Illinois rewards Bielema with new contract through 2028

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinois signed coach Bret Bielema to a new six-year contract through 2028 on Tuesday, a big reward for transforming a struggling program into a winner in his second season.

Bielema, 13-11 with Illinois, gets a bump in salary from $4.2 million to $6 million. The deal, which is pending approval by the school’s board of trustees in January, includes various bonuses like a $500,000 annual retention incentive. He is also eligible for four one-year extensions if certain performance thresholds – which were not disclosed in the announcement – are met.

“I am proud of the progress we have made in two years and I could not be more excited about where our program is going,” Bielema said in a statement.

The Illini (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten) are wrapping up their best season since the 2007 Rose Bowl team won nine games. They were ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for five straight weeks and made the College Football Playoff rankings for the first time. They’re set to face Mississippi State in the ReliaQuest Bowl on Jan. 2 in Tampa, Florida, after finishing with losing records the previous 10 years.

The 52-year-old Bielema, who led Wisconsin to three Rose Bowls before a disappointing run at Arkansas, is 110-69 in 14 seasons as a college coach. He is from western Illinois.

“He has assembled an exceptional staff, developed the existing players on our roster, and recruited talented student-athletes to join our program,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said. “He has worked tirelessly, with an eye for detail and tremendous competitive urgency, to set a new standard of excellence for Fighting Illini Football. Perhaps most importantly, he has brought an immediate identity to our football program and represented the University of Illinois with class, humility, and confidence.”

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

Mickey Welsh / Advertiser / USA TODAY NETWORK
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.