Renewed Temple RB Pierce eager for new season

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Renewed Temple RB Pierce eager for new season

These days Bernard Pierce has renewed confidence.

And why shouldnt he?

Its a new season for the Temple running back and the pressure of winning the Heisman Trophy seems to have subsided.

Gone are the injuries to his ankle and shoulder and symptoms of a concussion.

Im good, Pierce said. Im straight.

Now comes the hard part: Proving it.

Head coach Al Golden's departure for Miami has left Pierce a major responsibility. Steve Addazio is the new man in charge, and while former University of Florida offensive coordinator brings with him a plethora of football knowledge, its Pierce that those around Temples campus will see as the face of the team.

Pierce wants this season to be different. Yes, he wants the ball, and even more, he wants to help the Owls have a winning season. But keep the hype. Hold the accolades and Heisman hoopla. Hes seen firsthand what all that attention does, and its not positive.

Once I heard the whole Heisman hype, Pierce recalled, it kind of got to me. I was like, Damn, Ive got to perform. Now Im a little more relaxed now. Its about the team now. Its not about the whole Heisman candidacy and putting pressure on me. Its about us as a team now.

It was in 2009 Pierce opened eyes. He rushed for 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns. He had huge breakout games against Toledo (40 carries for 212 yards and three touchdowns) and another against Navy (29 carries for 267 yards and two TDs).

Pierce led the led the Mid-American Conference in rushing yards and helped the Owls finish the season 9-4 to claim a piece of the MAC East Division title and advance to the EagleBank Bowl (a 30-21 loss to UCLA). He helped Golden win the MAC Coach of the Year, and pretty much put Temple back on the map in the college football world.

But last season, those results could not be duplicated for Pierce or the Owls. For Pierce, his rushing yards fell to 728, touchdowns fell to 10 and he played fewer games (eight), missing time because of injuries. Temple finished 8-4 with no bowl appearance.

It wasnt the type season I was expecting, Pierce said. The injuries definitely do take a toll on you. Your whole mental state, like I wouldnt say I was depressed, but it was like, Cmon man. Again? It was like more on the lines of that.

Though injuries didnt help, the mental part was the biggest culprit.

Mentality, he said. Injuries, off-the-field issues I would put a lot of pressure on myself. Put everything on me, thinking it was my fault, thinking I got to fix this. I've got to do this. I've got to do that.

Then, I realized I have to calm down and play my part and do what I have to do. I had that pressure on myself, like I had to do good. Thats what messed my whole mentality up.

Addazio knew what Pierce was going through and what a distraction it was, even though he was no where close to North Philly. Addazio was around quarterback Tim Tebow when he won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 while at Florida, so he has some experience in the hype department.

Bernard just needs to be Bernard, Addazio said. Work hard. Work on being a great football player, a great person. Work on getting his degree. He doesnt need all those outside distractions.

Addazio is impressed with the work ethic that Pierce has shown so far. He said he wouldnt hesitate to put the ball in Pierces hands, hoping that the junior running back will do what he did in 2009 make plays.

Obviously, when you have a tailback like Bernard you want to hand the ball deep to him and let him run.

Pierce said that he fixed his diet over the off-season, eating everything in efforts to put on more weight. He said he ran a lot, iced his body everyday and fixed his mentality by reading the playbook every night.

Classes are over, he said. Now its just football.

As of now, Addazio hasnt identified who would be the leader of this years team, and wouldnt count Pierce out, though the junior running back said thats not a role that suits him.

I wouldnt classify myself as a leader, said Pierce. Im not a vocal person. Im more of an I-lead-by-example type. I would say Im more of an on-the-field leader.

I think he can become that guy with his play and his work ethic, Addazio explained. Guys watch how guys handle themselves. Hes a guy thats handled himself out here. Hes got ability and those guys who have the ability to handle themselves usually have the opportunity to be leaders.

Pierce is humble, make no mistake about that. He constantly spoke about the team, even when the conversation was about him and what he needed to do to get back to that 2009 form.

He said he studied Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson over the off-season, comparing himself more to Peterson than Johnson.

Chris Johnson too fast, he said amusingly, I aint that fast. So, I would have to say Adrian Peterson.

Peterson is known as a power back. Pierce had a habit of attempting to emulate Peterson the last two seasons, which is why he is now focused on becoming a more finesse running back. He says hes working more on his lateral cuts, which would be a complement to his speed.

Im trying to make sure Im not just running around, trying to run people over because at the end of the day, that will wear your body out.

Addazio was asked if he agreed.

Can I be honest with you? Addazio asked. I dont watch a lot of pro football. I dont have time, so I cant really make the comparison. I just know that Pierce is damn good. Hes got a lot of potential.

Addazio also said he noticed a wiser, more mature Pierce. His pass protection, ball security and overall awareness have improved.

The confidence is there, too.

The unselfishness follows.

His health? Again, Pierce says hes fine. Im not going to try and jinx myself, Pierce said, but as of right now Im good.

With all that said, a return to 2009 should be the result, right? Another 1,000-yard season? Another winning season and bowl game for the Owls?

Pierce looked up and smiled before replying, I cant predict anything. I can hope. I cant predict though.
E-mail Jabari Young at jyoung@comcastsportsnet.com.

