Sen. Hatch Talks BcS With CFT

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In what is either a signal that CFT’s move to NBC Sports has brought about some credibility to this website or one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse — there’s a definite lean toward the latter — we were able, via e-mail, to do a Q & A with Senator Orrin Hatch, the congressman from Utah who will head today’s Senate hearing regarding the Bowl Championship Series.

Sen. Hatch has been up-front and very public in questioning the fairness and, yes, legality, of the current system that crowns a national champion.  Ahead of a hearing entitled “”The Bowl Championship Series: Is it Fair and in Compliance with Antitrust Law?”, the senator was gracious enough to answer a few questions regarding the BcS, his reasoning behind the call for a hearing, and what may or may not come out of yet another face-to-face with those responsible for the current system.

CFT: What led you to call for these hearings and what do you hope to accomplish on July 7? 

Sen. Hatch: I called for the hearings because I believe there are a lot of legal and fairness issues surrounding the BCS. Most significantly, it creates inherent disadvantages for those conferences that don’t receive automatic bids. Nearly half of the all the teams in college football are left to share relatively small amounts of BCS revenue, while the teams from the six automatic-bid conferences each have a share in a much larger pot – even if they don’t win a single game. The BCS is currently attempting to extend the status quo – the same status quo that Members of Congress, the President, and millions of fans throughout the country have complained about – for an additional four years. All the Division I conferences have been told they have to sign the contract by July 9. I hope the hearing will shed some light on the legal issues surrounding the BCS, specifically, whether it violates Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. 

CFT: Could what transpires during that hearing potentially lead you further down the road toward a line of thinking that legislation might be the only way of fixing the inequities of the current system? 

Sen. Hatch: I hope we don’t have to get to that point, but I am considering legislation. I haven’t introduced it yet, but I hope to be able to work with my colleagues to examine this issue thoroughly to make sure we can come up with an appropriate approach if it is called for. This hearing may be helpful toward that end. 

CFT: In a recent newspaper interview, University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor and chairman of the BcS Presidential Oversight Committee Harvey Perlman warned that the demise of the current system would lead to a return to the old bowl system, not a playoff. I would just like your thoughts on what comes very close to being a “threat” by one of the most powerful men in the organization.

Sen. Hatch: I don’t know if that’s a threat from Mr. Perlman or if that’s just his opinion. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that the schools involved in the BCS would forego the increased revenues they’ve received under the BCS by reverting back to the old system. I think there’s an alternative out there that will address the revenue and market issues raised by the BCS’s proponents that’s also fair and legal. I’m not interested in getting Congress involved in the minute details of a new system. One thing’s for certain, the current BCS system is fundamentally unfair; I don’t think there’s any real fan of college football who disputes this. Something needs to be done as the status quo isn’t working and there are plenty of other options that are successful elsewhere but have not been tried before in college football. 

CFT: Also in a recent interview, current BcS coordinator Jim Swofford was quoted as saying the following:”The BCS is voluntary. If a conference decided it did not want to be a part of the BCS there is certainly no requirement that it do so. Obviously if certain conferences said they were not going to be a part of it, that could be a factor in its continuation–depending on which conferences, that is.”Isn’t that an express admission that the BcS is all about a handful of conferences, and thus a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act? That while technically included, unless a conference is part of the Big Six — or, more likely, Big Four — their presence is merely an act of appeasement and they do not want those “lesser” conferences to realize the full benefits of BcS membership? 

Sen. Hatch: There are most definitely antitrust issues involved here. I’ve argued from the beginning that the system is specifically designed to favor some conferences and disfavor others. I think that the antitrust laws are designed to prevent such arrangements among what are supposed to be competitors. These are the issues we’ll be addressing in today’s hearing.  

CFT: Do you have a specific playoff plan that you would like to see instituted?

Sen. Hatch: I, like most college football fans, would like to see a playoff system, but it is my hope that the people with the power to reform the BCS system will do so without government involvement. Almost anything would be better than the current system. However, I don’t think it’s Congress’s place to devise its own playoff format. 

CFT: What will be your next step following this hearing? Is it entirely dependent on what you hear from all the parties involved? 

Sen. Hatch: First, I expect that we’ll get a clearer picture of the BCS problem from the hearings and, as a result, I think there’s a decent chance the Justice Department will look into the system. We may also see private litigation at some point down the line, and, as I said, I’m considering legislation to address this problem too. However, it’s not my desire to have the Senate regulating college football nor have the matter taken to the courts, so hopefully it will not have to get to that point.

CFT: How do you answer the criticism from some in the media that “Congress has better things to do” than meddle in college football? 

Sen. Hatch: Well, if there are antitrust violations going on here, and I think there very well may be, should we ignore them simply because they involve college football? If Congress were to ignore a similar unfair business arrangement in another industry, I think many of these same people would claim that we were shirking our responsibility. With the BCS, we’re dealing with colleges and universities. Should we be holding them to a lower standard than we would hold a purely commercial business? If anything, I think that standard should be higher.

Jimbo Fisher vows to change culture at Texas A&M

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If there was one thing that really seemed to put Kevin Sumlin on the hot seat during his time at Texas A&M, it was the Aggies seemingly annual collapse in the second half of the season and inability to finish games they had the potential to win. That explains some of the reason why the school ponied up to lure Jimbo Fisher from Florida State in a $75 million hire late last year.

While most of the outside focus on Fisher’s move to College Station has been centered on that humongous contract, there’s little question that hiring a national title-winning coach was a coup for the team. That subject was brought up again on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show Friday evening and ESPN college football analyst Booger McFarland relayed a rather interesting conversation he had with the coach earlier this year in which Fisher said something you typically don’t hear made public. You can head to the 8:18 mark (or there abouts) for the interview.

