Pac-12 Notes

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Pac-12 Notes

 

April 20th

CSU defense prevails, 45-40, in Spring game

From the Coloradoan … While CSU’s offense was rewriting the record books last fall, the defense took a bit of a beating.

The Rams (8-6) allowed more passing touchdowns than 121 of the nation’s 122 other Football Bowl Subdivision programs and gave up 416.3 yards and 29.8 points a game.

Saturday, the defense stepped up, forcing four turnovers to beat the offense 45-40 in the annual Green and Gold Spring Game before 3,100 fans at Hughes Stadium. The last turnover, a fumble by junior running back Jasen Oden on a first-and-goal play in the final minute, secured the victory for the Gold (defense), which had trailed the Green (offense) for most of the day, despite giving up just one touchdown and two field goals.

Junior defensive linemen Terry Jackson and LaRyan King both hit Oden as he was trying to punch the ball into the end zone, and junior defensive end Martavius Foster recovered.

“We’ve been focusing on finishing strong … and I felt like today was a perfect example of that,” Jackson said. “It came to the last minute, and the defensive line was the one that was stepping up.”

It was the second turnover in the red zone by the No. 1 offense, which had an earlier drive stopped when sophomore cornerback Tyree Simmons intercepted a Garrett Grayson pass at the 4-yard line.

Grayson, a senior who threw for a school-record 3,696 yards and 23 touchdowns a year ago, wasn’t as sharp Saturday as he’s been most of the spring. He completed 16 of 24 passes for 170 yards and was intercepted twice. But improved play in the defensive secondary played a role in that, forcing the quarterback to dump a few passes off to Oden and throw some others away.

Cornerback Justin Sweet, a redshirt freshman, and junior safety Trent Matthews also had interceptions, earning six points apiece for a defense that played without injured linebackers Max Morgan, Aaron Davis, Cory James and SteveO Michel, and cornerback Bernard Blake. CSU’s defense intercepted just 10 passes and recovered 11 fumbles in 14 games last season.

Rams, without a commit for 2015, pick up quarterback commit from the Class of 2016

From GoldandGreenNews.com … Colorado State has yet to receive a verbal commitment for the class of 2015, but on Saturday at their Green and Gold Spring Game, an unofficial visitor from the class of 2016 gave his verbal pledge to the Ram coaches, becoming the first CSU pledge for his class.

Broomfield (Colo.) Legacy quarterback Matt Lynch, who picked up his first offer from CSU at the Rams’ Junior Day on April 5, gave his verbal commitment to Jim McElwain, Dave Baldwin and the rest of the Colorado State coaching staff on Saturday right after CSU’s Spring Game. With his pledge, Lynch becomes one of CSU’s earliest commitments in recent memory.

… Lynch has been on CSU’s radar since his freshman season in 2012. Last year as a sophomore starter for Legacy, Lynch passed for 1,244 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 10 games for the 4-6 Lightning. Although not necessarily considered a true dual-threat quarterback, Lynch also ran for 397 yards and seven scores.

… “I feel pretty good about this commitment” said Lynch, “but I will keep my ears open if any other schools come calling.”

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April 18th

NCAA proposes changing transfer rules – sit out a year; add a year of eligibility

From CBSSportsline.com … The NCAA’s Leadership Council is making waves this week. The biggest headline from its annual meeting was the elimination on all food limits for players.

Next up? An alteration in transfer guidelines.

This isn’t a massive revision, but rather a tweak coaches have lobbied for in the past couple of years. And the rule change is not official yet. The amendment to current transfer rules has to do with hardship waivers and an ensuing sixth year of eligibility. The NCAA announced on Friday that hardship waivers — something players now apply for with regularity upon transferring from one place to another; it’s cynically considered more and more of a loophole — should instead be swapped for one more year of eligibility.

For example, this would mean that a player leaving one school for another in the name of being closer to home for family/health reasons would simply have an extra year to play college basketball. But the player would sit a redshirt year first. This proposal would be for all sports where applicable at the D-I level.

“We hope this change will encourage student-athletes who must transfer based on hardships to focus on the circumstances prompting the transfer during their first year and adjust to their new school, while giving them a season back to complete their eligibility,” Council chairperson Amy Huchthausen said in the NCAA’s statement.

It goes back to the integrity of the transfer. In college basketball plenty of coaches (and plenty have told me this off the record) have bent the spirit of the hardship waiver to its limits, often earning immediate eligibility from a player under embellished personal circumstances. Now the NCAA is saying that all players seeking transfer under these circumstances should focus on school and the personal matter in their first year before getting back on the court.

This would also inherently eliminate the number of waivers. That process in general takes up a lot of the NCAA’s time and, with regularity, leads to controversy because waiver clearances/denials can be so inconsistent with which players get which verdicts.

This proposal from the Council will go to vote next Thursday at the Board of Directors meeting, just as the unlimited-food item will. Per the NCAA, if it passes there then it goes into place at the start of the 2015-16 academic year.

April 17th

Athlon picks its “sleeper” teams for the Pac-12

Athlon has polled its contributors for a “sleeper” pick for the Pac-12 in 2014. While – not surprisingly – no one was willing to go out on a limb and pick Colorado, the article did have something nice to say about the Buffs …

“Outside of Washington and Oregon State, keep a close eye on Utah, Arizona and Colorado. The Buffaloes should show significant improvement in Mike MacIntyre’s second season, and the Utes are expected to regain the services of quarterback Travis Wilson in 2014. Arizona is a bit of a mystery, especially with uncertainty at quarterback and running back”.

The full article can be found here (Spoiler alert: their are arguments made for Arizona, Washington, and Oregon State).

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April 16th

Pac-12 early entry list continues to grow as Arizona stars bolt for NBA

From The Sporting News … A list of players who have declared for the 2014 NBA draft (deadline April 27th):

Jordan Adams, 6-5, Soph., G (UCLA)

Kyle Anderson, 6-9, Soph., G (UCLA) – Link

Jahii Carson, 5-11, Soph., G (Arizona State)

Aaron Gordon, 6-9, Fr., F (Arizona)  - Link

Nick Johnson, 6-3, Jr., G (Arizona) – Link

Zach LaVine, 6-5, Fr., G (UCLA) – Link

Eric Moreland, 6-10, Jr., F (Oregon State)

Nick Johnson, 6-3, Jr., G (Arizona) – Link

Notable Returning Players

Jordan Adams, 6’5″, So. G (UCLA) – Link

Rondae Hollis-Jeffeson, 6-7, Fr., F (Arizona)

Kaleb Tarczewski, 7-0, Soph., C (Arizona)

Delon Wright, 6-5, Jr., G (Utah)

Joseph Young, 6-2, Jr., G (Oregon) – Link

Cody Kessler keeps starting quarterback job at USC

From ESPN … Cody Kessler, USC’s incumbent starting quarterback, needed just 12 practices to convince new coach Steve Sarkisian that he should keep his job.

Prior to spring practice No. 13 on Tuesday, Sarkisian met with Kessler and backups Max Browne and Jalen Greene to inform them that Kessler would be the starter.

“I think he’s extremely decisive from where he was in Week 1 in a new system to where he performed today,” Sarkisian said. “He knows where he’s going with the football. Are there some fundamentals and techniques we’re going to continue to work on? Sure. But I think he’s got a great deal of confidence. I love his leadership in the locker room with the players. He can throw the deep ball extremely well and he has enough athleticism to buy himself some time to create some plays down the field.”

Kessler was locked in a quarterback competition in 2013 that spilled into the regular season before he finally claimed the job over Max Wittek. Kessler completed 236 of 361 passes for 2,968 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He posted a raw QBR of 59.7 with an adjusted QBR of 66.7 in guiding the Trojans to a 10-4 record and a victory in the Las Vegas Bowl, where he was named the game’s MVP.

April 15th

Cal hires away Tennessee’s men’s basketball coach

From CBSSportsline.com … Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin has agreed in principle to become the next head coach at California, a source confirmed to CBSSports.com on Tuesday.

A formal announcement is expected soon.

ESPN.com initially reported the development.

Martin just finished his third season at Tennessee. He led the Vols to 24 wins and a trip to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, and was subsequently considered a candidate at Marquette before Steve Wojciechowski got that job. Martin then publicly stated that he planned to stay at Tennessee, but that changed when California offered.

Mike Montgomery, 67, had been California’s coach the past seven years.

His Bears finished 21-14 overall this season, 10-8 in the Pac-12.

Rick Neuheisel to host “Under Center with Rick Neuheisel”

From the Daily Camera … Rick Neuheisel is adding another bullet point for his resume.

The former University of Colorado football coach, who works as an analyst for the Pac-12 Network, will debut a new show on the network Wednesday called “Under Center with Rick Neuheisel.”

 

The series will feature Neuheisel “mentoring” some of the Pac-12′s top quarterbacks and offer an inside look into their game preparation. The shows will also feature a film study segment with the quarterbacks, likely similar to Jon Gruden’s show on ESPN.

The first episode of Neuheisel’s show, which he is also producing, airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. (MT) and will feature Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. Arizona State quarterback Tayor Kelly is on tap for April 23 (9 p.m. MT) and UCLA’s Brett Hundley is scheduled for April 30 (9 p.m. MT). The final two episodes of the series are to air May 7 and 14, but the guest quarterbacks have not yet been announced.

