Posted on: July 19, 2011 5:21 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 5:49 pm

Georgia Tech's Johnson blasts NCAA decision

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson has long had a reputation for saying exactly what's on his mind--no more, no less.

And the reason he has that reputation is interviews like the one published today by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in which Johnson flat-out unloads on the NCAA decision to vacate the Yellow Jackets' 2009 ACC championship. A few choice comments:
“The NCAA can’t take away the memories or what happened on the field. Let’s say somebody took something illegal. I’m still not convinced that happened, but let’s say it did. Well, you’re punishing 115 guys who didn’t do anything but work their butt off" ...

"If we were trying to cover the thing up, we would’ve just said that [athletic director] Dan [Radakovich] never told me anything. Their perception of what happened and my perception of what happened wasn’t close.”

Johnson’s perception: “That they came in here and talked to seven or eight kids and they didn’t find what they were looking for.

“I’ve been in this business a long time. You see all the things that are going on in college sports today, and you get slammed for this? I mean, come on now ...

“If you went out and you did something to gain a competitive advantage, if  you knew you cheated or you paid somebody, it might be easier to swallow,” Johnson said. “But when you don’t feel like you’ve done anything wrong, it’s tough to take.”

We don't blame Johnson at all for being upset. Having the ACC title stripped -- the AJC reports the championship trophy has been moved to a closet -- and four years' worth of probation hanging over the program is a tough blow for a coach who by the NCAA's own admission did nothing wrong.

But if there's anything the NCAA has been consistent about in handing down its recent rulings, it's that (say it with me) the cover-up is worse than the crime. Tech officials prepping athletes Demaryius Thomas and Morgan Burnett for interviews with NCAA investigators after being specifically told not to isn't the worst offense in the world, but there's not much question it does fall underneath the "cover-up" umbrella.

And as for "competitive advantage," Tech was cautioned that star receiver Thomas had "eligiblity questions" and played him against Clemson in the ACC title game anyway. No, it's not "paying somebody" (to use Johnson's term), but if using a player you know could be ineligible -- and was later proven to be -- isn't a "competitive advantage," then what is?

So we sympathize with Johnson's plight, and appreciate his candor. But we can't quite bring ourselves to agree with him that the NCAA overstepped its bounds, either.

Posted on: July 6, 2011 12:21 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 12:45 pm

Delany doesn't rule out NCAA split

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Let's be fair to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany: When Delany speaks in this USA Today article on the problems plaguing major college athletics and the potential "fundamental changes" (to use Delany's Big 12 counterpart Dan Beebe's term) that might result, he's clearly not expecting the NCAA's power conferences to secede from the current model:
"Don't blame structure," Delany says, "until you have a group of core presidents, athletic directors, commissioners and coaches who are willing to embrace real change" and are shot down.
That's a lot of people to all wrangle onto the same page. But if that "group" is "shot down"?
"At that juncture," he says, "then I think it's fair to look at how else you get it."
Delany's not spelling it out, but he doesn't have to. "How else you get it" means one thing and one thing only: taking the Big Ten's (and the SEC's and Pac-12's and I guess the Big 12's and ACC's) ball and going home to a post-NCAA college athletics superleague.

And if that first quote indicates that (as the USA Today writes) that kind of split isn't yet "on the agenda," it's not that difficult to see that kind of consortium coming together over Delany's full-cost scholarship proposal. Those kinds of athlete stipends already have wide-ranging support (including, critically, from the SEC's Mike Slive) and are seen by many as one possible antidote to the improper benefits scandals that have given college football the black eye it's sported the last several months.

If Delany and his "group" champion those scholarships as a way to help clean up the sport, only for the non-AQ schools of Division I (which outnumber the AQ schools more than four-to-one and may vote to protect their men's basketball interests) to veto it in the name of competitive balance, then what? It seems as if this would be the exact excuse Delany would be looking for to "look at how else" college athletics might be managed.

Of course, these kinds of discussions are still off in the relatively distant future, and a NCAA split remains the nuclear option even Delany and Slive will likely take great pains to avoid deploying. But that Delany is already using that threat as a kind of posturing -- potentially to suggest to the rest of the NCAA membership that it should fall in line -- suggests that whatever deliberations and debates will surround full-cost scholarships and other sweeping reform measures, don't expect them to progress smoothly.

Posted on: July 4, 2011 2:52 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2011 6:21 pm

Declaring some football independents on July 4

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Happy Independence Day everyone. It's been a remarkable 235 years but America is still going strong despite plenty of ups and downs. On the gridiron, it seems like Notre Dame, Navy and others have been independent of conference overlords for just as long. With BYU joining their ranks last week and in honor of the holiday, it's a perfect time to look at what programs could follow their lead and go out on their own.

