Collins must back up words with wins to keep job at Georgia Tech

Geoff Collins
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ATLANTA — Geoff Collins has toned down the hokey slogans that were part of his blueprint to build a proud, new brand at Georgia Tech.

He seems to realize there’s only one thing that really matters.

Winning.

After three seasons that each produced only three victories, Collins heads into Year 4 likely needing to show significant improvement to keep his job.

Only one other coach in Georgia Tech’s modern era has gone this deep into his tenure with a worse record than Collins’ 9-25 mark. That was Bill Curry, who was 8-24-1 at the three-year mark but at least saw signs of hope coming off a 6-5 campaign.

Not so for this Georgia Tech squad, which was outscored 100-0 by Notre Dame and eventual national champion Georgia in its final two games of 2021.

“We’re all tired of losing,” Collins said Saturday, less than 24 hours after the Yellow Jackets opened their preseason camp. “We want to play a really good brand of football. We want to make everybody proud who supports Georgia Tech.”

Everyone knew the road would be a bit bumpy after Collins took over in 2019, especially with the jarring transition from a run-oriented, option offense favored by his predecessor, Paul Johnson, to a pro-style attack.

Yet no one expected the Yellow Jacket to look like they’re starting over again this deep into the Collins era.

At the Atlantic Coast Conference’s preseason media event, Georgia Tech was picked to finish sixth in the Coastal Division, ahead of only Duke.

With a brutal schedule that includes three 10-win teams in the first five games – starting with Clemson on Labor Day at nearby Mercedes-Benz Stadium – it’s hard to envision a path that leads the Yellow Jackets to a better showing than last year’s 3-9 mark.

Collins is under as much heat as any coach in the country (well, perhaps excluding Auburn’s Bryan Harsin) and knows he’s got to show tangible proof that he’s got the program headed in the right direction.

That means actual wins, not just words.

His players know it, too.

“We know it hasn’t been the best couple of seasons,” senior receiver Malachi Carter said. “But if we dwell on that, this won’t be a good season, either.”

During a nearly half-hour session with the media at Georgia Tech’s indoor practice facility, Collins never mentioned the “404 culture,” his love of Waffle House or any of the other Atlanta-centric references he harped on during his first three years in hopes of giving his program a big-city appeal to potential recruits.

The incessant selling job prompted some critics to deride him as “Coach Slogan.”

Now, he’s got to show he can coach some football.

As is often the case for those under fire, Collins made some big changes to his coaching staff.

On the offensive side, he brought in Chip Long as coordinator and 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke to work with the quarterbacks.

Both were hired largely with the intent of getting more production out of quarterback Jeff Sims, who has a big arm and plenty of running ability but has been far too inconsistent over his first two seasons.

“Absolutely,” Collins conceded. “That was the focal point through the entire conversation, the entire (hiring) process.”

Long and Weinke will largely have Sims and the offense to themselves, giving Collins a chance to devote more time to the other side of the line.

The Yellow Jackets ranked near the bottom of the ACC in most defensive categories, giving up 455.3 yards and 33.5 points a game. In a sign of the struggles that ranged from the front line to the secondary, they had only 20 sacks (Virginia was the lone team with fewer) and ranked last in the ACC with a measly three interceptions.

Collins, who was known during his days as a defensive assistant for aggressive units that created plenty of havoc, must find a way to bring out that style with the Jackets.

“Obviously, a lot of decisions that were made (with the coaching staff) were made for me to be able to spend more time with the defense,” Collins said. “All the new, fresh ideas, and people I can lean on as well, have been very beneficial for the program.”

That all sounds good. Now, it must show up on the scoreboard.

If not, Georgia Tech could be looking for a new coach.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.