Alvarez: Tide turned down shot at series with Badgers

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For those that love to take shots at the various delectable cream puffs that litter the non-conference schedules of some SEC schools, here’s another (very tiny) opening for you.

In a report over the weekend from the Wisconsin State Journal regarding Wisconsin’s efforts to beef-up its own pastry-like out-of-conference slate, UW athletic director Barry Alvarez acknowledged that, as part of that effort, that there had been conversations with Alabama about a future game or games.

The initial offer, which the State Journal writes was orchestrated by ESPN, was a for a neutral site game between UW and UA, similar to Alabama’s game this season at Dallas Cowboys Stadium against another Big Ten school, Michigan.  When the neutral site option was rebuffed, Badgers head coach Bret Bielema countered with an offer of a straight home-and-home series.

According to the paper, Tide head coach Nick Saban declined.  No reason was given by Alvarez for the Tide’s decision to rebuff the Badgers’ advances.

It should be noted that, in addition to the Michigan game this year and the home-and-home series with Penn State in 2010 and 2011, the Tide has future home-and-homes/one-offs scheduled against Virginia Tech (2013), West Virginia (2014), Michigan State (2016 and 2017) and Georgia Tech (2019 and 2020).

Because the recently-revamped postseason is expected to include strength of schedule as one of the factors in the selection committee’s process for determining the four-team playoff field, Alvarez stressed that “if you want to be a player” in the revamped hunt for a national championship, “then you really have to consider” changing the way schools fill their future schedules.

That said, Alvarez declined to absolutely commit to beefing up the non-conference slates, if for nothing more than the fact that, given the stature of his current conference, he feels comfortable that the Badgers would be where they’d need to be on the national scene if they can come out of league play unscathed.

“If we take care of our business in our league, we’ll be where we need to be,” he said. “You go undefeated in our league, you’re going to be in the top four in the country. You win our league championship, you’re going to be in the top four.”

(Tip O’ the Cap: al.com)

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.