Big Ten hellbent on taking $tupidity and greed to the next level

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The drumbeat started low and slow, with hardly anyone at the time putting much stock in the insane ramblings coming out of the normally lucid and coherent Sweater Vest.

“There’s always going to be change,” Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said at the Big Ten’s media days back in early August when asked about expansion changing the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. “I don’t think — I can’t imagine that there would ever be a change from the fact that Ohio State and Michigan are going to square off and it’s going to be exciting and meaningful and all the rest.

“How it will be done exactly and where within the year and all those things, I’m sure if we look back in our history, most recently it’s been in the last regular season game. Prior to that, it wasn’t.

While Tressel’s quotes caused a more-than-minor ripple, Michigan athletic director David Brandon shed all pretense and cannonballed into the discussion of moving the UM-OSU game from the end of the season — where it’s been for 70-plus years — to earlier in the season and allowing for the possibility that the two long-time and hated rivals could meet twice in a given season — once in the regular season, once in a conference title game.

I think there’s a distinct possibility that game will be a later game in the season but not necessarily the last game of the season,” Brandon said. “That’s simply because I don’t think the coaches or the players or the fans or the networks or anyone would appreciate that matchup twice within a seven-day period.”

Brandon’s counterpart at Ohio State, Gene Smith, was a little more demure, but no less using a public forum to brace fans for what seems like the inevitable, when he said “we may end up playing the last game of the year, or not. I just don’t know that yet.”

The latest to chime in on this potential abomination is Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.  And, just like Tressel, Brandon and Smith before him, Delany hinted strongly that the die has already been cast, and one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports is about to be devalued by moving up on the calendar when the conference announces its divisional alignments.

“I would put Michigan-Ohio State among the top five events in all of sports for rivalry,” Delany said. “It’ll get played. Now the question is, how best to play it? Are they in the same divisions or are they not? Do they play in the last game, the second-to-last game, the third-to-last game? How to do that is still under discussion. …

“You could make a good argument that Michigan and Ohio State should never really be playing for a divisional crown. If they’re going to play, play for the right to go to the Rose Bowl. When Tennessee and Florida play, when Auburn and Alabama play, only one of those teams is going to go to the championship game because they’re in the same division.”

How exactly has the Iron Bowl suffered by the two schools being in the same division, as Delany intimates?  Last time we checked, ‘Bama-Auburn in many parts of this country is viewed as the greatest, most heated rivalry in all of college football, and they’ve somehow found a way to keep that hatred alive and well for nearly twenty years while residing in the same division.

And what’s to say that the two schools intertwined in a decades-long conference rivalry have to have the opportunity to face each other in a title game, anyway?  There’s no sound logic or any semblance of a good argument in Delany’s attempt at justifying a move by shifting the attention to conference title match-ups.  How much more would be on the line if a shot at the Big Ten title game hung in the balance that weekend after Thanksgiving?  Certainly a whole helluva lot more than if The Game were the meat in a Indiana/Illinois or Northwestern/Minnesota October sandwich.  

What happens to the 2006 game or the 1969 game or the myriad other classics if they were played at any time before the end of the regular season?  Here’s a hint: they fade into oblivion and become a footnote to the rest of the regular season most years, with a slight chance that one could avenge the prior midseason loss in the conference title game.  And the reason they’d fade?  They’d be lost amongst what happened in the two or three or four games after The Game Lite was contested.

When those games were played had as much to do with the memories as how the games were played or ended.  There was something on the line, either a Rose Bowl/BcS berth or the opportunity to ruin the other’s season; move The Game from the end of the regular season, and you lose that something being played for every single year on the off-chance that they meet up, what, once every four, five years with something on the line?

This is not the era of the Ten-Year War.  There were no Penn State’s, Wisconsin’s, Iowa’s or Nebraska’s to speak of back in the days of Woody and Bo, at least not consistently.  This is a more balanced Big Ten, rife with top-shelf programs that would make the conference’s seemingly desired target of a twice-a-year grudge match between its two flagship schools much less likely than the league’s officials would care to admit or consider.

Be warned, Big Ten: you move The Game, you will rip the heart and suck the soul out of the single greatest property the conference owns.  And for what, a few more advertising dollars every few years when they do happen to stumble into a title showdown?  One that will, incidentally, likely be contested in a sterile, domed, neutral location as opposed to yet another reason that The Game is what it is — The Big House and The Shoe.

The shame in all of this is not the fact that it’s nearly a done deal; the shame is the fact that it’s being considered at all.

Louisiana-Lafayette suspends 13 players arrested on felony charges

Louisiana-Lafayette athletics
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This’ll certainly leave a mark on the ol’ depth chart.

Louisiana-Lafayette announced Tuesday night that a total of 13 players have been indefinitely suspended by head coach Mark Hudspeth.  Those 13 are tight end Matthew Barnes, defensive end Joe Dillon, left guard Robert Hunt, defensive back Denarius Howard, defensive end Jarvis Jeffries, defensive tackle LaDarrius Kidd, linebacker Terik Miller, defensive back Damar’ren Mitchell, running back Trey Ragas, defensive back Simeon Thomas, defensive back Levarious Varnado, left tackle D’Aquin Withrow and running back Jordan Wright.

