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FC Cincinnati set to make final expansion pitch to MLS

Published: Tuesday, December 05, 2017 @ 2:44 PM


            FC Cincinnati lost to New York Red Bulls 3-2 in overtime of their 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal game Tuesday, Aug. 15 at Nippert Stadium on the University of Cincinnati Campus in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
FC Cincinnati lost to New York Red Bulls 3-2 in overtime of their 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal game Tuesday, Aug. 15 at Nippert Stadium on the University of Cincinnati Campus in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

FC Cincinnati brass will be making its final pitch to Major League Soccer on Wednesday before the league’s board of governors decide on which two teams to bring on for the next round of expansion.

Last week MLS announced Cincinnati as one of the four finalists to emerge from a group of 12 applicants who submitted bids in January.

The league’s 25th and 26th teams are expected to be announced in the days following a Dec. 14 board meeting with plans for them to join in 2020. Two more expansion spots remain after this round and will be determined at a later time, as the league plans to grow to 28 teams.

»RELATED: FC Cincinnati will finance own stadium

Here are five things we know about FC Cincinnati’s bid as club executives prepare to meet with MLS in New York City:

1. Ownership group is a plus

FCC’s ownership group is one MLS would be glad to have, led by Carl Lindner III, the billionaire American Financial Group co-CEO whose family is among the richest in America. Eight other investors also joined Lindner in his FC Cincinnati venture, including George Joseph of Joseph Automotive Group, Jack Wyant of Blue Chip Venture Co. and Scott Farmer of Mason’s Cintas Corp.

»RELATED: FC Cincinnati, Liberty Center announce partnership

2. Market stronger than it seems

The city ranks last among the 12 expansion cities for television market, checking in at 36th overall, but the club already has established a proven audience.

This past season FCC averaged about 22,000 fans in the second-division United Soccer League, which averages less than 4,000 as a whole, and club president and general manager Jeff Berding told 700 WLW that 15,000 season tickets have been secured for 2018. Three MLS teams this season averaged less than 16,000 fans a game.

FC Cincinnati reached a deal to have all of its games broadcast this past season and the club also attracts fans from Dayton.

3. Sponsorship opportunities are plentiful

Cincinnati is home to nine Fortune 500 companies, which is more per capita than New York City and Los Angeles and provides for plenty of sponsorship opportunities. Forbes ranked it No. 15 on its 2016 list of top cities for young professionals, so it is a “city on the rise,” as Berding often suggests.

4. Oakley site will be pitched

When FC Cincinnati submitted its original application in January, the club proposed a soccer-specific stadium in Newport, Ky. because that was the only site it was able to secure on short notice after MLS set its expansion requirements and application deadline just six weeks ahead of time.

»RELATED: FC Cincinnati unveils design plans for proposed stadium

Until then, FC Cincinnati had hoped to work things out to stay at Nippert Stadium, but MLS made it clear a soccer-specific stadium was a priority. Hoping to keep the team in Cincinnati, rather than across the Ohio River, the club eventually established Oakley as its preferred stadium site with another possible option in the West End/Over-the-Rhine. Funding plans finally came together well enough last week that Berding said the club would pitch the Oakley plans to MLS.

5. Public-private partnership established

A month-long saga between the club and local governments came to a head last week when FC Cincinnati’s request for $75 million in infrastructure costs was taken to city council and the Hamilton County Commissioners for votes last week.

The club ultimately secured about $52 million in public aid for parking, roads and improvements around the $200 million, 21,000-seat stadium, which will be privately financed by the team. The county agreed to pay $15 million for a 1,000-space parking garage (the team had asked for a 4,000 space garage), using revenue from other garages, and the city will pitch in $37 million to pay for other infrastructure expenses. The city money will come from an existing tax increment financing district in Oakley ($7.25 million), from the city’s capital budget ($2.5 million), from the Blue Ash airport sale ($7.38 million) and from hotel taxes ($20 million, but up to $1.5 million annually for 30 years) and could ultimately cost more than $62 million with fees and interest included.

FC Cincinnati reportedly also is seeking $10 million in state funds to help close the $20 million gap that remains.

Originally, FCC was asking for $100 million in public aid just for the stadium financing. Although the club is now financing the whole thing, the Port Authority will own the stadium and lease it to the team. Any cost overruns are FCC’s responsibility.

