Bad Moon Rison again in East Lansing

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Nearly a quarter of a century after putting the finishing touches on one of the most prolific receiving careers in Michigan State history, Andre Rison is returning to his collegiate football home.

In an interview with the Flint Journal, Rison confirmed that he will be joining the Spartans’ coaching staff and will serve as a student assistant coach in 2012.  Arguably the best part of this story?  The student part is an apt part of his title; 30 hours short of receiving his degree when he left MSU following the 1988 season, Rison will be fulfilling a promise he made to those very near and dear to him that he would go back to school at some point and earn his degree.

Thanks to head coach Mark Dantonio and the university, he’ll be able to do just that while also broadening his coaching horizons.

“I promised my mother, father and grandparents that I would go back and finish my degree one day,” said Rison. “This will also enable me to be part of the coaching staff at Michigan State and I am very thankful to Mark Dantonio for giving me the opportunity. I’ve always been close to the Michigan State program and have wanted to give back by coaching for a long time.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for me and I know I’ll be able to help Michigan State’s receivers better their game. I have a lot of experiences in college, the NFL and through my coaching that I can pass along. I am really looking forward to coaching with Mark Dantonio because he cares about the right things, the fundamentals of the game.”

The school has yet to comment on Rison’s addition to the staff, it should be noted.

Rison has spent the past two season as the head coach at his former high school, Flint Northwestern, after serving the previous three seasons as an assistant at Beecher High School in Flint.

Despite playing his last game 23 seasons ago, Rison still ranks second in school history in career receiving yards (2,992) and is third in receptions (146), yards per catch (20.5), receiving touchdowns (20).  He also played for 12 seasons in the NFL, including a one-year stint with the Cleveland Browns in 1995 and don’t even get me started on that tangent because I still remember the “I’ll be glad when we get to Baltimore” thing…

(Photo credit: Michigan State athletics)

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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Matt Krohn/USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.