Tag:Sun Belt
Posted on: July 12, 2011 10:45 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2011 12:07 am
 

With UT-Arlington addition, where does WAC stand?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It is, by many accounts, all but a foregone conclusion: This Thursday, University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks will join the WAC in all sports but football. Their addition gives the venerable-but-reeling league 10 members total but still only seven for the 2012-13 football season.

UTA won't make it eight. The Mavericks gave up football in 1985 and, according to the Texas board of regents' agenda, "UT-Arlington’s invitation is not conditioned on starting a football program.” So why are we mentioning this development in this space rather than leaving it to our sister Eye on College Basketball blog?* Because UTA's addition nevertheless has the potential to dramatically reshape the reeling WAC's identity as a football conference -- either for the better, or the (even) worse.

A breakdown of both scenarios:

SCENARIO 1: Maybe the Mavericks haven't been interested in football before. But WAC membership might change the equation, thanks first to the bump in television money and exposure, and secondly to the natural rivalries UTA would enjoy with fellow FBS start-ups UT-San Antonio and Texas State. The Mercury-News's Jon Wilner reported this week that UTA "believes there’s money to be made in the FBS and in the WAC."

If the Mavericks do decide to take the plunge, Wilner outlines a possible dream future for the WAC. With three different guaranteed opponents in nearby Texas, Louisiana Tech (and its potentially wandering eyes) would be mollified; North Texas might look at the number of Texas brethen available in the WAC (not to mention the Bulldogs) and jump ship. The WAC would then be able to bring aboard another basketball-only member to reach 12 schools total, while still offering its nine football programs a clean eight-game round robin. And if commisioner Karl Benson could lure away a prominent FCS program like Montana, so much the better.

Unfortunately for the WAC, that scenario isn't nearly as likely as ...

SCENARIO 2: UTA might have better prospects for a hypothetical football program than before, but that doesn't mean the Mavericks are rushing into anything. "I don’t have any indication they have plans to add football," the commissioner of the Mavericks' former home, Tom Burnett of the Southland, told the San Antonio Express-News. "If they do decide that, it’s just a bonus for the WAC." The Express-News added that a second source indicated UTA football "has not been seriously discussed."

If that's the case, Benson may have some unhappy campers on his hands. Both Utah State and Louisiana Tech have made no secret of their desire for new football-playing members sooner rather than later, with the geographically outlying Bulldogs specifically asking for one closer to their Ruston home. If Benson can't convince the Mavericks to add football or find a Central Time Zone football school by the 2013 season -- and we're not sure if there's any realistic quality candidates out there, unless you count other Southland question marks like Sam Houston State -- Tech could decide to cut their losses and head for the Sun Belt. At that point, with just six football schools, the WAC would be on the edge of unraveling.

The good news for Benson is that Tech athletic director Bruce Van De Velde expressed hope this week for the WAC and downplayed the Sun Bell speculation, citing -- of all things -- the Sun Belt's academics. Like the Bulldog fan quoted in that Shreveport Times article, Van De Velde is likely holding out hope that the Big East's expansion dominoes could open a spot for Tech in Conference USA.

If the Big East looks somewhere besides UCF (or the other C-USA schools rumored to be under consideration), though, Van De Velde's hand may be forced; will his school really want to remain in a conference with weaker competition, less exposure and substantially greater travel costs?

Though it remains to be seen, we're skeptical. Thursday's UT-Arlington addition could be the start of the WAC's new Division I foothold ... or the final flailings of a league destined for the FBS history bin.

*Which you really ought to be reading as well, and don't just take our word for it.



Posted on: July 11, 2011 3:56 pm
 

2011 Outland Trophy Watch List released

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Rolling on with the past weekend's Watch List announcements, here's the Outland Trophy's preliminary list. The trophy is handed out annually by the Football Writers Association of America to the nation's top interior lineman--either a defensive tackle, guard or center.

