Virginia football is at the top of Athletic Director Carla Williams's priority list – Washington Post


(Photo courtesy of University of Virginia)

CHARLOTTESVILLE — On her first full day as Virginia athletic director five months ago, Carla Williams met with Coach Bronco Mendenhall for roughly two hours to discuss the state of the football program.

Having been an athlete and administrator at Georgia, she arrived at her new post keenly aware of the how much football matters not only to the financial profile of a Power Five institution but also the ways in which its success — or, in the Cavaliers’ case in recent seasons, a lack thereof — can affect an entire athletic department.

So during a nearly one-hour sit-down with members of the media on Friday afternoon, Williams spoke almost exclusively about her efforts to return football to prominence via several avenues, most notably fundraising, facilities and ticket sales.

“It didn’t take me very long to start to realize that we’ve got a structural problem in football,” Williams said. “We’re understaffed in some areas. Obviously we’ve got some facilities issues in some areas. Our budget isn’t where it needs to be, so all of those things need to change to have a consistently competitive football program.”

Adding a football facility on par with the marquee programs in the ACC remains a top priority, although Williams, the first female African American athletic director at a Power Five school, did not provide specifics regarding a timetable.

In June 2017, the Virginia Board of Visitors authorized fundraising and planning for a football operations center at an estimated cost of $55 to $60 million. The building would house all the necessities and amenities to attract top recruits, an area in which the Cavaliers have been lagging behind their ACC counterparts, most notably in-state rival Virginia Tech.

The football staff operates largely out of the McCue Center, located across the street from John Paul Jones Arena, the Cavaliers’ state-of-the-art home court for men’s and women’s basketball. But McCue, which opened in 1991, has grown outdated compared to those at the likes of Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Miami and other conference powers.

“If there is a four- or five-star recruit from the Tidewater area or Norfolk, let’s just say, and they’ve narrowed their choices to Virginia, to Notre Dame, to Stanford, to Michigan and they take visits to those places, they’re going to choose the schools that they think are making an investment in their future,” Williams said.

“Because if you’re a four-star recruit, you probably have aspirations of playing the NFL, and your college experience is your opportunity to do that. If we don’t show recruits that we’ve committed and invested in our football program, then the messaging is that, and so we’ve got some work to do in that area.”

Also unpalatable for recruits is the abundance of elbow room during games at Scott Stadium, where attendance has been sagging for years.
Scott Stadium holds 61,500, but the Cavaliers have announced a home crowd of more than 40,000 only three times during Mendenhall’s two seasons: 49,270 for his first game at the school; 48,609 for last season’s regular season finale against Virginia Tech; and 40,882 for a Week 7 matchup against North Carolina in 2016.

Virginia won six games this past season and went to a bowl game for the first time since 2007. But seasons such as those have become the exception over the last decade, during which time Virginia has endured six years with four wins or fewer. The Cavaliers have had one winning season since 2008 and twice have finished with two victories, including going 2-10 in 2017, a jarring reality check for Mendenhall after he spoke about directing Virginia to a bowl game in his first year in Charlottesville.

Among her first goals after meeting with Mendenhall, Williams said, was to raise an additional $500,000 per year for the football budget over the next five years. Following meetings with donors, the figure quickly grew to $1 million because of their belief in Mendenhall’s vision to rebuild the program.

It’s a start, Williams indicated, but far from enough to bring football back to the level it enjoyed under George Welsh and Al Groh, who directed Virginia to a total of 17 bowl games from 1984 through 2007.

“People don’t come to see a bad product, and so it all works together,” Williams said. “Bronco has done an excellent job going from two wins to six wins. We’ve got to continue to improve on that, and it can’t all be on the coach because there’s fundraising, there’s facilities, there’s marketing, there’s promotions.

“We’ve had conversations from top to bottom, because in order to get this on track, it’s not one person, it’s not one unit. It’s the entire department, and that’s what I’ve seen, and that’s what it takes.”

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Mike Singletary joins ex-Tigers player Kosha Irby at helm of Memphis pro football team – The Commercial Appeal


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NFL Hall of Famer Mike Singletary was named Memphis’ Alliance of American Football team’s head coach.
The Commercial Appeal

MEMPHIS — The Alliance of American Football came to the Liberty Bowl to bring a new professional football team and head coach in NFL Hall of Famer Mike Singletary.