Neuheisel is a former quarterback himself, leading UCLA from 1980-83.

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April 14th

Arizona State going “all in” by charging 76,000 students $150 in fees

From azcentral.com … Michael Crow has found the end zone. The Arizona State president has discovered the sugar daddies his football program has always craved.

They are the 76,000 students who will now pay $75 a semester to fund the athletic program, whether they like it or not.

Is this genius? Is it despicable? Is it really that much different than the backdoor tax that funded Bank One Ballpark, a contentious time in our sporting history when a councilwoman was shot in the backside?

ASU claims otherwise. Representatives of the athletic department are framing the mandatory $150 annual fee as a huge success story, a partnership with the student body that now has stakes in the game.

To be clear: The measure was not voted on by the student body, and many have been surprised to find the fee on the finance page of their online student profile. The measure passed with approval by four of five student governments, with Crow finally summoning the blessing of the Arizona Board of Regents.

In exchange, students get free access to any ASU sporting event, as long as there are tickets available.

It seems like a reasonable exchange, and from my perch, this is a master stroke. ASU gets the money it needs to reach for the big time in football. It can claim that the athletic fee is new standard operating procedure, as seven other Pac-12 schools do the same.

But schools like UCLA, Cal, Oregon State, received less than $3 million a year from athletic fees in 2012, the last year that figures are available. Meanwhile, Oregon and Colorado netted $1.5 million.

ASU will put that number into stratosphere, easily topping the $9 million received by Connecticut, the reigning champions in men’s and women’s basketball.

“This isn’t unique to us,” ASU Athletic Director Ray Anderson said. “It’s actually more the norm than the exception. We are, frankly, catching up.”

The only real backlash has come from Tucson, where there are no athletic fees for University of Arizona students, where Athletic Director Greg Byrne recently raised $30 million from the private sector for the renovation of his basketball arena.

“I would rather not talk about it other than to say at this point the University of Arizona has chosen not to pursue a student fee,” Byrne said.

I asked Byrne if his donors were feeling chapped for contributing $30 million for McKale Center improvements when a comparable student athletic fee could’ve eased their pain. He said that was not the case.

But in effect, Crow has marginalized Arizona’s edge in donor loyalty. He’s found the seed money that Sun Devils’ alumni have been historically reluctant to provide.

Yet according to Anderson, donor habits are also beginning to change at ASU. He claims the fund-raising efforts for the new stadium are exceeding all expectations. There are rumblings that the combined windfall might even increase the scope and magnitude of renovations to Sun Devil Stadium, which is fabulous news.

I’ll say it again: The look and feel of the new Sun Devil Stadium is the key to everything, the fulcrum of the program’s championship aspirations. If they go bargain-rack, they will remain a sleeping giant, a program destined to disappoint.

Instead, it seems like Crow is all in, with 10 toes in the game. He has chosen to burden his students for the good of his football program. That tells me he’s doubling down with Todd Graham, that he believes ASU football is close to being the program we’ve always dreamed about.

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Colorado State reduces planned cost of new stadium by another $6 million

From the Coloradoan … CSU has reduced the estimated cost of building the proposed on-campus stadium by $6 million.

Colorado State University officials told The Coloradoan on Saturday that further design analysis has allowed the school to drop the construction costs from $226 million to $220 million. Details on what changes in the stadium plan were made to allow the budget adjustment were not immediately available.

It’s the second decrease in costs CSU has made to the proposed stadium in the past six months. In October 2013, the estimated price was dropped from $246 million to $226 million.

While the expected cost of building the venue has changed, the stipulation of needing to raise half of the funds in private donations by this October has not. CSU is in a silent period for fundraising and would not give an update on how much money has been raised, but university president Tony Frank said in October 2013 that he expected $37 million to be secured by year’s end.

If the project is approved, it would move home football games for CSU from Hughes Stadium on the western side of Fort Collins, where the Rams have played since 1968, to the main campus, between Pitkin and Lake streets, just west of Meridian. In addition to its use as a multipurpose athletic facility, it could also contain 55,000 square feet of classroom space.

 

April 10th

Pac-12 looking for a reduction in night football games … but at what cost?

Jon Wilner from the San Jose Mercury News has put together a comprehensive look at the Pac-12 and its relationship with its network partners. It’s worth your time …

The Pac-12 is moving toward a reduction in night football games next season.

That’s the good news for fans, teams and officials at the 12 campuses.

But the reduction could very well come at a cost: More regional telecasts on the Pac-12 Networks, which potentially could limit availability to viewers throughout the league.

We’ll get to the end result in a few minutes. Let’s start with the background:

The conference and its member school weren’t happy with the number of night games last season: By my count, 33 started at 7 p.m. or later (Pacific Time) on ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and the Pac-12 Networks.

As detailed here, there were two issues:

1. ESPN and Fox need inventory at 7/7:30 p.m., at the conclusion of games in the eastern and central time zones.

2. At the same time, ESPN and FOX have in their contract with the Pac-12 what’s known as a window of exclusivity.

When the networks broadcast Pac-12 games nationally at 4 or 5 p.m., no other Pac-12 games can be televised.

That forces the Pac-12 Networks to schedule games in early window (12/1 p.m.) and especially in the late window (7/7:30 p.m.).

And that’s in addition to all the night games on ESPN and FS1.

Last season, there were 16 Saturday night games on ESPN and FS1 last fall (most of them on ESPN) and another 17 on the Pac12Nets.

…. Based on everything I’ve gathered from sources, the league determined that removing the exclusive window would not reduce the net total of night games below the 2013 figure.

Even if the Pac12Nets moved a handful of games into the late-afternoon window, FS1 would likely offset that reduction with a slight uptick in night games on its schedule — not in 2014, perhaps, but in future years as the network acquires more programming.

According to sources, Scott was under significant pressure from Pac-12 presidents/chancellors to reduce the total, using the 2013 figure as a baseline.

A deal would have achieved that goal relative to night broadcasts in future years, but it would not have reduced the total compared to the ’13 figure.

So Scott walked away.

Smart move by the league? Were the presidents’ instructions to Scott too narrow?

You could make that case, for sure, and clearly the networks were trying to make it work for the conference while adhering to good business practices. But there are no easy answers.

By walking away, the conference created a situation in which the number of night games could rise in coming years.

In other words: No progress, and perhaps a deteriorating situation in years to come for the frustrated campuses.

But that’s not the end of the story.

The league is considering – seriously considering – an alter means of reducing night games, according to sources.

Move an undetermined number of games that would have been on the Pac12Nets at 7 or 7:30 to the early-afternoon windows.

The only way to make it work without violating the exclusivity clause (which would remain in place): Create regional broadcasts on the Pac12Nets — two games at the same time, with the noon timeslot (Pacific) being the likeliest option.

That’s a decent alternative, except for this:

Most distributors only show 1) the Pac-12 National feed or 2) the Pac-12 National and one regional feed.

So if you’re a fan of Team X but live outside Team’s X’s region and don’t have access to all seven feeds, you could be out of luck.

(Yes, all seven feeds are available online, but let’s be honest: Many fans want to watch on big screens, not a handheld device.)

Here’s an example to illustrate potential conflicts using a randomly-chosen Saturday from the upcoming season:

Let’s say Stanford-Oregon State is selected as the Pac-12 National game on Oct. 25. It would also, of course, be shown in Stanford’s home region on the Pac-12/Bay Area feed.

Let’s also say the UCLA-Colorado game on Oct. 25 is on the Pac12Nets and shown regionally (on the L.A. and Mountain feeds).

If you’re one of the tens of thousands of UCLA and Colorado alums living in the Bay Area … and you have Comcast … then you won’t have the game on your television.

In the Bay Area, Comcast only shows the regional and national feeds. Unless the conference could arrange for an overflow channel, UCLA and Colorado fans would not have the game on their television.

That would also be the case for fans living outside the Pac-12 footprint in areas where only the National feed is available.

Is that a better option than taking the network partners up on their offer to eliminate the exclusive window, cap the number of night games on ESPN and FS1 (albeit at a higher level than in ’13) and lose a few national telecasts?

Without knowing every detail and all the options, I can’t say. But again, it’s not clear that walking away from the ESPN/FS1 proposal is the right move, either.

What’s more, I’d caution fans not to assume that the more to regionalize is a done deal.

The league doesn’t describe negotiations with ESPN and Fox as dead, only stalled. And there could be a super-secret option under consideration that would both avoid more regional telecasts and reduce the number of night games.

I cannot fathom what that would be, but that’s not to say it doesn’t exist.

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Phil Steele projects five teams will be in AP preseason top 25

Phil Steele has put out the teams he is projecting will be in the Associated Press top 25, which will come out in August.

From ESPN … The Pac-12 is represented with Oregon at No. 3 and UCLA at No. 7 and three other teams in the projected Top 25.

Steele on Oregon:

While the Ducks, under new head coach Mark Helfrich, failed to make a BCS bowl for the first time in five seasons in 2013, they still managed their sixth-straight season with double-digit wins. This year they return 15 starters, led by quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is clearly one of the Heisman favorites heading into 2014. The biggest question might be how they adjust to long-time defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti’s retirement. However, they do return linebacker Derrick Malone, their leading tackler, and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu could be the best cornerback in the country.

