Rashaan Salaam joins Eric Bieniemy on College Football Hall of Fame Ballot
From ESPN … Heisman Trophy winning running backs Rashaan Salaam of Colorado and Ricky Williams of Texas are among the players making their first appearance on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot this year.
Some of the other notable first-timers are Iowa State running back Troy Davis, a two-time Heisman finalist, Miami linebacker Ray Lewis, Southern California receiver Keyshawn Johnson and Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch.
Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas and Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch are among the holdovers on the 75-player major college ballot. There are also six coaches up for selection, including former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti.
The 2014 Hall of Fame class will be announced in May and inducted in December at the National Football Foundation’s awards banquet in New York. The new class will be enshrined at the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta in 2015. The new Hall of Fame is expected to open in time for the 2014 college football season.
… National Football Foundation press release capsules on Salaam and Bieniemy ….
Eric Bieniemy, Colorado-Running Back- Played in two national championships, leading Buffs to 1990 national title…Unanimous First Team All-American and finished third in 1990 Heisman voting… Two-time All-Big Eight pick, still holding eight CU records.
Rashaan Salaam, Colorado-Tailback-1994 unanimous First Team All-American and Heisman Trophy winner…1994 Walter Camp Player of the Year and Doak Walker Award recipient… 1994 Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year who led nation in rushing, scoring, and all-purpose yards.
… Colorado currently has seven members of the College Football Hall of Fame, with three inducted in the past four seasons:
Byron White (Inducted 1952)
Joe Romig (Inducted 1984)
Dick Anderson (Inducted 1993)
Bobby Anderson (Inducted 2006)
Alfred Williams (Inducted 2010)
John Wooten (Inducted 2012)
Bill McCartney (Inducted 2013)
Other Pac-12 / Big 12 nominees of note:
- Trev Alberts, LB, Nebraska
- Tony Boselli, OL, USC
- Brian Bosworth, LB, Oklahoma
- Bob Breunig, LB, Arizona State
- Mark Carrier, S, USC
- Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska
- Troy Davis, RB, Iowa State
- Al Harris, DL, Arizona State
- Randy Hughes, DB, Oklahoma
- Roy Jefferson, WR, Utah
- Keyshawn Johnson, WR, USC
- Lincoln Kennedy, OL, Washington
- Greg Lewis, RB, Washington
- Jess Lewis, DT, Oregon State
- Cade McNown, QB, UCLA
- Darrin Nelson, RB, Stanford
- Ken Norton, Jr., LB, UCLA
- Ron Rivera, LB, California
- John Sciarra, QB, UCLA
- Clarence Williams, RB, Washington State
… From the Pac-12, every team has a nominee except Arizona and Oregon
NCAA tables “10-second” rule discussion for 2014
From ESPN … The NCAA Football Rules Committee tabled the controversial 10-second rule proposal Wednesday that would have slowed down college offenses, sources told ESPN.com.
The committee’s decision comes one day before the NCAA’s 11-member playing rules oversight panel was scheduled to vote on whether to make the proposal a new rule for the upcoming season. The committee’s decision means the oversight panel will not vote on the proposal on Thursday.
The 10-second rule proposal would have prohibited snapping the ball until at least 10 seconds run off the 40-second play allowing defenses to substitute. The only exception would be in the final two minutes of each half or if the play clock began at 25 seconds.
If the offense snaps the ball before the play clock is less than 30 seconds, it would have been penalized five yards for delay of game. Under current rules, defenses aren’t guaranteed an opportunity to substitute unless the offense subs first.
In a recent ESPN survey of all 128 FBS coaches, 73 percent (93 coaches) were opposed to the proposal, 19.5 percent (25 coaches) were in favor. The remaining 10 coaches were undecided.
The proposal had drawn a great deal of debate among coaches. Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez released a parody video Monday of the movie “Speed,” mocking the coaches in favor of the rule. Alabama’s Nick Saban used a unique comparison in claiming that running more plays in a game puts players at a greater risk of injury.
Arizona posts “Speed” spoof criticizing “ten-second” rule
The University of Arizona has posted a video starring head coach Rich Rodriguez and the stars of “Speed”, using the spoof to criticize the proposed rule which would force teams to wait ten seconds before snapping the ball.
It’s a cute video, and well put together …
Washington opens spring practices without presumptive starting quarterback
From ESPN … Washington head coach Chris Petersen will begin his first spring practices with the Huskies without quarterback Cyler Miles, the backup to Keith Price last season.
Petersen suspended Miles and wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow indefinitely in February for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Miles and Stringfellow remain part of Washington’s roster but Petersen said Monday there is nothing new on their status with the team.
“There has been no talk of those guys. They haven’t been here. We’ve moved on and we’re going. It’s not about those guys. It’s about the guys in the room,” Petersen said. “We’ll just let that play out and see how it goes.”
Miles appeared to be the successor to the graduating Price entering the offseason. He served as Price’s backup last season, appearing in eight games with one start. Miles went 37-of-61 for 418 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions on the season.
Stringfellow made three starts while appearing in 12 games as a freshman. He caught 20 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown.
Redshirt sophomore Jeff Lindquist and redshirt freshman Troy Williams will be the only quarterbacks taking snaps as spring football gets underway Tuesday.
“It’s great for them,” Petersen said. “They are going to get all kinds of reps but you would probably like a little more depth as a coaching staff.”
Former USC quarterback visits Hawai’i
The import of the story, of course, is that the Colorado plays Hawai’i the next two seasons …
Friday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that the former USC quarterback had finalized his travel arrangements and would be visiting the Rainbow Warriors this weekend. The Los Angeles Daily News‘ Scott Wolf followed that up by reporting Saturday that Wittek took in a Rainbow Warriors volleyball game as part of his trip.