While it's doubtful that any of these programs will actually pursue going independence in the near future, perhaps they could/would/should on second thought. Feel free to bring up some other programs that could go out on their own in the comments below.

Boise State

The Broncos have made quite the run the past few years, winning two BCS bowls and posting a remarkable three undefeated seasons. Boise State was originally a junior college who has, rather quickly, risen in the ranks from an independent in Division II to their current place in the Mountain West. Their wide-open style of play and ability to beat more talented teams has certainly earned them a national reputation and with that comes eyeballs. For example, last season's game against Virginia Tech earned a 6.8 overnight rating, making it the highest rated Labor Day night game since 1990.

From the Blue Turf to the trick plays, a lot of what has made Boise State football a national brand is due to the exposure they get on ESPN. For years they had several featured games on the network and, even if they were on late at night on the East Coast, people were at least able to see the games. Boise State is losing a lot of that exposure with the move to the Mountain West (with games on The Mtn. and Versus) in exchange for an increase in television revenue, which is expected to be around $800,000 a year based on the current conference agreements. If Boise State gets unhappy with the arrangement and decides to go independent, they could follow the lead of BYU. The Cougars recently signed a deal with ESPN to televise several football games with estimates putting the value of the deal at between $800,000 and $1.2 million per home game. As a program with a love-them-or-hate-them reputation that causes people to tune in, going independent might make sense down the road.

Florida State

If there's one team on this list that is actually familiar with football independence, it's Florida State. The Seminoles were conference-less from 1951-1991 prior to joining the ACC. In a curious twist of fate, the school was invited by the ACC to join their conference but were rejected by the SEC. Regardless, Florida State is aware of what it takes to be an independent and what challenges and benefits come with it. While most believe their relationship with the ACC is a good one, one never knows what will happen if another wave of conference realignment hits. The ACC is, mostly, a basketball-centric league and as winners of two somewhat recent national titles, Florida State is much more of a football school than the conference's other members.

Scheduling always gets tricky but Florida State has a long history of playing both Miami and Florida. Both games are usually big ratings winners so, like Boise State, the program would likely do well financially getting a majority of the television money versus splitting it with fellow conference members. Throw in nearby UCF and USF and the Seminoles could have nearly half a schedule from in-state programs alone. Add in a big name program, such as the one against Oklahoma this year, and Florida State could get back to being a much bigger draw nationally like they were in the 1990's. Of course, as with most Florida teams, they'd also have to win to stay relevant.


The way things are going with the NCAA investigation into Oregon's football and basketball programs, it's likely more than a few Ducks fans have thought about leaving the NCAA altogether, much less the Pac-12. While the program itself hasn't seen much success on the gridiron outside of the past decade, there's one thing that lands Oregon on this list: Nike. The Beaverton, Ore., based company has already made the Ducks their featured program by ensuring they have the latest Nike gear and well over 160 uniform combinations (feel free to mix and match your own Duck uniform here).

The school already has an affiliate network of television and radio stations and it wouldn't be all that surprising if they teamed with Nike to get an actual cable channel going. Given what Nike has already done in the marketing sphere, the idea of "their" team crisscrossing the country might raise as many eyebrows in Indianapolis as it does in Eugene. At the same time, it's hard not to see the idea floated in Phil Knight's office at some point, is it?


Go ahead and insert your own Big 12-Texas joke here. If there was one lesson to be learned from last summer's realignment saga, it was that Texas is the major player in college athletics - and for good reason. The football program brought in the most revenue in the country last year with a staggering $94 million take and a nearly $69 million profit. If there's any program that could afford any initial financial hit from going independent, it's the Longhorns.

The program is also uniquely positioned (perhaps more so than anybody on this list) to head out on their own. The Longhorn Network will launch in late August and, with ESPN's backing, figures to expand the Texas brand into households across the country. Like BYU with BYUtv, having their own network already up and running would be a huge advantage over others that would be pondering a similar move. Schedule-wise, they would have no problem scheduling games based on the teams nearby and their draw nationally. Add in the fact that Texas is a large public school with plenty of alumni and fans across the country, and it's possible that football independence actually makes a lot of sense if administrators don't find the arrangement with the Big 12 to be working out.


If you're making a list of things that a school should have if they're considering going independent, USC would have a lot of check marks next to their name. Lots of alumni all over the country? Check. Nationally recognized brand? Check. Traditional college football power? Check. Given the school's connections to Hollywood and Silicon Valley, it wouldn't be all that surprising if they were able to quickly move onto some unique and intriguing media options if they decided to pursue football independence.

