Former Syracuse athletic director Jake Crouthamel dies at 84

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HANOVER, N.H. — Jake Crouthamel, a star halfback and two-way player at Dartmouth in the late 1950s and an accomplished football coach before finding his ultimate niche as athletic director at Syracuse University has died at 84.

Crouthamel died Monday in Hanover, New Hampshire, according to Wendell F. Hartley, Jr. of the Rand-Wilson Funeral Home there.

Born in 1938 in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, Crouthamel was the Big Green’s leading rusher for three seasons and was twice named to the All-Ivy League first team. His career rushing total of 1,763 yards was a school record at the time and still ranks sixth all-time.

Crouthamel was the first player to sign with the expansion Dallas Cowboys in 1960 and the last player cut. He joined the American Football League’s Boston Patriots for their inaugural season and then entered the Navy for three years, where he became involved in coaching, leading the Pearl Harbor Naval team to a championship.

He then returned to his alma mater as an assistant to Bob Blackman. When Blackman departed for Illinois, Crouthamel took over from 1971-77. His teams won or shared three Ivy League championships and he was recognized as New England and NCAA District I Coach of the Year in 1973. He left coaching after compiling a 41-20-2 record to become athletic director at Syracuse and left an indelible mark in 27 years.

He was a driving force in the formation of the Big East Conference in 1979. That also was the year the Carrier Dome opened on campus, giving the university a unique indoor sports venue for football, basketball, and lacrosse.

Successes under Crouthamel’s watch included the 2003 men’s basketball national championship, nine national titles in men’s lacrosse, 14 football bowl appearances and 22 Big East championships. In 1999, Crouthamel was given the National Football Foundation’s John L. Toner Award for dedication to college athletics before retiring in 2005. Three years later, he was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors (NACDA) Hall of Fame.

“Jake dedicated his life to intercollegiate athletics and was one of the best and most successful athletics directors of his era,” Syracuse director of athletics John Wildhack said in a statement. “The success of the Orange programs during his tenure speaks to his behind-the-scenes leadership, guidance and expertise.”

After the Syracuse men’s basketball team opened its season with a win Tuesday night, coach Jim Boeheim began his postgame press conference with a tribute to Crouthamel.

“He was one of the great leaders of any place,” Boeheim said. “What he did here, his vision, what he accomplished, I think that’s been overlooked, honestly. He was a great AD. He’s the guy you want to be with if you get into a fight someplace, I can tell you that. There’s not many like him.”

Crouthamel is survived by his wife, Carol, two daughters, and four grandsons.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.