In addition to his visits to Texas and Hawaii, Louisville is reportedly one of multiple options for the player.
As Wittek will graduate this spring, he will be eligible to play immediately at any FBS program and maintain two years of eligibility. There’s no word yet on when Wittek will pull the trigger on a decision on his next collegiate destination.
Wittek was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country. Late last month, Wittek announced he would be transferring from USC in search of a better shot at playing time.
Kansas State receives a $60 million gift
It’s not enough that I can’t stand the Wildcats … now I have to be jealous, too?
From kstatereports.com … The Jack Vanier family has made a gift of $60 million — the largest private donation in the history of K-State. The gift provides $40 million to benefit students, faculty, programs and facilities on both the Manhattan and Salina campuses, and $20 million for Phase III of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium master plan.
“Kansas State has always been a very important part of our lives,” the Vanier family said. “We feel very fortunate and are honored to be able to make this gift to the university. More importantly, we are thrilled to see so many other K-Staters from across the country investing in the lives of young people in Manhattan and Salina. The confidence we have in President Schulz and his leadership team, and the transparency with which they guide the university made the decision to make this gift an easy one. Our hope is that this will inspire others to make their investments in this great university.”
Phase III of the master plan includes dramatic upgrades for student-athlete needs spanning the entire 16-sport department. These include a new academic learning center, new football operations offices, new sports medicine operations and new strength and conditioning spaces. Basic fan amenities in the north end zone will also be enhanced as the end zone seating and services are upgraded. Read more here.
Federal Judge orders settlement talks in O’Bannon case vs. NCAA
From al.com … The Ed O’Bannon lawsuit over the use of college athletes names, images and likenesses is headed to settlement talks.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ordered today that settlement talks occur between the NCAA and two sets of plaintiffs associated with the case. Wilken wrote in a one-page document that the case has been referred to Magistrate Judge Nathanel Cousins for “a settlement conference to be held as soon as it is convenient.”
The conference will involve a group of plaintiffs led by O’Bannon, the former UCLA basketball star, and former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller.
The O’Bannon plaintiffs are seeking an injunction against the NCAA’s restrictions preventing football and men’s basketball players from being paid. The Keller case involves the use of athletes’ names and likenesses in video games and Keller is seeking damages and profits from the game.
Steve Berman, one attorney representing Keller, said via e-mail that discussions with the NCAA have been ongoing and he is “appreciative of their attitude.” Rob Carey, another Keller attorney, said talks with the NCAA “just got more serious the last few weeks” and anticipates the settlement conference occurring within a month.
“We are confident that if a deal can be reached, it will be reached while the EA settlement is being effected,” Carey wrote via e-mail. “Now is the most opportune time for all parties.”
Electronic Arts Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company have a tentative settlement in the Keller and O’Bannon case regarding video-game claims. The NCAA is not part of that settlement, which has yet to be filed with the court, and has since sued EA and CLC. Carey said a draft of the tentative EA/CLC settlement will be submitted to the court “very soon.”
Participating with the O’Bannon plaintiffs in joint settlement talks with the NCAA won’t impact the Keller case except for the number of plaintiffs involved, Carey said. “Settling two cases would cost more than settling one,” he said. “That said, every defendant wants global peace when it settles.”
The last time the O’Bannon plaintiffs and NCAA had settlement talks was in October 2011. Wilken has summary judgment motions in front of her from both parties, but said last week at least some of the case will go to trial June 9 if there’s no settlement.
NCAA back-tracking on “ten-second” rule proposal
From USAToday.com … A controversial rule proposal to slow down hurry-up offenses will be reconsidered by the NCAA Football Rules Committee next week, before it would go to a final vote.
Members of the rules committee plan to discuss the proposal, which would require a 10-second delay before offenses could snap the ball, before it goes to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on March 6. Rogers Redding, the NCAA’s coordinator of officiating and secretary-rules editor of the rules committee, said members would communicate either by conference call or through email by mid-week.
Although the process is routine, according to Redding, he acknowledged “it’s gonna look out of the ordinary” because of the attention focused on the rule proposal since it was announced Feb. 12. The blowback has been loud and sustained by coaches who run fast-paced offenses.
The rules committee will consider feedback from coaches that has been received by the NCAA during an official comment period that runs through Monday. The committee could choose to modify or withdraw the proposal.
It’s likely the rules committee will also consider unofficial feedback, including the results of an anonymous survey of FBS head coaches conducted by ESPN.com. The survey of 128 coaches showed overwhelming opposition to the proposal. Ninety-three coaches (73 percent) were opposed; 25 (19.5 percent) were in favor of the proposal; nine (seven percent) were undecided.
Seventy-three percent of coaches opposed to “ten-second” rule
From ESPN … Only 25 of the nation’s 128 FBS head coaches are in favor of a rule proposal that would slow down the college game, according to a survey conducted by ESPN.
Of the 25 in favor, only 11 are coaches at “power five” conference schools (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, plus Notre Dame). Of the 128 coaches overall, 73 percent (93) are opposed to the proposal while 19.5 percent (25 coaches) are in favor of it. Seven percent (nine coaches) are undecided.
One coach refused to participate, indicating he “did not wish to be part of the conversation on this topic.”
If passed, the proposal would prohibit teams from snapping the ball until at least 10 seconds run off the 40-second play clock, which would allow defenses time to substitute. The exceptions would be in the final two minutes of each half or if the play clock began at 25 seconds. If the offense snaps the ball before the play clock is at fewer than 30 seconds, it would be penalized 5 yards for delay of game.
Under current rules, defenses aren’t guaranteed a chance to substitute unless the offense also subs.