Baylor to fire football coach Briles, re-assign president

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Baylor to fire football coach Briles, re-assign president

WACO, Texas -- Baylor University's board of regents said Thursday that it will fire football coach Art Briles and re-assign university President Kenneth Starr amid questions over the school's handling of sexual assault complaints against players.

The nation's largest Baptist university said in a statement Thursday that it had suspended Briles "with intent to terminate." Starr will leave the position of president on May 31, but the school says he will serve as chancellor.

The university also placed athletic director Ian McCaw on probation.

Baylor asked a law firm last year to conduct a review of its handling of sexual assault cases following allegations that the football program mishandled several cases of players attacking women.

The university's statement said the review revealed "a fundamental failure."

Baylor has faced increasing criticism in recent months for its handling of reports of rape and other violent incidents involving football players and students. One victim has sued the university, saying it was deliberately indifferent to her allegations against a former player who was eventually convicted of sexually assaulting her.

Starr ordered an investigation last year but has been mostly silent amid mounting criticism over the school's handling of the complaints, which erupted under his leadership. He took over as the university's president in 2010, about a decade after the former prosecutor investigated former President Clinton's sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewisnky.

The football team, whose players were at the center of the upheaval, enjoyed unprecedented success under Briles' tenure, including two Big 12 championships in the last three years. That success brought a financial windfall, and in 2014, Baylor opened a new, $250-million on-campus football stadium. But Briles' program has also been criticized for recruiting or accepting transfer players without regard to the harm they might cause fellow students.

Starr rode the waves of the program's success, and often ran on the football field with Baylor students in pregame ceremonies. But as investigations began into the school's handling of sexual assault allegations against players, Starr provided only brief comments, even as criticism of the school mounted.

In a February statement issued by university, Starr said "our hearts break for those whose lives are impacted by execrable acts of sexual violence." And at a prayer breakfast last month, Starr told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "I am in favor of transparency. Stand up, take your medicine if you made a mistake."

Baylor's Board of Regents was recently briefed by a law firm hired to investigate how the school responded to assault incidents, and the school on Thursday released a summary of its findings. Starr initiated the review in 2015, after former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting a female soccer player.

Ukwuachu, who was convicted in 2015, transferred to Baylor after he was dismissed from Boise State. Ukwuachu's former girlfriend testified during his rape trial in Texas that he had struck and choked her when he attended Boise State.

Ukwuachu's former coach, Chris Peterson, now the coach at Washington, said he "thoroughly apprised" Briles about the circumstances of Ukuwachu's dismissal. Briles disputed that account, saying he talked with Peterson and there was no mention of the incident.

The school is also facing a federal lawsuit from a former student claiming the school was "deliberately indifferent" to rape allegations levied at a former football player Tevin Elliott, who was convicted in 2014 of sexually assaulting the woman.

The uproar following Ukwuachu's conviction caused Baylor to initiate the review by the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, and to announce a $5 million effort to improve efforts on how it responds to sexual assault, including adding another investigator and more staff.

But the Ukwuachu case was just the start of months of revelations of football players being involved in violent incidents with little or no repercussions. At least seven other woman have publicly come forward to say the school ignored their sexual assault allegations.

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Josh Hart discusses NBA draft process, returning to Villanova

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Josh Hart discusses NBA draft process, returning to Villanova

Josh Hart said the decision wasn’t easy.

But he’s happy with it.

After withdrawing his name from the NBA draft to return to school (see story), Hart is excited to focus on Villanova, graduation and then the NBA dream.

“I love the school, I love the teachers, the student body, the support, my teammates that we have coming back,” the 6-foot-5 guard said Wednesday on Comcast SportsNet’s Philly Sports Talk. “So it was a tough one and I just thought at the end of the day, I think going back for my senior year would be in the best interest of my parents and myself.”

As a junior, Hart helped Villanova win its second national championship in program history by leading the Wildcats in scoring with 15.5 points per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field.

Hart received plenty of feedback from NBA teams. He said shooting and ball handling are what he hopes to improve.

As far as his draft stock …

“There were teams interested maybe in the first [round], and then there were teams that said they would take me in the second,” Hart said. “But there’s a whole month before the draft, a lot of teams didn’t know exactly what they were doing with their picks — whether they were trying to trade up for a pick, trying to trade down, trying to trade a pick for a player. Several teams said that they would take me.”

For more from Hart on the draft and Villanova, watch the video above.

Delaware hires Martin Ingelsby as new head basketball coach

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Delaware hires Martin Ingelsby as new head basketball coach

Delaware has its new head basketball coach in Martin Ingelsby.

Ingelsby, a native of Berwyn, Pennsylvania, comes from Notre Dame, where he played from 1997-2001 and coached for 13 seasons, seven as an assistant.

Ingelsby played his high school ball at Archbishop Carroll and is the son of Tom Ingelsby, who played for Villanova from 1970-73.

Delaware is coming off a 7-23 season and 2-16 mark in CAA play, which led to the firing of head coach Monte Ross.

The Blue Hens, who announced the hire Tuesday, will formally introduce Ingelsby in a press conference Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Bob Carpenter Center Auditorium.