Iowa football: Why new assistant Derrick Foster should coach running backs

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

IOWA CITY, Iowa — One mystery is over. Iowa named its 10th assistant coach, hiring Derrick Foster on Tuesday.

Another mystery takes its place. The Hawkeyes didn’t name which position group Foster will coach, but indicated that he’ll work on offense.

There shouldn’t be too much intrigue with what to do with Foster. He has a history of coaching skill-position players and should continue to do so with the Hawkeyes. He should coach running backs.

This isn’t a new idea. Land of 10 first brought up the notion of moving offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz from running backs to tight ends coach earlier this month.

Why coaching running backs makes sense

Brian Ferentz is an established tight ends coach, playing a role in helping Rob Gronkowski develop into a superstar early in his NFL career.

Foster is an established running backs coach. He spent the last two seasons coaching the position at Samford. He also coached running backs while at Tennessee and Northwestern State.

Identify a running backs coach made sense before Iowa made the hire. Now that the new coach comes equipped with experience coaching at the position, putting Foster at running backs is an obvious move.

“Our goal was to use this additional coaching position to help us in multiple areas, and we did that,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said in a statement. “We gained Derrick as a coach, we bolstered our recruiting capabilities, and we strengthened our commitment to special teams by allowing LeVar Woods to focus entirely on a significant phase of our game.”

Recruiting component

Recruiting was always a major component of this hire. The Hawkeyes will judge Foster on the talent he brings in as well as how he helps develop that talent.

Foster was born in Alabama and he has coached in the South. It would make sense that he holds strong recruiting ties there as well.

Teams always pull talent from where their coaches hold the best recruiting relationships. Foster’s hire looks like an indication Iowa seeks a stronger presence in the South.

This isn’t totally new territory. The Hawkeyes landed wide receiver Brandon Smith from Mississippi and Trey Creamer from Georgia in 2017. They are currently a finalist for 2018 Georgia linebacker Jayden McDonald.

Iowa always recruits Florida and Foster can potentially help expand the Hawkeyes’ footprint in other parts of the South. Iowa is always after talent. There is plenty of it below the Mason-Dixon Line.

While the region he recruits matters, so does the caliber of prospects Foster brings in. Skill-position coaches have an eye for skill-position players. They can evaluate any position group, but Iowa is in need of more talent at wide receiver. Anything Foster can do to improve the playmaking potential at the position should be a priority on the recruiting trail.

In typical Iowa fashion, the Hawkeyes are playing this coaching hire close to the vest. Details aren’t being revealed. But the move the Hawkeyes should make is right in front of everyone, easy to see. Iowa’s best move is to put Foster at running backs coach.

Michigan faces uphill climb as Big Ten East ‘more competitive than ever’

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In more than 45 years as a football player, coach and analyst, Gerry DiNardo has seen dramatic changes in the landscape of college football. He has seen, in particular, how it affects Michigan.

The Big Ten Network analyst has seen one change that has affected the Wolverines the most: Big Ten Conference realignment has placed it in one of the most competitive divisions in college football.

Winning the Big Ten East is a tremendous test because of the depth of the division. Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State pose a significant challenge for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan, who are battling to regain relevancy.

Gerry DiNardo

“This is new ground for Michigan fans,” said DiNardo, a former coach at Vanderbilt, LSU and Indiana. “The East Division has changed everything. The root of the challenge is the realigned Big Ten.”

Michigan and Ohio State were the Big Ten’s long-time juggernauts. The Wolverines and the Buckeyes outrecruited their conference counterparts, and the rivalry game on the final weekend of the regular season almost always became the de facto Big Ten championship game.

But that model, DiNardo explained, has changed dramatically. Penn State began Big Ten play in 1993, and the Big Ten added Nebraska in 2011 and split into two divisions (Leaders and Legends). Then the Big Ten realigned geographically in 2014 when it added Maryland and Rutgers. That placed Michigan in what many believe to be the toughest division in college football.

Michigan vs. Big Ten East heavyweights since 2015

Season Michigan State Ohio State Penn State
2015 Loss Loss Win
2016 Win Loss Win
2017 Loss Loss Loss

Michigan now has to bully its way through Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State in order to be a legitimate contender for the Big Ten Championship and for the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines are a combined 3-6 against those three in Harbaugh’s three years at Michigan.

