Slive defends NCAA’s decision on Cam Newton

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(Didn’t see that one coming, didja?)

We’re just a couple of hours away from the SEC title game, and the focus is still more on what’s going on off the field regarding one of the participants than what may transpire between the two teams on it.

The NCAA’s decision to allow Cam Newton to remain eligible despite evidence that the Auburn quarterback’s father initiated and encouraged a pay-for-play scheme has caused a tremendous amount of backlash against both the NCAA and the SEC.  The NCAA’s investigation into the situation revealed that neither Newton nor Auburn were aware of the solicitation on the part of the father based on the evidence at their disposal, and therefore are not subject to punishment at this time.  Those claims of ignorance appears to have really struck the match on the firestorm, with cries of “slippery slopes” and “plunge into lawlessness” entering the college football lexicon.

Predictably, the SEC’s commissioner has come out and defended the decision that’s allowing Newton to play in not only the league’s title game, but presumably the BcS title game as well if the Tigers can knock off South Carolina this afternoon/evening.  Speaking to the Associated Press, Slive stated that what is equitable for and fair to the student-athlete is Job One of the NCAA’s reinstatement committee, and that a message shouting down an inexplicable loophole in the system shouldn’t be sent at the expense of a student-athlete when the evidence available suggests he was Sgt. Schultz.

“The long-term issue is that we do not want this conduct that his father engaged in, this reprehensible conduct,” Slive said. “But we should not be in the business of sending messages on the back of a student-athlete on the facts that I just outlined.

“What we need to do is to look at the NCAA legislation, which is not clear enough in any way to deal with an issue like this, and strengthen it and clarify it.”

Part of the outcry against the decision is based on the SEC’s own bylaws, which seem to state that the mere act of solicitation — whether the player has knowledge of it or not — should result in the player facing some type of repercussion.  Not so, says a conference official, based on their interpretation of the rule.

“The facts in this case, as we understand them, are that the student-athlete’s father, without knowledge of the student-athlete, solicited improper payments (which were rejected) from an institution the young man did not attend, and that the institution where the young man is enrolled was not involved,” SEC spokesman Charles Bloom told the AP.

With all of the noise surrounding this issue, it’s taken on the appearance that this is some monumental bylaw mountain that needs to be climbed over the next couple of months.  In reality, it’s not.  It’s actually quite simple: close the freaking loophole.

Everyone involved readily admits that the potential for a major problem exists, with the NCAA’s decision seemingly opening the door for anyone associated with a student-athlete to stick out his hand and ask for impermissible benefits with no fear of recrimination as long as the student-athlete claims ignorance.  There’s simply no need for extensive and exhaustive meetings, conference calls, committees, sub-committees, bales of post-it notes, referendums or any of that other crap.  See loophole, close loophole.

The toothpaste can’t be crammed back in the tube on the Newton situation, not with the evidence available and the rules as they are being interpreted at this time.  They can get a whole new tube, though, and ensure they don’t squirt it all over themselves and create a similar mess in the future.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.

Army’s Donovan Franklin tweets transfer to Kansas

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This is something you don’t see all too often.

Donovan Franklin (pictured, No. 26) tweeted out late Tuesday night that, “[a]fter careful consideration I am happy to announce that I have decided to continue my academic and athletic career at the University of Kansas.” Franklin had spent the past two years at the United States Military Academy at West Point, playing his college football for the Army Black Knights.

It’s unclear what led the slotback to leave the service academy and head to the Big 12 school.

Franklin was a two-star prospect coming out of high school in Maryland in Army’s Class of 2015.  After playing in two games in 2016, he carried the ball one time for seven yards this past season.

The 5-9, 185-pound Franklin was listed as a defensive back coming out of high school, and could assume such a role yet again with the Jayhawks.  That likely won’t happen this season, however, as it’s expected he will have to sit out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.