While some coaches already have publicly indicated whether they favored or opposed the proposal, ESPN asked each coach how he would vote based on his vote being confidential.
Of the 65 power five conference programs (based on 2014 memberships), nearly three-fourths are opposed to the proposal. That’s a higher percentage than the 63 non-power programs from the American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt conferences, plus Army, BYU and Navy.
Of the power five coaches, 74 percent (48) were against the proposal, 17 percent (11) were for it and 9 percent (six) were undecided or didn’t vote. Of the non-power schools, 71 percent (45 coaches) were opposed, 22 percent (14) were in favor and 6 percent (four) were undecided.
Coaches who have publicly indicated they were against the proposal include South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, Washington State’s Mike Leach, Georgia’s Mark Richt, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Washington’s Chris Petersen, Florida’s Will Muschamp, Louisville’s Bobby Petrino, Illinois’ Tim Beckman, Mississippi’s Hugh Freeze, Marshall’s Doc Holliday and Bowling Green’s Dino Babers.
Utah picks up Oklahoma quarterback transfer
From the Oklahoman.com … With Trevor Knight’s Sugar Bowl MVP performance effectively ending the 2014 Oklahoma quarterback battle before it began, at least one Sooner signal caller has elected to transfer.
Kendal Thompson announced Tuesday evening via Twitter his intention to graduate in May and transfer to another college football program, theoretically leaving him two years of eligibility because of special NCAA graduate transfer rules. Thompson will transfer to Utah this summer.
“Enjoyed the 3 years that I spent at OU and appreciate all the support and love that this program has shown me,” Thompson tweeted. “But I believe that God has another path in store for me.”
An OU spokesman declined to comment on Thompson’s announcement.
Thompson, the son of former OU quarterback Charles Thompson, appeared in two games as a Sooner, both of which came during his just-completed redshirt sophomore season.
He competed with Knight and Blake Bell to become Oklahoma’s starting quarterback last spring, but suffered a foot injury on the first day of fall camp. Knight initially won the job, but Bell took over after two games.
Bell started eight games, looking brilliant at times and struggling at others, leading many — Charles Thompson included — to publicly lobby for Kendal to get an opportunity.
When Bell left the Sooners’ Nov. 16 home win over Iowa State with an early concussion, Knight took over the offense and led OU to a convincing victory. The Sooners led 41-10 with 6:42 remaining in the game when Thompson finally made his much-anticipated OU debut.
He completed a 44-yard pass to Lacoltan Bester, and four plays later, threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Ripkowski.
Knight started the Sooners’ season finale at Oklahoma State a few weeks later, but left with a shoulder injury late in the first half. Thompson replaced him to start the third quarter, but threw an ugly interception on the very first play from scrimmage.
He played most of the quarter before OU coaches turned to Bell, who led the Sooners on a game-winning touchdown drive with just over a minute remaining on the clock.
Big Ten looking into playing Friday night games
From CBSSports.com … Friday night football isn’t unheard of in the FBS. But among the “Power Five” conferences, Week 1 excepted, it’s decidedly rare.
Would the Big Ten be willing to change that? A league that’s usually been slower than its peers in the SEC or Big 12 to embrace widespread change is reportedly exploring the possibility of its own Friday Night Lights, according to Wisconsin State Journal columnist Andy Baggot.
From Baggott’s Tuesday column:
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is trying to get feedback to be used in negotiating the next series of TV deals for the league. The current contracts run through 2016 (with Fox for the conference football championship game) and ’17 (with ESPN and ABC for regular-season games).
If the networks want Big Ten games on Friday nights — a slot traditionally reserved for high schools — Delany wants to know where his constituents stand and an idea of what a commitment like that would be worth.
Baggot writes that Delany is also floating the idea of night games as late in the season as November, another break with current Big Ten scheduling policy, though cautioning that either change would be “years away,” if even approved.
The truth is that as distasteful as Big Ten football on a Friday night must sound to the league traditionalists on first glance, a 14-team league that’s expanded in no small part expressly for the purpose of developing its television network must find ways of maximizing that network — and as of today, Friday nights are a rare untapped resource when it comes to reaching viewers. If, say, Rutgers-Purdue is going to be buried beneath a wave of six other league games on your standard October Saturday, is there really so much harm in moving it to a Friday night and snagging both teams a few more eyeballs?
There might be if you’re a ticket-holding fan, of course. But — sadly — does that even matter with the league already all-in on the Big Ten Network? The Friday experiment may or may not come to fruition, but at this point it doesn’t seem wise to bet against it.
New Football poll to make its debut this fall
From the Football Writers … The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the National Football Foundation (NFF) announced today that they will jointly conduct a weekly major-college football poll during the 2014 season.
Officially, the poll will be known as the “FWAA-NFF Grantland Rice Super 16″ poll, named in honor of the great sportswriter who became an influential leader of the NFF during its early years in the late 1940s. Rice played a key role in the history of both organizations as an FWAA member and NFF president. His name adorns the FWAA national championship trophy that has been presented since 1954, and he helped select the FWAA All-America teams until his death in 1954.
“We are proud to partner with the FWAA on the launch of the Grantland Rice Super 16 poll,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “Objectivity represents a core value for both our organizations, and we hope that by combining the credibility of both our organizations that we’ll provide a fun reference point for fans to follow during the college football season.”
The pollsters will consist of FWAA writers, College Football Hall of Famers and NFF Board Members. The poll aims to draw on the vast knowledge of the nation’s top journalists with extensive experience covering college football in combination with some of the greatest legends to have ever played or coached the game as well as the perspectives of several of the gridiron’s most respected and influential administrators.