“The positive about Michigan right now, any coach would need more time than three years in the new model, to be successful,” DiNardo said. “Urban [Meyer] and James [Franklin at Penn State] did it in three, while Mark [Dantonio] did it in 10. And that’s the good news — that it isn’t as simple as it looks. Scott Frost will find the same thing at Nebraska. This is a different model than Michigan is used to, because it’s more competitive than ever.

“That’s how I view the challenge.”

Tinkering vs. overhaul

Michigan hasn’t won a Big Ten Championship since 2004, when it split the title with Iowa. It finished just outside the College Football Playoff in 2016, the result of losses to Ohio State and Iowa.

Winning in the Big Ten East, however, isn’t a guarantee for any team. To remedy an 8-5 season — and a 14-year conference championship drought — Michigan will make changes. The Wolverines added wide receivers coach Dan Enos, tight ends coach Sherrone Moore and linebackers coach/special teams assistant Al Washington.

Michigan also will examine its coaching personnel, player personnel and schemes. It might even tinker with its recruiting strategy, even though this season has brought a new wrinkle to recruiting with the early signing period in December.

One thing you won’t see is a major coaching change. While a fringe element in the fan base has called for Harbaugh’s job, DiNardo doesn’t believe the fourth-year coach deserves an ultimatum.

“I think people have reason to be disappointed, regardless,” DiNardo said. “But I say temper that disappointment and put it under the category ‘this is tougher than it has ever been.’ ”

The disappointment following a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten East in 2017, combined Michigan’s loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, is understandable. Palpable, even.

But DiNardo brings up another point to factor into evaluating Michigan and Harbaugh.

“It’s reasonable to say he’s underachieved,” DiNardo said. “That’s a double-edged sword. Not because he’s doing something wrong, but because the competition right now is the best it’s ever been.”

Dakereon Joyner wants to impact South Carolina football as quarterback

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

South Carolina freshman quarterback Dakereon Joyner gets it. Some people don’t think he can play quarterback in college.

The former 4-star recruit from Fort Dorchester High School (North Charleston, S.C.) has a resume that says otherwise. Joyner, who was 40-3 as the starting quarterback, passed for nearly 10,000 yards, was the 2017 Mr. Football, 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year, an Elite 11 participant and a state champion in 2015.

Nonetheless, there’s a handful of folks who don’t see him carrying that success into the SEC. Maybe he should move to wide receiver, or running back or play defense, they say.

If anything, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound quarterback just might want to tell them thanks — thanks for the ammunition.

“It kind of motivates me,” Joyner said.

Before committing to South Carolina, Virginia Tech was one of the primary contenders for Joyner, who was able to connect with former Hokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor during a visit to Blacksburg.

Taylor, now a quarterback in the NFL the Buffalo Bills, once faced similar sorts of doubts about his future as a quarterback. In fact, he still does.

“Just take it in and let it motivate you,” Joyner said of Taylor’s message. “People are going to talk, but don’t doubt yourself.

“When you doubt yourself, then you start playing poorly.”

In the same shoes, kind of

Perry Orth knows what it’s like to have people think he wasn’t good enough. The former walk-on quarterback turned South Carolina starter had the odds stacked against him the day he stepped foot in Columbia.

Orth is a testament that motivation can be one helluva drug.

Joyner, who’s trained with Orth and QB1 Athletics, has received sage wisdom from the former Gamecocks signal caller-turned-quarterbacks coach.

“Work harder than your competition. That’s plain and simple. It’s cliche, but that’s how I got on the field,” Orth said. “I just worked harder than the other guys that we had on the team, at the time. That’s why I ended up on the field. I’m not bragging, that’s just fact.

“Study tape, and it’s not just working hard means watching five hours of tape. You’ve got to watch tape. You’ve got to work out, so your body will be conditioned to play. You’ve got to throw. You’ve got to do your footwork. You’ve got to eat right and get sleep. You’ve got to do everything above and beyond your competition, because that’s what you’ve got to do at this level.”

The reality of it

As confident as he is, Joyner will be the first to admit that there are plenty of things for him to work on as a quarterback. He’s grounded enough to understand why others think he should play another position.

“I think people just say that because he’s a runner. … He’s got a really good motion. He throws the ball really well,” Orth said. “He’s very athletic. He’s light on his feet. That’s everything you want in a quarterback.”

If anything, it almost doesn’t help his case that Joyner is a really good athlete.

At The Opening last spring in Charlotte, N.C., he ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.64. His shuttle was clocked at 4.14 and he jumped almost 35 inches in the vertical. The 40-time was bested by just seven other quarterbacks who were tested around the country by The Opening’s staff.