Singletary, who was introduced Thursday as coach of the yet-to-be-named Memphis franchise, said that when league co-founder Bill Polian called him, it didn’t take long to get excited about the opportunity to not just coach again but be a part of the AAF.

“It’s an opportunity for the fans to see a great product on the field, for players to continue their career and reinvent themselves, for coaches to continue to invest in the players and make a difference in their lives,” Singletary said.

That excitement is what the AAF hopes to ride on as it attempts to cash in on football fans looking for viable alternatives when the NFL season is done. Memphis will be the third franchise of the eight-team league that launches on February 9, 2019.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward and Alliance head of football operations J.K. McKay introduced Singletary but also explained why Memphis, which has a brief history of pro football teams, was a great fit for the AAF.

“Memphis is a great culture and a great community for football,” said Ward, who added he got tips from former teammate and Memphis football alum DeAngelo Williams.”It’s a great place, you got Beale Street…and hiring a guy like Coach Singletary is just awesome. If you come play for Memphis, you’re going to be inspired and go out to play hard.”

Mike Singletary’s path to Memphis

Singletary previously coached three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and compiled an 18-22 record, including going 5-4 during his interim year in 2008. His last coaching stop was being a defensive assistant with the Los Angeles Rams in 2016.

Singletary was also hired to coach at Trinity Christian-Addison High School in Addison, Texas, just outside of Dallas. He said that he would be able to fulfill both rules since the schedules don’t overlap.

Former Memphis Tigers player Kosha Irby was named as team president. Irby played at Memphis from 1997-2000 and was previously the regional director of live events for World Wrestling Entertainment since 2011.

“For me to be able to say that I can come back and run a team in the place that taught me the game of football is an opportunity that you just can’t refuse,” Irby said. “There’s going to be other clubs and other places but there’s no other Memphis.”

The question remains how successful the Alliance of American Football, which previously announced franchises in Atlanta and Orlando, can be. Both Ward and McKay said that the name and official colors would be unveiled this summer after all eight teams are announced.

They also promised the league would be fan-friendly and with rules changes such as teams going for two-point conversions after every touchdown and no kickoffs, they expect it will satisfy a void for football fans, especially those engaged in fantasy football. That’s where the official league app comes in where fans have in-game fantasy options and can watch games that will not be shown on CBS or the CBS Sports Network.

 “It’s going to be different because our approach is player-centric,” McKay said, “There’s a vast pool of players now with 75,000 kids playing college football and only 1,700 in the NFL. We will have players that when they get on the field, you’re going to see people’s eyebrows say ‘why isn’t that guy in the NFL’.

McKay said he wants the league to be complimentary to the NFL and wants the AAF to be seen as another potential business venture for Memphis to create jobs. He also was not worried about attracting fans despite the NFL experiencing a nearly 10 percent ratings drop last year.

“Of all the people that watch NFL football, 75 million of them don’t watch any other sport after the NFL ends,” McKay said. “It’s those 75 million that we’re saying ‘Maybe you can watch this’. We think there’s a market for it.”

MEMPHIS PRO FOOTBALL: 5 Things to Know about the Alliance of American Football

PRO SPORTS IN MEMPHIS: Is Memphis ready for another professional football team?

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University of Cincinnati Bearcats football great Washington named head coach at alma mater – Cincinnati.com


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Fickell discusses UC’s 2018 signing class/
Tom Groeschen

Former University of Cincinnati football standout Shaq Washington just became one of the youngest prep football head coaches in America.

The 24-year-old Washington, the Bearcats’ career receptions leader with 240, was named this week as head coach at his alma mater, Cleveland suburb Maple Heights High School.

Washington tweeted the news, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Washington will replace Devlin Culliver on the job. Culliver resigned a little more than a month ago to spend more time with his children, who also play football. Washington was promoted after spending 2017 as Maple Heights offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

“I always knew that coaching was something I was always interested in, with my love for the game and studying the game as well,” Washington said Wednesday. “I think being a leader came naturally for me.”

Washington was a quarterback at Maple Heights, accounting for all seven of his team’s touchdowns (three passing, four rushing) in a 45-33 win over Trotwood-Madison in the 2010 Ohio Division II state title game.

