The Washington NFL team is expected to hire Julie Donaldson to lead its radio broadcast team, which would make her the first woman to be a regular part of an NFL’s broadcast team.
Donaldson has been an anchor, reporter and host for NBC Sports Washington for the last decade. She will fill a role similar to Larry Michael, but Donaldson will not be doing play-by-play.
Michael unexpectedly retired last week a day before a Washington Post story detailed his involvement in sexual harassment allegations. According to the story, “seven former employees said Michael routinely discussed the physical appearance of female colleagues in sexual and disparaging overtones.”
Donaldson’s front office role is a major step for Washington. She’ll be in control of who Washington hires to replace Michael in the play-by-play role. The Post reported that the team may use a three-person booth that includes Donaldson.
This is the latest move for a franchise that needed a serious overhaul. So far this offseason, Washington has brought in minority head coach Ron Rivera, retired its previous name and logo, and hired Donaldson.
Washington owner Dan Snyder’s personal approval isn’t high because of his role with the previous regime. Rivera and Donaldson may be the keys to shifting the culture and outlook of the Washington franchise.
“Dan Snyder brought me here to change culture and create an environment of inclusion among employees,” Rivera said in a text message last week to Athletic reporter Ben Standig.
That shift appears to be underway.
With each passing day, the chances of the FCS playoffs being held in 2020 become smaller.
The latest example is the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) postponing all fall sports competition. The SWAC is the fifth FCS conference to suspend fall sports.
“The SWAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors felt this action was necessary out of growing concern for the health, safety and well-being both mentally and physically of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, team staff, campus faculty, fans and supporters,” the league said in a statement.
Five of the 13 FCS conferences have suspended play. The SWAC joined the MEAC, Ivy, CAA and Patriot League.
Last season, 24 teams — 10 automatic qualifiers and 14 at-large — made the FCS playoffs. Four of those teams came from the conferences that have postponed play in 2020. Athlon Sports’ FCS preseason top 25 includes five teams from suspended conferences.
There are two ways to look at those numbers. On one hand, the playoffs can certainly go on if it only missed four to five teams. Powerhouse conferences like the Big Sky and Missouri Valley have not canceled, which means three-time reigning champ North Dakota State is playing.
On the other hand, some really good teams would be missing. James Madison is a perennial powerhouse who has been in the FCS title game three of the last four years. Villanova is returning 18 starters from last year’s playoff squad, including the team’s leading passer, rusher, receiver and tackler.
The Dukes and Wildcats have not shut down the option of putting together a 2020 fall schedule, since the CAA is allowing teams to do so, if they choose.
That option is not on the table for the SWAC. Those teams will play a seven-game conference schedule in the spring, with training beginning in January.
It seems as the SWAC is moving on, whether the FCS playoffs shift to the spring or not. Only one Historically Black College or University (HBCU) from the SWAC or MEAC has made the FCS playoffs in the last five years. South Carolina State barely missed out in 2019. The MEAC’s North Carolina A&T State and Florida A&M are expected to compete for playoff spots, if given the opportunity.
The FCS has a decision on its hands.
After 11 seasons, Michael Bennett announced Tuesday morning on his Instagram account that he’s retiring.
“Retiring feels a little like death of self, but I’m looking forward to the rebirth -- the opportunity to reimagine my purpose,” Bennett posted. “I would like to thank my wife and children, who have sacrificed so much for me to succeed. I’m looking forward to supporting them the same way they have me these past 11 years. I have never been more at peace in my life.”
Bennett, 34, is happy with his decision, and that’s the most important thing. Not too many NFL players get to leave on their own terms.
The highlight of Bennett’s career is winning a Super Bowl with the Seahawks in 2013. He earned all three of his Pro Bowls in his five seasons with Seattle.
Bennett began his career with the Buccaneers before landing in Seattle. He also played with the Eagles, Cowboys and Patriots. He had 69.5 sacks in his career.