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Slive Talks New Bowl Possibilities For His League

This offseason when people have talked about college football’s postseason, the focus has been on creating some form of playoff system.  (We’re still guessing a seeded Plus-One system involving existing bowls for the semifinals and a championship game awarded to the highest bidder will be the eventual answer.)  But SEC commissioner Mike Slive is also thinking about the future of college football’s bowl structure.

This season the SEC will expand from 12 to 14 teams.  The schedule for 2012 will include just eight conference games which means a lot of league members will reach the current six-win bowl eligibility line.  With no new bowls added to the league’s line-up this season, that means a number of bowl-eligible SEC teams might be left home this holiday season.  (Last year, the SEC had nine teams qualify for 10 bowl slots, but two of those slots came in the BCS Championship Game which left an opening in the BBVA Compass Bowl.)

Moving forward, Slive knows there will be interest in his league when existing bowl contracts expire following the 2013 season… and at that point, it could be time for the league to tie-in with a Texas-based bowl:

 

“I don’t really doubt there are some bowls that would be interested in us for a couple years.  The question for us is whether they have the freedom to deal with us…

I think we have to take a look (at moving into Texas).  I think we will have some opportunities.  But at the same time, we have a really good bowl lineup now.”

 

There are a number of issues at play here and they’re all coming to a head at the same time.  There’s a strong push to create some form of four-team playoff.  The idea of playing games at campus locations is dying because some venues don’t have the size, luxury suites, or staffing to host mega-events.  That means at least two bowl are likely to be involved in a semifinal rotation.  If that indeed comes to pass, how will that rotation work and will traditional tie-ins be maintained?  For example, will the Sugar Bowl still be the destination for the top SEC team not reaching the BCS title game.

On another level, it will be open season to cut new bowl deals after 2013.  Who will the SEC choose as its partners?  Will it add bowls to its mix?

Finally, there’s also been talk this offseason of raising the bowl eligibility standard from six wins to seven.  If that happens, there will be fewer teams bowl eligible each year and — obviously — fewer bowls to host them.

In other words, while the whole world waits to see if white smoke or black smoke rises from the chimney of the next FBS commissioners’ conference on a playoff, the bowl picture is just as cloudy and muddled as the playoff talk.

That said, there should be no fear amongst SEC fans.  Slive’s league is the darling of the television world thanks to its past success, the reputation that goes with that, and a pair of national television packages that grow the league’s drawing power a bit more year after year.

Along with the Big Ten and Pac-12 — both feature major television markets throughout their regions — the SEC should be positioned quite nicely when it comes to locking in future bowl partners after 2013.

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It’s Time – Again – For The SEC To Create A Uniform Drug Policy

Recently, a commenter on this site wrote something to this effect under one of our stories: “No one does ‘I told you so’s’ like Pennington.”

First, get ready for another one.  Second, I think it’s actually a positive that we here at MrSEC.com are so often in a position to actually say “we told you so.”  But on to the point of this post…

On February 1st, 2011, we stated that the SEC should make three moves to improve its renegade reputation.  (And, yes, we know, some of you don’t care about the league’s reputation.  Here’s guessing those who say that aren’t SEC presidents… or actual attendees of those schools, for that matter.)  Our three suggested actions:

1.  Outlaw oversigning.  –  Done.  Just a few months later the SEC did indeed create a soft 25-man cap on football signees.

2.  Create one uniform drug policy.  — More on this one in a second.

3.  Prevent players dismissed from one SEC program from transferring to another SEC school. — This would simply show more decorum and respect between partner institutions.  If Cam Newton, for example, could not abide by the loose rules set by Urban Meyer at Florida, then Florida should not have had to compete against him at a rival school.  Athletes would still have a shot at a second-chance at about 110 other FBS football schools and at more than 300 other D-I basketball schools.

For now, let’s focus on Point Two.  That the one that’s in the national spotlight today, more than a year after we mentioned it.  And Syracuse University’s basketball program has put the issue in said spotlight.

In case you missed it, yesterday it was reported via Yahoo! Sports that at least 10 SU basketball players tested positive for banned substances over the past decade, but the school chose to ignore its own drug policy by not counting all of the positive tests.