“I jumped at the opportunity to come back and help the community that raised me, to lead kids that grew up in the same environment that I did,” Washington said.

At UC, the 5-foot-9 Washington was moved to wide receiver and excelled in the slot position. Washington completed his UC career in 2015, and in 2016 the school placed Washington’s jersey number 19 in the Nippert Stadium Ring of Honor.

Washington was not drafted by the National Football League but had a tryout with the then-San Diego Chargers. A torn hamstring essentially ended any chance Washington had to make the roster.

Get the latest UC sports news. Download the Bearcats app on both the Apple App Store and Google Play for Android users.

Despite his youth, Washington believes he is ready to run his own program. At UC, Washington was known for his tireless work ethic. He would spend extra hours watching film, catching passes, and running his routes until he had them down cold.

“I was with a great high school program, and also being a part of great programs at Cincinnati with (former Bearcats coaches) Butch Jones and Tommy Tuberville,” Washington said. “At the same time, I have coaches all over Cleveland that have helped me along the way. I still have a lot to learn, but I have a strong support system around me.”

Along with the UC career receptions mark, Washington holds school records for catches in a game (15, against East Carolina in 2015) and in a season (90, in 2015). Washington is No. 2 in UC career receiving yards (2,563) and also No. 2 in consecutive games with a reception (39).



Venezuela's club football on the verge of historic breakthrough – ESPN (blog)


Australia’s new coach Bert Van Marwijk was quick out of the blocks. A week ahead of Monday’s deadline he named his provisional 32-man squad for the World Cup — to be whittled down to 23 by the time the competition kicks off.

The members of his squad are strewn across Europe and Asia, with very few based at home. Just five players make their living in the country’s A-League, the competition launched in 2005-06.

The then eight-team A-League got underway just as Australia ensured qualification for Germany 2006, ending an agonising 32-year wait to return to the World Cup. More than a decade on, Australia have moved from Oceania to the Asian confederation, and have become regular World Cup qualifiers. The domestic league, meanwhile, has expanded to 10 teams and is going through a stage of consolidation. But the fact that it is home to so few of the national team is indicative of the difficulties of launching a domestic league in today’s globalised football environment.

There is a clear CONMEBOL example in Venezuela. Right up in the north of South America, the country felt a considerable influence from United States sports. Baseball is the traditional pastime, with football historically linked to immigrant communities from Europe. But there was always an underground interest — which came screaming to the surface at the start of the century when the national team started doing well.

Traditionally, Venezuela had taken the field in the mere hope of keeping the score down. But a bolder approach started to pay-off. They strung some wins together in World Cup qualification, and football became the sport of the future.

In 2007, Venezuela hosted the Copa America for the first time. Huge investments were made in building new stadiums or refurbishing existing ones. On the back of all this development, the first division was expanded from 10 to 18 clubs.

But then came the problem. This process had been kick-started by the success of the national team. But that very success had put the players in the shop window. They were now being sold abroad, to Europe as well as across South America. This had its benefits for the national team — the players were picking up valuable experience and losing their inferiority complex.

But it was not so good for the revamped domestic league. At the very moment when it would have been useful to have the best Venezuelan players at home, doors were opening for them to move abroad. And so the bigger first division, with its new stadiums, was short of star attractions, and short of quality as well.

The consequences are clear from a glance at results in the Copa Libertadores, South America’s Champions League. Since that 2007 Copa, there have only been two occasions when a Venezuelan club has managed to get out of the group phase. Every other country can point to a better record. There has been no great leap forward at club level.

The national team, however, have shown some interesting progress. The work carried out at youth levels is paying off. Last year Venezuela reached the final of the Under-20 World Cup. It was an astonishing achievement, and a stepping stone — it is hoped — on the way towards both qualifying for and shining in a senior World Cup. The best players, though, have already moved abroad. And with the country’s current economic problems, the incentive to move is all the stronger.

Every little bit of good news at club level, then, needs to be celebrated. In the Copa Sudamericana, the Europa League equivalent, Caracas have made it through to the second round, beating Everton of Chile. But the most surprising achievement has come in the Libertadores. Deportivo Lara of Barquisimeto have inherited one of those brand new stadiums built for the 2007 Copa. Their home, the Metropolitano, is highly impressive, although somewhat inconveniently located on the outskirts of town.

