OSU LB tests positive for virus after Tulsa protest

  • Covers Texas A&M and the SEC.
  • Joined ESPN in 2012.
  • Graduate of the University of Houston.

Oklahoma State Cowboys linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga said Tuesday that he tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a protest in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Ogbongbemiga, who was a second-team All-Big 12 selection last year, made the announcement on Twitter.

Ogbongbemiga was one of 30 players to return to campus on Monday, the first phase of Oklahoma State athletes returning to campus in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. All of those players, as well as coaches and other staff members, were tested for the coronavirus, a source told ESPN.

Per university protocol, which was developed by a school task force headed by OSU Center for Health Sciences president Dr. Kayse Shrum, Ogbongbemiga will be quarantined in separate on-campus housing. Ogbongbemiga will be retested Friday, a source said, and retested again at a later date.

According to the school protocol, Ogbongbemiga’s quarantine will follow local and state health department and university guidelines and he will be monitored by the team physician, athletic training staff and any other medical consultants. The protocol also says the school will begin contact tracing, starting with Ogbongbemiga’s “cohort/workout group.”

Players are returning to campus in preparation for a June 15 return to activities; the Big 12 announced recently that football teams can began voluntary workouts on that date. The conference had instituted a moratorium on all athletic activities in the midst of the pandemic.

Ogbongbemiga, who will be a senior this fall, was voted the team’s defensive MVP last year and ranked sixth in the Big 12 with 100 tackles. He led the team and was fifth in the conference in tackles for loss, with 15.5.

In April, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy drew criticism for a teleconference in which he said he hoped to have his players back on May 1. He also said, at the time, that if somebody were to test positive after returning to work, that person would be “quarantined just like we do people that get the flu.”

The Cowboys are ranked No. 12 in ESPN’s latest Way-Too-Early Top 25.

ESPN reporter Mark Schlabach contributed to this report

Source: Read Full Article

UAB incoming freshman Smith drowns at age 18

  • Covers the SEC.
  • Joined ESPN in 2012.
  • Graduate of Auburn University.

UAB incoming freshman Jamari Smith drowned in a lake while swimming with friends Wednesday, according to Alabama authorities. He was 18.

Smith, a standout football and basketball player for Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery, Alabama, was set to play safety for the Blazers.

“Our hearts are broken to learn about the tragic passing of Jamari Smith,” UAB coach Bill Clark said in a statement. “We want to send our deepest condolences to the entire Smith family. Jamari was an upstanding young man with an extremely bright future. Although he never played a game at UAB, he will always be a Blazer.”

County coroner Bill Harris told AL.com that Smith was swimming with friends at a lake in Lee County, Alabama, when he became tired and submerged. He was located underwater by first responders and was pronounced dead at East Alabama Medical Center at 6:05 p.m.

No foul play is suspected, according to Harris, who said the case is being treated as an accidental drowning.

Source: Read Full Article

Ranking the best college football coaching hires since 1995: Saban, Dabo and who else?

  • College football reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
  • Graduate of Northwestern University.

Hiring a college football coach is an inexact science, and the following list provides the proof. This collection features the top 25 college football coaching hires of the past 25 years, a group defined by variety as much as greatness.

Nick Saban and Urban Meyer both were can’t-misses who hit the mark, at multiple schools. But for every Saban and Meyer, there are moves like Clemson handing over its program to a 39-year-old career wide receivers coach named Dabo Swinney, one of seven internal promotions who appear on the list.

Jim Harbaugh was a big-name player but a relatively unproven coach when he came to Stanford. Pete Carroll couldn’t break through with two NFL teams before USC gave him a chance. Jim Tressel had led only FCS school Youngstown State before getting his chance at Ohio State.

There’s no perfect path to a great coaching hire.

Here are the top 25 coaching hires since 1995. The list primarily considers a coach’s success at a program, but also what situation he walked into. Remember, the hires are being evaluated here, so a coach can appear more than once. As a result, a lot of excellent coaches didn’t make the rundown. I generally rewarded longevity, although several coaches here worked wonders in a short time.

Let’s get started.

25. Bill O’Brien, Penn State

Hired: Jan. 7, 2012

What he inherited: An unprecedented mess. The Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal had rocked Penn State, leading to the ouster of program icon Joe Paterno, who died of cancer on Jan. 22, 2012. Investigations began, and in July the NCAA imposed major penalties, including a postseason ban and scholarship losses.