We are extremely excited to announce this first poll in conjunction with the National Football Foundation at a time when major college football is ushering in a new era,” said 2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls. “I can’t think of a better partner in jointly producing the ‘Grantland Rice Super 16′ poll of the best teams in the nation.
“Our poll will include distinguished past presidents of the FWAA as well as outstanding NFF Hall of Famers who have given so much to the game we all love and who hope to bring more insight to college football and enjoyment of this fine game. We feel we can provide a very valuable poll of some of the best-credentialed voters and most knowledgeable, objective college football minds around.”
The decision to conduct the new poll was made in December and January by the boards of both organizations at the conclusion of the 2013 season. Long-time partners since the formation of the two organizations in the 1940s, the FWAA and NFF will pool 36 voters (26 from the FWAA and 10 from the NFF) ranking the top 16 teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. The poll will be announced on Sundays during the 2014 season, culminating with a final release on Dec. 7, the day after the conference championship games.
The 26 FWAA voters, all current or past writers of national stature, will be selected to ensure balanced-geographical representation. The 10 NFF voters, comprised of Hall of Fame players, coaches and administrators, will also add to the diversity of perspectives, coming from different conferences and regions of the country. The names and affiliations of the voters will be released to the general public in early summer, and their votes will be made public each week during the season.
The FWAA, which possesses a reputation as one of the foremost objective voices in college football, has conducted a pre-season poll for a number of years and has also had a weekly poll in the past. Both organizations have used panels at the conclusion of the college football season to determine the recipients of their respective national championship trophies. Since 1959, the NFF has presented the MacArthur Bowl, named for the famous Army general who was a guiding father of the NFF in the early years, and since 1954, the FWAA has bestowed the Grantland Rice Trophy to its national champion.
The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,300 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include gameday operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information visit footballwriters.com.
Colorado to send a full contingent to NCAA championships in Utah
Colorado will be sending a full allotment of skiers to the NCAA championships at Park City in a few weeks. For those of you who do not regularly follow skiing, it is almost impossible to win the national title without having a full team of 12 to compete (the only school to do it, actually, was Colorado a few years back at Steamboat Springs).
Here is the full story from CUBuffs.com … The University of Colorado ski team will be sending a full 12-member squad to Utah to defend its NCAA Championship from a season ago, the NCAA announced Monday. The championship, set for March 5-8 in Park City and Midway, Utah, will be hosted by the University of Utah.
The Buffs are one of eight teams that will send a full squad, consisting of three skiers for alpine and Nordic, both men and women. Six of the eight teams that will field full teams are from the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association with Alaska Anchorage, Denver, Montana State and New Mexico joining the Buffs and host Utes from the west while the east will send both Vermont and Dartmouth at full strength.
The Buffs will send the same six alpine skiers that helped them to the 2013 NCAA Championship with men’s alpine captain Andreas Haug set to make his fourth appearance alongside sophomores Henrik Gunnarsson and Kasper Hietanen, who will go for the second straight season. Haug has been on the traveling squad for two NCAA Championship teams for the Buffs, 2011 and ’13, while Hietanen was an All-American last year in the slalom race for the Buffaloes.
On the women’s side, a trio of sophomores will represent the Buffs in Thea Grosvold, Jessica Honkonen and Brooke Wales. Honkonen enters the championship as the top seeded women’s alpine skier out of the RMISA while Brooke Wales will look for another good showing after taking second in the giant slalom race a season ago to earn All-America honors. Grosvold also earned All-America honors in last year’s GS race, as well.
Conversely, the Nordic contingent will feature just one skier with previous experience at the Championships in junior Rune Oedegaard who will defend his individual NCAA Championship in the men’s classical race and will look to compete for a title in the men’s freestyle race, as well, where he finished second a season ago. The top men’s Nordic seed out of the RMISA, he will be joined by junior Arnaud Du Pasquier, making his first appearance and freshman Mads Stroem, who quickly distinguished himself as one of the top men’s Nordic skiers in the RMISA this season.
Last year the Buffs won the championship largely based on their performance in women’s Nordic races and with a completely new women’s Nordic team on campus this year, the contingent of three freshman have all steadily improved as the season has worn on and all three – Camilla Brautaset, Lucy Newman and Maja Solbakken – will look to continue that momentum in Utah.
O’Bannon case against the NCAA heading to trial
From NBCSports.com … The athlete likeness case headed up by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon has been scheduled to go to trial. That means it is go-time for the NCAA legal team.
The lawsuit was being asked to be decided out of a court room by the NCAA and the group of plaintiffs led and organised by O’Bannon. Because the case is too complicated to be settled in a summary judgement, a federal judge decided it will have to go to trial later this year.
“We believe strongly in the merits of our case and will continue to defend the interests of the hundreds of thousands of student-athletes not recognized by the plaintiffs,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement. “For them and for all student-athletes, the current model of college sports provides opportunities for success during college and beyond. We believe the arguments presented show that the plaintiffs’ claims are not supported by the facts or the law.”
Even if the lawsuit does not hold up in court, it has already had an impact on the NCAA to some extent. The popular NCAA Football video game franchise published by EA Sports was put on the disabled list and is out indefinitely after schools and conferences chose to take their brands out of the game. The video game franchise is just a part of the case supporting the case for the plaintiffs after using similar looking players for years as technology advanced.
Sefo Liufau: “We believe we can beat every team we play next year”
ESPN’s Ted Miller has posted a great article on CU quarterback Sefo Liufau.
The full article can be found here, but here are some highlights:
Playing quarterback is in the Pac-12 is never easy. On the West Coast, a lot is expected out of the position. It’s not typically about simple game management. It’s not about handing the ball off, getting out of the way and leaning on your defense.