The school continued to play athletes who should have been suspended, according to its own university policy.  With the NCAA beginning to sniff around on the matter, the school released a statement yesterday:


“We self-reported issues with drug testing to the NCAA, and there is currently an ongoing inquiry.  The inquiry does not involve any current SU student-athletes.  To ensure the integrity of the ongoing process, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Integrity.  That’s some funny word choice, right there.  And it gets to the heart of the matter.

Media types often roll their eyes when they hear of a failed drug test leading to a player’s suspension.  That’s because we’ve all heard of star athletes getting the ol’ “look the other way” treatment over failed marijuana tests — or worse — while some third-string fullback gets the heave-ho for his failed test.

Nick Saban has said the media is often too cynical.  The Syracuse situation is why the media is often cynical.  Another reason for pessimism right here in the ol’ SEC?  There’s no uniform drug policy in existence.

Several schools have a three-strikes policy for drug tests.  Florida has a five-strike policy.  Some schools test more often than others.  Some ignore a first failed test while others — Georgia and Kentucky — hand out immediate suspensions.

There’s too much gray area there for a league that prides itself on having a level playing field for all its member institutions.

Mike Slive has overseen an incredible run in the SEC.  He’s made the league money with barrier-busting TV contracts and he’s cleaned up the league’s image a bit with a signing cap and a push for multi-year athletic scholarships.

We believe he should now steer the SEC’s presidents toward the creation of one, uniform drug policy for all 14 new members.  Lord knows the league has the television revenue to cover the costs.

Obviously, Slive doesn’t want to go campus to campus collecting urine, blood and hair samples.  And school presidents want to be able to police their own campuses.  Trouble is — in light of the Syracuse investigation (and you can bet others are coming) — we can’t trust them to properly police themselves because they have a vested interest in keeping athletes on the field, winning games, and making more money.

Quite simply, Slive and the SEC presidents should farm out school drug testing to a single independent company.  There are companies who handle drug testing for companies nationwide and it shouldn’t be hard to find one to handle 14 high-profile schools.

That company would administer the drug tests and provide a report back to the league office.  A first failed test would result in a warning.  A second would lead to a suspension covering 25% of the remaining season.  A third, a 50% of the remaining season.  A fourth, automatic dismissal.

The schools would be required to pay for their own testing.  A third-party company would handle the testing.  The league office would dole out the penalties — which would all be spelled out in advance — and hear appeals.

We called for this last February.  Now a major school is in hot water thanks to this very issue little more than a year later.  Suddenly the national media is starting to pay attention, calling for a uniform NCAA plan.

Better to lead the pack than to follow it.

Slive and the SEC presidents should make a uniform drug policy this year’s oversigning.  They should do so before it’s an SEC school that’s caught protecting star players from its own drug policy.  After all, just how proud do you think the Big East and ACC are today?

Congrats, Syracuse.  You embarrassed yourself and two conferences.

It’s time for Slive and the presidents to act before someone embarrasses the SEC.

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Scheduling Moves At Arkansas And Florida

A couple of SEC schools have announced scheduling moves in the past 24 hours…

Arkansas will host old rival Texas in Fayetteville in 2021.  That game is actually a return trip for the Razorbacks’ visit to Austin back in 2008.  Too bad the Longhorns don’t have room on their schedule for Texas A&M, no?

And Florida will host Florida Atlantic in 2015 and UMass in 2016.  The Minutemen will be transitioning to the FBS level of play in 2013.  (Link Fixed.)

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Two Milestones Await The LSU Tigers This Weekend

Alex Groberman

One week after firmly establishing themselves as the unquestionable No. 1 team in the nation, the LSU Tigers will take on a slightly less threatening foe – the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

Despite the fact that this LSU team cemented itself as the best squad in the country via a 9-6 victory over Alabama last week (in a ratings bonanza for CBS, no less), the team’s head  coach, Les Miles is still fretting about what this weekend holds. Acknowledging the very real risk of a letdown after such a huge, monumental effort just one week earlier, Miles made it known that his foot wasn’t going to come off the brake any time soon.

“The key is to keep fighting, to find a way,” Miles said.

“There was nothing settled in any way with victory last Saturday,” Miles said. “We still have to earn our way. It is all about whom we are about to play and what is a necessary improvement that must take place this week. With that being said, we are looking forward to the process as we go forward.”

If the Tigers can earn a win this weekend, they’ll accomplish two feats: the 100th victory of Miles’ career and their first 10-0 start to a season in over 50 years.