The 65 players on this year's Watch List are as follows:
Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State, OT
Jeff Allen, Illinois, OT
Don Barclay, West Virginia, OT
Chris Barker, Nevada, G
Kelvin Beachum, SMU, OT
Tony Bergstrom, Utah, OT
Mike Brewster, Ohio State, C
Ryan Miller, Colorado, G
David Molk, Michigan, C
Al Netter, Northwestern, OT
Lucas Nix, Pittsburgh, OT
Xavier Nixon, Florida, OT
Trevor Olson, Northern Illinois, OT
Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State, OT
Moe Petrus, Connecticut, C
Ken Plue, Purdue, G  
Dontari Poe, Memphis, DT
Nate Potter, Boise State, OT
Tydreke Powell, North Carolina, DT
Kheeston Randall, Texas, DT
Riley Reiff, Iowa, OT
Kendall Reyes, Connecticut, DT
Matt Reynolds, BYU, OT
Mitchell Schwartz, California, OT
Kawann Short, Purdue, DT
Bradley Sowell, Ole Miss, OT
Akeem Spence, Illinois, DT
Alameda Ta'amu, Washington, DT
Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State, G
Chris Thompson, Houston, C
Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech, G
William Vlachos, Alabama, C
Larry Warford, Kentucky, G
Brandon Washington, Miami, G
Rokevious Watkins, South Carolina, OT
Billy Winn, Boise State, DT
Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati, DT
Jerel Worthy, Michigan State, DT
Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin, G
By the conference numbers: Big Ten 13, SEC 11, Pac-12 9, ACC 7, Big 12 7, Big East 6, Conference USA 3, Independents 3, Mountain West 2, WAC 2, MAC 1, Sun Belt 1.

Posted on: July 7, 2011 3:21 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 4:01 pm
 

This season could be Schnellenberger's last

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

There aren't too many head coaches that could be accurately described as "legends" still walking a college football sideline, but Howard Schnellenberger is one of them. The 77-year-old architect of the modern-day versions of former sad-sacks Miami and Louisville is now in his 11th season at Florida Atlantic, the Boca Raton program he guided from the ground up into the 2007 Sun Belt championship.

But could those 11 seasons be enough for either "Schnelly" or the administrators at FAU? Per today's article in the Sun-Sentinel, it sounds like they might be:
FAU Athletic Director Craig Angelos said he won't be discussing another extension [for Schnellenberger] until after the upcoming season.
"The focus this season is on opening our stadium and honoring all those who worked so hard to make it happen, and Howard was the one that pushed the hardest," Angelos said ...
As far as coaching beyond this season, Schnellenberger has been noncommittal, other than to say he would like to stay connected to the program.
"My plan is to be here in whatever capacity is best for the university or myself," Schnellenberger said ...
FAU needs to average at least 12,000 fans per game to generate enough income to pay off the stadium, so there will be pressure to win and generate fan interest.
"The more excitement surrounding the program the better for all of us. If you are relevant on the landscape and you will be better received," Angelos said.
Unfortunately for Schnellenberger, his team didn't win or generate much fan interest last year. The Owls went a disappinting 4-8 in 2010, and it wasn't even a watchable 4-8; the moribund FAU offense finished 113th in the FBS in scoring at less than 17 points per game. After three straight years of declining victories and few observers expecting anything special this year, it's easy to argue the program has already hit its peak under Schnellenberger.

The new stadium could change all of that, of course. But with both coach and administration so noncommittal, it seems equally possible that finally seeing it opened will be the final check mark on Schnellenberger's career "bucket list," and one more legend will ride off into the Florida sunset.


Posted on: July 7, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 12:49 pm
 

Biletnikoff Award Watch List released

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Time for another preseason award Watch List.* This time it's for the Biletnikoff Award, handed out annually to the nation's best receiver.

Via No 2-Minute Warning, the full 75-player list:



A few knee-jerk reactions:

-- Yeah, it's the SEC, but the emphasis on the nation's strongest conference still seems a bit ... heavy. Duron Carter, who as of today still hasn't even enrolled at Alabama? Four different Arkansas receivers? (It's true, Cobi Hamilton would be the No. 1 guy on most teams ... but still.) Tavarres King, who caught all of 27 passes last season? (Then again, it's hard to say the SEC is really getting that much respect when Rueben Randle's name is so egregiously misspelled.)

-- As for snubs, Big East followers are up in arms over the exclusion of Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu, which makes some sense given his overall production as a receiver/rusher/even passer. Notre Dame's Theo Riddick could also wind up having a huge year, especially if Michael Floyd doesn't make it back from suspension. Other than that ... well, as you can see, it's a long list.

-- Louisiana-Lafayette's Ladarius Green was one of the nation's most prolific receivers last year at the Ragin' Cajuns' combo WR/TE spot ... which is how he's turned the rare trick of being nominated for both the Biletnikoff and Mackey Awards. Not bad for a Sun Belt player, huh?

*Hope you're getting used to it, because we've still got a bunch more coming down the pipe this week.