“I talked to Jimbo in Atlanta. I told Jimbo point-blank — the same thing I told you guys about Texas A&M the last several years — A&M is a soft program,” McFarland said. “Jimbo looked me in the eye and was like, ‘You know what, you’re damn right. We are soft, but I’m going to change that.’”

Something says that Fisher and the Aggies strength coaches are going to use the comments as a bit of a challenge in the weight room and during spring practice over the coming months as they lay the groundwork for the 2018 season. Even the most ardent maroon and white supporters would probably agree with the sentiment that the team went a little soft toward the end of Sumlin’s tenure but it’s not everyday you see a coach call out his new program quite like that.

Maybe it’s something in the water down there in College Station though, judging by some other comments by the school’s athletic director, but one thing is for certain — things are going to be very different at Texas A&M going forward.

Scott Frost wants Nebraska football roster to grow to 150 players or more in 2018

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In the days before you were limited to 85 scholarship players, it was not totally uncommon to see teams stock their rosters full of players and wind up in the triple-digits with close to 200 players on a team. Even after the NCAA mandated a limit of 85 scholarships, roster sizes were still not that much smaller when you factored in walk-ons and others on a squad.

It appears Scott Frost wants to get back to those sort of days in Lincoln and is apparently pushing the school to help him expand the Cornhuskers roster right into the 150 range.

“I’d like to accommodate (Frost’s) desire” to expand the roster, athletic director Bill Moos said this week in an interview with Rivals’ HuskerOnline. “But we do have that issue with Title IX” along with locker room facilities challenges, organized practice schedules, and other daily management nuts and bolts to sort through.

“Nebraska has been known for having a lot of players on the team…a lot of walk-ons. I’d like to get back to that,” Frost had said on Signing Day earlier in the month. “The best thing Coach (Tom) Osborne did was have everybody practice… and part of that is what led to the development of players and helped walk-ons and young players get better faster and get on the field and help the team. I think that’s an asset that Nebraska can have if we’re willing to expand the roster.”

HuskerOnline details some of the compliance and budgetary challenges that going to 150 would entail but it certainly sounds like the school is making the effort to beef the numbers up. The Cornhuskers are well known in college football history for their walk-on program and roughly 10-15 walk-ons per class would apparently help them land right around Frost’s ideal roster size after factoring in the 85 full-scholarship players he would recruit.

Interestingly, going to 150 would allow the program to pass Michigan for the Big Ten’s biggest roster. The Wolverines under Jim Harbaugh are reportedly sitting at around 135 players after the 2017 season while most of the other conference’s schools are mostly around the 120 mark with a few exceptions. Title IX is not surprisingly the biggest obstacle for teams but it seems like some can manage things with no issue.

Frost was hired this offseason to help take Nebraska back to their perch atop college football and it seems like he is certainly attempting to do that in more ways than one when it comes to Big Red.

Purdue hires Utah State’s Mark Tommerdahl as special teams and tight ends coach

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Jeff Brohm is bringing in longtime coaching veteran Mark Tommerdahl to fill out his staff and serve as Purdue’s special teams and tight ends coach.

The Boilermakers announced the move on Saturday afternoon as Tommerdahl heads to West Lafayette after spending just a season at Utah State where he also coached running backs and ran the Aggies’ special teams. While his stay in Logan was brief, Tommerdahl has been all over the country in 34 years as a coach and is highly regarded for his work in the kicking game.

Tommerdahl has plenty of prior Power Five coaching experience and spent four seasons with Sonny Dykes at Cal where he coached three different position groups and served as assistant head coach. Prior to that he also had stops at Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M, Alabama, TCU and several other schools.

The move to bring in Tommerdahl fills the spot on the Boilermakers’ staff that was left when former Houston coach Tony Levine left after one season with the school to pursue opportunities outside of the coaching profession. Brohm’s 10th assistant Kevin Wolthausen was also given special teams responsibilities when he was elevated to a full-time role so it’s possible the team is really beefing up their emphasis on the third phases of the game with the two new coaches splitting duties when it comes to special teams.

Either way, after a surprising 2017 season that ended with a bowl game victory it’s pretty clear that Brohm is not just sitting back when it comes to his coaching staff and is bringing in some veteran names to help the team take the next step in 2018.

Iowa State OC Tom Manning reportedly leaving Ames for Indianapolis Colts staff

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After one of the most successful seasons in recent memory at Iowa State, it appears head coach Matt Campbell will not be able to keep the band together for another run.

Campbell confirmed to The Des Moines Register on Saturday morning that offensive coordinator Tom Manning was leaving Ames and will be taking a job in the NFL. The paper later was able to confirm that the team in question will be the Indianapolis Colts for a spot on Frank Reich’s new staff. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg says Manning will be the team’s tight ends coach.

“I’m really happy and proud of him,” Campbell told the Register.

Manning has been with Campbell for years and the two actually played (and coached) together at famed D-III power Mount Union in the early 2000’s. Both were on the same staff at Toledo and Manning served as offensive line coach both there and at Iowa State. As offensive coordinator in 2017 he guided the Cyclones to a bit of an offensive renaissance despite relying on backup quarterback Kyle Kempt for most of the season, helping the team produce the third most points per game in school history while ranking in the top five in both total yards and passing.

ISU memorably upset Oklahoma in Norman and capped off an eight-win campaign in the Liberty Bowl with a victory over a ranked Memphis team.

The move leaves two openings on Campbell’s staff for 2018 but the Register notes that graduate assistant Jeff Myers is a possibility for the offensive line job and special teams analyst Joe Houston could be the team’s potential 10th assistant coach.