The recent NCAA sanctions have certainly hurt the reputation of the school and the football program which might actually be one reason why the school decides to make the jump from the Pac-12 to join the ranks of rival Notre Dame as an independent. Plenty of alumni are not happy with the Pac-10's lack of support in their infractions case (unlike, say the Big Ten with Ohio State) and that cuts into some of the good will Larry Scott has brought with a new media rights package. The Trojans have plenty of history of going around the country and playing teams, why not a little more of that as an independent? The Pac-10 was known as USC and nine others during the run under Pete Carroll, so maybe the idea of separating from the bunch isn't too far-fetched.

Posted on: July 1, 2011 12:13 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2011 12:25 pm

No new bowl games for next three years

Posted by Tom Fornelli

If you were hoping that the NCAA would add another bowl game or two to the schedule in the near future, you're going to have to wait at least another three years for it to happen.

In April, NCAA president Mark Emmert called for a moratorium on bowl games during an investigation of the Fiesta Bowl and the way the game spent the money it made. The investigation eventually led to the bowl's CEO John Junker being dismissed from his role.

At the time, Emmert said the actions taken by Fiesta Bowl officials -- along with the questionable spending practices of the Orange and Sugar Bowls -- "call into question both the integrity and the quality of oversight of such events."

When Emmert and the NCAA announced the moratorium on bowl games, they gave the schools 60 days to "appeal" the NCAA's decision, and, as the USA Today points out, that 60-day window passed by earlier this week without a word of protest from any of the schools. 

Which means that there won't be any new bowl games added for at least the next three years. Which, in my opinion, is perfectly fine by me. The only way a new bowl game should be added to the schedule is if it's replacing an old one because 35 bowl games every season is more than enough. Having 35 games means that 70 of the 120 FBS schools are playing in a bowl game every season. Which also means that we get a lot of 6-6 teams being rewarded for having extremely mediocre seasons.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that bowl games are rewards for players, which I have no problem with. But when you start rewarding teams for losing just as many games as they won, it starts to feel like a tee-ball game in which nobody is keeping score and everybody gets a trophy. 

Posted on: June 29, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2011 2:25 pm

Head zebra's 'dream'? 'Obvious' celebration calls

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Rogers Redding is the NCAA's new national coordinator of officials, a title the former SEC referee must be delighted to hold after years of officiating service both on the field and in an administrative capacity. But though he'd never admit so publicly, we're betting he wishes he'd come aboard before some other season.

Why? Because 2011 is the first year of the NCAA's new unsportsmanlike conduct celebration policy, in which taunting or other conduct penalties committed during play will be a live-ball foul -- and could result in touchdowns, even game-winning ones, being removed from the scoreboard.

College football fans (those of us here at Eye on CFB included) have been near-unanimous in decrying the rule change, worrying that overzealous officials could alter the outcome of a critical game over a bit of harmless exuberance. We'd hope Redding would take the opportunity of this interview with Rivals to reassure us that won't be the case ... but as it turns out, it sounds like he's just as worried as we are:
"That's my hope, that's my dream, that it will be so obvious to the entire world," Redding says. "There will be people who disagree with it. If there are 50 guys in a bar, if 45 say it's a great call, I'll be happy.

"Don't hold me to that number, though" ...

When an official takes away a touchdown, Redding hopes the official takes the same [common-sense] approach.

"Make them almost the pull the flag out of your pocket for you," Redding says. "Make it so obvious that it just slaps you upside the head and you don't have to think about it."

If there's any encouragment to be found here, it's that Redding is promoting the fire-extinguisher-style "break touchdown-removal glass only in case of emergency" approach we'd all like him to promote. But it's troubling that he doesn't offer any assurances that his officials will take that approach. In fact, it sounds as if he'd like to preemptively pass the buck:
"It's really up to the players," Redding says. "If they do what they're supposed to do, we won't have a problem. If they make the choice they should make and that the coaches want to make, there won't be an issue. But there will be somebody. They're teenagers, for goodness sake."
They are, which is why it's hard to think of last year's wretched celebration call against Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl and not think that it wasn't the player in that instance who failed to "do what he's supposed to do."

At the very least, dead-ball calls like that one against the Wildcats still won't result in six points getting yanked off the board. But what we want, as college football fans, is to enter this season with some confidence that that same trigger-happy attitude won't nullify a perfectly good score at the perfectly wrong time.

That even the national coordinator of officials admits he can't do more than "hope" for the same "dream" and pawn the problem off on the players doesn't exactly fill us with that confidence. It doesn't even come close.