Posted on: June 14, 2011 11:09 am
Edited on: June 14, 2011 11:33 am
 

FAU's Cortez Ash charged in copper wire theft

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

FAU stumbled through a 4-8 season last fall, and with few proven playmakers returning on either side of the ball, Howard Schnellenberger probably wanted a nice quiet offseason dedicated to turning the program around.

Sorry, Howard; FAU finds itself in headlines this morning thanks to redshirt freshman defensive back Cortez Ash of Sebastian River, Fla., who finds himself charged with one of the more (ahem) poorly thought-out athlete's crimes this offseason.

Ash and an accomplice allegedly snuck into an Indian River County scrap yard between 3 and 4 a.m. and stole some 400 pounds of copper wire, then -- since a second scrap yard was still closed, according to the accomplice -- returned to the same scrap yard approximately six hours later to try and sell the wire, valued at more than $1,200. The owner recognized Ash and the accomplice from surveillance video of the burglary, and called police.

Ash and the accomplice were arrested and charged with burglary, grand theft and dealing in stolen property.

From a football persepctive -- even with Ash a candidate to start in a secondary that lost three starters from a year ago -- the Owls have absorbed bigger blows than missing out on an unproven redshirt freshman. But to turn FAU's nosedive from 2008 Sun Belt champions to SBC also-ran around, Schnellenberger no doubt needs all hands on deck--and finding out Ash's hands apparently come equipped with sticky fingers won't help him a bit.



Posted on: May 26, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:57 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 90-81

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the 100 99 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

90. T.Y. HILTON, receiver/returner, FIU. Every so often, a player rises up from the lower rungs of college football to make a credible run at the Heisman Trophy: Garrett Wolfe at Northern Illinois, Steve McNair at Alcorn State, Gordie Lockbaum once upon a time at Holy Cross. And if that's happening this year, the smartest bet is on Hilton, the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year and leader in all-purpose yardage.

But if Hilton does make a splash nationally, it won't be for his accolades, statistics, or even team success (though Hilton led his Golden Panthers to their first bowl berth and conference title last season, and could repeat the feat). It'll be for his electric playmaking, on full display in last year's Little Caesar's Bowl, when his 89-yard kickoff return for touchdown and 4th-and-17 conversion keyed a thrilling Panther comeback. Put a few more of those types of plays on SportsCenter (particularly in an early-season Friday night visit to Louisville), and the sky -- or more specifically, New York -- might be the limit. -- JH

89. LOGAN THOMAS, quarterback, Virginia Tech. Since joining the ACC in 2004, the Hokies have won four conference championships and four Coastal Division titles. The league's expansion might have expected to highlight Florida State and Miami, but it has been the Hokies who have most often represented the conference on the national stage. But for the last four years of that run, the Hokies were had ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor. Now Taylor is gone, and it's Thomas who's set to take his place.

The redshirt sophomore has already impressed coaches and teammates with his performance in spring practice, and the hopes are high for his first season as the Hokies starter. Standing at 6-foot-6, Thomas often looked like the big brother as Taylor tutored him throughout last season. With quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain now assuming the play-calling duties, the offense will run through Thomas. Tech has many of the pieces in place to defend their ACC championship, but they'll need Thomas to settle in quickly to get it done. -- CP

88. AT&T PARK, temporary home stadium, Cal. For the first time since 1923, the California Golden Bears will play their home games somewhere other than California Memorial Stadium. As the university enters the final stages of their $321 million retrofit and renovation project, the Bears will play their home games at AT&T Park in San Francisco - home of the Giants. The setup for football won't be entirely foreign for the venue -- it's the home of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl -- but it will be an inconvenient trip for players, students and fans so used to their home games in Berkeley.

With four critical, winnable home games on their Pac-12 slate (highlighted by visits from USC and Utah), how well the Bears adapt to their new surroundings could well determine the trajectory of Jeff Tedford's Bears tenure. After four seasons with no fewer than four losses and no league finish higher than fourth, Tedford needs a big year to avoid a make-or-break 2012 season, and given the Bears' rigorous road schedule (at Oregon, at Stanford) that simply won't happen if Cal spits the bit at AT&T Park. The stadium could be Tedford's sanctuary; it could prove to be his house of horrors. -- CP

87. VICTOR ANDERSON, running back, Louisville. In 2008, Anderson rushed for 1,047 yards and 8 touchdowns, numbers good enough for him to be named the Big East Rookie of the Year. But nagging injuries over the last two seasons have prevented Anderson from recapturing that freshman form. Now, for the first time since that promising campaign, Anderson is 100 percent healthy.