Fortunately for LSU, barring a collapse of epic proportions, the team should be able to hold its own against a 5-4 Hilltoppers squad that has been outscored by its ranked opponents by nearly 29 points on average since 2004. Couple that with the Tigers’ perfect mark against Sun Belt Conference programs and 36 consecutive regular season wins over non-conference opponents since 2002, and you see why things are lining up nicely for the top-ranked team in the nation.

The plan of attack for LSU, no doubt, will be continue to abuse the opposing offense with a monstrous, impenetrable defense. For the year, the Tigers rank third in the FBS in yards allowed and second in scoring.

And, of course, Western Kentucky’s offense isn’t exactly potent. It currently ranks 101st in total scoring and offense this season. The team’s only real means of attack is the run, with their senior running back Bobby Rainey boasting the 3rd most rushing yards in the FBS with 1,169. He has also racked up over 100-yards in eight games this year.

The far more interesting storyline going into Saturday isn’t how LSU will handle their vastly inferior opponent but, rather, what’s going to happen with their quarterback situation. After starting the game against Alabama last week, Jarrett Lee was pulled in favor of Jordan Jefferson – who in turn ended up playing the majority of the outing.

Miles has remained mum on who will ultimately start this weekend.

Regardless of who the starter ends up being, the squad can take solace in the fact that they’ll have running backs Michael Ford and Spencer Ware around to take some of the pressure off. The latter, of course, leads the team with 541 rushing yards total and the former has 513 yards on the season.

So, all in all – expect more of the same this weekend. The Tigers will pass the ball a bit, run it a little more than they pass, and ultimately seal the deal with their best-in-the-nation defense.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. eastern time, Saturday.

 Get more great news, recaps and analysis over at OpposingViews.com

 

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Writer Ranks VU’s Franklin As College Football’s Top New Coach

Two weeks into the season, it’s gotta be time to reveal some rankings and report cards, right?  Right.

CBSSports.com’s Brett McMurphy has given grades to the 24 new FBS coaches in the country.  At the top of the list with an A+ grade is… Vanderbilt’s James Franklin:


“Franklin had never been a head coach at any level until this year and so far, so good.  He’s already matched Vanderbilt’s win total each of the past two years with a 2-0 start.  With remaining games against Ole Miss, Army, Kentucky and Wake Forest, Franklin might just be able to squeeze out the Commodores’ first bowl berth since 2008.”


The question is: When will Nashvillians start turning out to watch Franklin’s team play?  The new coach has already said his team deserves support for it’s 2-0 start.  (Which makes us wonder what he’ll be thinking a year or two into the job, because Vandy fans rarely turn out for football.)

Another question: How do Ole Miss and Kentucky fans like being drawn up as potential Vandy victims?

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Tyler’s Take: 18 Is The New Sweet Sixteen

I originally wrote this several weeks ago but I have updated it because so much … and really nothing has happened just yet. First, let’s get two things straight: college football is the engine car and caboose on the college sports train. Whatever college football decides to do in the next few years in the world of expansion, other sports teams will figure out what to do because profits they pocket from football keep them afloat.

Mike Slive wants to order the murder, and not be the trigger man, because he doesn’t want blood on his hands. But at this point he might as well sit back and enjoy it. (A particular Bobby Knight quote would be extremely appropriate and inappropriate right here.) Slive is already guilty in the pre-meditated murder case of college football, so it’s no longer necessary to ride shotgun in a white Bronco on every major Interstate in the South and make every SEC athletic director sport an Al Cowlings mask. You’re guilty, Slive, so just go all in.

Don’t eyeball 13 or 14 teams and dismiss the idea of 16 teams. Finish what Roy Kramer started and go straight to 18 teams. If college football wised up a decade after the SEC went to 12, I can assure you it won’t take as long this time around if the SEC goes to 18. Everyone else will follow, I promise.

What does a season look like with FBS 72 teams?

  • Four 18-team conferences, each with two divisions of nine.
  • 12 regular season games.
  • Every team in the division is played.
  • Three rotating teams from the opposite division (home and home two-year series) are played.
  • One out of conference game is played.
  • Title game for each conference is played pitting divisional winners.
  • NCAA tournament is created with 12 teams.
  • Conference winners receive a first round bye.
  • Eight at-large teams are chosen using something similar to the BCS points system.
  • Viola!

How does the NCAA get to 72?

