Day One of NCAA Presidential Retreat in the books

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Today began NCAA President Mark Emmert‘s two day university president/chancellor retreat in Indianapolis to discuss some of the pressing issues facing college athletics.

And given our most recent summer of slime, the issues are abundant. However, Emmert hopes to begin implementing changes and solutions that more adequately fit the needs in today’s game within a matter of months, not years.

I think there was a real common sense that we need to do some big things,” Oregon State president Edward Ray told the Associated Press. “There can’t just be a thousand incremental changes. We need to think about what are the three or four major changes that we need to make. We need to have a group put a package together, think it through and present it to the Division I board, and then have the board vote it up or down.’

“Don’t come back with a lot of recommendations that will go into the legislative process for another two years. Give us some meat to chew on and work it over thoughtfully and let’s decide over the next several months what we are going to do differently.”

Some items on the bill:

  • Full cost of attendance. Clearly, this has been one of the most intriguing problems facing revenue-producing athletics, from presidents down to student-athletes. The idea is sexy enough, but it’s a legal and financial nightmare to accomplish. As of the last fiscal year, only 22 Division 1-A programs were self-sustaining, and no program is about to start increasing student fees just to pay athletes more than the average college kid. How universities will crunch the numbers will be interesting to figure out. SEC commissioner Mike Slive and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany have noted that the idea isn’t for everybody.
  • It is interesting to note, however, that the “full cost of attendance” model could be tied to academic performance. Multi-year scholarships could be rewarded on a similar basis.
  • Going a bit further, you can eliminate the pay-for-play notion. Emmert shot that down about as quickly as he could. Revenue producing college sports are evolving, but the NCAA will never willingly move away from the idea of de-amateurizing them — even though there are plenty of reasons to suspect sports like college football are already beyond an amateur sport.
  • As mentioned above, the idea of multi-year scholarships has been gaining some momentum since Slive made them part of his four-pronged agenda for change during SEC Media Days. For one, it limits a coach’s ability to perform, ahem, “roster management” each year to his liking. Secondly, good performance in the classroom could help an athlete keep his scholarship beyond the current one-year contract model.

All these suggestions are designed to try and balance modernization with classical ideals of higher education. It’s a tough compromise to reach, but the idea right now is to come up with a handful of feasible options to legitimately pursue rather than 100 ideas that will become so tangled nothing gets done.

The retreat ends tomorrow, and we’ll have a Day Two wrap-up for you as well.

Iowa LB Aaron Mends to miss extended time with injury

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Talk about a hard-luck story.

After never starting a game at Iowa, Aaron Mends (pictured, blocking punt) had earned a starting job at outside linebacker during practice this spring.  With football being the cruel mistress that it can be at times, the Hawkeyes announced Friday night that Mends “will miss an extended period of time due to injury.” The program offered no details as to the specific nature of the injury, although it’s believed to involve the knee.

According to the school’s release, the fifth-year senior suffered the injury during the final week of Iowa’s spring drills.

Mends was a three-star member of the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class.  He was the highest-rated linebacker in Iowa’s class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Mends has played in 38 games the past three seasons.  A baker’s dozen of those appearances came during the 2017 season.

Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, James Franklin and Clay Helton among 15 CFB coaches attending NFL Draft

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We’re less than a week away from former college players officially finding out their new homes with the start of the 2018 NFL Draft and the excitement is palpable no matter if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan or somebody who dons the cardinal and gold of USC.

Naturally this is a big deal for the players’ former programs as well and their recent head coaches will be taking full advantage of the marketing opportunity to future recruits by stopping by the draft itself at AT&T Stadium for the festivities. The NFL released a list of 14 college football coaches and one recent one on Friday as being confirmed to attend the event and there are a few notable names beyond the big ones we’re used to seeing every year:

In addition, Stanford head coach David Shaw will serve as a draft analyst on NFL Network for a seventh year in a row and even ESPN’s College GameDay is getting involved with a pregame show outside the stadium they are quite familiar with from big games over the years.

Georgia DB Mark Webb tears meniscus in practice but expected back before fall camp

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Georgia’s injury luck this spring isn’t getting much better as the defending SEC champions move toward their annual G-Day spring game over the weekend.

Head coach Kirby Smart confirmed with reporters after Thursday’s practice that sophomore defensive back Mark Webb suffered a knee injury earlier in the week and tore his meniscus. He already had the knee scoped and is expected back before fall camp after the rather minor procedure.

Webb originally landed in Athens as a wideout but made the move to the secondary just as the season was getting going. He appeared in 13 games in 2017, mostly on special teams, but was expected to challenge for one of the starting spots at cornerback heading into the upcoming campaign.

The absence of Webb in the lineup for the final week of spring adds to a growing list of injuries for the team during practice as they do a little bit of roster building toward the future. Receiver Michael Chigbu’s career may be over due to lingering injuries and defensive back Divaad Wilson tore his ACL not long after enrolling this semester.

Safe to say that G-Day on Saturday might not be as physical as Smart and the coaching staff would otherwise like as a result of trying to keep the team healthy as they prepare to head into a big offseason.

Old Dominion announces remodel, expansion plans for S.B. Ballard Stadium

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Old Dominion is making sure the first word in the school’s name is not the first thing you think of when you are playing against the Monarchs, joining a long list of their FBS peers with some significant upgrades for their home venue over the coming years. In plans approved this week by the university, ODU released renderings and an updated timeline on a $65 million remodel of S.B. Ballard Stadium that is set to begin as soon as this summer.

“We are excited to begin Phase 1 reconstruction,” said Greg DuBois, the school’s vice president for administration and finance. “Fan comfort and high-quality amenities are the primary focus of this phase. The project will help us create the type of game-day experience fans want and will set us up for future expansions.”

The stadium, some 81-years-old, will undergo a nearly complete teardown over the next two years in order to transform the place most know as Foreman Field. Both the east and west stands will be demolished and rebuilt, complete with new seating and a new press box. There will naturally be more restrooms and concession stands as part of the plan that includes plenty more bells and whistles for the Conference USA program. Seating is expected to grow beyond 21,000 or so capacity the current venue seats.

While construction will get started in the coming months, the bulk of activity will take place after the 2018 campaign is wrapped up at home and before kickoff of the opener in 2019. The Virginian-Pilot reports that funding will not utilize state funds but that the school is requesting that the legislature approve an added $10 million to the cost structure as a result of rising prices beyond the original $55 million forecasted.

2018 will be just the 10th season for the Monarchs (and fifth in FBS) since the football program was reinstated and it goes without saying that the new digs will be some of the nicest in CUSA when all is said and done. Few programs have been able to successfully navigate the transition as well as ODU has and it seems an updated stadium in the near future is the reward for head coach Bobby Wilder and others in Norfolk.