Just in time, too, for Charlie Strong's second season as Cardinal head coach. With very little chance to prove himself in 2010, some believed that sophomore Jeremy Wright might replace the dominant Bilal Powell as the 'Ville's starting running back. But after one of his best springs since stepping on campus, Anderson has reclaimed the greater share of snaps in the Cardinals' backfield. There will be a lot of pressure for Strong to repeat the success of 2010, and he's already shown his affection for the rushing game. If the Cardinals are going back to the postseason again, they'll need 2008's Anderson (or better) in 2011. -- CP

86. CASE KEENUM'S KNEE, body part, Houston quarterback. The coronation of college football's newest passing king looked to be in serious jeopardy last fall when Keenum, a senior, suffered a season-ending ACL tear during an ill-advised attempt at a tackle against UCLA. Keenum had been on pace to set NCAA records in career yards and touchdowns before the injury, but there's no progress to be made there on the sidelines.

Fortunately for Keenum, he was granted a sixth year of eligibility this January, meaning not only does he have another shot at setting those NCAA records, but he's 636 yards and three touchdowns closer. At this point, the biggest obstancle in Keenum's way is his own health. His rehab's on track so far, and he's going to be doing 7-on-7 drills with his receivers to get that all-important timing down, but how is he going to respond physically and mentally to this setback? Can he still set those records? Will his knee allow him to? -- AJ

85. LSU AT ALABAMA, potential Game of the Year, SEC. In a division where as many as four or five teams can have realistic dreams of a top-10 season and a trip to Atlanta, there's no shortage of "Game of the Year" candidates. Pair off any one of Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State -- a group featuring three of the last four national champions, a fourth team coming off a Sugar Bowl berth, and a fifth coached by a man with two national title rings himself -- and you're going to get not only a potential classic, but the game that could decide the outcome of the nation's hands-down strongest division.

But even taking into account the South Carolina-Georgia-Florida round-robin in the East, the single game most likely to produce the SEC's 2011 champion will be played between the Tide and Tigers on Nov. 5. Both teams will bring wicked defenses, explosive athletes, powerful running games (at least, if we're right about Spencer Ware) ... and potentially shaky quarterback situations that could derail either team's title dreams. It all collides head-on in Tuscaloosa, and whatever the result, the SEC season won't be remotely the same in its aftermath. -- JH

More CFB 100
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84. MARCUS COKER, running back, Iowa. The breakout star of the 2010 Insight Bowl was true freshman tailback Marcus Coker, who ran for 219 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries in Iowa's 27-24 win over Missouri. Coker busted out several highlight-reel plays, including a 62-yard touchdown sprint and a 35-yard gain in which Coker plain ran over senior safety Jarrell Harrison at the point of attack.

Coker -- who probably would have redshirted were it not for a slew of injuries in front of him on the depth chart -- is now the unquestioned workhorse in the Iowa backfield after the departures of every other tailback with even one down of experience. He's clearly got the physical gifts to make it work (and a talented, veteran line in front of him), but will Coker's bruising style of play hold up through an entire season in the Big Ten? --AJ

83. DANNY O'BRIEN, quarterback, Maryland. When 2010's ACC Rookie of the Year takes the field for his sophomore campaign this fall, in some ways it will feel as new as last September when the Kernersville, NC native took the conference by storm. After leading the Terrapins within a game of an Atlantic Division title, head coach Ralph Friedgen was fired, and offensive coordinator James Franklin took the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. O'Brien's favorite receiver, junior Torrey Smith, took his 1,055 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns to the NFL.

Now O'Brien returns with expectations to repeat last year's success in College Park. But this go-round he has a new head coach (Randy Edsall) and new offensive coordinator (Gary Crowton). Luckily, neither coach is lacking in experience, and there should be plenty of learning opportunities for the sophomore gunslinger. Now O'Brien must seize control of those opportunities to keep Maryland --as Terps fans expect -- in the Atlantic Division hunt. -- CP

82. DECLAN SULLIVAN, late student videographer, Notre Dame. Though Notre Dame's 2010 campaign finished on a high note on the field, the season had already been irreparably marred by the tragic October death of Declan Sullivan. Sullivan lost his life when the scissor lift he was on while filming an Irish practice toppled over in high winds. (At right, that's a picture of Oregon's D.J. Davis wearing Sullivan's photo on his handwarmer as a tribute.) Notre Dame was fined for the accident and has since taken steps to make sure it never happens again, filming practice by placing cameras at different angles around the field rather than putting students on top of lifts.

