Mike Slive

Slive lays out SEC’s ‘national agenda for change’


In an interview with the Associated Press earlier this week, SEC commissioner Mike Slive strongly intimated that there is change in the air as it pertains to how big-time college football conducts its business.

“I have a sense that there are several of us that feel like change is important and addressing these issues from a national perspective is important,” Slive told the AP. “And I fully expect that we will do that, and I fully expect that the SEC will make every effort to contribute to that discussion and hopefully the appropriate action following those discussions.”

Wednesday afternoon, Slive laid out his plans for change.

Kicking off the SEC’s annual media days, Slive spent in excess of 22 minutes addressing the 900-plus media members in attendance on what he labeled a “national agenda for change”.  Slive stated that the SEC developed the agenda with the intention off stimulating national discussion on changing a game he says “has lost the benefit of the doubt” when it comes to public perception.

There’s little doubt that Slive’s four-pronged agenda will stimulate both national discussion as well as internal debate/rage amongs the coaches in his own conference.

The first area Slive addressed was a hot-button issue that’s been at the forefront of discussion of late: redefining the benefits given to student-athletes.  While Slive did not come out in favor of stipends, he did promote the “full cost of scholarship” idea championed by his Big Ten counterpart, Jim Delany.  Such a move, which would likely cost a university an additional $3,000 per year per student-athlete per sport, would add to the current benefits of tuition, housing, books, etc.  Slive dismissed the notion that some schools could not financially support such an initiative, saying that economics should prevent an institution from doing what’s right by a student-athlete.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly when it comes to the football side of the equation, Slive proposed doing away with the renewable one-year scholarships and instead offering student-athletes binding multi-year scholarships.  If this slice of Slive’s proposal were to be adopted nationally, it would in theory make it much more difficult for coaches, particularly in Slive’s own conference, to perform their annual roster manipulation.

The second prong of Slive’s “national agenda for change” concerned academics, specifically strengthening the academic guidelines for incoming freshman and JUCO transfers.  Arguably the most explosive — and thus controversial — change Slive proposed was for the minimum grade point average for incoming student-athletes to be raised from its current 2.0 to 2.5 for 16 core high school courses.  Once again, this proposal will likely raise the ire of some/most of the coach’s in his conference, especially the one that has to deal with the South Carolina educational system.

In addition to the raising of the GPA for incoming recruits for all sports, Slive would also like to see the return of partial qualifiers.  Under Slive’s proposal, and as it was in the past, a partial qualifier would be admitted to school, attend classes and practice with his/her respective teams, but would not be permitted to play in any games until their academic house was in order.

As for the third prong, Slive, as he has stated previously, would like to see the NCAA modernize recruiting rules, or, as he put it, push the reset button on the recruiting process.  Among the changes in the recruiting game Slive proposes includes permitting a more expansive use of electronic communication (texting, emails, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) between recruits and coaches; simplify the recruiting calendar, and simply get down to days coaches can or can’t contact potential recruits; and encourage the adoption of rules that would return recruiting to the scholastic setting “rather than through third parties and so-called handlers”.  The latter is obviously an attempt to rid the game of so-called street agents and limit the growing power of 7-on-7 organizations.

Slive would also like to see the so-called “bump rule” banished from the rulebook, which would make a certain Tuscaloosa a happy man, although it likely wouldn’t make him break out in anything remotely resembling a smile.

The final point on Slive’s agenda is to continue to support the NCAA’s efforts to improve enforcement of its bylaws.  As part of that help, Slive would like to see the NCAA rulebook “greatly streamlined” — the third prong of his initiative would certainly help in this area — as well as see investigations expedited and completed in a more timely fashion.

Suffice to say, Slive has put his conference at the forefront of what some consider to be some much-needed change in the game, and it will be interesting to see how his counterparts, Delany in particular, respond to Slive’s “national agenda for change” at their conference’s respective media days over the next week or so.

