Jim Delany

Big Ten going to multi-year scholarship model


For those football players who sign National Letters of Intent with Big Ten schools Wednesday, that signature will afford them a lot more scholarship security than their predecessors ever had.

According to Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, most of the Big Ten schools as well as some other schools across the collegiate landscape are signing the members of their Class of 2012 — football only — to four-year scholarships instead of the previous standard of one-year renewable deals.

The move comes a few months after the NCAA approved the use of the multi-year scholarship initiative, although it’s not yet a requirement.  A full vote of the NCAA membership will take place later this month before the legislation is put into place across the board.

As the Plain Dealer writes, however, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany “encouraged” his membership to offer its football recruits the multi-year scholarships.  “Most — if not all — Big Ten schools” have taken Delany’s “encouragement” to heart.

“Some may look at it and say it’s symbolic,” Chad Hawley, the Big Ten’s associate commissioner for compliance, told Lesmerises. “In the vast majority of cases with a one-year grant, if student-athletes came in and did what they needed to do, it was renewed. But at the same time, I think there’s a peace of mind that goes beyond symbolism.”

The four-year scholarship is not an ironclad guarantee that recruits will have a scholarship during that time period regardless, though; Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith noted that the scholarships can be pulled due to academic or off-field issues.

While the Big Ten is going all in on the four-year renewables, their conference heavyweight counterpart is taking a wait-and-see approach. “We took the less regulatory approach to see how this is implemented across the country,” SEC associate commissioner for compliance Greg Sankey said, adding that commissioner Mike Slive continues to support the multi-year initiative.

For this signing period, however, it will be up to the individual SEC schools to determine the scholarship course it will take.  While Slive favors the multi-year scholarship approach, don’t look for any SEC school to voluntarily implement that approach.

South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier was the most vocal of the conference coaches who are against anything beyond the current one-year renewable model, and the schools in that league are expected to sign off on that tack for this signing class.  Of course, most view the multi-year scholarship model as a direct response to oversigning, specifically as that issue relates to the SEC.

Smith, the OSU AD, wants to make sure that people realize this is not a Big Ten issue, that “other places” in “need of a cultural change” need to take the same step his conference is taking.

“For those places that really need the cultural change, this is big,” Smith said. “There were some schools that ran players off because of their athletic ability, and so this helps. Now, those schools may not offer multi-year scholarships. But you would hope they would. And you would hope there’s pressure that would cause them to do it, because this isn’t how we should treat kids.

“But this is not a Big Ten issue, frankly. It’s in other places.”

The irony of Smith talking about institutions really needing a cultural change is too rich for me this early in the morning…

Florida RB Mark Thompson cited for pot possession

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 15:  Mark Thompson #24 of the Florida Gators rushes for yardage during the game against the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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And now we know a little bit more of the rest of the story.

Friday afternoon, Florida announced that Mark Thompson would not travel with the rest of the team to Jacksonville for Saturday’s game against Georgia.  The only reason given was “some choices and decisions he’s made.”

According to the Orlando Sentinel, one of those choices was smoking weed, with that decision resulting in a citation for possession of marijuana.  The citation was issued after the running back ran a stop sign very early Thursday morning and was pulled over by a university police officer.

From the Sentinel:

UFPD spokesperson Maj. Brad Barber said the officer smelled the odor of marijuana in the car and after a search discovered Thompson in possession of fewer than 20 grams of the substance.

Thompson was given a notice to appear for the misdemeanor violation and also cited for failure to stop at a stop sign and failure to provide proof of insurance.

Thompson, a 6-2, 237-pound redshirt junior, is currently third on the Gators in rushing yards (262) and second in rushing touchdowns (two). This is the back’s first season in Gainesville after transferring in from the junior college ranks earlier this year.

Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp set to return after two-game absence

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp #1 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers grabs a touchdown pass against linebacker D.J. May #7 of the Wyoming Cowboys at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Wyoming 52-14. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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When undefeated and seventh-ranked Nebraska takes the field for its biggest game of the 2016 season thus far, it’ll do so with one of the most experienced and productive pieces of its passing game back in action.

Jordan Westerkamp sustained an injury to his back during the Week 5 win over Illinois, and was briefly hospitalized after being hit by an Illini defender. The wide receiver missed the Week 7 win over Indiana and the Purdue win the following Saturday because of the injury.

This week, however, Westerkamp practiced without any type of restrictions ahead of the Week 9 game against No. 11 Wisconsin in Madison. Westerkamp, who stated his injuries included tiny fractures on the transverse process in his spine as well as what was described as a deep muscle bruise, confirmed the obvious, that he will suit up for the Cornhuskers and play against the Badgers in the huge Big Ten West matchup.

“It’s been good,” Westerkamp said, by way of the Omaha World-Herald, of his return to practice. “My confidence is at an all-time high and we’re ready to go get back with the team and kick butt this Saturday.”

At the time of the injury, Westerkamp led the Cornhuskers in receiving touchdowns (four) and tied for the team lead in receptions (13). His 228 receiving yards were second behind Alonzo Moore‘s 310.
Last season, Westerkamp led the ‘Huskers in all three of those categories.

‘Due to some choices and decisions he’s made,’ Florida RB Mark Thompson won’t play vs. UGA

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Mark Thompson #24 of the Florida Gators in action during the second half of the game against the North Texas Mean Green at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Sounding very similar to a disappointed parent, Florida has announced that one of their kids will be in timeout instead of on the field this weekend.

Ahead of Saturday’s annual rivalry game with Georgia, Florida announced via Twitter that running back Mark Thompson not only won’t play this Saturday but won’t even make the trip to Jacksonville for The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.  Why? “[D]ue to some choices and decisions he’s made.”

The school, obviously, will not go into any further details as to the issue or issues that will sideline the player.

Thompson, a 6-2, 237-pound redshirt junior, is currently third on the Gators in rushing yards (262) and second in rushing touchdowns (two). This is the back’s first season in Gainesville after transferring in from the junior college ranks earlier this year.

Big 12 eschews two-division setup; instead, top two teams to play in league title game

WVU vs Marshall
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The Big 12 earlier this month eschewed expansion.  A short time later, they’ve done the same for splitting up the conference.

The league announced late Friday morning that, when the conference championship game returns for the 2017 season, there will be no split into two five-team divisions.  Instead, the teams with the best and second-best record in conference play will square off in the conference championship game.

Each conference member will continue to play nine league games every season, one against each other member.

“There are a number of advantages to matching our top two teams,” said commissioner Bob Bowlsby in a statement. “Given our round-robin, nine-game scheduling model, it is expected the Big 12 champion will be uniquely positioned for College Football Playoff consideration. I would argue there will be no path more difficult than our champion’s, where it will have played every team in the Conference, faced at least one Autonomy Conference non-conference opponent, and then plays in our championship game.

“The guaranteed No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup will be a great game for our fans, and it’s hard to imagine a stronger position for a conference champion.”

The release gave no indication as to how three-way ties would be handled, although CFP rankings would likely come into play.  The decision to not split into two divisions likely won’t sit well with the league’s coaches, however, even as it’s arguably the wisest decision the conference has made in years.

The conference also revealed that the site of the 2017 conference championship game “will be announced in the coming weeks.” AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, is widely believed to be the front-runner for at least the first renewal, and is viewed as the far and away favorite if the league opts to “anchor” the game at one site for a period of years.