It's a practice that a lot of schools would be smart to adapt, and it's one example of how Sullivan's legacy -- we desperately hope -- impacts the 2011 season and beyond. Whether it's discontinuing the use of lifts, using better equipment to reduce the risk of injury, closer supervision of player workouts, even more regular medical check-ups for stressed-out coaches, college football must do a better job of ensuring the safety of those involved with it. The lesson from the Sullivan tragedy is that those in charge must be proactive in making the necessary changes; even if the number of deaths from lift incidents stops, forever, at one, that one is still far, far too many. -- TF

81. WILL LYLES, scouting service director, Houston, Texas. The man who runs Complete Scouting Services has become the face of one of the NCAA's latest, biggest targets: scouting services. These alleged "street agents" associated with different scouting services came under fire earlier this spring when it was revealed that Oregon paid Lyles $24,000 for his services before signing coveted recruit Lache Seatrunk. Since then, the public has slowly learned more and more about the scouting service industry.  

What they have learned is that Oregon is not the only school that uses them.  In fact, many schools pay scouting services for DVD's, measurements, and other information that may help in recruiting.  But the dollar amounts in some cases do not exactly fall in line with "standard prices."  Lyles is currently being investigated by the NCAA for his ties to Seastrunk, LaMichael James (also at Oregon), and Patrick Peterson (formerly of LSU).  If the NCAA decides that Lyles helped lead them to their respective schools, he would become a booster and thus a walking violation of NCAA rules. If (or when) the NCAA crackdown on scouting services takes its next step, it will be because of the spotlight on Lyles. -- CP

Check back tomorrow at Eye on CFB for Nos. 80-71 on the countdown, click here for Nos. 100-91, or follow us on Twitter for the latest updates on the 100 ... and everything else college football.



Posted on: May 24, 2011 6:15 pm
 

Troy loses four players to academics, five total

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With quarterback Corey Robinson back after a smashing freshman season and (as always) the Sun Belt's best top-to-bottom collection of talent, not even the loss of five players in one fell swoop should be enough to dislodge Troy from their perch as conference favorites.

But could it be enough to damage the Trojans' chances of actually following through on those expectations? As the Dothan Eagle reports, the four players declared academically ineligible and fifth dismissed for team rules violations include several expected to be major contributors:
Wide receivers Jamel Johnson and Chip Reeves, along with cornerback KeJuan Phillips and linebacker Mark Wilson are academically ineligible, while defensive end R.J. Roberts was dismissed for a violation of team rules.

Johnson and Reeves were projected starters. Phillips has starting experience and was a starter at one cornerback spot coming out of spring practice.
The stats back those projections up: Reeves and Johnson were the team's fourth and fifth-leading receivers a year ago, and with third-round draft pick Jerrel Jernigan off to the NFL, there's going to be plenty of receptions out there for the Trojans' receiving corps. Despite his role as part-time starter and nickelback, Phillips finished ninth on the team in tackles.

Head coach Larry Blakeney summed up the causes behind the departures in his typically folksy Southern fashion:
“You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t force them to drink it,” Blakeney said.
Certainly, it's nothing like losing Robinson or leading pass rusher Jonathan Massaqoui (12.5 sacks in 2010, fourth nationally) would be for the Trojans. To extend Blakeley's metaphor, there's still no reason to think he can't lead his team to the brink of yet another Sun Belt title.

But can they drink from that final championship cup again? Saying good-bye to players like Johnson, Reeves, and Phillips won't help.

Posted on: April 28, 2011 2:09 pm
 

New Orleans Bowl to be Dec. 17

Posted by J. Darin Darst

It looks like Saturday, Dec. 17 will be the first day of the bowl season as the New Orleans Bowl officially announced their game to be held at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. 

As usual, the game will feature the No. 1 selection from the Sun Belt against a Conference USA team.

Bowl Chairman Ron Gardner expressed his enthusiasm for keeping the game on Saturday night, "We always enjoy when the date of our Bowl game allows fans and visitors to enjoy the entire experience of a New Orleans weekend with family and friends right before Christmas. We want everyone to be able to take advantage of what we have to offer as a City that thrives on hospitality and entertainment."

The Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho will also be on Dec. 17, but the time has not been announced. Check out the complete 2011-12 bowl schedule.

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