Step 1: If a team didn’t average more than 30,000 fans for home games it doesn’t deserve to play with the big boys. End of story. I removed several BCS schools and Independents:  Washington State (24,000), Army, Navy, Duke (23,000), and Iowa State. But feel free to swap “borderline” teams that did/didn’t make the cut: Navy (32,653), Army (31,667), UCF (39,314), East Carolina (49,665), San Diego State (34,133), UTEP (29,350), Houston (31,100), and So. Miss. (29,400).

Step 2: Schools that don’t make the cut are “demoted” to the FCS. Would this be so bad when the only reason many of the schools left out only joined the FBS for guaranteed money and a guaranteed loss on their schedule? To soften the demotion there will be revenue sharing from the new 72. These new FCS schools realign in a shocking fashion… by sitting down at a table and looking at a map.

Who goes where?

A mere 31 driving turns and 1,591 miles away, TCU is in the same conference as Syracuse. Major realignment doesn’t make sense?

ATLANTIC #1

1)      North Carolina

2)      N.C. State

3)      Wake Forest

4)      East Carolina (or Duke)

5)      Virginia

6)      Virginia Tech

7)      Vanderbilt

8)      Tennessee

9)      West Virginia

ATLANTIC #2

1)      UCONN

2)      Boston College

3)      Maryland

4)      Syracuse

5)      Rutgers

6)      Penn State

7)      Pittsburg

8)      Cincinnati

9)      Louisville

SOUTH #1

1)      Miami

2)      Florida

3)      Florida State

4)      South Florida

5)      Georgia

6)      Georgia Tech

7)      Clemson

8)      South Carolina

9)      Kentucky

SOUTH #2             

1)      Alabama

2)      Auburn

3)      Ole Miss

4)      Miss. State

5)      LSU

6)      Arkansas

7)      Oklahoma

8)      Oklahoma State

9)      Missouri

MIDWEST #1

1)      Notre Dame

2)      Purdue

3)      Illinois

4)      Northwestern

5)      Ohio State

6)      Michigan

7)      Michigan State

8)      Minnesota

9)      Wisconsin

MIDWEST #2

1)      Iowa

2)      Indiana

3)      Kansas

4)      Kansas State

5)      Nebraska

6)      Texas

7)      Texas A&M

8)      Baylor

9)      TCU

WEST #1

1)      Colorado

2)      Air Force

3)      BYU

4)      Utah

5)      Arizona

6)      Arizona State

7)      USC

8)      UCLA

9)      Stanford

WEST #2

1)      Cal

2)      Utah

3)      Oregon

4)      Oregon State

5)      Washington

6)      Hawaii

7)      Texas Tech

8)      Boise State

9)      Fresno State

Is it a perfect fit in some cases? No. Should a few teams be in a different conference? Maybe. Will fans get used to it after a few years? Do fans complain too loudly a year or two after joining a new conference? Welcome to the New World Order of college football, served up by none other than Mike Slive.

Tyler Beam works as a communications specialist for Brown-Forman in Louisville, Ky. A lifetime SEC fan – long before it became “acceptable” to cheer for every team in the conference – he plans on writing several books about college football that have a fantastic chance of never being written. 

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Muschamp Wants More Cash For Players; OVC Coaches Say They Can’t Do It

You’d be hard pressed to find a coach in a major BCS league who isn’t for finding a way to get his players more money.  One, the coaches want to truly help their players.  Two, it’s a helluva recruiting advantage if you can pay more money than another guy.

Florida’s Will Muschamp — appearing on ESPNU yesterday — made it clear he’s all for finding cash for players:


“Some of these young men, I don’t think people realize where they come from.  They can’t go home on the weekend.  They don’t have expenses for bedsheets and toiletries and things when they come to college.  And I think that’s real.  That’s real in my world.  And I don’t think a lot of people understand that. …

I’m talking homeless.  I’ve been in situations where young men have been taken in by (other) families.  They don’t have anything of their own.  They don’t have a house, they don’t have an apartment, they don’t have a phone.  And you can never get ahold of them.  It’s serious.  I’ve recruited several and a lot of coaches will tell you the same thing.”


Makes sense.  Sounds good.  As long as you’re a big school with big money. 

But three current OVC football coaches — who have all been coaches at BCS programs — say there’s no way that smaller schools can provide more money for players.