In the current Libertadores campaign, the stadium has already played host to a pair of surprise wins over big name opponents; Lara beat Independiente of Argentina 1-0, and Millonarios of Colombia 2-1. Next week they host Corinthians of Brazil. A third consecutive home win would put them in genuine contention for a place in the knockout round — which, all the circumstances taken into consideration, would be one of the biggest shocks in the history of the Libertadores.

It would also act as an inspiration to all those nations attempting to launch their domestic league in the age of globalisation.



Iowa youth football clinic lets junior Hawkeyes emulate their heroes – Landof10.com


JOHNSTON, Iowa — The more McClain Gorsh went on about Akrum Wadley’s seemingly magical ability to score touchdowns, the harder it was to stand still.

It was 9:47 a.m. on Saturday. McClain, his brother Mason, and his father, Kyle, were waiting in line for the Iowa football youth clinic at Johnston Middle School.

McClain wasn’t excited about reliving his favorite players’ big plays. This was his chance to emulate Wadley.

“I am going to run just like him,” McClain said.

The free clinic lets Iowa players give back to the central Iowa community that supports them. It was a chance for players to interact with 400 kids, but to the McClains and Masons, it was a chance to pretend they are Hawkeyes.

“It really is perfect for them,” Kyle said.

iowa-football-youth-clinic-kids-news
McClain, left, and Mason Gorsh learned what it was like to be an Iowa football player at a youth camp on Saturday. (Photo by Bobby La Gesse/Land of 10)

Becoming Hawkeyes

McClain, decked out in a faded black Iowa football jersey, started screaming enthusiastically when campers were asked to get loud before kicking off the first of two 45-minute sessions.

McClain, 8, will play his first season of flag football this year. When his dad learned about the camp online, it seemed like a no-brainer. The clinic was a short drive from their Ankeny, Iowa, home.

Kyle, originally from Clinton, Iowa, grew up a Hawkeyes fan. He passed down a love for the team to his two sons and two daughters. He asked his boys if they wanted to attend.

McClain was all for it, a chance to learn football from his favorite college team. Mason, 12, came to support his brother, even though he recently gave up flag football for basketball.

“I am excited about how they can make me a better player,” McClain said.

There was a delay in his lessons. He started the day at the break station. Each camper rotated among eight other stations.

There was a throwing station and a receiving station. The linebacker station involved agility drills and cones while at another station, campers learned how to backpedal like a defensive back and tried swatting down passes.

Mason’s favorite station involved a tire and a tackling dummy. Safety Brandon Snyder rolled the tire, and Mason lowered his shoulder into it. The drill simulated tackling a moving ball carrier. The other part of the station involved tackling a blocking dummy onto a mat.

Mason sprinted to the tackling dummy, knocking it out of defensive end Matt Nelson’s hands before standing with a big smile.

“It was fun knocking it down,” Mason said. “I like doing that kind of stuff.”

Show your best moves

In past seasons, Iowa held an open spring practice in central Iowa. This year, the Hawkeyes held the youth clinic instead. It was also the team project for the seniors. Fifteen Hawkeyes made the trip.

They remember attending youth camps as children, some run by Hawkeyes. It made a big impact. They wanted to recreate that same experience for these campers.

“It’s something we liked to do and we did growing up because we knew we wanted to play football at the next level,” safety Jake Gervase said. “Hopefully, a lot of these kids have the same feelings.”

Nowhere was the enjoyment more evident than at the defensive line fumble-recovery station. Campers ran in a circle and tackled a dummy with a football atop it. Recovering the football was just the start. They weren’t finished until they performed a celebratory dance.

Some campers dabbed. Others looked like tiny break dancers.

Mason thought back to NFL touchdown celebrations. He spun a football and pretended to start a fire.

McClain’s inspiration came from a different sport. He flexed and shook his hips.

“I stole some NBA players’ moves after they make shots,” McClain said.

The longer the session went, the more ambitious the campers became. A few tried tackling Iowa players. One kid challenged running back Ivory Kelly-Martin to a race.

