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

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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.

Akron earns second-ever spot in MAC championship game

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Akron came into Week 13 needing to either win or rely on someone else to lose.  In the end, the Zips decided to just go ahead and punch their own ticket to the Motor City, thank you very much.

Jumping out to a 24-7 halftime lead Tuesday night, that margin proved to be more than enough for Akron as they easily cruised past rival Kent State in a 24-14 win.  Kent actually outgained its hosts 246-191, but a fumble return for a touchdown with less than 20 seconds left in the second quarter essentially sealed the win for Akron.

Both Akron and Ohio entered this week tied atop the MAC East at 5-2.  However, the Zips beat the Bobcats in Week 12, meaning Akron is the first MAC team to claim a spot in the conference championship game at Detroit’s Ford Field next weekend.

This will mark the Zips’s second-ever title-game appearance, with the first coming in 2005.  That season, Akron beat Northern Illinois 31-30 for its first-ever conference championship.

Akron will play either NIU (6-1) or Toledo (6-1) in this year’s title game, although it’s trending heavily toward the Rockets as they own the head-to-head with the Huskies.  So, the possibilities?

Toledo wins the West with either a win over Western Michigan OR an NIU loss. Northern Illinois needs to beat Central Michigan AND have Toledo lose to WMU at home to win the division.

Report: Florida appears ready to move on from Chip Kelly pursuit if deal isn’t consummated soon

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Florida’s search for a new head coach could very shortly be ready to take another twist.

Despite a certain former Head Ball Coach saying UF’s new head coach would be a current one, speculation on Jim McElwain‘s replacement has seemingly centered on Chip Kelly over the last few days. In fact, a group of UF officials headed by athletic director Scott Stricklin and president Kent Fuchs visited with Kelly in New Hampshire over the weekend to discuss the job.

While it walks, talks and smells like the university has targeted Kelly as its top choice, it appears they want an answer, one way or the other, from the former Oregon head coach sooner rather than later. From Yahoo! SportsPat Forde:

But with other potential candidates becoming available for discussion this weekend, Florida officials appear to be ready to move on shortly after Thanksgiving if a deal has not been struck with Kelly.

Potentially mucking up the works in Gainesville is UCLA, which fired Jim Mora Sunday and is also said to be targeting Kelly as a replacement.  In fact, it’s being reported that the Bruins’ search contingent has already met with Kelly.

UCF’s Scott Frost, who is believed to be Nebraska’s top choice when/when it moves on from Mike Riley, and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen are thought to be likely targets should either Kelly snub the Gators or they move on.

One very likely reason for UF’s reported urgency for a decision from Kelly is the revamped recruiting calendar. This year marks the first time that there’s an early signing period in football, with Class of 2018 recruits given a 72-hour window from Dec. 20-22 to sign their National Letters of Intent.

The sooner UF can wrap up its search, the sooner its new coach and his staff can try to hold together some semblance of a first recruiting class with the program – especially with two SEC programs, Tennessee and Ole Miss, already looking for a head coach while a couple of others (Arkansas, Texas A&M) could be on the hunt as early as this coming weekend as well.

Miami jumps Clemson, Wisconsin remains No. 5 in latest CFP rankings

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The third-to-last edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, and the only changes in the top 12 came at spot No. 2, where Miami jumped Clemson ahead of the pair’s ACC title clash on Dec. 2.

USC remained the highest-ranked Pac-12 team at No. 11, dimming any hopes the Pac-12 could back-door its way into the top four should chaos reign elsewhere. The Trojans were one spot ahead of TCU and two spots ahead of the Pac-12’s second-highest ranked team in Washington State. Central Florida again led all Group of 5 teams at No. 15.

Virginia Tech re-joined the rankings at No. 25, one spot behind the debut rankings for South Carolina.

The top 25:

1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Clemson
4. Oklahoma
5. Wisconsin
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Notre Dame
9. Ohio State
10. Penn State
11. USC
12. TCU
13. Washington State
14. Mississippi State
15. Central Florida
16. Michigan State
17. Washington
18. LSU
19. Oklahoma State
20. Memphis
21. Stanford
22. Northwestern
23. Boise State
24. South Carolina
25. Virginia Tech

Report: LSU victory would not save Kevin Sumlin’s job

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Kevin Sumlin said Tuesday afternoon he expects to be Texas A&M’s head coach in 2018. A report Tuesday night says otherwise.

Sumlin will be fired in the day or days following Saturday’s game with No. 20 LSU, win or lose, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle. The Aggies are 0-5 against LSU under Sumlin and double-digit underdogs for Saturday’s game in Baton Rouge. The Chronicle‘s report is not the first to proclaim Sumlin’s future firing, but it is the most definitive.

Sumlin is 7-4 (4-3 SEC) this season and 51-25 overall, a mark that ranks in the top-third of the SEC since joining the league in 2012 — but Sumlin is not paid to deliver top-third results. His program failed to live up to the standard set in that debut campaign, with an 11-2 mark, a win in Tuscaloosa, a Cotton Bowl blowout of Oklahoma and a Heisman Trophy for Johnny Manziel.

The Chronicle reported that Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher will be A&M’s top target to replace Sumlin.