SEC to tweak way violations are reported to NCAA

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If you recall, prior (no pun intended) to the fiasco that’s already forced the resignation of Ohio State’s esteemed head coach and is threatening to envelope the entire football program, there was the Cam Newton imbroglio that threatened to derail Auburn’s run to a national title.

Briefly, for background purposes, Mississippi State was made aware, through an intermediary, that Newton’s signature on a Letter of Intent was available in exchange for $180,000, payable to Newton’s father Cecil.  MSU coaches/alumni were informed of this “offer” in November of 2009, and MSU officials informed the SEC of the pay-for-play scheme in January of the following year — interestingly, only after Newton opted for the Tigers over the Bulldogs.  Shortly after alerting the SEC of a potential issue, the conference requested additional information on the situation from MSU.  Because of what the school described as a heavy workload in the compliance department on non-football matters, the information requested by the SEC was not handed over for another six months, at some point during the month of July.

That delay led to the perception that the SEC and/or Auburn and/or the NCAA were dragging their collective feet due to the historic season Newton was in the midst of.  The SEC in particular was roundly criticized, a fact that apparently stuck in the craw of commissioner Mike Slive.  And, as it turns out, has led to some minor changes in how potential violations are handled.

Speaking to the media in the midst of the SEC’s spring meetings Tuesday, Slive said that the conference has met with the NCAA regarding the “timing issue” and, while not getting into any specifics, allowed that the way they do business will be tweaked in the future.

“We’ve reached an accommodation as to the kinds of issues they (the NCAA) have had in mind, and what they want to know, when they want to know,” Slive said according to the Birmingham News. “Those are relatively simple things for us to accommodate. There may be certain issues that they want to know about earlier than others. We have no problem reaching that accommodation.”

Slive also acknowledged discussions with MSU in regards to the way the entire Newton episode played out in the first half of 2010.

Slive said the SEC has since had appropriate dialogue with Mississippi State “and we’re at a comfortable place with them now.” Mississippi State Athletics Director Scott Stricklin said the school was not penalized by the SEC.

“I think what happened last year is an opportunity for us to reassess and make sure that we’re where we all need to be as far as working within the league guidelines,” Stricklin said. “I’ve said all along, we had integrity in the way we managed the recruitment of the young man.”

Said Slive: “Everybody in our league knows exactly what we expect of them. We’re very comfortable with that. We’re very comfortable with our relationship with the NCAA. We’ve always been that way.”

Incidentally, and for those who were curious, there are still open and ongoing investigations involving Newton’s recruitment as well as Auburn’s recruiting practices.  And an NCAA look into Tiger Prowl.  And allegations made by four former players on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

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The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

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When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.