Stanford and USC check in at 12 and 14, respectively, and Washington rounds out the group at No. 22.

He raises an interesting point regarding the Cardinal:

The biggest question for the Cardinal in 2014, however, is how they will navigate one of the toughest schedules in the country: Stanford plays Washington, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA — all on the road.

The Pac-12 finished up 2013 with six teams ranked in the Top 25. ASU is the only team that was ranked to close the season that isn’t projected by Steele. But the Sun Devils are likely to receive some votes and have a chance to slip into the Top 25 in the first couple of weeks with a softer schedule. But then it ramps up for ASU with four straight games against teams in Steele’s projections, starting off with a home date against UCLA. Recall the last couple of seasons that game has essentially decided the Pac-12 South title, and the road team has won in consecutive years. Then ASU is at USC, home to Stanford and at Washington.

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April 9th

Ohio State to pay out $2 million to non-conference opponents

Colorado received $1.4 million to play Ohio State in 2011 … here is the update from a CU at the Game Colorado Daily update on August 24, 2010:

Colorado picks up 13th game for 2011

While Colorado does not know for certain that it will be playing in the Pac-12 conference in 2011, the Buffs do know that there will be 13 games on the calendar.

On September 24, 2011, Colorado will travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the Buckeyes of Ohio State. The Buffs will receive $1.4 million for the one-time, no return trip contract.

“Colorado has always recognized the significance of playing marquee opponents in the non-conference portion of our football schedule,” said Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn in a prepared statement. “This is a tremendous opportunity on the national platform to schedule a game with Ohio State … We are looking forward to what will be CU’s first trip to the ‘Horsehoe’ in 25 years.”

So … the Buffs apparently made out pretty well for the “play-for-pay”, as Ohio State will be paying out $2 million this year for non-conference games, spread out over three teams:

From ESPN … Ohio State will pay more than $2 million in total guarantees to bring Virginia Tech, Kent State and Cincinnati to Ohio Stadium this fall.

The university disclosed the payouts on Monday at the request of The Associated Press.

Cincinnati, located a couple of hours away, will receive the most money — $888,246 — to play the Buckeyes on Sept. 27. Kent State, also located about two hours away, will get $850,000 to appear in Columbus on Sept. 13. Virginia Tech, which comes to Ohio Stadium on Sept. 20 as the first of a home-and-home series, will get a $350,000 guarantee.

The Buckeyes get an $850,000 guarantee to open against Navy on Aug. 30 at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.

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April 8th

Oregon point guard to play wide receiver for Ducks

From ESPN … It’s less than a week into spring practice, and Oregon has added a new receiver to its roster: former Ducks basketball player Johnathan Loyd.

Loyd, the winningest player in Oregon basketball history and a four-year starter for coach Dana Altman, will use a loophole in NCAA rules that permits players a fifth year of eligibility in a different sport, the university said in a statement.

The 5-foot-8 Loyd attended Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, where he played both football and basketball. On the football field he was a cornerback and returner, but after spending some time spent watching practice, he seems to be making a pretty smooth transition to receiver.

“That’s one thing I can do — I can catch the ball,” Loyd said. “I can run and I can catch. Receiver is not too much different than anything else.”

Loyd will be a boost for the Oregon receiving corps, as coach Mark Helfrich looks to replace the team’s Nos. 1 and 3 receivers from a season ago.

“It’s his first day in four years of playing football, and he’s out here with the Oregon Ducks and holding his own,” receiver Keanon Lowe said. “You can tell he’s a natural football player. And I don’t think I saw him drop one pass all day.”

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April 7th

NCAA President: Unions a “grossly inappropriate solution”

From ESPN … Change is coming to the NCAA, but it’s not necessarily the sort of change athletes would want entirely.

In a wide-ranging press conference at the Final Four, NCAA president Mark Emmert and other college administrators discussed pending change to the governance structure that will likely include cost of attendance and autonomy for the power conferences.

But the group drew a line in the sand at the thought of unionization for athletes.

“To be perfectly frank, the notion of using a union employee model to address the challenges that do exist in intercollegiate athletics is something that strikes most people as a grossly inappropriate solution to the problems,” Emmert said Sunday. “It would blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics.”

The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled that it agreed with a filing made by Northwestern football players that they qualify as employees of their schools and can unionize.

It is the first of what many anticipate will be a long, drawn-out process filled with appeals and dialogue from both sides — but still a decision that has the potential to significantly alter how college athletics have been run essentially forever.

But those who would be on the other side of the bargaining table, so to speak, are clearly prepared to fight such significant change.

“There’s some things that need to get fixed,” Emmert said. “They’re working very aggressively to do that. No one up here believes that the way you fix that is by converting student-athletes into unionized employees.”

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April 5th

Larry Scott editorial speaks out against NLRB decision

From the USA Today … The decision last week by a National Labor Relations Board official in Chicago to upend collegiate athletics by characterizing Northwestern University’s scholarship football players as “employees” is a terrible idea that will do nothing to improve college sports and may well destroy them.

Yes, those are strong words. And let me be clear — I am not defending the status quo. The Pac-12 Conference, of which I have been commissioner since 2009, along with other conferences around the country, have been pressing for NCAA reform that would reflect the evolving needs of student-athletes, allowing for increased academic support, improved student-athlete health care, and enhanced athletic scholarships up to the full cost of attendance. I am confident reform is coming within the NCAA in the next few months, and soon universities will be allowed to provide this additional support for student-athletes.

But there is absolutely no question that turning students into employees would take us in precisely the opposite direction that we need to go. The challenge collegiate sports faces in an era of expanding popularity is to ensure that revenues are used for the benefit of the universities and their students, and to ensure that the paramount role of “student” in “student-athlete” is not obscured. We need to safeguard and strengthen our commitment to academics to help find the right balance, not throw in the towel and characterize students as employees.

We believe that the NLRB official’s finding that student-athletes on scholarship are not primarily students is profoundly wrong. At Pac-12 universities, which are some of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world, student-athletes represent the intersection of academic excellence and athletic achievement, graduating with their fellow students and winning the most NCAA titles of any conference. Recent Pac-12 football student-athletes Andrew Luck of Stanford and Matt Barkley of the University of Southern California exemplify this balance, opting to delay turning professional to achieve their degrees and reap the full value of their educations.

And beyond a small handful that turns pro, the vast majority of our 7,000 Pac-12 student-athletes are on our campuses to get the education and experiences that will prepare them for those careers. The notion that they see themselves as employees rather than students is laughable.

Right now, for technical legal reasons, the ruling only applies to the sport of football and private universities, but the misguided thinking that produced it might be applied to other sports and public universities as well. And because the “revenue” sports at most universities support the “non-revenue” sports – including sports such as baseball, soccer, softball, volleyball, swimming, and tennis (which I played while a student at Harvard) — the entire world of intercollegiate athletics as we know it could shrink dramatically because of a lack of resources. Women’s sports could be hit particularly hard, which would be a real travesty given all that we have achieved over the last 40 years since the advent of Title IX, especially because it is unknown how “employee” status would intersect with Title IX.

With this demise would come the loss of opportunity for thousands of students who, without athletic scholarships, might never be able to attend college. At the Pac-12 alone, two-thirds of our students-athletes receive athletics aid across as many as 36 varsity sports. The loss of any athletic program would be a blow to the valuable access and opportunity athletics afford to many students on our campuses.

I understand that some people are frustrated by what they perceive to be a slow pace to NCAA reform. But classifying students as employees of their universities is the wrong prescription for addressing the evolving needs of student-athletes and improving intercollegiate athletics.

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April 3rd

Athlon ranks the Pac-12 coaches

Athlon has come out with its 2014 ranking of the Pac-12 coaches. The full ranking can be found here, but here is what they had to say about CU head coach Mike MacIntyre:

9. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

Record at Colorado: 4-8 (1 year)

Career Record: 20-29 (4 years)

The arrow is clearly pointing up on MacIntyre’s tenure at Colorado. The Buffaloes were only 4-8 overall and won just one contest in Pac-12 play, but the program took a step forward last year after struggling under Jon Embree. Prior to taking over in Boulder, MacIntyre spent three years at San Jose State, transforming the Spartans from a 1-11 team in 2010 to a 10-2 squad in 2012. According to the recruiting ranks, Colorado’s roster ranks No. 12 in the Pac-12, and standout receiver Paul Richardson must be replaced in 2014. MacIntyre needs time to successfully rebuild Colorado, but with a few breaks this season, the Buffaloes could make a bowl. After all, that isn’t impossible considering MacIntyre’s second team at San Jose State made a four-game jump in the win column.

Athlon rates the University of Colorado at No. 53 nationally for coaching jobs (9th in Pac-12)

The full listing can be found here. What Athlon had to say about Colorado:

53. Colorado

Pros: Colorado lacks the tradition of some of the Pac-12 powers, but this program has enjoyed strong pockets of success over the past 25 years. The Buffs won three Big Eight championships in a row from 1989-91 (along with a national title in ’90), and they won four Big 12 North titles in the 2000s. With the right coach in place, this is a school that will attract quality players.