Playing quarterback in the Pac-12 as a true freshman is even more difficult. And, finally, playing quarterback in the Pac-12 for a team that is outmanned most Saturdays is most challenging.
… “I would say it was pretty overwhelming,” Liufau admitted. “The whole experience is a a lot different from high school. But as the season progressed, things seemed to slow down and become a lot more natural to me.”
When the smoke cleared, the numbers weren’t too shabby. He completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 1,779 yards — 222.4 yards per game — with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. While he didn’t see enough action to rate on the Pac-12′s official statistics, his pass efficiency rating of 128.3 would have ranked ninth in the conference, ahead of Arizona’s B.J. Denker, Washington State’s Connor Halliday and California’s Jared Goff, a fellow freshman.
… It will be interesting to see how the screws tighten this spring as Colorado tries to rise in the tough South Division. Last fall, coach Mike MacIntyre was in the getting-to-know you phase with a team that didn’t have much confidence. He was more focused on bucking guys up than challenging them with tough love. That approach held true during the season. Mostly.
“There were definitely times during the season when [MacIntyre] yelled at me during practice, just for little things, [such as] not throwing ball out of bounds during the 2-minute minutes drill,” Liufau said.
While MacIntyre is a coach who leans more toward positive reinforcement, one would expect him to be more demanding of his players in Year 2. After all, new athletic director Rick George is on record with expectations for a bowl game.
Liufau is fine with that. He has high expectations, too.
“We expect to win,” he said. “We believe we can beat every team we play next year.”
NLRB officer: Northwestern players union bid “weak”
From ESPN … The officer presiding over the National Labor Relations Board hearing about a bid by Northwestern football players to create the nation’s first union for college athletes at one point described the players’ case thus far as “weak.”
Joyce Hofstra, who has been overseeing the multiday hearing this week, said during a discussion over evidence “The record is weak on the players’ side. We’ve had testimony from only one player. We have heard nothing on the relationship between the player and the coach.”
From a witnesses stand in a federal court building Tuesday, Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter testified that players adhered to sometimes grueling schedules, putting in 40- to 50-hour weeks on football during and before the season. During August training, he said, players wake at 8 a.m. and often only finish practice at 10 p.m.
“It’s a job, there is no way around it — it’s a job,” said the 21-year-old Colter, who is a senior and whose college career is over. He is expected to be in Indianapolis later this week for the NFL combine, a series of predraft workouts for prospects.
The key question for the NLRB is whether college football players qualify as employees; if they do, under U.S. law they would have the right to unionize. The Colter-led bid, which is supported by the United Steelworkers, is seen as a test case that could transform the landscape of college athletics. The NCAA and Big Ten Conference, which includes Northwestern, both maintain that college students are not employees whatever their participation in athletics.
Also Thursday, a sports economist took the stand.
Southern Utah University economist David Berri was asked to discuss how the model of college football has changed and become big business. He testified that the NCAA provides “entertainment services” and it is football players who provide that service.
The NLRB is being asked to decide whether college athletes are employees, who would have the legal right to unionize.
Northwestern quarterback testifying before NLRB Board … “The most important hearing in the history of college sports”
From CBSSports.com … In a downtown Chicago federal building on Tuesday former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter — the face of the unionization movement — will make his case at a National Labor Relations Board hearing.
Colter will testify in favor of the Northwestern players’ petition to unionize. Ramogi Huma has called him the movement’s “star witness.”
“This is the most important hearing, I believe, in the history of college sports, at least in modern college sports,” said Huma, founder of the players rights organization College Athletes Players Association. “I don’t think there’s ever been a bigger platform with a chance to change the nature of protections provided to players.”
The basic issue during the NLRB hearing is whether college players receiving a free education have the right to collectively bargain their working conditions. The hearing will help determine whether the NLRB will recognize Northwestern football as a union. The process could last another year.
In the short term, it may not matter who wins. It’s what the movement represents.
“It could be this case is the NCAA equivalent of the Curt Flood case,” Notre Dame finance professor Richard Sheehan said in an email.
Sheehan is comparing the college unionization movement to Flood challenging baseball’s reserve clause more than 40 years ago. Flood lost in the Supreme Court, “but [he] and his lawyers won based on the underlying economic logic.”
You know the result of Flood’s struggle as free agency in MLB.
In the college realm, Colter’s testimony has opened up an age-old argument: Either that free scholarship is enough in return for players’ services on the field, or they are being exploited for those services.
Colter’s presence gives the movement ultimate credibility. He was the leader of a program that takes great pride in doing things “the right way.” Northwestern football has a 97 percent graduation rate. But if that education — priced at $63,000 per year — is integral to the athletic experience as the NCAA contends, the association has backed itself into the corner of quite a debate.
Colter got the idea for unionizing while taking a class called “Contemporary Issues in the Modern Workplace”. An instructor told Colter, according to the Chicago Tribune, that “I can’t believe college athletes don’t have a union with as much money as you guys bring in.”
“It kind of clicked,” Colter told the Tribune, “I thought, ‘Why don’t we?’ ”
The quarterback then called Huma and a movement was born. It’s hard to argue against it being a shining example of the ruling body’s message — training the body and the mind under the NCAA’s logo.
Well, except when that educational experience interferes with the function of the ruling body.
“He’ll be very compelling in terms of what the labor board is going to be looking at,” Huma said of Colter. “They’re going to be applying the life of a Northwestern football player through the lens of whether those activities qualify Northwestern football players as employees.”
Colorado drop in attendance second-worst in Pac-12
From ESPN … While Pac-12 attendance was down slightly in 2013 compared to 2012 — an average of 53,586 compared to 53,619 the previous season — three conference teams ranked among the nation’s leaders in posting the biggest gains from last year, including Washington, which ranked No. 1 in increased attendance.