What happened next: O’Brien had the shortest tenure of any coach on this list and went only 15-9. But he stabilized the program at a critical point and overcame a series of unique obstacles and constant tension to help Penn State far exceed the gloomy post-sanctions predictions. A first-time head coach, O’Brien had to navigate complicated challenges around Paterno’s legacy, the roster and the NCAA penalties, which allowed other teams to recruit his players. He won national coach of the year honors in 2012, as Penn State went 6-2 in Big Ten play. His work that fall and in 2013 prevented a collapse and helped set up successor James Franklin, who won the Big Ten in 2016 and has 42 wins and three top-10 finishes in the past four seasons.

Source: Read Full Article

The coronavirus and college sports: NCAA reopening plans, latest news, program cuts, more

The coronavirus pandemic continues to rattle the college sports landscape, leaving many questions unanswered.

But before a new normal can begin to take shape, colleges and universities will have to find a safe way to reopen campuses. Complex, high-stakes public health issues need to be dealt with before there is a good sense of what college sports will look like.

Here is the latest news and updates from the college sports world.

Latest news: SEC sets its plan in motion

Friday, May 22

The SEC announced athletes can begin using facilities on campus for voluntary workouts June 8 under strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each university. Presidents and chancellors from the SEC’s 14 universities made the final call after extensive conversations within the league involving commissioner Greg Sankey, athletic directors and medical officials.

Big Ten leaving decisions up to individual schools: The Big Ten is not expected to make a league-wide announcement on athletes returning to campus, leaving the decision to individual schools, league sources told ESPN on Friday. The conference will defer to NCAA rulings and guidelines with each campus, state and local area.

Thursday, May 21

Nick Saban scolds Crimson Tide mascot for lack of mask in PSA

Alabama coach Nick Saban scolded Crimson Tide mascot Big Al for not wearing a mask and not maintaining proper social distancing as part of a public service announcement released Thursday by Alabama football. It’s the latest PSA that Saban has participated in since the coronavirus pandemic shut down college sports more than two months ago.

Wednesday, May 20

Ohio State game models show potential for 20,000-50,000 fans

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said his athletic department has run several social distancing models to consider having fans in stands at games this fall. Ohio Stadium, with a normal capacity of more than 100,000, would hold closer to 20,000-22,000 fans but up to 40,000-50,000 “if guidelines are relaxed.” … “We’ve played with that a little bit as a framework to start as we move forward and think about what we’d ultimately be allowed to do,” Smith told reporters, before later clarifying the low-end estimate in a tweet.

Voluntary on-campus activities to resume in football, basketball starting June 1

The NCAA Division I Council voted Wednesday to allow voluntary on-campus athletic activities to resume in football, and men’s and women’s basketball starting June 1, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN. After the coronavirus pandemic forced the shut down of sports across the country, the council banned all on-campus athletic activities. That moratorium was set to expire May 31.

Tuesday, May 19

Bowlsby: Big 12 needs to be ‘up and running’ by mid-July for football season to start on time

The Big 12 conference doesn’t have a date yet for its sports to resume, but commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Tuesday the league needs to be “up and running” by mid-July if the college football season is going to start on time.

COVID impact: How do schools test, recruit and stay afloat?

100 days to college football? The biggest questions as the sport looks to return: The college football season is slated to begin in 100 days, highlighted by Notre Dame-Navy in Dublin, Ireland. Here’s the latest as the sport’s power brokers try to find a way to save the season. Read

No football would cost $4B, alter college sports: As more college athletic departments cut sports programs, the financial wreckage is becoming clear. And it gets even worse if college football doesn’t return. Read

College recruiting challenges during the coronavirus pandemic: With the state of college football and basketball in limbo, coaches and recruits across the country have had to find new ways to go about age-old practices during the spring. Read

Power 5 conferences: When will sports return?

As states begin to initiate phases re-openings throughout the country, schools and athletic programs are also beginning to set new protocols for students and student-athletes. Right now, college football season is tentatively scheduled to start on Aug. 29; and while there is still no definitive timetable for college sports to return across the board, the May 31 moratorium that was imposed in March at the onset of the pandemic is quickly expiring.

Here is a school-by-school breakdown of dates for stages of reopening in each Power 5 conference (*-denotes Notre Dame as independent):

ACC

The ACC announced it would leave it up to individual universities to determine when to start opening up campuses and athletic facilities. Here are the dates we know so far:

Boston College: TBD.
Clemson: TBD.
Duke: TBD.
Florida State: TBD.
Georgia Tech: TBD.
Louisville: June 8
Miami: TBD.
North Carolina: TBD.
NC State: TBD.
Pittsburgh: TBD.
Syracuse: TBD.
Virginia: TBD.
Virginia Tech : TBD.
Wake Forest: TBD.
*-Notre Dame: TBD.