Cons: The facilities at Colorado lag behind most BCS conference schools, and the school’s commitment to athletics has been questioned in recent years. The Buffaloes recently announced a $170 million facility upgrade proposal, which is a step in the right direction. Also, the CU fans can be fickle; Folsom Field (53,750) has rarely been filled to capacity over the past few seasons.

Final Analysis: Three different coaches have won 10 games in a season since 1990, so it’s possible to win big at Colorado. But until the school makes a significant commitment to the program — which it claims to be doing now — CU cannot be considered an elite job.

 

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Playoff selection committee begins to set parameters  

From ESPN … The College Football Playoff 13-member selection committee wrapped up two days of meetings Thursday and came up with some recommendations, including the recusal policy and how often rankings will be released.

In 146 days, the college football season begins, the first with a new four-team playoff. How the teams will be selected for the playoff, what selection committee members will be allowed to vote or not vote for which teams and a minutia of other details are still unknown.

But they’re getting closer. Maybe not at the breakneck speed of the new fast-paced offenses, but all the details on how the teams will be selected for the new College Football Playoff is slowly and surely coming together.

The committee, which met at the Gaylord Texan, will forward the recommendations to the College Football Playoff’s management committee, executive director Bill Hancock and chairman Jeff Long said.

The management committee, which consists of the 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, will meet later this month in the Dallas area to approve those.

The recusal policy determines which committee members will not be allowed to vote for specific schools, based on their ties to that university. The policy is expected to be similar to — but not exactly like — the one used for the NCAA basketball selection committee.

… While there remain several unknowns, this much is known:

• The committee members will meet in Dallas during the season to discuss and release their top 25 rankings. The rankings are expected to start in midseason, in October, but it’s unknown after the initial rankings if it will be weekly or bi-weekly.

• The Top 25 rankings will consist only of the 25 teams. The committee will not disclose first-place votes or total number of poll points — like the AP and coaches’ polls do — for each team. So, for instance, it will be unknown how close team No. 4 is from No. 5. How individual members voted also will not be revealed.

• The final poll, which determines the four playoff teams, and other non-major bowl game pairings will be released from Dallas. When that final poll is released — either on the Saturday night after the final games are completed, or on Sunday — is still to be determined.

—–

 

April 2nd

UCLA opens spring practice without an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman

From CBSSports.com … The first spring practice for UCLA came with a few personnel updates from head coach Jim Mora, including a foot injury for a potential starter and a dismissal for suspended offensive tackle Torian White.

Eddie Vanderdoes, the Bruins’ 6-4, 305-pound defensive lineman, was spotted on a scooter in street clothes on Tuesday. Mora told reporters that Vanderdoes broke his foot during conditioning drills and will miss all of UCLA’s spring practice. Vanderdoes, who should be “good to go” for summer workouts, started seven games for the Bruins as a true freshman in 2013 and recording 37 tackles (4.5 for a loss).

Mora also announced that offensive lineman Torian White “is no longer with the program.” White, a starter to begin the 2013 season, suffered a broken bone and torn ligament in his right leg on Oct. 3 and was then suspended Nov. 19 following a sexual assault charge.

—–

 

April 1st

UCLA and Arizona State set up home-and-home series with LSU

By Tom Fornelli at CBSSports.com … You know what my favorite thing about the College Football Playoff has been so far? The amount of awesome home-and-home series that have been announced since. Teams are scheduling to impress, not rack up wins.

The latest example comes to us via LSU, as the Tigers announced a pair of future series with both UCLA and Arizona State.

“It’s our goal to play as an attractive non-conference schedule as possible,” said LSU athletic director Joe Alleva. “Getting teams to agree to a home-and-home series is very difficult but we will continue to make every attempt to bring a BCS-conference caliber opponent to Tiger Stadium.

“Scheduling is very difficult and done many years in advance. It’s important that you put together a schedule that prepares your team for the rigorous SEC schedule but also one that has balance so that your team is ready both mentally and physically for the conference slate. I think the addition of these teams to our future schedules gives us that.”

The first game between LSU and UCLA will be the season opener for both teams in 2021, taking place at the Rose Bowl, and then both teams will begin the 2024 season in Baton Rouge. The series with Arizona State will take place in Tempe in 2022 and Baton Rouge in 2023.

UCLA and LSU have never faced one another on the football field. The Tigers and Sun Devils have met once, in 2005. It just so happened to be Les Miles’ first game at LSU, and the Tigers won in Tempe 35-31.

—–

 

March 31st

Washington State hires former Oregon coach

From ESPN … Former Oregon coach Ernie Kent is headed to Washington State.

“I’m very excited to be back into coaching, and it’s a wonderful opportunity,” Kent told ESPN.com.

A news conference is set for Wednesday.

Kent, 59, coached the Ducks from 1997 to 2010 and went to the NCAA tournament five times, including Elite Eight appearances in 2002 and 2009.

Washington State athletic director Bill Moos was the AD at Oregon while Kent was the coach.

Kent was fired in 2010 after two straight seasons in Eugene without a postseason appearance. The Ducks were 8-23 in 2009 and 16-16 in 2010. He worked as an analyst for the Pac-12 network this past year.

Washington State talked to Boise State’s Leon Rice but Rice decided to stay at Boise State.

—–

 

Cal coach Mike Montgomery is retiring

From ESPN … He met with athletic director Sandy Barbour on Monday to discuss his future plans. Montgomery will address the media later in the day.

Montgomery has had one of the most successful runs in Cal history, including four NCAA tournament appearances, after a stellar career at rival Stanford.

He led the Bears to a 21-14 overall record, 10-8 in the Pac-12, this season. The Golden Bears’ season ended Wednesday at SMU in the NIT quarterfinals.

His run at Stanford is widely regarded as the best ever at the school. He led the Cardinal for 18 seasons and made 12 NCAA tournament appearances, a 1998 Final Four and a 2001 Elite Eight appearance. He coached multiple NBA players, including a number of high-level draft picks.

Montgomery spent two seasons coaching the Golden State Warriors, going 68-96. He was able to have the unique experience of staying in the Bay Area and coaching all three of the top men’s basketball jobs.

Montgomery, who also coached at Montana, has won 677 games in Division I. Montgomery, 67, is a cancer survivor. He went through bladder cancer surgery in 2011.

——

 

Utah loses linebacker who recorded 6.5 sacks last season

From the Salt Lake City Tribune … The Utes may be without one of their top pass-rushing threats when they open 2014 play.

Senior linebacker Jacoby Hale tore his ACL and MCL at Thursday’s practice and will undergo surgery, said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham after practice Saturday.

Whittingham said he’s seen guys come back as quickly as four months, but seven is more the norm. If Hale can’t return, the team may apply for a hardship waiver.

Hale’s injury came on a seemingly harmless play at Spence Eccles Field House. He pivoted to make a play on a left-sideline throw and fell to the turf, writhing in pain.

The exercise sport science major from Beaumont, Texas, recorded 6.5 sacks in nine games last season. He also suffered a season-ending ankle injury in 2012.

… If Hale is out, the Utes will have lost their top three pass-rushers from 2013, with no returning player boasting more than three sacks last season.

The Utes aren’t shy of linebackers, at least (Hale finished 10th in overall tackles). But if Hale can’t return in time or isn’t fully recovered, his explosiveness could be badly missed.

—–

 

March 29th

UCLA loses two, Arizona State one to NBA draft

From The Sporting News … After falling to No. 1 seed Florida in the Sweet 16 on Thursday, UCLA was dealt another blow when news broke early Friday morning that Kyle Anderson will declare for the NBA draft. Later Friday, it emerged that Zach LaVine will also be heading to the NBA.

An official announcement hasn’t yet been made, but Anderson’s father told Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv that Anderson will take his unique skill set to the NBA after two seasons with the Bruins, while LaVine’s father told Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News that his son, a freshman, would be departing as well.

Though he has forward size at 6-9 and 230 pounds, Anderson played point guard for much of the season for UCLA and shined with his all-around game, leading the team in rebounds (8.8 per game) and assists (6.5). He was also second in scoring behind guard Jordan Adams, averaging 14.6 points per game. Anderson also significantly improved his shooting from a year ago, raising his overall field goal percentage from 41.6 to 48 and his 3-point percentage from 21.1 to 48.3 (though he took just 58 3-pointers on the season).

LaVine, a guard, played 24.4 minutes per game this season and was fourth on UCLA in scoring, averaging 9.4 points and shooting 37.5 percent from deep.

Anderson will likely be a wing on the next level. He’s generally considered a lock to be a first-rounder and was slotted for the No 15 pick in SN’s latest mock draft.

As for Jahii Carson, there was this from ArizonaSports.com … Arizona State guard Jahii Carson was given two opportunities on Wednesday to put to rest any speculation of him returning to Tempe for his junior season. He declined to do so.

Naturally, speculation over his status — whether or not he’d declare for the NBA draft — began to swell. Analysts began to weigh in. Fans did the same.

He wasn’t ready, they said. He needed to work on his defense, on and on.