Stanford increased its attendance by 7,383 to 50,726, the seventh-biggest gain. Arizona State was up 5,854 to 62,689, the 10th-biggest gain.
Overall, the Pac-12 ranked No. 4 behind the SEC (75,674), Big Ten (70,431) and Big 12 (58,899).
The biggest reason the Pac-12 was slightly down was USC, whose attendance dipped by nearly 15,000 fans this year. In large part, that was because of fans showing their frustration with former coach Lane Kiffin.
Official attendance figures from 2013 for Pac-12 schools, with the percentage change from 2012 to 2013.
Coaches speak out on proposed “10-second” rule
From Sports Illustrated … There’s nothing slight about a radical “10-second rule” for defensive substitutions that the committee put forward for approval. The proposal — in which offenses would be prevented from snapping the ball on a given play until the 40-second clock hits 29 seconds (excluding the last two minutes of a half) — is a direct assault on the no-huddle, hurry-up offenses all the rage in college football.
Across the country, coaches who preach those offenses were incredulous.
“Is this real?” one coach texted shortly after the news broke. “I thought it was a joke. No way that passes.”
It’s not a joke. But it would compel officials to call delay of game on a team for moving too fast.
“It’s crazy,” said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. “College football is the pinnacle of success right now. How do you even mess with that? It would slow the game down. It wouldn’t be as fun for the fans.”
“The 10-second rule is like asking basketball to take away the shot clock – Boring!” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy tweeted Thursday. “It’s like asking a blitzing linebacker to raise his hand”.
… Two prominent coaches, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema — both of whom happen to run more traditionally slow-paced offenses — had voiced public concerns in the past about possible player-safety risks resulting from defenses’ inability to substitute against hurry-up offenses. Bielema even disclosed last summer that during his own term on the Football Rules Committee he’d proposed a 15-second substitution period after every first down.
… According to its release, the NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports — comprised of team physicians and trainers — requested “that sport rules committees review substitution rules in regards to player safety.”
“You want to be able to have varied [offensive] styles but that can’t be the driver [of rules],” said Air Force coach and committee chairman Troy Calhoun. “The question that was brought up by medical people and athletic trainers — is there a way for a defensive player to get off the field? That was the single thing that was brought up.”
The hurry-up coaches aren’t buying it. “That’s b.s. by those guys,” said Kingsbury. Feeding their paranoia, Calhoun confirmed to SI.com that both Bielema (as a non-voting member) and Saban (who spoke during a 90-minute open “rules discussion” period) traveled to Indianapolis for the meetings. Calhoun and Louisiana-Monroe’s Todd Berry are the only FBS members listed on the committee’s official roster.
In 2012, Saban memorably said of hurry-up offenses, “Is this what we want football to be?” Last season his offense ranked 116th out of 125 FBS teams in plays run per game (65.9). Bielema, who as the coach at Wisconsin described his old-school style of offense as “real American football,” oversaw an Arkansas offense that ranked 121st (64.7).
Meanwhile, their division, the SEC West, now includes three hurry-up proponents, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze. Saban’s Crimson Tide lost to A&M in 2012 and Auburn last season.
“The thing that’s most shameful about this is it’s a clear manipulation through self-interest by people who don’t want to coach within the parameters where strategy and ingenuity has taken the game,” said Washington State coach Mike Leach. “So now they want to manipulate the rules, and in needing an excuse to do this, they try to hide behind player safety. It’s ridiculous.”
“Is there any hard data, or just somebody saying that?” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez told USA Today of the player safety notion. “If there was big concern with that, wouldn’t the teams that practice fast be concerned with it? We don’t have any more injuries because we practice fast.”
The only research cited in the committee’s proposal “indicated that teams with fast-paced, no-huddle offenses rarely snap the ball with 30 seconds or more on the play clock.” That of course led to more scoffing by the hurry-up coaches.
“If it’s only a small percentage of teams that it would affect, then why do it?” said Baylor’s Art Briles. “If the large percentage are good with the way things are then leave them alone.”
“Committed – Not Signed” not uncommon in the Pac-12
Signing Day for the University of Colorado went fairly smoothly last week. Yes, there was the new commitment from Jay MacIntyre, and yes, there was the drama surrounding the signing of Kalen Ballage. For the most part, however, everything went according to Hoyle. All of CU’s verbal commits sent in their Letters of Intent, with all of the commits in the fold by 10:30 a.m. (and only that late because the last signee, Jaisen Sanchez from Honolulu, was three time zones behind).
For several teams in the Pac-12, however, there are still some loose ends. There are a total of 13 players who have committed to Pac-12 schools, but, a week after Signing Day, have yet to send in their Letters of Intent.
The most interesting stories involve Arizona and Utah, with each school still having five unsigned players (Oregon State has two; Arizona State one).
The Arizona Wildcats signed a Class with 28 players, with the over-signed Class perhaps accounting for some of the issues surrounding the Class of 2014 Players-in-Waiting. At Utah, however, the entire Class was only 19 strong, which means that, if those five unsigned players ultimately do not become Utes, the Utah Recruiting Class of 2014 will consist of only 14 members. All five of the missing Utes are from the state of Utah, but Mormon missions cannot be the excuse, as Sam Bennion, a CU recruit, is on a Mormon mission, and he did fax in his Letter of Intent last Wednesday.