According to Orth, who’s been inside an SEC quarterback meeting room, there’s more to playing the position than combine numbers and a performance in shorts and a T-shirt on a nice spring day in the Queen City.

“Now, the only question with him that I have and it’s with every incoming quarterback,” Orth said. “It has nothing to do with Kereon or any of the next guys, it has to do with — is he going to be able to grasp it, mentally?

Let’s get it going, let’s get it started

Joyner was one of 13 signees who arrived to South Carolina’s campus earlier this month for the spring semester. In December, before playing in the Shrine Bowl and Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, Joyner detailed his initial plans for life as a Gamecock.

“Just be the best I can possibly be,” he said. “Lead by example, lead vocally and just do me. Don’t try to do some things that I’m not. Just be me.”

With Joyner now on the roster, South Carolina’s quarterback room now has four scholarship players: Jake Bentley, the starter for the previous 20 games, plus the backups, Michael Scarnecchia and Jay Urich.

When spring ball starts in a few weeks, Joyner wants to “just get reps.”

“The biggest thing for me is to just learn,” he said.

South Carolina football updates

In Camden Price, Miami quickly found capable No. 2 kicker in class

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

Camden Price-Miami recruiting-Mark Richt

Even if it’s only in practice, a 60-yard field goal from any high school kicker is eye-catching. It’s certainly the case for Miami special teams coordinator Todd Hartley, who values leg strength and kickoff capability above all else. So on an empty field last April 7, Camden Price’s no-doubt 60-yarder, only slightly left of center, was enough to make the Hurricanes take notice.

Hartley first made contact with the specialist from Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Md., during the ensuing days. Three months later, Price went to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the Kornblue Summer Kicking & Snapping Challenge, which serves as Miami’s de facto specialists camp. He cracked the top 15 in Kornblue’s Fab 50 rankings. If it worked out, Hartley told Price, the Hurricanes would love him as a No. 2 option.

“I liked it down there. I liked the school on paper, too,” Price said. “When they reached back out to me, it was one of my top choices.”

Communication died for for a while. A No. 2 kicker in a class with a scholarship player committed only can be such a priority.

On Jan. 11, with Miami ramping up preferred walk-ons as a priority, Hartley reached back out to Price on Twitter. The Hurricanes wanted to bring Price to campus for an official visit and add him as a preferred walk-on. They just needed a decision quickly.

“They were looking for a No. 2 and my kicking coach is good friends with the coaching staff,” Price said. “When Coach Hartley was looking for one he recommended me.”

It was a quick courtship. Less than a week later, Miami landed its No. 2 kicker. Price verbally pledged to the Hurricanes lzst Wednesday, picking Miami over Connecticut and FCS program Fordham. The senior then spent the weekend in Coral Gables, Fla., on an official visit. It only reinforced his commitment.

Price joins 3-star kicker Bubba Baxa in the class, and if Baxa is a four-year starter and Price uses a redshirt season, he could have a chance for a starting role as a redshirt senior down the road.

For the time being, though, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound specialist is the walk-on most likely to crack the two-deep depth chart in 2018. Price should back up Baxa this coming season and provide a more-than-serviceable fallback in plan in case of injury. Price, who also played some wide receiver at Archbishop Spalding, went 36 for 38 on extra points in his 2017 season and hit 3 of his 5 field-goal attempts. He also boomed 18 touchbacks, recorded 3 tackles and served as Cavaliers’ primary punter, booting a long of 53 yards.

“I’d say field-goal wise, I can compete with really anybody,” Price said when asked to describe his strengths. “I’d say Bubba’s got me on kickoffs because he’s just got an enormous leg, but I would say field goals, and I have the ability to punt.”

The Hurricanes’ group of specialists potentially could be set for years to come. Baxa could be a long-term fixture as both the kicker and kickoff specialist. Clay James, an unranked long snapper, is in the Class of 2018 as a preferred walk-on, too, and should start by 2019. If rising sophomore Zach Feagles’ strong Orange Bowl performance is an indicator of what’s to come, the Hurricanes should have their punter for the next three seasons.

Price might be the last piece of the long-term group, a specialist capable of either punting or kicking in a pinch. He’s just what Hartley needed in this last spot.

“He was just saying he wanted a No. 2 to come in to still compete for the starting job,” Price said, “but someone that come in the game, one play away, and in any situation be ready to kick.”

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