Gary Brown, former running back and coach, dies at 52

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Gary Brown, who rushed for 4,300 yards while playing on three NFL teams in the 1990s before going on to coach running backs in the pro and college ranks, has died. He was 52.

Wisconsin’s athletic department and the Dallas Cowboys announced that Brown died Sunday. No cause of death was disclosed. Brown had battled cancer on multiple occasions.

Brown had coached Wisconsin’s running backs last season before departing for health-related reasons. He coached the Cowboys’ running backs from 2013-19.

“I am deeply saddened by Gary’s passing,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “Though he was only on our staff for a year, he had a profound impact on our players and our program. We are all better people for having known Gary.”

He spent the 2020 season away from football, with his wife disclosing on social media at the time that a tumor had been found around the bile duct and head of Brown’s pancreas. Brown had dealt with colon and liver cancer about a decade earlier.

“What it did for me is it made me appreciate every day, made me sort of maximize every day and make sure you don’t leave anything on the table in life, with your family, with football, whatever you’re doing at that particular point,” Brown said last summer. “It just made me focus on what’s good in your life and take advantage of everything you have in your life.”

Brown played in the NFL with the Houston Oilers (1991-95), San Diego Chargers (1997) and New York Giants (1998-99). The Oilers selected him out of Penn State in the eighth round of the 1991 draft.

He rushed for 1,002 yards in 1993 and 1,063 yards in 1998.

Brown followed that up with a productive coaching career.

When Brown worked as the Cowboys’ running backs coach on Jason Garrett’s staff, DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott each won NFL rushing titles and Darren McFadden had a 1,000-yard season. The Cowboys averaged at least 4 + yards per carry in each of Brown’s seven seasons.

“Gary Brown had a big heart partnered with a big smile and a big personality,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “His energy and spirit were infections. He lit up every room he walked into and touched the lives of those who knew him in such a positive way.”

Brown also had a four-year tenure as the Cleveland Browns’ running backs coach. Peyton Hillis and Trent Richardson each had 1,000-yard seasons while Brown coached them.

After taking the 2020 season off for health reasons, Brown coached Wisconsin’s running backs last season. Brown played a big role in the emergence of Braelon Allen, who ran for 1,268 yards and eight touchdowns his freshman season after most schools had recruited him to play safety or linebacker.

“Everything I did was really because of him,” Allen said last month. “When I came in, I didn’t know the first thing about really playing running back. I just kind of knew how to run the ball. My growth from fall camp to the end of the season was crazy, and really all the credit’s due to him.”

Brown didn’t join Wisconsin’s team for the Las Vegas Bowl . School officials announced last month that Brown was stepping away from coaching to assume an off-field role with the program.

His coaching career also included stints at Lycoming College (2003-05), Susquehanna University (2006-07) and Rutgers (2008). He helped coach running backs at the New York Giants’ training camp in 2005 and worked with the Green Bay Packers in 2006 and Carolina Panthers in 2007 as part of the NFL’s minority coaching fellowship program.

Survivors include his wife, Kim, and three children.

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”