While the school attributed the suspensions to a violation of unspecified team rules, KATC-TV is reporting that all 13 of the players were arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy to commit felony theft stemming from an incident earlier this month.

From the television station’s report:

According to investigators, surveillance video shows the 13 players going to a room on the fourth floor of the Huger Hall dormitory and stealing around $2,400 worth of items from the room. Police say the students surrendered after warrants for their arrests were issued.

Seven of those suspended started games last season — Hunt (13), Withrow (13), Mitchell (11), Dillon (eight), Jeffries (seven), Thomas (seven) and Howard (two).  Dillon was named a Freshman All-American by several organizations after leading the Ragin’ Cajuns with 12.5 tackles for losses and seven sacks in 2016.

Wright (pictured, No. 27) wasn’t a starter, but he was fourth on the team last season with 192 yards rushing.  With the departure of leading rusher Elijah McGuire (1,127 yards), Wright, Ragas and Darius Hoggins (281 yards last season) are expected to compete or the starting running back job this season.

UL-L is scheduled to open the 2017 season Sept. 2 against Southeastern Louisiana.

Louisville grad transfer QB Kyle Bolin tweets transfer to Rutgers

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Following Louisville’s spring game earlier this month, Kyle Bolin confirmed that he would be transferring from the football program.  A little over a week later, the quarterback already has a new team lined up.

Per a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account, Bolin wrote he’s “proud to say my next home will be at Rutgers University.” The football program has thus far declined to confirm Bolin’s addition to Chris Ash‘s roster.

Bolin is scheduled to graduate from the U of L next month, meaning he’ll be eligible to play for the Scarlet Knights this coming season.

Texas, Cincinnati, Northern Illinois, Southern Miss and Western Michigan were also considered potential destinations for Bolin.

Bolin started five games in 2015 as he and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson shared quarterbacking duties that season.  Jackson replaced Bolin after a pair of picks in the regular-season finale against rival Kentucky that year and, coming off his four-touchdown performance in the Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M, the former was firmly entrenched as the starter heading into the spring of 2016.

The arrival of Bolin couldn’t come soon enough for the quarterback-depleted Knights.

In mid-November, Rutgers had six scholarship quarterbacks on its roster.  By the beginning of December, that number had been cut in half as two of them, Hayden Rettig and Chris Laviano, left the program as graduate transfers while another, Mike Dare, left as a run-of-the-mill transfer.  The group was further pared earlier this month when Tylin Oden was dismissed for violating team rules and TCU transfer Zach Allen suffered a torn ACL.

With Allen’s injury, it leaves the Scarlet Knights with just one healthy signal-caller on scholarship at the moment — Giovanni Rescigno, the starter to close out the 2016 season and presumptive front-runner to maintain the job.  Another will be added when 2017 signee Johnathan Lewis comes to campus this summer.

Rescigno, Lewis and Bolin will commence a battle for the starting job when summer camp opens in early August.

Nick Saban, on QB controversy: ‘there isn’t one’

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Consider The Nicktator perturbed.  Again.

Jalen Hurts (pictured, right) helped lead Alabama to the national championship game as a true freshman last season and is seemingly the Crimson Tide’s unquestioned starter as we trudge toward summer.  Five-star 2017 signee Tua Tagovailoa (pictured, left), however, had an impressive first spring in Tuscaloosa, capped off with an excellent showing in the annual A-Day game this past weekend.

The true freshman passed for 315 yards and three touchdowns in what amounted to a glorified scrimmage, while the incumbent threw for 301 yards and a pair of scores.

Tagovailoa’s showing throughout the 15 spring practice sessions had led some to wonder whether there could be a quarterback controversy brewing at ‘Bama.  According to Nick Saban, that’s just the media being the media.

“Jalen Hurts played a lot of good football for us last year, and he’s certainly made a lot of progress this spring,” the head coach said by way of al.com. “Even though all of you in the press are trying to make a quarterback controversy out of nothing, which is what you’re doing right now, there isn’t one.”

LOOK: Jim Harbaugh hooks Pope Francis up with Michigan helmet, pair of Jordans

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There’s a series of words I’d never imagined I’d string together in a headline.

As you may have heard, Jim Harbaugh has taken his Michigan football team to Italy for an offseason European vacation.  As part of the trip, the team is in the Vatican City today and took in the Pope’s Wednesday address to the masses in St. Peter’s Square — the players and athletic director Warde Manuel sat amongst the crowd while the head coach and his wife were seated on the same stage as Pope Francis.

Following the address, and after a wait of nearly a half-hour, Harbaugh was able to meet with and speak to His Holiness.  The coach didn’t come empty-handed, either, as Pope Francis was gifted with a Michigan football helmet and a pair of Air Jordans.  Michigan-themed, of course.

“This is as good as it gets,” Harbaugh said according to mlive.com after his meeting with the pope. “This has been the experience of my lifetime.”