But, following a modest nine-point, four-assist effort Saturday on Senior Day at Wells-Fargo Arena, the sophomore quelled the rumors. Carson had played his last game in Tempe — a 78-60 ASU win over Cal — he told the assembled media.

“For the most part,” Carson answered, briefly — and somewhat vaguely — when he was directly asked after the game whether he had played his last game as a Sun Devil.

ASU coach Herb Sendek was far more clear.

“He’s not coming back,” he said after the game. “I know there was some rumblings after the last game.”

But Sendek minced no words.

“We can count on him trying to go to the NBA next year,” he went on.

Boise State head coach says “no, thanks” to Washington State

From ESPN … Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice has decided to stay with the Broncos and accept a pay raise instead of continuing talks with Washington State after interviewing with the Cougars, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com.

Rice just wrapped up his fourth season with the Broncos and will receive a five-year rollover, the source said.

Rice is a 1986 graduate of Washington State and interviewed earlier this week with his alma mater, which last week fired Ken Bone.

The Broncos finished this season with a 21-13 record (9-9 Mountain West Conference). They made the NCAA tournment as an at-large selection in 2012-13, and Rice is the fastest coach in school history to reach 50 wins.

Bone went 80-86 in five seasons with the Cougars.

 

March 28th

Varying opinions as to the fallout from the Northwestern NLRB ruling

After absorbing the NLRB decision to allow Northwestern players to vote to unionize, the question quickly moved on to, “What’s next?”.

Below is a sampling of opinions …

From Andy Staples at Sports Illustrated … Donald Remy was disappointed on Wednesday. This has become somewhat of a theme for the NCAA’s chief legal counsel. In fact, if the fictional Soggy Bottom Boys are stumped for their next hit, they should consider writing “Man of Constant Disappointment” and dedicate it to Remy.

In November, Remy was disappointed that a federal judge in California certified a class of current athletes seeking compensation for the use of their names and likenesses for the extremely popular football and basketball television offerings sold by major college athletic conferences. This case was brought by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, but the far more important plaintiffs are the current athletes who joined the suit last year. In February, Remy was disappointed that the judge moved that case one step closer to trial. On Wednesday, the boulder barreling toward the NCAA accelerated so fast that Remy found himself disappointed by a ruling in a case in which his organization has no direct involvement. A National Labor Relations Board official ruled that Northwestern football players aren’t “student-athletes,” but employees of the university whose efforts generate a considerable sum of money.

Wednesday’s ruling likely will have zero immediate effect. Northwestern can appeal, and the ruling only affects players at private schools because the NLRB has no power over state-run institutions. Still, the ruling should serve as the tipping point for the NCAA and the leaders of the schools in the five wealthiest conferences to realize it’s time to stop fighting and start bargaining. If the people in charge of college sports don’t want to see the system they’ve created come crashing down in a courtroom or a bureaucrat’s office or in the halls of Congress, it’s time to invite the athletes to the table — unionized or not — and hammer out a deal with which everyone can live. If not, their disappointment will only continue ….

…. Now, the schools — which, let’s face it, are the NCAA — must choose. Do they make a deal with the athletes? Or do they risk any or all of the following?

• An ultimately unfavorable ruling in the O’Bannon case that would essentially make it illegal to televise a college football game without explicitly compensating the participants.

• An ultimately unfavorable NLRB ruling that would recognize players as employees. That would require schools to sink money into worker’s compensation, but it also could have a much bigger impact. If football players are employees, then the schools are employers. From a legal standpoint, they would be very much in the football business. The football business is not part of a school’s educational mission, and someone in Congress might look at all those cable-network dollars and decide it’s time schools started paying taxes on that revenue.

• An ultimately unfavorable ruling in the case Kessler is bringing, which essentially would declare the entire business model for major college sports illegal.

From Ivan Maisel at ESPN … A National Labor Relations Board regional director Wednesday found that Northwestern football players who receive scholarships are university employees and may unionize. The ruling might be groundbreaking, but we are a long way from breaking ground on a union hall adjacent to the Nicolet Football Center.

For one thing, the decision released on Wednesday isn’t the last word. It is the first word. Anyone who can identify the doink-doink of “Law & Order” has heard the legal cliché that a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. What hearing officers do is akin to certifying a class in a class-action lawsuit. Now the game begins.

As my colleague Lester Munson detailed, regional director Peter Sung Ohr believes that former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and the sundry current Wildcats who want to unionize have a good case. However, Northwestern already has said it plans to take the case to the entire NLRB.

For another, this decision would contradict a stack of case law in which courts have ruled that student-athletes are not employees. If the full board turns down Northwestern’s appeal, surely the university will take its case back to the courts, where that case law might have more sway.

And even if the courts reverse the case law and rule that the players may unionize, thus changing the character of intercollegiate athletics, don’t you think that the legislative branch (Congress) would join the fun?

So nothing is going to happen for a long time.

But the most interesting law here might be the law of unintended consequences ….

From Dennis Dodd at CBS Sports … The first inclination was to freak out.

What, the Northwestern players can unionize?! What’s next — a Wildcat strike?

(Labor buffs will see what I did there.)

I got the news while driving to the Honda Center here for the day-before interviews at the West Regional. Before I got off the I-5, CBS Radio News called wanting an interview. I had to grasp the significance of Thursday’s announcement.

Yes, a regional National Labor Relations Board had ruled Wednesday the Northwestern players could unionize. The ongoing battle had taken a significant step. The issue still has to go before the national board. For now, any such ruling would only impact private schools.

Whatever happens, the case seems to be headed for the Supreme Court. It’s that contentious. It’s that important. It could also take years.

…. I’m not sure how this issue is going to end up, but it does indicate that players have become more self-aware. They are realizing they are a free labor pool that may not be properly protected medically and financially.

They now have legal representation in several lawsuits.

Student-athlete welfare is a front burner issue. And someone — soon — is going to have to deal with it. The most obvious someone is the NCAA. They happen to be way behind on this particular issue.

Northwestern and the association both issued statements expressing their “disappointment” with the decision. We’re kind of way beyond that now.

The Chicago Tribune declared it was a “stunning decision” that could potentially “alter dramatically” big-time college sports. Significantly, the NLRB regional director said the decision means players have an economic relationship with the university.

We didn’t need the NLRB to tell us high school kids are being recruited because of their football prowess. The system, in some places, is out of control. Anyone watch the HBO Real Sports piece Tuesday night?

It’s that now the players’ plight has been formalized. There may be a day when players can collectively bargain gassers at the end of the practice. You can see a detailed list of the National College Players Association’s demands here. They are not outrageous.

And in a poll … 75% don’t think college athletes should be allowed to join a union

From CBSSports.com … According to a poll conducted by HBO Real Sports and The Marist College Center for Sports Communication, three in four Americans (75 percent) think college athletes should not be allowed to join a union since they aren’t college employees. The poll also shows that 22 percent feel the student athletes shoudl be able to join a union while the remaining 4 percent are “unsure.”

The HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll also shows that 28 percent of non-white residents are in favor or athletes unionizing, while only 19 percent of white residents support the idea. On the flip side, 67 percent of non-white Americans are against the idea of a student athlete’s union compared to 78 percent of white residents.

“When the majority of revenue generating college athletes are unpaid African-American players and the majority of coaches are often white and well compensated, it almost compels the public to raise the question of race,” said Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “It is a complex issue. While sports often act as a true melting pot, it feels less apparent when financial compensation in college sports doesn’t reflect that ideal.”

And it’s not just unionizing, either. The HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll found that 67 percent of Americans don’t think college athletes should be paid, while 29 percent believe they should be and four percent are “unsure.”

——

 

March 26th

NLRB ruling could have far-reaching consequences

From ESPN … In a potentially game-changing moment for college athletics, the Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Wednesday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees of the university and can unionize.

NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr cited the players’ time commitment to their sport and the fact that their scholarships were tied directly to their performance as reasons for granting them union rights.

Ohr wrote in his ruling that the players “fall squarely within the [National Labor Relations] Act’s broad definition of ‘employee’ when one considers the common law definition of ‘employee.’”

Ohr ruled that the players can hold a vote on whether they want to be represented by the College Athletes Players Association, which brought the case to the NLRB along with former Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter and the United Steelworkers union.

“I couldn’t be more happy and grateful for today’s ruling, though it is the ruling we expected,” said Ramogi Huma, president of both the National College Players Assn, a nonprofit advocacy group that has been around since 2001, and the College Athletes Players Association, the union that would represent the players and was formed in January.

“I just have so much respect for Kain and the football players who stood up in unity to take this on. They love their university but they think it’s important to exercise rights under labor law.

“The NCAA invented the term student athlete to prevent the exact ruling that was made today. For 60 years, people have bought into their notion that they are students only. The reality is, players are employees and today’s ruling confirms that. The players are one giant step closer to justice.”

Northwestern issued a statement shortly after the ruling saying it would appeal to the full NLRB in Washington, D.C.

“While we respect the NLRB process and the regional director’s opinion, we disagree with it,” the statement read. “Northwestern believes strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students. Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes.”

—–

 

UMass leaving the Mid-American Conference

Note … Colorado has a two-for-one contract with the University of Massachusetts, with the Buffs playing in Boston on September 6th, with the Minutemen coming to Boulder in 2015 and 2019.

