Chuck Liddell's UFC retirement official

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Chuck Liddell's UFC retirement official

Wednesday, December 29, 2010 4:58pm

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, one of the pioneers of modern mixed martial arts, has retired from professional fighting. The "Iceman" said Wednesday that he will become an executive vice president for business development with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the promotion that rocketed him to stardom in the United States more than a decade ago. Liddell announced his retirement during a news conference for UFC 125 on Saturday night. The former collegiate wrestler made his UFC debut in 1998 and quickly became one of the sport's most popular fighters. He fought nearly every big name in mixed martial arts, including Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and Wanderlei Silva. His last fight was a knockout loss to Rich Franklin at UFC 115 in June.

Brian Kelly explains going from defending to firing Brian VanGorder

Brian Kelly explains going from defending to firing Brian VanGorder

After Notre Dame gave up 50 points in its season-opening loss at Texas, coach Brian Kelly said criticisms of Brian VanGorder’s defense were “jumping the gun,” adding that “I think y’all should relax a little bit. I think our defense is going to be fine.”

Following that 36-28 loss to Michigan State two weeks later, Kelly said “without question” VanGorder was the right man for the job and that firing him was “not even part of the conversation.” 

And after Saturday’s 38-35 loss to Duke, Kelly said he was pleased with Notre Dame’s defensive coaching. Then, on Sunday, he fired VanGorder. 

“That's not the appropriate time to get into talking about your coaches and where you feel they fit on that continuum of how well they are doing,” Kelly said of his media sessions. “I’m going to defend them, I'm going to defend my coaches in those kind of public settings. As I got a chance to further evaluate our football team and our current situation, I felt that it was in our best interests to make the move that I did.”

While Kelly said he never considered firing VanGorder after the 2015 season, he did mention that he felt a pattern emerged after that loss in Austin. Going back to last year, Notre Dame had lost three consecutive games to Stanford, Ohio State and Texas, with defensive issues marring each game. 

Notre Dame’s defense allowed Stanford to connect on a walk-off field goal that effectively eliminated any chance of the Irish reaching the College Football Playoff. Ohio State’s offense kept Notre Dame at arm’s length in the Fiesta Bowl, a game which ended 44-28 in favor of the Buckeyes. And the 50 points Texas racked up — 37 of which came in regulation — were too much for DeShone Kizer (who scored six touchdowns) and the offense to overcome. 

“To me, that was three in a row,” Kelly said. “So that's got my attention. You're evaluating everything at that point. So yes, I mean, I'm evaluating those from even what it happened the previous season.”

Kelly spent more time with Notre Dame’s defense last week, which allowed him to take the pulse of the group. And after watching his team self-destruct in an embarrassing loss to Duke, Kelly said he needs to see more energy, fire, passion — whatever you want to pick from the buffet of synonyms — from his team. 

The move to fire VanGorder, in part, is an effort to generate that kind of enthusiasm from this defense going forward. Because if this defense doesn’t get fixed, or at least improves to being somewhat reliable, Notre Dame could very well struggle to reach six wins. 

“I need to see our guys play fast and free and loose, and I need to see excitement on the field,” Kelly said. “I need to see guys playing the game like kids, and not so mechanical and robotic. They have to let it go and let it happen and that means we have to tweak some things.

“They had some fourth down stops. They played hard. But playing hard is not enough. There has to be other intangibles as it relates to your defense, and we were missing some important ingredients, and that's why I made the change. And so what I'll be looking for in particular relative to these tweaks is these guys come at it with a clean slate, and I expect to see them play with a lot more passion and enthusiasm.”

Big Ten poll update: Three teams in top 10, Huskers rise to No. 15 in both polls

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Big Ten poll update: Three teams in top 10, Huskers rise to No. 15 in both polls

The Big Ten landed three teams in the top 10 in both the coaches and the AP poll, and Nebraska moved up to No. 15 when both polls were released Sunday afternoon.

Ohio State remained the No. 2 team in both polls. The Buckeyes had a bye week this weekend. Undefeated after three non-conference games, including that big win at Oklahoma, Ohio State begins Big Ten play next weekend against Rutgers.

Michigan checked in at No. 4 in the AP poll and No. 5 in the coaches poll. The Wolverines had an impressive 49-10 win over Penn State on Saturday, getting six rushing touchdowns from five different ball-carriers and dominating on defense. Michigan has a huge showdown with Wisconsin next weekend in Ann Arbor.

Speaking of the Badgers, they rose to No. 8 in both polls after a dominant win over Michigan State. Wisconsin's defense was incredible, keeping Michigan State out of the end zone and coming away with four takeaways in that 30-6 win in East Lansing. Freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook was also impressive in his first start. The game against the Wolverines will be the Badgers' third against a top-10 opponent this season.

Nebraska jumped five spots in both polls, climbing from No. 20 to No. 15 after Saturday's 24-13 win over Northwestern. The Huskers were hardly mistake-free in the victory, fumbling twice on the goal line but avoiding any damage because of it. Mike Riley is now 4-0 to start his second season in Lincoln after winning just six games all of last year.

Michigan State dropped to No. 16 in the coaches poll and No. 17 in the AP poll following its loss to Wisconsin. Tyler O'Connor was intercepted three times, and the offense was generally unable to do much of anything — accumulating only 75 rushing yards — the team not faring much better on the defensive side. Michigan State takes on Indiana next weekend.

Iowa dropped out of the coaches poll after narrowly beating Rutgers on Saturday. The Hawkeyes still received votes in that poll, along with Minnesota and Maryland. Iowa and Maryland also received votes in the AP poll.