Not everybody seems happy about USC’s hiring of Clay Helton

Clay Helton

If there is one thing that can be said about USC hiring Clay Helton as head coach on a permanent basis, it is that it provides stability for the program moving forward. Current players have responded well to Helton. Future Trojans players are responding well to Helton on the recruiting trail. Former USC players? Well, that’s a different situation.

We saw some of this at Miami in recent years with former Hurricanes ripping now former head coach Al Golden. That was a bit of a different situation with Golden being a coach that went against the grain of all that was perceived to be representative of The U. Helton is different because he has been loyal to the program as an assistant coach during a turbulent time. He at least deserves respect of those following and those who have played for USC for that alone. The problem is Helton lacks the kind of appeal most wearing USC lenses expect from their coaching hire and it seems more likely to believe athletics director Pat Haden settled for Helton instead of being able to expand the coaching search and bring in a high-quality coach for the job.

There is one way to swing the emotions the other way for those unhappy with the decision. If USC beats Stanford to win the Pac-12 championship this week, that would be one step in the right direction for the Helton haters and the Haden skeptics (myself included). The pressure will be on more next season regardless of what happens this week in the Pac-12 championship game and whatever bowl game USC ends up playing. USC will be loaded with talent and will be a trendy pick to make a run in the Pac-12 and, perhaps, even the College Football Playoff.

USC names Clay Helton permanent head coach

Clay Helton

The top coaching vacancy in college football has been filled. USC has announced it will remove the interim tag from Clay Helton and make him the permanent head coach moving forward.

Helton has gone 5-2 since taking over the program following the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian as head coach. The most recent win this weekend against UCLA both snapped a three-game losing streak to the crosstown rival Bruins and clinched USC’s first trip to the Pac-12 championship game as Pac-12 South Division champions. Helton has been with the USC program since 2010 under various assistant roles. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2013 and named interim head coach that season following the firing of Lane Kiffin. He stayed on the staff following the hiring of Sarkisian from Washington.

Helton had become a clear player favorite in the program, as Helton calmed a troublesome environment of uncertainty in the middle fo the season and delivered a division championship. The only losses under Helton came on the road against Notre Dame in Helton’s first game as interim head coach and more recently at Oregon, a program that revived itself as well. If nothing else, Helton’s being named the head coach provides for some stability for the program, although there should be some questions moving forward whether it will be the right move or not in the long term. The USC job was thought to be the top job on the market and worthy of some high-caliber candidates. There had been rumblings USC reached out to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, a former Oregon coach of course, but the odds Kelly was going to leave the Eagles on his own a year after getting general manager power were always low.

USC will continue to bring plenty of pressure to win, and win big. Helton will continue to guide a roster packed with talent and getting back to full strength after a stretch of sanctioned seasons. If Helton does not win, he will quickly enter the hot seat conversation.

USC plays Stanford for the Pac-12 championship this week.

Will Mark Richt coach again? “Oh yeah, no doubt”

Mark Richt

On Sunday the end of the line for Mark Richt at Georgia was finally reached. The Bulldogs and the head coach will go separate ways after a 15-season run in Athens, but this will not be the final stop for Richt as a head coach. On Monday, during a press conference with the media to address the coaching change, Richt was asked whether he will coach again.

“Oh yeah, no doubt,” Richt said in his response. “I’m going to listen to anybody that’s interested in talking to me,” Richt said when again asked about what’s next for the now former head coach of Georgia.

The press conference with Richt was a bit unusual for these types of settings. First, Richt continued to show his Georgia pride by wearing a black coat and red tie and had a Georgia pin on his coat. Second, he sat right next to Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, who offered no insight whatsoever on what’s next for Georgia. When asked about the coaching search or the status for assistants, McGarity continued to shift the focus on Richt.

Richt expressed his enthusiasm for getting to coach one final game for Georgia. He will coach Georgia’s bowl game, wherever that may be, giving him one last chance to end a season with a bowl victory, which he has done nine times previously.

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.