Big Ten

While the Big Ten said it will leave plans up to individual schools, Illinois announced detailed plans for its athletes to return for voluntary activities beginning in mid-June. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told reporters earlier this week that its athletes would begin returning to campus June 8, pending university approval. Here are the latest dates:

Illinois: Mid-June (voluntary on-campus workouts).
Indiana: TBD.
Iowa: TBD.
Maryland: TBD.
Michigan: TBD.
Michigan State: TBD.
Minnesota: TBD.
Nebraska: TBD.
Northwestern: TBD.
Ohio State: June 8 (voluntary on-campus workouts).
Penn State: TBD.
Purdue: TBD.
Rutgers: TBD.
Wisconsin: TBD.

Big 12

Baylor: TBD.
Iowa State: TBD.
Kansas: TBD.
Kansas State: TBD.
Oklahoma: TBD.
Oklahoma State: TBD.
TCU: TBD.
Texas: TBD.
Texas Tech: TBD.
West Virginia: TBD.

Pac-12

Earlier this month, the 23-school California State University system announced it would primarily remain in a virtual learning model this fall, raising questions about the ability for member schools to field athletic teams for the rest of 2020. Here are the Pac-12 school breakdowns:

Arizona: TBD.
Arizona State: TBD.
California: TBD.
UCLA: TBD.
Colorado: TBD.
Oregon: TBD.
Oregon State: TBD.
USC: TBD.
Stanford: TBD.
Utah: TBD.
Washington: TBD.
Washington State: TBD.

SEC

Alabama: TBD.
Arkansas: TBD.
Auburn: TBD.
Florida: TBD.
Georgia: TBD.
Kentucky: TBD.
LSU: TBD.
Ole Miss: TBD.
Mississippi State: TBD.
Missouri: TBD.
South Carolina: TBD.
Tennessee: TBD.
Texas A&M: TBD.
Vanderbilt: TBD.

College Football Playoff: Will there be one?

CFP officials have stated they are moving forward with a plan to still have a Playoff as scheduled. Here is the latest news:

  • No change to CFP format or selection protocols

  • Mike Pence, CFP committee discuss college sports’ differing dynamics

  • CFP director Hancock: We’re planning on playoff

Schools that have cut pay, programs, staff

A day after the University of Cincinnati announced it would permanently cut its men’s soccer program, a letter from five conference commissioners to NCAA president Emmert asked, in part, for the NCAA to lift rules that require Division I schools to sponsor at least 16 varsity sports.

Here are other programs that have disbanded, plus schools that have made staffing changes and pay cuts:

  • Minnesota, Wisconsin thrown for losses in sports budget crunch

  • Cincinnati drops men’s soccer program amid “widespread uncertainty”

  • Old Dominion cuts wrestling, citing financial impact of coronavirus

  • Louisville furloughs 45 athletic department staffers, others take 4% pay cut

  • Boise State coaches, athletics staff to be furloughed

  • Colorado athletic director, three head coaches to take 10% pay cuts

  • Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck confirms taking unpaid week

  • Syracuse coaches Jim Boeheim, Dino Babers take voluntary pay cuts

  • Rutgers athletic director, three highest-paid coaches taking pay cuts

  • Kansas’ Les Miles, Bill Self, Jeff Long take salary cuts

  • Texas Tech to trim $7 million from athletic budget

  • Kansas State football, men’s hoops coach agree to salary reduction

  • Arizona’s Sean Miller, Kevin Sumlin among coaches taking 20% pay cut

  • Report: Florida International AD defers year’s salary amid furloughs

  • Akron to eliminate 3 sports in cost-cutting move

  • Bowling Green ends baseball program to save $500K

  • Furman eliminates baseball, men’s lacrosse

  • Central Michigan stops track amid coronavirus pandemic

  • South Carolina football, basketball coaches among those taking 10% pay cut

  • East Carolina eliminates swimming and diving, tennis programs

Source: Read Full Article

Clemson vs. Alabama: How it stacks up against other top college football classics

    Bill Connelly is a staff writer for ESPN.com.

    Dave Wilson is an editor for ESPN.com since 2010. He previously worked at The Dallas Morning News, San Diego Union-Tribune and Las Vegas Sun.

The past decade of college football was defined by Clemson’s emergence as a national power. The Tigers slowly emerged under Dabo Swinney. They caught fire when quarterback Deshaun Watson was healthy. But Clemson did not officially become a giant until the team began to beat the best teams in the country.