Posted on: June 28, 2011 3:23 pm
Edited on: June 28, 2011 3:50 pm

Athletic subsidies draw faculty rage at Rutgers

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

USA Today
today posted an exhaustive database of athletic "subsidies" for every NCAA Division I school--i.e., how much does each university itself (via student fees, public funding, or any other addition to the institutional budget) pay for its athletic department out of its own metaphorical pocket?

For most BCS conference schools (partciularly those in the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12), their athletic departments are nearly self-sufficient, with 20 percent or less of their budgets coming from direct university funding. But that's not the case everywhere, and especially not at Rutgers, which USA Today found has offered its athletic department some $115 million in subsidies the past five years. That number is nearly double the figure at any other BCS school, and comes in the face of a state budget crisis that has forced the school to withhold $30 million worth of scheduled raises for faculty and staff.

So, to briefly recap: Rutgers forks over some $23 million a year to its athletic department (nearly $27 million in 2010), then tells its professors it can't afford to give them money it had already promised them. This is going over every bit as well as you might imagine:
"A student doesn't come to Rutgers to attend a football game. They come here to get an education — and then maybe attend a football game," says Patrick Nowlan,executive director of the Rutgers teachers' union.

"From our perspective, the core mission of the university is to teach, do research and then provide service to the public of the state of New Jersey, and ancillary enterprises such as athletics should not be the top priorities. They should not be priorities when you, as a university administration, are arguing that you don't have resources, you don't have enough funding from the state."

Relations between faculty and athletics at BCS schools aren't always friendly even in the best of times, and now that the country's economic troubles are hitting the former harder than the latter, it's no surprise Rutgers is far from alone in seeing its faculty publicly angered by the money spent on sports. But what, in practical terms, does this -- and the situations like it across the country -- mean for college football?

Our honest guess is: not a heck of a lot. As long as the sport exists in its current arms-race state, big-time college football is an all-or-nothing proposition; you simply can't compete -- even in the Big East, as Rutgers has discovered -- without a complete commitment to the sport. The faculty have a perfectly legitimate gripe, but unless something fundamental about college football's finances changes, it'll be something of a shock if they amount to anything more than a few saved nickels here and there.

Of course that "something fundamental" might be happening right now in the form of full cost of attendance scholarships. (For more on this from John Calipari, see our last post.) This is where the issue of subsidies could really rear its ugly head--while it's one thing to pay for player stipends with athletic money and supersized TV contracts (a windfall Rutgers seems to be counting on to solve its current issues), it's another to pay for them out of the pockets of the very teachers who will be instructing the players in question. And that goes double once you leave the cozy confines of the BCS conferences; according to the USA Today database, the top 50 schools in terms of lowest 2010 percentages of budget subsidies were BCS schools. (Fresno State was the top non-AQ school, with "only" 28 percent of its athletic funding subsidized.)

So if the full cost of attendance bandwagon continues to pick up steam, yes, you can expect the athletics-vs.-academics funding battle to really pick up steam, particularly at schools like Rutgers or USF that have BCS memberships and still find themselves heavily subsidized. But until then? As ugly as the numbers in places like Piscataway might be, it'll be pretty much business as suual.

Posted on: June 28, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: June 28, 2011 4:10 pm

Calipari: Need superconferences to pay players

Posted by Chip Patterson

College football and college basketball are big money sports. As more and more financial transparency is demanded from the public, we are learning exactly how profitable amateur athletics can get. One person with plenty of knowledge of the cash you can stack in college sports is Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari. Calipari recently became the proud recipient of a new contract extension that ties him to the college basketball superpower through 2019. The new deal will earn Calipari roughly $4.56 million/year, putting him just behind Nick Saban and Mack Brown when it comes to big-time college coaches. So who better to speak on the topic of collegiate athletics finances than Calipari?

That's exactly what he did when speaking to Mike Lupica on ESPN Radio. Lupica asked Calipari if he ever thought student athletes would get paid. Calipari's answer was particularly interesting, especially because it focused on needing changes to college football. (transcription via Sports Radio Interviews)
“The only way [paying student-athletes] can happen is you do the four superconferences, and those 64 or 72 schools have their own football playoff in each conference and then those four winners are semifinalists for the national title and then you have the title game and you have bowl games and all that revenue is shared between the 72 or 64 schools and then you do the same in basketball. You have their own tournament. … All the revenue from television to tournaments comes back. You get Title IX square, you get money back to the general fund … you give money to intramurals and you take care of this expense of cost-of-living expense.”
The superconference proposal has been on the table since realignment discussions got serious in the last few years. Though with five of the six BCS conferences securing new media deals (and the Big East's upcoming renegotiation in 2013), it does not appear that the formation of superconferences would be probable in the near future.

