the best running back in the country. Preseason Heisman favorite, Todd Gurley, needs to get the ball when his team is near the goal line. Bobo’s failure to do that cost Georgia a game they should have won. They are now under enormous pressure to win out. It still may not do them any good.
This week, Georgia gets a Tennessee team that put up a pretty good defensive effort against a high-powered Oklahoma team a few weeks back. All eyes will be on Bobo and the Georgia offense. The week 1 performance against Clemson looks a lot better following the Clemson effort against Florida State’s ground game. Georgia needs to run over Tennessee.

Tennessee’s offense

Tennessee lost badly to Oklahoma but the score obscured a pretty impressive performance by the defense, especially considering what we saw from the Sooners against West Virginia. The problem for Tennessee – in a reverse from previous years – was a poor offensive performance.
This week, Tennessee plays a Georgia team that has given up a ton of yards this year to Clemson and South Carolina. There was a lot of hype around Tennessee in the offseason about potentially returning to competitiveness against elite teams. They were at home last year. They were not on the road. Can they finally play a tough team close away from Neyland Stadium?

Texas Tech’s defense

The last time we saw Texas Tech, they were getting bludgeoned into submission by Arkansas. Since then, they had a week off and lost their defensive coordinator under bizarre circumstances. Now, they face Oklahoma State in Stillwater in an ESPN primetime matchup on Thursday. The college football world will be watching – it would behoove Kliff Kingsbury and company to not get blown out again.

North Carolina State

NC State is 4-0. They haven’t played anyone yet. On Saturday, they host Florida State. It would be unfair to say they are under pressure but their season is at a Crossroads in terms of how good it can be. They play Florida State, Clemson and Louisville in the next four weeks. The latter two seem very beatable. They have given FSU all kinds of trouble at home over the years, including an upset win in 2012.
Realistically, NC State will make a splash if it can stay close. If it can pull off the upset, then literally anything possible – that’s the nature of the ACC in 2014 if someone slays the dragon.

The AAC’s New Year’s Day hopes

The Group of Five (AAC, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Conference USA) gets one New Year’s Six bowl bid for the highest ranked conference champion. At this point, there figures to be two obvious front-runners – East Carolina and Boise State. The former already has two big wins while Boise State has BYU coming to town in addition to the easy Mountain West slate.
Can Cincinnati crash the party? If they can pull of the upset against Ohio State, it would likely give the AAC two Top 25 teams and force Boise State to run the table to have any chance of getting the bid.
In short – and it’s insane to think like this – a Cincinnati win could guarantee the AAC champion a New Year’s Six bowl bid. My head hurts.

Arkansas

Arkansas could go 6-6 and be a Top 25 caliber team. That’s what happens when all six of your division rivals are in the Top 20. The ridiculousness begins anew with a trip to JerryWorld to face Texas A&M. In the opener against Auburn, Arkansas hung close for a while before the defense wilted. Auburn has a much better defense than Texas A&M. Could Arkansas possibly pull of the miracle victory through ball control and smash-mouth football?
It is the most intriguing game of the week – could it be the biggest upset? Arkansas needs to win one of these tough games, or several of them, to bounce back after a few dismal seasons.

Chris Petersen

Welcome to the coach’s portion of the show, as Chris Petersen gets his first shot at a big win with Washington. The early results for Washington have been confusing – a one-point win over Hawaii, followed by giving up 50 to an FCS team and concluding with a 14-0 halftime deficit to Georgia State. Regardless, they are 4-0 and host Stanford. A win this Saturday could set them up for a huge season. A humbling loss could portend more trouble.

Brady Hoke

What is there to say? A loss at home to Minnesota could end the Brady Hoke era. The school is giving tickets away and the performance versus Utah was, in a word, pathetic.

Al Golden

What is there to say, part deux? A loss at home to Duke could end the Al Golden era. Duke is a much better team than Minnesota but Miami fans, those that are left, do not appreciate losing to any Duke football team. Losing to them two years in a row would be beyond unacceptable.