On Thursday, ESPN (7 p.m. ET) will re-air Clemson’s unforgettable 35-31 win against Alabama in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game. It was the second of four Alabama-Clemson battles in the CFP and the one that might end up with the deepest legacy.

ESPN writers Dave Wilson and Bill Connelly look back at the Clemson-Bama series, as well as the best national title games of the CFP/BCS era, and discuss what makes a game a legitimate classic.

Besides Watson-to-Hunter Renfrow, what are your most lasting memories of the game?

Wilson: That it was the rare sequel that lived up to the original matchup a year before (Alabama’s 45-40 win). It wasn’t a game where you worried a team was going to make a mistake that doomed them. It was how good they both were. And Watson became a college football legend after getting hit, popping back up and leading Clemson to the title. He passed for 420 yards against the Tide in the process.

Connelly: My lasting memory is that 2017 was the first time I attended the American Football Coaches Association conference, which is timed to take place around the national title game. I would say at least 90 percent of the coaches in attendance were rooting for Clemson that Monday night. Even coaches get tired of the same team winning nearly every year, apparently. (The energy was not nearly as partisan two years later when Clemson won again.)

Beyond that, I simply remember thinking, “Man, Bama should have put this game away by now” countless times. Bo Scarbrough scored on two rampant runs in the first half but got hurt, and Alabama had a couple of drives stall in Clemson territory. They were holding Clemson defensively, but with Alabama up 17-7 late in the third quarter, it seemed like the Crimson Tide should be leading by about 21. Clemson then unleashed its offense and it became a track meet.

I also loved how so many key offensive players made huge plays late. Alabama’s O.J. Howard caught a 24-yard pass to set up Jalen Hurts’ 30-yard run. Mike Williams caught passes of 26 and 24 yards and drew a pass interference to set up the winning score. Jordan Leggett made a gorgeous catch with 14 seconds left. Hunter Renfrow Hunter Renfrow’d. Some games are remembered for classic individual performances; this was a collective job.

Wilson: There was (understandably) some national angst about two teams from the same part of the country playing close to home in Tampa — in a rematch, no less. But I’ll never forget walking out of the press box during the game for a while so I could get out in the stands and feel how exciting this one was. Restaurants were packed with fans doing cheers for both teams in the middle of dinner during the week, and to have it all build to that fourth quarter was electric. But maybe most memorably, I hustled down to the field when it was over and saw a very large, limber man do the splits right in front of me when Christian Wilkins hammed it up for the cameras. That’s the kinda thing that sticks with you.

Twenty years from now, which Alabama-Clemson CFP game will have taken on the greatest resonance?

Connelly: It’s probably this one because of the classic ending and the fact that Clemson had officially arrived as a national power. If Dabo Swinney continues to win big for a generation, this was the starting point.

I can make a case for the previous year’s game, too, though. Nick Saban hiring Lane Kiffin as his offensive coordinator in 2014 represented his attempt at offensive modernization, an acknowledgement that he needed to spread things out a bit more and become more tactically flexible. The Tide lost to Ohio State in the CFP semis that first year, but broke through the next year, handing Saban his first title with the new offense. (Never mind that the offense wasn’t all that great.) So there’s symbolism there.

We’ve seen 22 national title games in the BCS/CFP era. Rank your five favorite endings

Wilson: We’ve been #blessed with some of the best finishes ever during this period.

  • 1. 2006: Vince Young goes for the corner, Texas beats USC 41-38.

  • 2. 2017: This one. Clemson 35, Alabama 31

  • 3. 2018: Hide your eyes, Dawgs. Second-and-26. Tua comes off the bench to become an all-time legend in a 26-23 Alabama win over Georgia in overtime.

  • 4. 2011: Auburn 22, Oregon 19. We had some new blood. Oregon, with its first undefeated season in 117 years, made a valiant effort at preventing a third straight Iron Bowl champion (and Alabama made it four a year later). Wes Bynum’s game-winning kick on the last play of the game gave Auburn its first (universally recognized) national championship since 1957.

  • 5. 2003: Another game that ended on the last play: Ohio State’s 31-24 double-overtime win over Miami returned the Buckeyes to prominence and ended the Hurricanes’ run. Miami thought it had the game won (and probably still does). A wildly controversial (and extremely late) pass-interference call against Chris Gamble on fourth down gave the Buckeyes new life and Miami couldn’t convert from the goal line in the second overtime. It’s surely No. 1 on the most controversial endings of the era.