Additionally, the model loosely proposed by Calipari virtually guarantees that no mid-major school could ever win a national championship. Even in a 72-team "superconference" model, there are only 5 open spots to be filled by teams not affiliated with a current BCS conference (counting TCU as part of the Big East). Despite his previous tenures at UMass and Memphis, Calipari apparently foresees only the big-time schools being able handle the financial burden of paying student-athletes.

READ MORE: Calipari has been on this superconference kick for a while.  CLICK HERE for more from Calipari on the Eye on College Basketball 
You know who really likes the superconference idea?  Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.  He's very pleased with Cal's proposal. (artwork:BryanDFischer, Recruiting Guru and Pro Bono Photoshopper)
Posted on: June 28, 2011 3:07 am
Edited on: June 28, 2011 9:48 am

NCAA's nine-credit rule change meets resistance

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Back in April, the Division I Board of Directors passed a rule change that required football players to pass nine credit hours in the fall semester in order to avoid a four-game suspension the following year. The rule had been six credit hours before this year.

As Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News reports, that rule change is causing some consternation within the SEC and the rest of the NCAA. Here's how Solomon put it:

At the SEC spring meetings, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said he opposed the new nine-hour rule. However, he acknowledged it's "not really" too much to ask players to pass nine fall credits.

"Most of our guys are pretty good academically," Spurrier said. "Hopefully, we'll find a way to make sure they pass the nine hours. That's what you have to do."

Find a way.

Spurrier didn't say or suggest South Carolina will cheat. But those words should send chills to true educators because they reflect how the eligibility game gets played.

For pockets of football players -- some, but certainly not all -- academic requirements mean playing a shell game. Go to this major, go to that professor; go to this class, go to that tutor.

Find a way to keep playing on Saturdays. 

Sure, it seems just slightly unfair that Solomon implies Spurrier will resort to cheating and then backs right off it. But this is the SEC we're talking about; half-jokes about whether a coach will cheat are standard procedure.

That's a good reason to oppose requiring 12 credit hours, say, because let's face it, things happen in college. Two classes out of five being poor fits is unlikely, but in a class of 25, it could conceivably happen for a few players per year. That results in fewer players on the field, and that negatively affects the product on the field, and nobody wants that, right?

That's the argument of someone with a purely cynical view of the schools' role in college football, though, and there's a difference between an argument and a good argument.

As long as the schools are the ones handing out scholarships, they should be allowed to act with the schools' core interests in mind, and there is no way that allowing an athlete to earn six credit hours in a semester and then maintain his eligibility unfettered (so long as his grades were in order, of course) going forward is in a school's best interests. They take certain risks admitting athletes in the first place (though APR figures show those risks are generally overblown by average commenters), and allowing those athletes to maintain a scholarship while earning 40 percent as many credits as a typical four-year student doesn't make the schools look as if they take those risks seriously.

Also, a little real talk here. I personally struggled during my first year at a certain university (which one it was isn't important to the story at hand). I got back on track by taking six credit hours in one semester. It was pointed out to me by one well-meaning family member during a come-to-Jesus talk that if I had still been playing football, I wouldn't even be academically eligible by taking those six hours, and he was right: I wouldn't have been. At no point during that talk or thereafter did I think that was unfair to athletes. The fact of the matter is, they should at least be on a path toward five-year graduation, and allowing semesters with six credit hours isn't a serious step toward that goal.

I am a bit of a college football libertarian, as my previous post would indicate, so it would seem a little incongruous that I would turn around and advocate for stricter standards and enforcement when it comes to student-athlete eligibility. But considering the extremely low level of college football players who go on to the NFL and make enough money to last them even five years after retirement, it is a very difficult argument to suggest that allowing a football player to receive basically minimal collegiate instruction while he sacrifices his physical well-being for the good of the school's football program is in that young man's best interests.

So, yes, I would like to see more stringent standards for directing these young men toward earning degrees.

The NCAA already investigates academic fraud, and that should absolutely continue. But the nebulous threat of academic fraud when it comes to forcing football players to earn nine flippin' hours in one semester should not act as a deterrent for common-sense academic standards.

It's time to hold student-athletes to reasonable standards of academic progress, and if those student-athletes want to cheat about it, the NCAA can deal with it then; assuming those student-athletes are incapable of following those rules without cheating (which is what a failure to observe the new rule change would amount to) is an assumption from the inside that the entire NCAA is corrupt, and if we're at that point, then quibbling about credit hours is the least of the NCAA's worries.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com