Others asked questions. McClain and Mason didn’t.

McClain was too busy learning fundamentals, explaining afterward the proper way to throw a football.

Mason left impressed, with a new appreciation for what Iowa players do. He attended the Illinois game last season, but had no idea how demanding the work was each week.

“They said they work really hard doing drills like this,” Mason said. “It is hard work.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz drove home that point at the end of the camp. Mason, McClain and the other campers gathered on the 15-yard line as Ferentz reminded them to keep working hard.

Being Akrum Wadley

Just before 11:20 a.m., the session ended and McClain and Mason ran off the field. They met Kyle under the bleachers, and McClain started explaining to his dad his favorite part of the day.

Kelly-Martin handed him the football. He ran over four yellow pads and sprinted about five more yards, protecting the football the entire time.

McClain loved it because the drill helped Wadley score all those touchdowns. Maybe, it will do the same for McClain.

“I want to be a running back and this will help me run faster,” McClain said. “This will help me be like him.”



Jeff Brohm on Vols coach search: 'Where there's smoke, there's fire' – Courier Journal


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The second-year coach offers his evaluation of Purdue’s spring practice
Mike Carmin/Journal & Courier

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A strange thing happened after Purdue coach Jeff Brohm’s name surfaced in late November as a serious candidate for Tennessee football’s coaching vacancy.

“Believe it or not, after that day, our recruiting went this way,” said Brohm, pointing up. “There were people now talking to us that didn’t talk to us before. I hate to say it, but in my opinion, it made — in recruits’ eyes — our coaching staff and our program and what we’re doing something more desirable than it was before. It actually boosted our recruiting after that in a positive way.”

The brush with Tennessee’s infamously inept coaching search was brief but eventful for Brohm, a Louisville native and former star quarterback at Trinity High School and the University of Louisville, where he also served as an assistant coach.

Bluegrass roots: Louisville-bred Jeff Brohm: A football coaching star on the rise

On a mission: Jeff Brohm: ‘I want to be a difference-maker’ at Purdue

After Brohm led Purdue to a bowl game in his first season, reports surfaced Nov. 29 that the Vols were nearing an agreement with Brohm.

Longtime Knoxville radio host Jimmy Hyams tweeted the strongest of those reports, saying that Tennessee was “closing in (on) a deal” with Brohm. Hyams later that afternoon backed off his tweet on the air, citing Brohm’s $5 million buyout at Purdue as obstructing any potential deal.

Brohm was on the road recruiting at the time.

“People are teasing me,” he said. “I’m going up and seeing kids and their parents, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I thought you’d be in an orange jacket.’ It’s a part of it.”

Obviously, Brohm stayed at Purdue for his second season while Tennessee officials’ collective missteps in the search cost athletic director John Currie his job. Former Vols football coach Phillip Fulmer was named to replace him and eventually hired Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

As far as Brohm, however, he doesn’t deny the actual discussions with Tennessee or an interest from both parties, telling Courier Journal, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Keeping it going: Jeff Brohm’s Purdue is cleaning up on the recruiting trail in Kentucky

It helped: ‘A big coup’ for Purdue as Trinity’s Rondale Moore signs with Boilermakers

“There’s always going to be people going behind closed doors, expressing interest in this job and that job,” Brohm said. “Those things, yeah, those things did come about. But I think I was always honest with everybody and kept it real. In the end, I think this is the place I enjoy being because I think it does have a great challenge to it and I am committed to doing my part to try to help us get over the hump and become a winning program.”

Purdue recently announced a two-year contract extension for Brohm, who now has a seven-year deal with the Boilermakers worth $29 million guaranteed.

Asked how close he came to actually becoming the Tennessee coach, Brohm replied, “I don’t want to get into details on it. Like I said, where there’s smoke there’s fire.

“But I think that I was completely straightforward with the people I needed to be. Like I said, when it’s all said and done, this is, in my opinion, the best spot for me.”

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Gentry Estes: 502-582-4205; gestes@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @Gentry_Estes. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/gentrye

Earlier: No deal reached between Jeff Brohm and Tennessee football

From the opener: Purdue football coach Jeff Brohm: ‘We gave Louisville a game’

Related: Purdue football coach Jeff Brohm recovering from offseason foot surgery