Connelly: I shouldn’t have let you go first in this one — now it’s going to look like I’m copying.

  • 1. Of course USC-Texas has to be No. 1. But I’m actually impressed with the level of competition here. You could make the case for a few others.

  • 2. I would put Alabama-Georgia a notch higher than yours, at second. The chaos levels and plot twists in just those last 2-3 minutes of regulation and two overtime possessions were nearly unmatchable. And such an incredible ending.

  • 3. Clemson 35, Alabama 31.

  • 4. The Ohio State-Miami thriller you mentioned. I had no problem with the pass-interference call at the end of the game. The problem was how late it was called. It allowed for a beat of celebration, which made everything that happened subsequently seem all the more devastating. But there was plenty of contact before the ball arrived. It was well within the range of what could be flagged. (It also was well within the range of what didn’t have to be flagged. Officiating is really hard.)

  • 5. 2014: I’m going to go with another Auburn title game, a back-and-forth contest against Florida State that nearly ended in a miracle. After trailing 21-3 late in the first half, Jameis Winston and Kelvin Benjamin connected for the game winner with 13 seconds left to give FSU a 34-31 win. In the waning moments, Auburn attempted a miracle triple-lateral that ultimately fell short. The drama was elevated afterward when FSU coach Jimbo Fisher conceded that Auburn knew what plays were coming early in the game.

What has been the most disappointing title game so far?

Connelly: We’ve had some blowouts and some duds, but the 2010 Alabama-Texas matchup was defined by who wasn’t able to play. We talked for a month about Nick Saban’s defense versus the Colt McCoy offense. But McCoy was lost for the game on the Longhorns’ fifth snap, and Garrett Gilbert had to fill in. The simple fact that the Horns had the ball with three minutes left, down just three, tells you we could have been in store for a hell of a game. (We could also have been in store for an easy Texas win, to be honest.) But the truth is, the game was completely redefined five minutes in, and the game plans went out the window. That’s no fun.

Wilson: That’s solid logic, not to mention it gifted us the ol’ “If Colt Didn’t Get Hurt” chestnut. But I’m going to have to go with Alabama’s 21-0 win over LSU in the 2012 BCS Championship Game. It just felt so… hopeless. First, it was a rematch of two teams who ground each other to a pulp during a 9-6 LSU win just 65 days prior. This one lived up to the billing, with LSU fumbling the first snap of the game. Alabama kicked five field goals before a late Trent Richardson touchdown run, and LSU crossed midfield only once, when there were about six minutes left in the game. And to think, just nine months later, Saban asked, “Is this what we want football to be?” after facing Ole Miss’ hurry-up, no-huddle offense. I’ll go with yes on that one.

Connelly: in a rematch of a game earlier that season, it was clear after about two LSU snaps that the Tigers were not going to move the ball in the 2012 title game against Alabama. Say this much for the team: They received a lucky break with Oklahoma State barely missing a game-winning field goal and losing to Iowa State in 2011, giving Bama a way back into the BCS race. Alabama took full advantage of it.

What makes a game a classic? Is a great ending and back-and-forth flow enough? Does it have to signify something greater?

Wilson: Classic games often come when the course of history is changed. Hunter Renfrow’s catch was the culmination of Clemson’s climb under Dabo, and it came in the midst of a dynasty at Alabama when Nick Saban was making a case as the greatest coach in CFB history. It’s rare when one of the time-tested bluebloods break through. Since 1990-91 when Colorado and Washington earned national titles, the list reads like a who’s who of college football. Clemson had been knocking on the door, to paraphrase Bum Phillips, and this was the year the Tigers kicked it in.

Connelly: Having that significance certainly helps. The Kick Six would have been amazing no matter what, but it was more amazing because it ended up giving Auburn a path to the SEC title and the BCS title game. The 2006 Texas-USC game is regarded by many as the best college football game ever, not only because it was back and forth and decided in the last minute, but because it featured so many amazing players and signified the peak of both Pete Carroll’s USC and Mack Brown’s Texas. (It also was Keith Jackson’s last game on the mic and played in college football’s most perfect stadium, the Rose Bowl.) You can have classics without national title stakes or narrative significance — Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary, hello — but it’s a column on the scoresheet for sure. The best games have the stories to match the on-field excitement.

Source: Read Full Article

Bama renovation resumes after positive tests

  • Covers the SEC.
  • Joined ESPN in 2012.
  • Graduate of Auburn University.

Renovation of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium resumed Monday after an undisclosed number of workers at the construction site tested positive for the coronavirus.