So where’s all this heading?  NCAA president Mark Emmert worked with Mike Slive on his proposal.  That means he’s likely A-OK with the idea of the big boys paying players more via cost-of-attendance scholarships.  If that’s the case and the BCS schools make that change, expect the FBS division of college football to be reshaped once more with the top 65-70 schools operating in their own high-dollar division and the non-paying members of the FBS floating in limbo between the complete haves (SEC, Big 10, etc) and the complete have-nots (FCS-level schools).

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CBS’ Dodd: Richt, Dooley, Nutt On Warmest Seats

CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd ranked the hot seat status of each FBS coach yesterday.  His grading system was pretty simple:


0-0.5 = “Don’t even think it — can’t be touched”
1-1.5 = “Very safe — change highly unlikely”
2-2.5 = “Safe — solid position”
3-3.5 = “On the bubble — you never know”
4-4.5 = “Warm seat — feeling the pressure”
5 = “On the hot seat — it’s time to win now”


When it came to the SEC’s 12 coaches, there were no 4′s or 5′s.  Mark Richt sits at a 3.5 on Dodd’s scale — meaning he’s somewhere between “you never know” and “feeling the pressure.”  That number is the highest in the league.

Below are Dodd’s scores for the SEC’s coaches:

Coach
School
Dodd’s Hot Seat Rating
Gene Chizik
Auburn
0.0
Dan Mullen
Miss. State
0.0
Nick Saban
Alabama
0.0
Steve Spurrier
S. Carolina
0.0
Will Muschamp
Florida
0.5
Bobby Petrino
Arkansas
1.0
Joker Phillips
Kentucky
1.5
James Franklin
Vanderbilt
2.0
Les Miles
LSU
2.5
Derek Dooley
Tennessee
3.0
Houston Nutt
Ole Miss
3.0
Mark Richt
Georgia
3.5



Petrino isn’t at a 0.0?  Franklin feels more pressure than Phillips?  Dooley — after one season — could be in worse shape than Miles?  Those are some interesting choices to say the least.

We’ll be posting our annual Hot Seat Rankings later this summer.

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Just 17 Big-Time Schools Are All-Time Innocents

In a year when the word “scandal” has been practically surgically adhered to the word “sports,” The Wall Street Journal went looking for some innocence.  What they found were 17 FBS-level schools that have never been found guilty of a “major” NCAA rules violation.

According to the Journal:


“Major violations are generally ones that provide ‘an extensive recruiting or competitive advantage,’ according to the NCAA manual, and are punishable by a number of measures depending on their severity, including records being vacated or being banned from postseason play.

There are typically no more than a handful of major-violations cases per year.  The number peaked during the scandal-plagued decade of the 1980s with a total of 89.  But this decade is off to a rough start with 13 completed cases already since the start of 2010.”


So which schools have never been caught breaking the NCAA’s biggest rules?  Don’t expect to find any SEC schools on the list.  Including Vanderbilt.  For that matter, don’t expect to find too many BCS-level schools at all… there are only four:


Boston College — The hoops program did have a point-shaving scandal
Northwestern — The hoops program did have a point-shaving scandal
Penn State — One of the most successful football programs
Stanford — The most successful all-around athletic program in the nation


The other innocents are:


Air Force
Boise State — About to be taken off the list
Bowling Green
Central Michigan
Colorado State
Florida Atlantic
Kent State
North Texas
Ohio
Rice
Troy
UAB
Western Michigan


The NCAA has kept track of major violations since 1953.

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Stone Mountain Receiver Sweat Commits To Kentucky

Kentucky has received a commitment from wide receiver DeMarcus Sweat from Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga.

Sweat committed to Kentucky after performing at a camp in Lexington on Sunday. His firmed up his commitment during a conversation with Wildcats coach Joker Phillips on Sunday night.

I told Coach Phillips that I wanted to be a Wildcat,” Sweat told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I said I really wanted to talk to my parents first about it, but wanted to go ahead and commit because I didn’t want to lose that spot if another wide receiver committed. Coach Phillips was great about it. He said, ‘I know what you’re thinking. Don’t worry about it. We got your scholarship. We’ll hold your spot. Talk to your parents and call me back later.”

And that’s when Sweat told Phillips he would be sticking with his commitment to Kentucky.

Sweat is the fourth prospect to commit to Kentucky’s class of 2012.

Stephenson High School now has seven players committed to FBS schools. Five of those players are committed to SEC schools. Stephenson is expected to have 14-17 players sign with FBS schools in February, according to the AJC.

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