Here is the list of unsigned commits. If anyone knows the story behind why any of these players remain outside the fold, post a comment and let us know:
- Kaelin Deboskie – three-star WR – Tucson
- J.R. Hunt – three-star LB – Chandler, Arizona
- Sharif Williams – three-star DT – Fresno (injured his leg his senior year, will grayshirt, according to the Arizona Daily Star)
- Jordan Morgan – two-star ATH – Beaverton, Oregon
- Josh Pollack – two-star K – Highland Park, Illinois
- Amone Finau – three-star ATH – Kearns, Utah
- Pita Tonga – three-star DT – Salt Lake City
- Kyle Christiansen – two-star DT – Hyrum, Utah
- Thor Katoa – two-star LB – St. George, Utah
- Howard Pututau – two-star DE – Salt Lake City
Arizona State -
- Jordan Thomas – three-star DB – Sacramento
Oregon State -
- Harris Ross – three-star RB – Pittsburg, California
- Xavier Crawford – two-star DB – Concord, California
Northwestern players have a hearing today before NLRB
Full story at ESPN … A group of Northwestern football players will line up against their university on Wednesday morning in a National Labor Relations Board hearing that could lead to historic, landmark change for college sports.
The hearing, scheduled for Wednesday morning at the iconic Chicago Rookery Building, will mark the next step in a process that will determine whether the players are student-athletes, as Northwestern and the NCAA insist, or employee-athletes who can form a union and bargain for benefits. On Jan. 28, Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of the players at the regional office of the NLRB.
Known in American labor law as a “certification of representative” procedure, Wednesday’s hearing will begin with procedural matters and scheduling. Things really get moving at the next scheduled hearing on Feb. 18.
Both hearings will be led by an agent of the NLRB, Joyce Hofstra, who will take testimony from players and the university. She also will gather documents and submit material to the agency’s regional director for Chicago, Peter Sung Ohr, who will make an initial decision, likely within a few months. The losers in Ohr’s decision may appeal to the NLRB in Washington, D.C., which is known as the “big board,” then to a federal appeals court in Washington or back in Chicago.
Although the NCAA is not directly involved in the hearing, Donald Remy, its chief legal officer, said, “We will watch the developments and engage where appropriate.”
Wilner: Pac-12 trying to figure out a way around too many night games
From the San Jose Mercury News … The Pac-12 is in discussions with its network partners to change programming practices and avoid another season with an overwhelming number of night games, according to sources inside and outside the conference.
I wouldn’t necessarily characterize the back-and-forth as negotiations, because the league has a contract with ESPN and Fox that isn’t going away for a decade.
But Pac-12 officials were not happy with the ’13 broadcast schedule and are working with their partners to find an acceptable resolution for all parties involved. One source called the league’s approach “fair but firm.”
The conference spent three months listening to complaints from fans and school officials. Commissioner Larry Scott and his lieutenant are keenly aware of the frustration.
Whether they can do anything about it remains to be seen.
The launch of Fox Sports 1 was part of the problem, as I documented during the fall. Games that were on FX in the afternoon in 2012 often became night kickoffs on FS1 in ’13.
And the time zone issue is unavoidable: ESPN and Fox have no choice but to create their programming schedule in an east-to-west fashion. They have plenty of options at 3:30/4 p.m. Eastern and at 7/7:30/8 p.m. Eastern, but not so much for the late night window.
They just aren’t going to start games in Norman or Austin at 9:30 p.m. local time.
Neither of those issues is going to change when it comes to future Pac-12 football programming.
The networks will keep scheduling east-to-west, and Fox will keep putting Pac-12 games on FS1 to generate ratings. (Live college football draws more eyeballs than anything else it could show at that time.)
But there is another issue at play in the Pac-12′s Night Game Nightmare: The window of exclusivity.
It’s a common component in sports TV deals, and here’s how it works with the Pac-12:
Under the terms of the contract, Fox must show at least eight games on its over-the-air network (i.e., Big FOX), and ESPN must show at least two on ABC.
Those broadcasts have to be of the game-of-the-week variety and include a window of exclusivity from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (Pacific).
In other words:
If FOX broadcasts a game at 4 p.m., or if ABC shows a game at 5 p.m., then no other Pac-12 games can be televised until 7:30.
That’s a serious problem for the Pac-12 Networks.
Yes, ESPN and FS1 show plenty of games that start in the 7 – 7:30 p.m. window, but the true source of the Night Game Nightmare is the impact the exclusive window has on the Pac12Nets.
If a 3.5-hour chunk of the day — prime viewing hours — is off limits 10 times during the season, then the Pac12Nets have limited options: Show games early, or show them late.
But there again, logistics make programming more difficult that you might think. In addition to the ABC/Big FOX window of exclusivity, the conference must take into consideration:
1. The Arizona schools don’t want to play day games in September and early October because of weather.
2. Colorado and Utah don’t want to play home games that start at 8:30 Mountain (when the exclusive window ends).
Which brings us to the current discussions.
As noted above, ESPN and Fox will not … cannot … change their programming methodology because of the time zone issue.
But here’s what they can do: They can reduce or eliminate the exclusive window for the over-the-air broadcasts on ABC and Big FOX.
Maybe they eliminate it altogether.
Maybe they scrap it for half of the 10 broadcasts.
Either way, it would create more flexibility for the Pac12Nets.
I don’t know the specifics of the options being discussed.
But I know this: If nothing changes, the uproar from fans and campuses will be significant.
Washington State leading receiver arrested
From the Seattle Times … Washington State wide receiver Gabe Marks was arrested in Pullman at 2 a.m. on Saturday, according to the Pullman Police Department’s daily activity log. He was arrested for fourth-degree assault, second-degree criminal trespass, being a minor intoxicated in public and frequenting a tavern as a minor.
Sgt. Dan Dornes of the Pullman Police Department provided more details on the arrest.
Dornes said that Marks, a 19-year-old, was being detained by “a number of employees” outside Stubblefields bar in Pullman at 2:12 a.m. Saturday when Pullman Police Department officers responded to a call that an employee had been assaulted.
