Daily Archives: December 27, 2014

Utah, a cautionary tale?

Utah is a member of the Pac-12 now.  It’s got a big boy’s revenue stream to work with.  By accounts, it’s got a good coaching staff… well, make that had a good coaching staff.

On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki accepted jobs at Oregon State, working under former Utah Defensive Coordinator Gary Andersen, who went on to head the Utah State and Wisconsin football programs before recently opting for the Beavers post.

Then, on Christmas, news broke that Offensive Coordinator Dave Christensen agreed to become offensive line coach and run-game coordinator at Texas A&M.

As a general rule of thumb, things ain’t good when an offensive coordinator leaves for a lesser position at another school.  So what’s the Utes’ big problem?

Remember when Utah capped off a breakthrough season with its first bowl victory in three years?

That was six days ago.

In the time since, three assistant coaches have left the program, and sources familiar with the situation tell The Salt Lake Tribune that the relationship between Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and athletic director Chris Hill is severely fractured, perhaps irreparably.

Those sources, who requested anonymity so as not to compromise their ties to the program, say Whittingham and Hill were on poor terms before the start of the season and that the rift widened in recent weeks.

A “rift”, hunh.  Over what?

Sitake was a bone of contention between Hill and Whittingham. He was ultimately lured to Oregon State in part by a what he felt was a better offer and greater stability, a source said, adding that he still might have been willing to stay at Utah for less money and a shorter deal than OSU offered.

Emails obtained through Utah’s open-records law show that Whittingham had suggested “a significant increase” in Sitake’s pay. Hill then offered what he considered a sizable raise, a figure that was redacted in the Dec. 5 email but amounted to an increase of $100,000 above his $500,000 salary over a two-year deal, according to a source.

“If this does not meet your expectations as a significant raise, please let me know,” Hill wrote to Whittingham. “We do not want to lose Kalani to another defensive coordinator position so please let me know in that case if it involves money and/or other issues.”

A source close to the athletic department said late Friday that Hill eventually made Sitake a final offer of three years at $750,000 per year, with bonuses and incentives that could take the deal to $800,000.

A source said Hill’s inability to lock up Sitake made Whittingham feel that Hill was trying to sabotage his program.

Yeah, I can see how that would cause a rift.  For sure.

Like I said, these guys aren’t bums.  Utah led the nation in sacks this season.  Whittingham’s been associated with the program for twenty years and succeeded Urban Meyer as head coach there.  He’s probably not going to be there much longer.

And that’s fine.  The athletic director calls the shots and if he thinks he can do better than what he’s got, based on what he’s willing to pay, that’s his business.  Except how do you think this is going to play out with the coaches in the replacement pool?

Once again, you can act like you can ignore the market.  The problem is that the market won’t ignore you.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness

“He’s taking care of his business in Colorado, we’re taking care of ours.”

Georgia’s story right now?  Coaches coming

Georgia’s new strength boss is already on the scene with the Bulldogs.

Hired less than a week ago from Alabama as UGA’s new director of strength and conditioning, Mark Hocke was already on the job Friday as the Bulldogs continued their preparations for the Belk Bowl at Country Day School. Also on the scene Friday was the man Hocke was hired to replace, Joe Tereshinski Jr., and his assistants Sherman Armstrong, Gus Felder and John Thomas.

“He’s a very energetic guy,” head coach Mark Richt said. “He’s going to have a very good plan, I know that. He’s excited about getting started. But right now it’s just kind of a time to let him be around the players and the players to be around him just to get a little bit of familiarity. He’s not trying to change anything right now. Just finishing out our season with the way we handle our strength and conditioning. Then he’ll hit the ground running in early January.”

Coaches going

There is a bit more stability with the offensive line, thanks to Friend’s continued presence. Senior center David Andrews, who was the only lineman made available to the media on Friday, said his unit wouldn’t tune out Friend just because he’s on his way out.

“We’re real close. So we’re not gonna do that to each other,” Andrews said. “We know coach Friend wants what’s best for us. And wants us to win this football game. So he’s still out there coaching us, and we’re still out there being players and learning, and keep getting better.”

And the aftermath of coaches gone.

The Bulldogs have begun life after Mike Bobo this week at their bowl practices. Their former offensive coordinator took the Colorado State job on Monday, and days later the team is practicing with Bobo’s gameplan – but not Bobo.

“It’s definitely weird,” quarterback Hutson Mason said, adding with a smile: “Maybe a tad bit more quiet.”

With all that swirling around, it’s fair to say Richt’s got a lot on his plate to handle.

Otherwise, head coach Mark Richt is trying to downplay the coaching talk and focus on the matchup with Louisville. Still, Richt had to admit that the search for a new offensive coordinator wasn’t far from his mind.

“There’s a little bit of that going through my brain right now,” he said after Friday’s practice. “But if I get too involved in that and not involved with what’s happening here, I don’t think it’s wise. But you can’t help but have, you know, messages come to you, and thoughts will go through my mind as I’ve got my head on the pillow, whether it’s going to bed or waking up. But then you’ve gotta get on track and make sure we’re doing what we need to do for this ballgame.”

Bobo’s work is being split.  Lilly will call the plays and Richt will help coach the quarterbacks.  The good thing is that most of the game plan has already been installed.

Richt said roughly 90 percent of Georgia’s game plan had already been installed in Athens with Bobo authoring it as usual.

“All these coaches have been here and have faced Grantham and his defense,” Mason said. “It’s going to be the same offense. Some different stuff here and there, but for the most part it will be the same. I think you’ll find a lot of guys are enjoy playing for Lilly. They love him. This is a great opportunity for him and for us, and I think guys are going to go play their butts off for him.”

Is this an audition for Lilly to succeed Bobo?  Not that McGarity would likely object, but I doubt it.  Nevertheless, between the coaching transition and facing off against Todd Grantham, this bowl game is shaping up to be a good deal more interesting than the last two.

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Filed under Georgia Football

The quality of mercy is not strained.

Just ask Hugh Freeze, who’s obviously hoping for a plea deal with reduced charges in the Chad Kelly arrest.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze reiterated Friday that he plans to wait before making a decision on quarterback Chad Kelly’s status with the program.

But Freeze told reporters that his quarterback commit is “very remorseful” after a weekend arrest on several charges stemming from an incident outside a Buffalo bar.

“This is where he wants to be,” Freeze said. “He knows a mistake in being in the wrong place and I think is remorseful for that. But I got to deal with what is best for the team first, and then try to do what is best for the young man.”

Remorse is a wonderful thing.  Especially before signing day.

Meanwhile in Tallahassee, the local police know Jimbo Fisher’s got a lot on his mind, so they’re just trying to lighten his load.

The Tallahassee Police Department released over 300 reports on Christmas Eve in response to a public records request, all of which involved a current or former Florida StateUniversity athletes.

According to a press release from the TDP, authorities did not include documents from an open case involving FSU freshman running back Dalvin Cook.

“While several of the reports requested involve open and active cases, one of note, involves an aggravated assault by two men who are alleged to have brandished a firearm at a neighbor on July 17th, 2014,” the release read. “Dalvin Cook, a current FSU football player is listed as an associate in the case. The case is under investigation and once complete, it will be provided as an update to this release.”

No doubt it’s a complicated investigation.  I wouldn’t expect things to be wrapped up until… oh, say, the third week in January.

Meanwhile, in Athens… nah, just kidding.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment