Take two: Virginia again fills hole on coaching staff

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On the third day of the new year , Virginia sent out a press release announcing that Jeff Banks was one of four assistants hired by Mike London, charged with taking over the Cavaliers special teams.  Exactly a week later, the school sent out yet another press release announcing that Banks had left the football program “to pursue another coaching position.”

Two days later, London again filled that coaching hole.

By way of, you guessed it, a press release, London announced that he has hired Larry Lewis as his new special teams coordinator.  In addition to special teams duties, Lewis will coach running backs as well.

Per the release, Lewis signed a two-year contract that’s worth $220,000 annually.

“Larry Lewis has probably been coaching special teams for as long as anyone in college football and we’re really fortunate to have him join our staff,” London said. “On the offensive side of the ball, he has worked for some very successful and innovative coaches out west and coached two of the nation’s top running backs over the past two seasons. Larry is high energy and our players are going to enjoy his style. It is ironic that Jeff Banks played for Larry at Washington State. I guess you could say we’ve gone from the pupil to the teacher.”

Lewis spent last season at Nevada.  Prior to that, he was at Colorado State for four seasons.

And as for Banks?  He ended up taking a job at Texas A&M.  The lure of the SEC proved to be too much, even as he had accepted another job a week earlier.

“This was a very difficult decision for my family and me to make because we instantly fell in love with Charlottesville and the people here,” Banks said in a statement. “I’m very fortunate to have been presented with both of these opportunities in such a short period of time. Ultimately, the opportunity to coach in the SEC with a friend was too hard to pass up.”

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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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

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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.