According to a statement provided by the university to ESPN, the construction company, Caddell Construction, immediately “adapted operations and processes, engaged in heightened cleaning, and took other protective measures for the health and safety of their employees” after learning of the positive tests.

Construction had been suspended over the weekend.

The $107 million renovation of the football stadium began in November with Phase I to include, in part, a renovated locker room and recruiting space, new video boards and new premium seats.

The Crimson Tide’s first home game is scheduled for Sept. 12 against Georgia State.

In the statement, the University of Alabama said it has “continuously mandated” that its campus contractors take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The University directly provided sanitation supplies, thermometers, and signage at all construction sites, and made personal protective equipment available to all contractors. Those processes, which have been in place since early March, are continuously refined based on the latest guidance from state, federal and industry leaders in order to protect the health and safety of the campus community,” the university said.

Source: Read Full Article

Oklahoma lands No. 1-ranked WR Williams

  • ESPN staff writer
  • Joined ESPN in 2011
  • Graduated from Central Michigan

ESPN 300 wide receiver Mario Williams announced his commitment to Oklahoma on Friday. The No. 16-ranked recruit overall, Williams chose the Sooners over Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU.

Williams is a 5-foot-10, 165-pound receiver from Plant City High School in Florida. He is the No. 1 receiver in the class and is the second ESPN 300 receiver to commit to Oklahoma in this cycle, joining Cody Jackson, a 6-foot, 175-pound recruit out of Richmond, Texas.

Adding Williams to the 2021 class gives the Sooners another big-play option, a quick receiver who has a knack for making something happen. Over the past two seasons, Williams has had 1,745 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns for his high school team.

Williams will eventually join a roster with a lot of options at his position. Coach Lincoln Riley and his staff added ESPN 300 receiver Marvin Mims in the 2020 cycle. In 2019, Oklahoma was able to sign the top-ranked receiver, Jadon Haselwood, the No. 3-ranked receiver, Theo Wease, and the No. 22 receiver, Trejan Bridges.

The offense is in good shape for the future at Oklahoma. The Sooners signed Spencer Rattler, the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in 2019, and ESPN 300 quarterback Chandler Morris in 2020. Oklahoma also is in the top group for the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2021 cycle, Caleb Williams, who is listing Maryland and LSU as his other top schools.

Source: Read Full Article

Miami vs. Florida State: Where would college football be today without this rivalry?

  • ACC reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2010.
  • Graduate of the University of Florida.

    Bill Connelly is a staff writer for ESPN.com.

Whether you had a rooting interest or not, Miami-Florida State became appointment television in the 1980s, two ascendant programs that proceeded to tear up everything we thought we knew about college football all while remaking it in their own image.

Where did the need for speed every coach employs today come from? Studying Miami-Florida State. The athletes across every defensive position? Miami-Florida State. The absolute need to recruit players from the state of Florida? Miami-Florida State.

Sure, the rivalry no longer has championship implications every time the teams play. But its importance can never be denied. That is why it will be fun to relive the best games and moments in the rivalry all day across the family of ESPN networks, culminating with their unforgettable showdown in 2002 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Sure, it has been years since Miami and Florida State fought each other for the top spot on the college football mountain, but that does not diminish their heated rivalry nor its place in history. ESPN writers Andrea Adelson and Bill Connelly look back at a rivalry that elevated college football to new heights.

What stands out about the Miami-Florida State rivalry?

Adelson: I grew up in South Florida when Miami-Florida State burned white hot as the must-watch rivalry game in the nation. Apologies to Michigan-Ohio State and Army-Navy, but no rivalry during the Miami-Florida State heyday matched its undeniable appeal: The incredible athletes on the field, swaggerin,’ trash-talkin’ and hatin,’ under the high noon sun with national championship implications on the line. I used to set my calendar around Miami-Florida State, because nothing else really mattered. And honestly, if you need any photo to illustrate what made this rivalry unique, flip back to 1989. Sebastian the Ibis, Miami’s mascot, was nearly arrested for trying to extinguish the flaming spear FSU mascot, Osceola, plants at midfield.

Connelly: In its heyday, this rivalry was a unique combination of important, new and mischievous, and I thought that long before I learned how Sebastian was detained and nearly arrested. Combine all the swagger of Deion Sanders and (insert your choice of Miami defensive lineman or wide receiver here) with a game that was, at worst, about the third-most important game of the year nationally (despite the fact that neither team had any sort of historical profile before the ’80s), and you’ve got a generation-defining rivalry. In 1987-88, FSU went 22-0 against teams not named Miami and 0-2 against the Canes.