From ESPN … The Mid-American Conference and University of Massachusetts reached an agreement forcing UMass to leave the league as a football-only member after the 2015 season, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

UMass had been a football-only member of the MAC the past two seasons and primarily a member of the Atlantic 10 in its other sports.

Last month, the MAC offered full membership to UMass, but the school declined, sources told ESPN. Per UMass’ agreement with the MAC, if it turned down full membership from the MAC, the school would only be able to remain a football-only member for two more seasons, sources said.

In each of the Minutemen’s first two years in the MAC, in 2012 and 2013, they were 1-7 in MAC play and 1-11 overall.

UMass will remain in the MAC East Division in 2014 and 2015.

In 2016, the MAC will be a 12-team conference consisting of Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, Miami (Ohio) and Ohio in the East; and Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan in the West.

—–

 

March 25th

Dr. Pepper to be the presenting sponsor of the College Football Playoff

From ESPN … Dr Pepper has been named the first official presenting sponsor of the new College Football Playoff national championship trophy and the first official championship partner of the College Football Playoff, ESPN announced on Tuesday.

The trophy will be featured during the postseason, including its presentation to the winning team at the conclusion of the College Football Playoff national championship on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015.

The new trophy will also receive plenty of exposure during the regular season, including stops at marquee games that could impact the championship run, as well as select sites for College GameDay Built by the Home Depot.

“Dr Pepper has many longstanding relationships in college, including ours,” said Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff. “Dr Pepper’s people are top notch and their commitment to this great game is unique and exciting. We are grateful that ESPN has secured this partnership and we are thrilled about the future of the new playoff.”

Dr Pepper will also continue its role as an SEC official sponsor and has renewed its long-term commitment with ESPN and the new SEC Network. Dr Pepper will continue its title sponsorship of the ACC championship game on ESPN in early December and will be presenting sponsor of the Pac-12 championship telecast.

—–

 

March 24th

CSU backup quarterback transferring

From the Coloradoan … Conner Smith, the quarterback who led the CSU football team to victory in three of the four games he started in 2012, is planning to transfer to another school to complete his eligibility, coach Jim McElwain said Monday.

Smith, a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder from Richmond, Texas, completed 80 of 126 passes for 635 yards and six touchdowns in the six games he played in 2012 after starter Garrett Grayson and backup M.J. McPeek both went down with injuries.

Smith participated in Colorado State University’s six-week Ram U. offseason conditioning program that ended just before spring break, but he will not participate in spring practices, McElwain said. Smith could not immediately be reached for comment.

His departure will leave redshirt freshman Nick Stevens and sophomore Craig Leonard, a graduate of Fort Collins’ Fossil Ridge High School, battling for the backup job this spring behind Grayson, who set a single-season school passing record last year by throwing for 3,696 yards.

—–

 

Pac-12 television money not as much a windfall as some fans believe

An interesting breakdown from the Oregonian, showing that the television contracts are exactly all new money for schools in the Pac-12 …

The new ESPN/FOX contract alone results in $17.3 million per school this year, but there are some costs here that reduce the bottom line.

We’ll start with that $17.3 million figure in new funds.

The institutions were receiving $6 million each from revenue from the old contract, which now evaporates, so you have to take that away.

= $11.3 million in new funds.

Minus an additional approximately $1.3 million each to buy out existing marketing agreements. Stanford and Oregon State, in particular, had existing agreements with Learfield Communications that cost them exactly that amount to buy out.

= $10 million in new funds.

Many of the universities themselves requested “paybacks” from their athletic departments. Early on, Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne told me on the field in Tuscon before kickoff to a football game that some in his university administration were well aware of the windfall from the new deal and already asking. Not sure how much Arizona asked for, but Oregon State’s athletic department had to make $6.5 million in paybacks, per athletic director Bob DeCarolis.

 = $3.5 million in new funds.

The Pac-12 Network resulted in an additional $800,000 in new revenue to each Pac-12 institution. This is good, and should increase in future years.

 = $4.3 million in new funds.

So that’s about where we are — $4.3 million in new money for the average Joe Pac-12. It’s not $21 million or $30 million. This figure stands to grow in future years because the $21 million announced was averaged over 12 years of the contract. Also there won’t be paybacks and buyouts moving forward. But that’s a good number right now, so spend wisely.

—–

 

March 23rd

Former Buff linebacker Jeff Smart earns assistant coach job at Columbia

From GoColumbia.com … Jeff Smart will coach the linebackers and be the assistant special teams coach.

… Jeff Smart served as Columbia’s Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning from July 2013 to January 2014.  He was the defensive graduate assistant at his alma mater the University of Colorado, coaching the outside linebackers.

“Jeff Smart has been involved with our program since last summer. Jeff worked as Ryan Cidzik’s assistant all last year and understands our players and our system. Jeff brings a Division I mentality, having played linebacker at the University of Colorado,” Mangurian added.  “He interacts well with our players and staff. He will work with Chris Rippon and the linebackers, as well as assist Matt Thurin with the special teams.”

Smart participated in rookie camp for the Cleveland Browns at linebacker in 2010. At Colorado, Smart was a four-year letterwinner and three-year starter for the Buffalos, serving as captain as a senior.  Smart was second team All-Big 12 as a junior, honorable mention as a sophomore and senior.

… Congratulations, Jeff!

—–

 

March 22nd

Oregon wide receiver transferring to South Florida

From ESPN … Oregon wide receiver Eric Dungy is expected to transfer to South Florida to play his final season, sources told ESPN.

Dungy is the son of former Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy, who still lives in Tampa. Eric Dungy’s transfer to USF is not official, but on Wednesday he and his father visited the school, sources said.

Dungy is scheduled to graduate in four years at Oregon, allowing him to transfer and play his final year of eligibility at another school this fall.

He graduated from Tampa’s Plant High School in 2010. He redshirted his first season at Oregon. From 2011 to 2013, he played in 20 games for the Ducks, including two starts in 2012.

The 6-foot-1, 182-pound Dungy has seven career receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown.

—–

 

March 21st

Nebraska offensive lineman Alex Lewis sentenced

From the Daily Camera … Former University of Colorado lineman Alexander Lewis was sentenced today to 45 days in jail and 2 years of probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault for his role a fight on University Hill that left an Air Force cadet unconscious.

Boulder District Judge Patrick Butler did say Lewis will be allowed to finish out his semester at the University of Nebraska — where he transferred last year — before serving the jail sentence, saying he was encouraged by Lewis’ work in school, but still felt a punitive sanction was necessary.

“When somebody is doing something and doing something well we want to encourage that going forward,” Butler said. “But I got to tell you, even though I think you are trying to accept responsibility for this, there is some minimizing still. I don’t think a couple of pushes did this.”

Lewis, 21, will be allowed to complete the probation in Nebraska. As a condition of his probation, Lewis will have to complete 100 hours of community service and undergo anger management and substance abuse evaluation.

… Lewis — an offensive lineman who transferred to Nebraska in May — lost his football scholarship but told Butler he is doing well in school and has acknowledged he has a problem with alcohol.

“Day in and day out, I thought about what I did,” Lewis said. “I’m sorry for Lee, I can only imagine how hard it must have been for Lee and his parents.

“It scares me to know I had an impact on someone else’s life. Hard to come to terms with the fact that I had a problem, but I did get help… Off the field I’ve grown exponentially as a man.”

—–

 

UCLA picks up top quarterback recruit from the Class of 2015

From ESPN … UCLA scored a major recruiting victory on Thursday afternoon, as Josh Rosen — the No. 1 quarterback and No. 16 overall recruit in the class of 2015 — announced his verbal commitment to the Bruins and coach Jim Mora.

While Rosen began his recruitment as a strong lean to Stanford, Cal actually emerged as the team to beat for a moment after Rosen’s relationship with the Cardinal faded due to him not receiving an offer. But a poor season by the Golden Bears allowed UCLA to jump into the picture.

“I knew for sure it would be UCLA four days ago,” he said. “I put UCLA in front a few months ago, but the Michigan visit made me go in depth about why UCLA was the right place for me. A lot went into the decision and it wasn’t made just for football. I’m going to the university where I fit best in all aspects.”

During his recruitment, Rosen remarked at how the situation at UCLA could play out perfectly, as it is close to home, and if Brett Hundley leaves for the NFL following the 2014 season, he could be in the mix to play as a true freshman.

With Rosen on board, the Bruins’ staff will undoubtedly use him — Rosen is popular among his peers and has name recognition — to recruit other 2015 athletes. Rosen has already struck up a friendship with 2015 ESPN 300 wide receiver Cordell Broadus, as the two went together on nearly every rep at the recent Los Angeles Nike Football Training Camp.

It’s also big for the Bruins because UCLA is dealing with limited scholarships for this class, due to the roster situation. UCLA will likely take fewer than 20 signatures in the 2015 class, and could be down to as few as 15 new enrollees.

—–

 

March 19th

Washington also has a linebacker who wants to play running back

From SI.com … When Shaq Thompson watched UCLA linebacker Myles Jack trot out with the offense, take a handoff and burst through the Bruins’ offensive line against Arizona State last November, Thompson, Washington’s hardest-hitting linebacker, had one thought: Hey, I know how to do that, too.