“He was in a dispute with another patron and they were asking him to leave the premises and they were escorting him to leave the premises,” Dornes said. “During that time he punched one of the employees, which was a 34-year-old male and so they held him there.”
According to Dornes, Marks was “heavily intoxicated.” He was arrested for the assault as well as trespassing and it was discovered that he was a minor, leading to additional charges.
Dornes said that Marks did not spend any time in jail because all four charges are misdemeanors. Instead he was issued a formal citation. He has not yet received a court date. Marks later apologized via Twitter.
Last year, Marks was cited for being a minor in possession.
Marks had 74 catches for 807 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He led the Cougars in all three categories.
The State of California produced half of CU’s Recruiting Class … Right on par with the rest of the Pac-12
From ESPN … It should be shocking to no one that of all the new players in the Pac-12 2014 recruiting class, a massive percentage comes from the state of California.
It is, after all, the lifeblood of the conference and the coaches hit the Golden State pretty hard. Of the 262 new players who signed letters of intent, transferred or enrolled early, 129 come from California, which represents 49.2 percent of the total class.
California was the primary draw for every school in the Pac-12 except Utah — which signed three players from California, but went heavier in Florida with five.
“We expanded our recruiting territory to include the football-rich state of Florida and are pleased with our success there,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We did very well in the South overall.”
Cal, USC and Washington each had 15 players from California, followed by Arizona (14), UCLA (13), Washington State (12) and Colorado and ASU with 10.
PAC-12′s 2014 RECRUITS
Here’s a look at how the Pac-12 2014 recruiting class breaks down:
Cal defensive lineman dies during conditioning drills
From the San Jose Mercury News … Ted Agu, a 21-year-old member of the Cal football team, died Friday morning during a conditioning workout.
“This is a very difficult time for our football family,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “Ted was a remarkable young man and a member of this family who was highly respected and loved by his teammates and coaching staff. He had an incredible passion for life and will be deeply missed.”
Greg Kragen, a former NFL player with the Denver Broncos and the father of Cal defensive end Kyle Kragen, said his son told him a player passed out during a team run on Friday morning.
A separate tip received by this newspaper said he died at a local hospital.
Agu, a senior-to-be from Bakersfield, was a backup defensive end for the Bears. Originally a non-scholarship player at Cal, he was was surprised by Dykes at a team meeting last March with the news he was being put on scholarship.
In a video interview last spring with CalTV, Agu called that “an unbelievable experience.”
A public health major at Cal, Agu earned Pac-12 All-Academic second-team honors after compiling a 3.28 grade-point average last fall.
He played in seven of Cal’s 12 games last season, totaling six tackles.
Washington quarterback (and former Colorado prep star) suspended by Huskies
From the Seattle Times … Washington quarterback Cyler Miles and wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow have been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules, UW coach Chris Petersen announced Thursday in a news release.
Petersen was not available for interviews, and the release did not specify what the violations where. But two players are being investigated by Seattle Police for an alleged assault near campus during a post-Super Bowl incident Sunday night. No arrests have been made, according to King County Jail records.
According to a police report, a man told police he was assaulted around 8:30 p.m. Sunday on the 2300 block of NE 55th Street after the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos. The man said two suspects jumped out of a car and asked the man if he was a Seahawks fan. According to the police report, the man said “something like yeah of course, are you Broncos fans?”
The suspects then “came at” the man and “started punching (him) in the face,” according to the report. The man and a friend identified the two suspects by looking at the UW football roster online.
Names in the police report have been redacted.
At least one of the football players was identified as a suspect in an earlier assault near a post-Super Bowl bonfire on the corner of NE 47th Street and 19th Avenue NE. In that incident, a female victim was knocked down and had her camera damaged by one of the suspects.
Both of the suspects were described as wearing Broncos gear.
Miles, a sophomore from Centennial, Colo., near Denver, was the favorite to take over as the Huskies’ starting quarterback in 2014. He started one game for injured senior Keith Price in 2013 and led UW to a 69-27 victory at Oregon State.
As a true freshman, Stringfellow, from Perris, Calif., played in 12 games for UW in 2013, starting the final three. He had 20 catches for 259 yards and one touchdown reception, from Miles, against UCLA.
Late push by USC lands the Trojans in the top ten nationally at Rivals and Scout; CU ranked between 64th and 77th
From ESPN … Pac-12 recruiting following the 2013 season was much like the season itself: Lots of quality depth, but no elite results.
Despite still being yoked by the final year of NCAA recruiting sanctions, USC was the unanimous choice for the Pac-12′s top class, though the Trojans ranked no better than 10th with any of the major recruiting services. Still, with just 19 commitments, the Trojans surged with the smallest class in the ESPN.com top-15.
It was a matter of quality for USC, as well as notching four big commitments on national signing day.
Stanford finished second in the conference behind USC and 15th in the nation. The Cardinal again was very strong on the lines.
After those two, there was some fluidity.
Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon and Arizona were the next four in the class rankings, though their positions varied, both nationally and in the Pac-12. All four, generally, were ranked within or near the top-25.
After those six, Washington was a consensus pick for the No. 7 class in the conference, with first-year coach Chris Petersen rallying for a few late commitments, and California was a consensus No. 8.
Washington State, Oregon State and Utah fell in thereafter, with Colorado ranking last among three of the four major recruiting services.
Here are how things stacked up.
ESPN.com (Click the team to see the class)
21. Arizona State
61. Washington State
67. Oregon State
16. Arizona State
48. Oregon State
59. Washington State
22. Arizona State
49. Oregon State
71. Washington State
23. Arizona State
61. Oregon State
65. Washington State