In 1991-92, the Noles were 23-1 against others but went Wide Right twice against the U. The winner of this game was a top-10 team in 19 of 21 years from 1986 to 2006. That’s been the case twice since. These teams combined for four or fewer losses nine times between 1987 and 1996 and three more times in 1999-2001. That has happened once since. This was an incredible enough rivalry that the ACC created two ridiculously named, geographically silly divisions just to keep them apart and pave the way for years of Miami-FSU conference title games.

What’s your favorite game/moment in the series?

Adelson: I am going to be greedy and pick two. My first choice is purely sentimental and based on my childhood memories alone. In 1988, Florida State went into the season ranked No. 1, talking an inordinate amount of smack about the Miami game being “unfinished business” from the previous season. Also they put together the Seminole Rap video because … ? After Miami won 31-0, I took so much satisfaction in the victory, I hung up the Miami Herald sports front page in my room until I left for college. My second memory is the 2000 game. It was my first year on the Miami beat, and you could sense the Hurricanes were on the precipice of returning to their 1980s glory. When Jeremy Shockey caught the winning touchdown pass in the end zone where I stood, I remember the pandemonium breaking out all around me. That remains one of the most epic plays in a long line of them in this series.

Connelly: In terms of intensifying a rivalry, there’s nothing more delicious than 2000. Thanks to Miami’s recent rebound, it was the first all-top-10 matchup in the series in four years and the first such game involving a No. 1 team in seven years. The band was all back together, and they played Wide Right. After Shockey’s touchdown, FSU got close enough for Matt Munyon to try a field goal, and he didn’t miss it left or short. There was only one direction that kick could drift. And then on top of that, the one-loss Noles still reached the national title game instead of the one-loss Canes. Bitterness and perceived injustice is seasoning for a great rivalry.

I always felt FSU’s selection for the 2000 BCS title game was justifiable. The Seminoles had the better loss (technically) and had beaten two other top-10 teams by a combined 84-14. It was a better résumé by decimal points. And not that it should have mattered, but FSU was by far the more proven commodity at the time, too.

Adelson: I remember asking Miami coaches and players how they felt about beating Florida State but somehow losing a spot in the national championship game to the Seminoles. It made no sense to them. It made no sense to me. And honestly, Miami’s loss to Washington in Ken Dorsey’s first road start would be considered a “quality loss” in today’s vernacular. (Washington finished 11-1.) Miami should have been in three straight national championship games. On the other hand, if Miami had gone to the Orange Bowl instead, we would have been deprived of the brawl on Bourbon Street between the Hurricanes and Gators before the Sugar Bowl.

What was the most important game in the series?

Adelson: 1987. The Wide Right games get more notoriety because of the heartbreaking way those games ended (for Florida State). But there is one thing Miami and Florida State fans can agree on: The 1987 game sent this rivalry from regional to national in the three hours it took to play. The sheer talent on the field is mind-boggling to even consider. A whopping 56 players in the game went on to play in the NFL. That includes the future NFL Hall of Fame matchup between Sanders and Michael Irvin. Bobby Bowden opted to go for the win instead of a tie, and Florida State failed to convert. Miami won the national title; Florida State finished second. It is hard not to think about what would have happened had overtime been in the rules in 1987.

Connelly: 1987 is the correct answer, but here’s an underrated one for you: On Nov. 12, 1983, Miami was 10-1 and up to sixth in the country. It had ranked higher than that for only one week, in 1967. The scenario was: If the Canes beat 7-4 FSU in Tallahassee, they would host No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. If they didn’t, they probably would be relegated to the Citrus Bowl. With Miami trailing 16-14 with under two minutes left, freshman Bernie Kosar drove Miami the length of the field and kicker Jeff Davis poked in a 19-yard field goal at the buzzer. The heartbreaking reality for FSU was that the score could have been 17-14 had the Noles gone for two when they scored to go up 9-7 earlier in the game. Bobby Bowden said after the game that he had “misfigured” the score.

When you think about all the things that had to happen for Howard Schnellenberger’s team to win the 1983 national title — unbeaten No. 2 Texas losing to Georgia in the Cotton Bowl, Nebraska famously failing on its 2-point conversion attempt and falling one point short in the Orange Bowl, etc. — the win over FSU was just as important. Without it, maybe the dynasty still eventually takes flight, of course, but the butterfly effect of that game was maybe the biggest in the series, even if it doesn’t get mentioned as a classic.

What player best personifies the rivalry?