“He beat me to it,” said Thompson, a rising junior. “He started the trend, I’m just hopping on it.”

Though he’s made his living on defense for two seasons in Seattle, Thompson, a 6-foot-2, 231-pounder, has plenty of offensive experience. Going back to his days at Grant High in Sacramento, what stands out more than his 57 tackles as a senior are his 1,134 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 120 carries. Jack, a rising sophomore, made headlines across the country last fall for his old-school, two-way style after starting 11 games at linebacker and one at running back. (UCLA’s depth was depleted, but Jack’s offensive ability turned out to be a weapon that lasted longer than one game.) Pac-12 coaches named him both offensive and defensive freshman of the year for his versatility, a rarity in this era of specialization.

Six hundred miles north in Seattle, Thompson liked the concept of carrying the ball again, but he was mostly joking when he walked into new coach Chris Petersen’s office and floated the idea. To his surprise, Petersen perked up.

“I’m from where Shaq’s from, I grew up there, so I’ve known about Shaq a long time,” Petersen said. “He’s just a good football player. Offense, defense, he just plays good football.”

After two years in the Pac-12, Thompson maintains that the toughest running back to tackle was former Washington All-America Bishop Sankey, who declared for the 2014 NFL draft in December. “(He can) run through you, run past you and juke you,” Thompson said.

Because he’s had a limited number of reps on offense, Thompson has yet to discover who delivers the hardest hits for the Huskies. He remains committed to defense first, but thinks his frame and speed could provide problems for opposing defenses. Thompson also points out that small details make a great linebacker — staying low, keeping a stance, playing downhill — and translate perfectly to running back, where players have to “stay low and come out of your break fast.”

“It feels a little natural still,” Thompson said. “I haven’t touched the ball for almost two years. (Former Washington coach Steve) Sarkisian had told me they’d do something for me (on offense) but nothing really happened. I’m wasn’t tripping though — I came here for linebacker, defense and special teams.”

Ironically, it was his work on special teams two years ago that hinted to Petersen that Thompson might be perfect for some offensive work. In the Huskies’ 28-26 loss to Boise State in the 2012 Las Vegas Bowl, Thompson returned a kick 30 yards, a move that left an impression on the then-Boise State head coach.

“We’ll continue to experiment,” Petersen said. “Shoot, he might wind up our best guy and we may have to give him more reps. You always want the ball in the hands of your playmakers. Nothing is set in stone. We’re just kinda seeing where it goes.”

Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-football/news/20140319/shaq-thompson-washington-huskies/#ixzz2wQQfSwpd

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March 18th

Washington State fires its basketball coach

From ESPN … Ken Bone has been let go as coach at Washington State, the school announced Tuesday.

Bone, 55, has spent the past five seasons with the Cougars and will leave with an 80-86 mark. He had the unenviable task of following Tony Bennett, who took WSU to two NCAA tournament appearances in his three years in Pullman — including the Sweet 16 in 2008 — before leaving for Virginia.

“I appreciate what Ken has done for Cougar Basketball, leading us to the postseason twice in the last four years, and I thanked him for his service to WSU,”  athletic director Bill Moos said in a statement. “But at this point we need to revitalize our fan base, particularly our student body, and position this program to compete for championships.”

Bone was in the fifth year of a seven-year contract. His buyout included the final two years of his contract worth the remaining $1.7 million.

Bone, who exits as the Cougars’ sixth all-time winningest coach, came from Portland State, where he took the Vikings to two consecutive NCAA tourney appearances.

Moos said Washington State would “begin the process of naming the next head coach immediately.”

Washington State was 10-21 this season, 3-15 in Pac-12 play.

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March 17th

Lawsuit against NCAA filed, challenging amateur status of athletes

From ESPN … In the most direct challenge yet to the NCAA’s longstanding economic model, high-profile sports labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler filed an antitrust claim Monday in a New Jersey federal court on behalf of a group of college basketball and football players, arguing the association has unlawfully capped player compensation at the value of an athletic scholarship.

“The main objective is to strike down permanently the restrictions that prevent athletes in Division I basketball and the top tier of college football from being fairly compensated for the billions of dollars in revenues that they help generate,” Kessler told ESPN. “In no other business — and college sports is big business — would it ever be suggested that the people who are providing the essential services work for free. Only in big-time college sports is that line drawn.”

The lawsuit names the NCAA and the five largest conferences (the Southeastern, Big Ten, Pacific-12, Atlantic Coast and Big 12) as defendants and effectively asks for an end to NCAA-style amateurism. The players listed as plaintiffs include Clemson defensive back Martin Jenkins, Rutgers basketball player J.J. Moore, UTEP tight end Kevin Perry and Cal tight end Bill Tyndall, though the claim is a class action and proposes to represent all scholarship players in FBS football and Division I basketball. Jenkins is a junior, while the other three are seniors who recently completed their NCAA eligibility.

The move comes on the heels of a similar, if less aggressive, claim filed earlier this month by a Seattle firm on behalf of former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston. In that suit, which does not include current players, the same defendants that Kessler’s group is targeting are asked to pay damages for the difference in the value of an athletic scholarship and the full cost of attendance — an amount equivalent to several thousand dollars annually.

By contrast, the Kessler suit dispenses with the cost-of-attendance argument and does not ask for damages as a group. It simply states that no cap is legal in a free market and asks the judge to issue an injunction against the NCAA ending the practice. It contends that NCAA member universities are acting as a cartel by fixing the prices paid to athletes, who presumably would receive offers well in excess of tuition, room, board and books if not restricted by NCAA rules.

“We’re looking to change the system. That’s the main goal,” Kessler said. “We want the market for players to emerge.”

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March 16th

Starting wide receiver at Arizona State to transfer

From FoxSports.com … Arizona State receiver Richard Smith has been granted release from his scholarship and will explore transfer options, an ASU source confirmed Thursday.

Smith’s release had apparently been in the works for a while, and Smith indicated on his Twitter account Thursday morning he was visiting Boise State. Reached by text, Smith said he’s also looking at San Jose State.

Smith, a junior-to-be, caught 32 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns last season, averaging 8.6 yards per catch. A starter most of last season, he would have entered spring practice next week as the No. 1 receiver at the “Z” position.

The 2013 season was a bit of a roller coaster for Smith. After coach Todd Graham called him the most improved offensive player during fall camp, Smith struggled early in the season with dropped passes and a costly fumble in ASU’s loss to Notre Dame. He eventually regained the trust of coaches and made a number of big plays, including the winning touchdown in the final three minutes of ASU’s 20-19 win over Utah.

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March 13th

UCLA sets up home-and-home with Texas A&M

From CBSSports.com … Both Texas A&M and UCLA are programs that have been trending in the right direction in recent years, and now they’ll be facing each other in the coming years.

It was announced on Thursday that the Aggies and Bruins will play a home-and-home series against one another.

“We are very pleased this series was able to come together and provides our program with an exciting, premier non-conference matchup against UCLA,” said Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman in a statement. “UCLA brings one of the top programs from the West Coast to the redeveloped Kyle Field in Aggieland, and for our Aggie team and the 12th Man to have the chance to play in the Rose Bowl is a historic opportunity.”

The first game is scheduled to be played at Kyle Field on Sept. 3, 2016 with the Aggies making the return trip to the Rose Bowl on Sept. 2, 2017.

The two schools have faced off four times in their history, splitting the series with two wins apiece. The most recent meeting was in the 1998 Cotton Bowl, a 29-23 win for UCLA.

While Washington sets up home-and-home with a Big Ten school … Rutgers

From CBSSports.com … So much hot scheduling news on this mid-March Thursday!

First was the announcement that UCLA and Texas A&M had scheduled a home-and-home series, which will be played in 2016 and 2017. Well, that series caused the postponement of UCLA’s series with Rutgers to 2020 and 2021.

But not to worry! Rutgers didn’t even have to leave the Pac-12 to find a replacement for the original dates, as the school announced a home-and-home of its own with Washington. The first game of the series will be played in Seattle on Sept. 3, 2016 with the second game in Piscataway on Sept. 2, 2017.

The first meeting in 2016 will be the first meeting ever between the two schools.

Rutgers will make the move from the American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten this season.

CU alum Chris Fowler signs extension with ESPN

From ESPN … Multisport commentator Chris Fowler – widely regarded as one of the most versatile and talented announcers in television – will remain with ESPN as a lead voice on many of the network’s marquee events, primarily college football and tennis Majors, through 2023.

Fowler, who called ESPN’s Thursday night college football series from 2006 to 2009, will return to the college football booth as part of the nine-year extension, working play-by-play on the weekly Saturday Night Football series on ABC with analyst Kirk Herbstreit and sideline reporter Heather Cox. He and Herbstreit, who have worked together on ESPN’s College GameDay Built by The Home Depot since 1996, will also usher in the new era in college football, teaming up to work a College Football Playoff Semifinal game and the College Football National Championship. He will continue to host College GameDay, a position he has held since 1990.

