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.

Nova, Auburn’s live eagle mascot, grounded for 2017 season

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Auburn will be forced to go to a backup when it comes to its famed pregame mascot flights.

The university announced Monday that’s live eagle mascot, War Eagle VII, has ben grounded for the entire 2017 season.  The university stated that its College of Veterinary Medicine faculty diagnosed the 18-year-old golden eagle with cardiomyopathy, a chronic disease of the heart.

The diagnosis was made following what was described as a routine checkup.

Below are the comments of the veterinarians in charge of the care of an eagle who has been a part of gamedays on The Plains since 2004.

Nova has been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, indicated by an enlarged left ventricle, decreased systolic function and supraventricular premature complexes (arrhythmia),” said Dr. Seth Oster, an avian veterinarian at the raptor center and the college’s Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital.

“These areas of constriction can increase the systolic pressure of the heart so that Nova’s heart has to pump harder to move blood around his body,” said Oster. “This type of problem could have multiple causes, the most common of which in birds is atherosclerosis.”

“Vessels that are constricted, like those that are seen in Nova’s scan, can have dangerous complications when put under increased stress from exercise,” said Dr. Seung-Woo Jung, an assistant professor of cardiology in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine. “This includes aneurysm or clot formation that could lead to vascular rupture, stroke, aortic thromboembolism or heart attack.

The release added that due to “the risk of severe medical complications, veterinary medical staff decided that Nova should not be placed in situations that cause his heart to work harder than usual, including flying in the stadium before each game.”

With War Eagle VII sidelined, pregame duties will fall to Spirit.

Spirit is the only bald eagle that has ever flown in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Her first game flight was in 2002, and she is recognizable by her bright white head and tail feathers. In 1995, Spirit was discovered as an injured fledgling in Florida. She came to Auburn in 1998 and joined the educational collection at the Southeastern Raptor Center. Her damaged beak makes her non-releasable.

Report: Baylor set to release information on sexual assault reports

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Apparently, transparency is no longer such a four-letter word in Waco.  Somewhat.

Citing a brief filed in court Friday by attorneys representing Baylor, the Waco Tribune is reporting that “[g]eneral information behind every alleged sexual assault reported to Baylor University since 2003 will soon be released by the school.” The university is currently in the process of putting together spreadsheets that will shed light on the incidents over the last decade and a half.

Per the Tribune, below are the parameters of the information that will be included in the spreadsheets.

  • Date of alleged assault
  • Date alleged assault was reported to Baylor employee
  • Whether alleged victim was Baylor student
  • Gender of alleged victim
  • Gender of alleged assailant
  • Whether Baylor knew the identity of alleged victim
  • Whether Baylor knew the identity of alleged assailant
  • Whether alleged victim asked Baylor to keep the alleged assailant’s identity confidential
  • Location of alleged assault
  • How Baylor learned of alleged assault
  • Specific offices or type of Baylor personnel who were made aware of alleged assault
  • Disposition of complaint

Information that appears will be noticeably absent?  Whether or not the assailants were Bears football players at the time..

In mid-May of this year, BU was served notice that it is being sued by a former BU volleyball player, only identified as “Jane Doe,” who claims that she was gang-raped by as many as eight then-Bears football players in 2012.  That was at least the seventh Federal Title IX lawsuit filed in connection to the sexual assault scandal that rocked the university and cost several high-profile officials their jobs, including head football coach Art Briles, nearly a year ago.

That latest filing came a little over two months after the Texas Rangers confirmed that it had commenced a preliminary investigation centered on how the university, the football program and campus police handled allegations of sexual assault made against student-athletes, most notably members of the football team.  The confirmation of that probe came a little over a month after details in one of the handful of federal lawsuits the university is facing emerged, with that suit alleging 31 Bears football players had committed 52 acts of rape over a period of four years beginning in 2011; in late March, BU sought to have that suit dismissed.

Outside of the federal lawsuits and Department of Education Title IX investigation, two former Bears football players have been convicted of sexual assault that were committed while they were members of the football team.  Several other players were accused of committing either sexual assault or violence — or both — while playing for Briles.

None of Briles’ assistants were dismissed along with the head coach as a result of the scandal even as an independent review into the football program’s handling of sexual assault accusations showed that “members of the Baylor coaching staff chose not to report incidents of sexual violence involving football players, [instead] meeting directly with those filing complaints of sexual abuse and handling their own investigations outside of university policy to discredit the complainants, thus denying them the right to a fair investigation by the university.”

In early February of this year, the Big 12 announced that it will withhold 25 percent of future revenue payments to BU, only releasing the monies “pending the outcome of third-party verification review of required changes to Baylor’s athletics procedures and to institutional governance of its intercollegiate athletics programs, among other matters.”

In the same brief filed late last week, the university again confirmed that it is the subject of “an ongoing, pending investigation” by the NCAA.

Florida makes signings of ex-Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire, former Clemson OL Jake Fruhmorgen official

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Two Power Five transfer players are officially Florida Gators.

Monday, the Gators confirmed that offensive lineman Jake Fruhmorgen and quarterback Malik Zaire have enrolled in classes at the university.  Zaire was given his unconditional release from Notre Dame in late November and, after awaiting the SEC’s tweaking of its graduate transfer policy, confirmed his move to UF earlier this month, while Fruhmorgen left Clemson in mid-January before two months later revealing that Gainesville would serve as his next college football home.

As Zaire is coming to the Gators as a grad transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2017 and is looked upon as a potential, or even likely starter under center.  Fruhmorgen will have to sit out the 2017 season, but will then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018.

Zaire started three games during his time with the Fighting Irish — the first in the Music City Bowl win over LSU following the 2014 season then the first two games of the 2015 season before an ankle injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year.  He played in eight games last season as the backup to DeShone Kizer.

Fruhmorgen didn’t play another game last season after suffering a shoulder injury in late October. While the injury kept him out of a couple of games, he missed the latter quarter of the regular season, as well as the postseason, dealing with unspecified personal issues that kept him away from the team.

Prior to all of that, the true sophomore had started the first eight games of the 2016 season at right tackle.

A four-star 2015 signee, Fruhmorgen was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 8 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 20 player at any position in the state of Florida. As a true freshman, the 6-5, 290-pound lineman played in 11 games, starting one of those contests.

WR T.J. Simmons transferring from Alabama to West Virginia

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A former Miami Hurricane wasn’t the only Power Five transfer West Virginia landed over the weekend.

On his personal Twitter account Sunday, T.J. Simmons surprised many by announcing that he would be transferring from Alabama. Not only that, but the wide receiver announced his new college football home — West Virginia.

After sitting out the 2017 season, Simmons will have three years of eligibility remaining with the Mountaineers.

A three-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2016 recruiting class, Simmons was rated as the No. 58 receiver in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Alabama. While he played in 12 games as a true freshman, mainly on special teams, he caught six passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in this year’s spring game.

In addition to Simmons, former Miami tight end Jovani Haskins announced Saturday he would be transferring to WVU as well. All told, four Power Five players have come to Morgantown this offseason — those two, plus former Syracuse defensive back Corey Winfield (HERE) and ex-Miami quarterback Jack Allison (HERE).

Meanwhile, In Tuscaloosa, Simmons has joined linebacker Shawn Jennings (HERE) and O.J. Smith (HERE) as transfers away from UA in the last month. As 247Sports.com noted, that trio of transfers gets the Tide down to 86 scholarship players, one above the 85-man limit.