Adelson: The default answer is Deion Sanders just because he embodies everything about this rivalry: Elite player with sick playmaking skills, unafraid to get in your face, talk trash and then back up everything he just said. But here is the interesting note about Sanders for those who might have forgotten: He never beat Miami.

Connelly: Granted, Chris Rix losing five times to Miami has its own kind of defining characteristics, but as you mentioned, because Miami controlled the rivalry during its most important span (winning eight of 10 between 1985 and 1994), I think a Hurricane deserves the nod here. I’ve got just the one: Michael Irvin. He brought plenty of playmaking and trash talk to the table in his own right, obviously, and in three games against FSU — all wins — he caught 15 passes for 317 yards and two scores.

Adelson: I am happy you mentioned Irvin. When we did our roundtable about our favorite players from the 1980s, I chose Irvin. I loved everything about him — that swagger and that flapping white towel he wore hanging off the front of his pants.

Connelly: Growing up in OU country, I got to witness a whole bunch of people loathing Irvin with every fiber of their existence … and then forgiving him when he went to the Cowboys and won Super Bowls.

How does Miami-FSU get back to what it meant in the ’80s and ’90s?

Adelson: I have thought about this question often, mostly because I have no good answer and I want to have a good answer. I am not sure Miami-Florida State will ever reach the heights we saw when these teams were championship contenders year in and year out over a decade-plus. So much has changed in college football, starting with recruiting. There was a time when Miami and Florida State had their pick of the top prospects in the state. But their success ended up being a double-edged sword, as programs from across the country made the state of Florida one of their top recruiting destinations and the talent dispersed. Facilities never mattered much when these programs built themselves up. Now, they matter an inordinate amount. To start, both programs need to recruit at a top-five level at the same time over a consistent period of time, keeping elite in-state talent home.

Connelly: Make great coaching hires, recruit well, win big, play big games. Obviously that’s far easier to describe than to actually do, but that’s the only answer. Hoovering up every good prospect in the state is obviously far more difficult than it used to be, but you can still sign top-five classes at FSU and top-10 classes (if not better) at Miami. A great head coach can work with that. So when these two teams have great coaches again — we’ll see whether Mike Norvell and Manny Diaz fit that bill — they’ll play in huge, meaningful games again.

That said, it’ll never again mean what it meant in the late 1980s and early 1990s (and in its brief turn-of-the-century encore), simply because neither program is a usurper anymore. That’s part of what made those games so amazing. Not only did you have top-five teams playing games with national title stakes but you had two new and incredibly brash powers doing it. Since we don’t have many independents anymore, and since this sport has gotten awfully good at slapping down usurpers, I’m not sure that can be replicated.

Source: Read Full Article

Ranking college football’s top 10 returning safeties for 2020

Rounding out our series of college football’s top 10 players at every position for 2020, we finish with safeties. There are a couple of Power 5 teams lucky enough to have multiple players featured here. Using a combination of Pro Football Focus grades and PFF’s wins above average (WAA) metric, we present the top 10 safeties returning to college football in 2020, as well as a sleeper to watch.

1. Trevon Moehrig, TCU

Moehrig’s 2019 season was one of the best we have ever seen at the position. Not only was he the most valuable safety of the season, but he also had the third-most valuable season we have seen in the PFF College era. Regardless of where he was on the field, Moehrig was an absolute playmaker. While in coverage, he forced an incompletion on a whopping 32% of his 47 targets. Of those targets, 17 were contested, and he allowed only two to be caught. Those are amazing numbers for a safety, and the fact that Moehrig did this in his first full season starting as a true sophomore is unreal. He’s the best safety in college football.

Source: Read Full Article

Louisville WR signee Rentz, 18, shot and killed

  • ACC reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2010.
  • Graduate of the University of Florida.

Louisville football signee Dexter Rentz was shot and killed in Orlando, Florida, late Saturday night.

The Orlando Police Department confirmed that Rentz died in the shooting, which also injured three others. Rentz was 18.

Louisville coach Scott Satterfield issued a statement: “We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Dexter Rentz. He was a great young man who had a contagious personality, and was able to light up a room with his smile. He was a great kid to be around and he will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Rentz family during this extremely difficult time.”

One of his high school teammates, Lovie Jenkins, who also signed to play with Louisville, posted a tribute to Rentz on social media.

Rentz, a 5-foot-9, 164-pound receiver from Ocoee (Florida) High School, signed with Louisville in December. He was a team captain, had 1,700 all-purpose yards, ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and tied a state record with five interceptions in a single game. He also was a track standout.

Source: Read Full Article