USC transfer Slovis wins starting QB job at No. 17 Pitt

kedon slovis
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PITTSBURGH — Kedon Slovis didn’t transfer from USC to Pitt planning to sit on the bench.

He won’t.

Head coach Pat Narduzzi named Slovis the starting quarterback on Wednesday, ending a months-long competition with Nick Patti for the right to replace Kenny Pickett, who is working next door with the Pittsburgh Steelers after a remarkable final season with the Panthers last fall.

Narduzzi praised the way both Patti and Slovis approached their extended job interviews but called Slovis’ accuracy the separator.

“He’s a really, really good passer,” Narduzzi said. “We think he can lead us.”

Slovis, who threw for 58 touchdowns against 24 interceptions in three seasons with the Trojans before leaving last winter, won’t get a chance to ease into the gig. The 17th-ranked Panthers, who won the program’s first ACC title in 2021, open at home against West Virginia in the renewal of the “Backyard Brawl” on Sept. 1.

It will hardly be Slovis’ first go-round in the crucible of a rivalry. He went 2-0 against UCLA and played well in losses to Notre Dame in 2019 and 2020.

“I love playing in big games,” he said. “I think every player loves playing in big games. You know, from your high school rival to college, I think everyone’s favorite games are rivalry games. So yeah, you know, obviously you feel prepared, but more so I just feel excited.”

Narduzzi and new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti – in the first year of his third go-round with the Panthers – didn’t rush to a decision. They attempted to split the practice reps 50/50 and “looked at every tiny detail” before giving Slovis the nod.

Patti, a redshirt senior, spent his first four seasons at Pitt as a backup behind Pickett. He started the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Michigan State when Pickett opted out to focus on the NFL draft but ended up breaking his collarbone in the first half after completing just 2 of 5 passes for 21 yards.

By then, Slovis had already announced he was transferring to the Panthers. Patti stressed he welcomed the competition, and Narduzzi praised Patti’s professionalism in welcoming Slovis to campus.

“We’ve got confidence in both of them,” Narduzzi said. “Unfortunately the quarterback position is one guy, it becomes a one-man show.”

A show that is Slovis’ for the foreseeable future. Asked if he would introduce an “OR” on the depth chart to indicate a position is up for grabs – a favorite pastime of his – and Narduzzi shook his head.

“(Slovis) is the guy,”‘ Narduzzi said. “And we’ve got a lot of trust and faith that he’s going to be the guy.”

Slovis appeared to be “the guy” at USC indefinitely following a spectacular freshman season in which he threw for 30 touchdowns. He entered 2021 as a darkhorse Heisman Trophy-candidate before his season quickly unraveled behind injuries and inconsistent play for a team that saw head coach Clay Helton fired in mid-September.

A lower-leg injury in early November ended Slovis’ season and barely a month later he committed to Pitt after USC lured Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma to replace Helton.

There is no such uncertainty with the Panthers. Narduzzi is firmly entrenched entering his eighth season, and with two years of eligibility remaining and the entire starting offensive line from 2021 returning, Slovis is confident he can be, if not Pickett, then Pickett-like.

He said at the beginning of the month he wanted to take the standard that Pickett set and take it to the next level. Now, he’ll get his chance after a training camp that felt like a grind.

“You’ve got to remind yourself, you know, just do what coach wants you to do, be coachable, run the offense, execute,” he said. “And again, things will kind of take care of itself.”

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 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.