“I am very excited about hosting GameDay for a 25th year and extending my work with Kirk Herbstreit for a 19th season and beyond,” said Fowler. “There is a strong legacy of top college football voices on ABC, from Chris Schenkel to Keith Jackson to Brent Musburger. I’m looking forward to returning to the booth and being a part of that incredible tradition. As for tennis, I can’t wait to continue and expand my role in ESPN’s industry-leading coverage.”

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March 11th

Quotable Quotes from Washington State’s Mike Leach

Love him or hate him, Washington State head coach Mike Leach is always good for a quote.

From CougCenter.com … Bill Connelly of SB Nation was able to tap into that insight quite a bit as part of a feature he wrote discussing the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and the state of football stats. The entire feature is an excellent read if you are into stats, and even if you aren’t. It’s pushing 8,000 words though, so if you want to skip to the Leach quotes, look for the “Your 2014 College Football Analytics Panel” subthread about halfway down the page.

There was no college football analytics panel at Sloan, so Bill interviewed Leach, CBS’ Gary Danielson and ESPN’s Jeff Bennett separately then combined their responses into a quasi panel discussion. Leach’s comments are excellent. I’ll provide a small piece of what he said on each topic, but would absolutely recommend checking out the full responses.

On hurry-up, no-huddle offenses

We’re a little more limited in using the hurry-up than some. I can’t say we’ve ever utilized it as much as some teams do, but we’ve never not utilized it. We want to be quick but not hurried.

On advanced football stats

Information’s only valuable if it can be applied practically. And with 22 different players, and with each team’s ability to substitute to whatever situation they want to … how do they apply all this information quickly enough to be effective?

The usefulness of stats

Sometimes coaches’ll say, “In this zone, six percent of the time they run this trick play.” But what are you going to do with six percent? They’re going to beat you with all the stuff they do 94 percent of the time. There’s a point to where you have to respond to their best pitch.

On efficiency

Explosives are important. You want to have explosives. They’re like home runs, and routine plays are like on-base percentage. At the end of the day, on-base percentage is going to come out on top, but the one thing about explosives is that you can put it out of reach really quickly. But it seems to me that the power hitting is quite a bit streakier than the on-base percentage.

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March 10th

NCAA to consider early signing period

From ESPN … College football is taking steps toward establishing an early signing period, according to the NCAA official who manages the national letter of intent program.

Susan Peal, NCAA associate director of operations, said the continued acceleration of recruiting has led the Conference Commissioners Association to consider an earlier date to supplement the long-existing date in February, similar to the structure for basketball and other sports.

“I think everyone wants an early signing period,” Peal said this week. “It’s just trying to nail down what’s the appropriate date for that.”

The letter of intent program is governed by the CCA, a 32-member panel of Division I conference commissioners. The group will meet in June to review an agenda that includes an early signing period.

The commissioners previously considered the issue, but Peal said it has been a few years.

“I think there’s more momentum now than ever just because of the changes that are happening with recruiting regulations,” said Peal, who works closely with the commissioners on topics related to national letters of intent. “The landscape is changing, so it’s time to look at it again.”

The usage last fall of financial-aid agreements, available for January-enrolling prospects on Aug. 1 of their senior years to secure a scholarship, is among the accelerating factors. Prospects who sign financial-aid agreements and enroll early do not sign letters of intent.

Stanford’s David Shaw calls it a “terrible idea” …

From ESPN … If the NCAA moves forward with an early signing period in college football, it will be staunchly opposed by Stanford coach David Shaw.

“I might be alone in this, I think it’s terrible,” Shaw said following the Cardinal’s spring practice Saturday. “I think it’s terrible. The reason [for an early signing period], in my opinion, is coaches don’t like when kids commit and switch late.”

Susan Peal, NCAA associate director of operations, said earlier this week that the continued acceleration of recruiting has led the Conference Commissioners Association to consider an earlier date to supplement the long-existing date in February, similar to the structure for basketball and other sports.

Shaw, though, isn’t convinced such a change will prevent recruits from switching commitments.

“What’s going to happen is, if a kid wants to change his mind late after the early signing period, he’s going to appeal and that appeal is going to go through because the committees that decide those appeals, they always give in towards the student-athlete,” Shaw said.

“So you have a kid that might be 16 going on 17 that commits and then really has a chance to think about it and changes his mind and we’re going to try and hold him to it.

“On top of that — and I’ll be honest here, which is rare for a football coach in a setting like this — but we have a lot of kids that don’t know if they’re going to get into school until after that early signing day,” Shaw said. “So we’re going to punish the academic schools just because coaches don’t want a kid to switch their commitment?

“People can make whatever argument they want, it boils down to that. … Coaches don’t want to keep recruiting an entire class all year.”

But … Washington State’s Mike Leach reportedly in favor …

From AllCoug’dUp.comTeams like Washington State get three or four of these awesome four-star verbals early each year but get them stolen by more prestigious teams late in the process. This is why Mike Leach and many other Pac-12 coaches have been an advocate of an early signing period for a long time. Mike Riley will benefit at OSU, Sonny Dykes at Cal, of course Mike Leach at Washington State and you know Petersen at Washington knows a thing or two about losing recruits to more prestigious schools from his Boise State days.

It is frustrating as a coach to have to pick up the scraps when you have invested a crazy amount of time and energy into holding a recruit from de-committing, only to watch him drop off of the board with less than two weeks to go. Anything to decrease that stress and quite frankly, pure waste, would significantly help mid-level and even lower level teams.

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March 6th

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

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March 5th

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.

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March 4th

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.”

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March 3rd

Former USC quarterback visits Hawai’i

The import of the story, of course, is that the Colorado plays Hawai’i the next two seasons …

From NBCSports.comMax Wittek visit to Texas may have “exceeded expectations,” but could you really turn down a trip to Hawaii?

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 NewsScott 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.

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February 28th

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.

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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.

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February 27th

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.

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February 26th

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.

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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.

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February 25th

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.

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February 24th

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.

February 21st

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.

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February 20th

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.”

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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.

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February 18th

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.”

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February 16th

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.

You can see all the figures here.

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.

School 2013 Pct. change
Washington 68,769 +17.3%
Stanford 50,726 +17.0%
Arizona State 62,689 +10.3%
UCLA 70,285 +2.6%
Oregon 57,660 +0.3%
Utah 45,194 -0.3%
Arizona 47,619 -0.7%
Oregon State 42,964 -1.1%
Washington State 29,738 -1.7%
California 49,329 -11.7%
Colorado 38,463 -15.2%
USC 73,126 -16.9%

February 14th

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.”

Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-football/news/20140213/rule-change-no-huddle-ncaa/#ixzz2tJowRRdD

February 12th

“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:

Arizona -

- 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

Utah -

- 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.”

February 10th

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.

February 7th

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:

State Pac-12 recruits
California 129
Texas 18
Florida 17
Arizona 14
Washington 14
Colorado 9
Utah 8
Hawaii 7
Louisiana 6
Oregon 6
Nevada 4
Idaho 4
Illinois 3
Georgia 3
Virginia 2
Pennsylvania 2
Montana 2
Maryland 2
Mississippi 1
Missouri 1
Kansas 1
Iowa 1
Tennessee 1
Minnesota 1
Oklahoma 1
Nebraska 1
Indiana 1
Alabama 1
British Columbia 1
Samoa 1

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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.

Cal defensive lineman Ted Agu. (Cal Athletics)

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.

February 6th

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)
14. USC
15. Stanford
21. Arizona State
23. Arizona
26. UCLA
27. Oregon
45. Washington
46. California
61. Washington State
64. Utah
67. Oregon State
71. Colorado

Scout.com
10. USC
16. Arizona State
18. Stanford
20. UCLA
22. Oregon
30. Arizona
36. Washington
43. California
48. Oregon State
59. Washington State
68. Utah
71. Colorado

Rivals.com
10. USC
14. Stanford
18. UCLA
22. Arizona State
26. Oregon
28. Arizona
36. Washington
45. California
49. Oregon State
64. Colorado
68. Utah
71. Washington State

247sports.com
11. USC
13. Stanford
19. UCLA
21. Oregon
23. Arizona State
31. Arizona
37. Washington
48. California
61. Oregon State
63. Utah
65. Washington State
77. Colorado

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8 Responses to “Pac-12 Notes”

  1. buffnaustin

    Good! Without Thomas we can keep The Ducks under 70.

  2. JW Blue

    underwater treadmill?
    holy moly
    the rich get richer

  3. JW Blue

    Does anyone feel sorry for USC?
    not me
    Even with 56 schollies every kid who will be on the field this weekend for USC will be at least 4 star talent.
    Coach em up Kiffin, if you can, and quit cursing Pete Carrol

  4. buffnaustin

    The good news is we are not ranked #120 like we were last year. Steady upward progress is all I am asking.

  5. JW Blue

    after watching both teams play this weekend, I think Fresno at #25 could handle #1 alabama

  6. BuffLady

    I wore my blue shirt (since Buffs were not playing) just to piss off my neighbors and cheer for the Bruins. Sad day for Husker fans but good day for me! Note: I thought it was classy of the NU fans at the stadium to honor the Bruin who was killed last week with his number and blue and gold balloons. In light of what happened in Boulder last week, some things are more important than football.

  7. Dan

    Iowa State lost to UNI (University of Northern Iowa)


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