Bobby Bowden’s message to FSU? ‘Stay in the ACC’

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One very powerful Florida State official — and the board he chairs — has publicly stated that his school should listen to overtures from the Big 12 if they come.  One former trustee has publicly stated that those overtures have already come, and they came from the Big 12.

On two occasions since all ‘Nole broke loose over the weekend, FSU president Eric Barron has attempted to tap the breaks on the rampant speculation, and has even made a very strong case to boosters and alumni for the athletic programs to remain in the ACC.  While it may not matter as much now as it would’ve even a few years ago, Barron’s pro-ACC stance has one big supporter in the form of the man responsible for turning the Seminoles football program into a national powerhouse.

In an interview that will air Sunday morning at 9 a.m. ET on the SiriusXM show College Sports from All Angles with Jack Arute, Arute asks ex-FSU head coach Bobby Bowden what his message would be to his former school in regards to future conference affiliation.  His response?  In essence, get your football program in better shape and get back to ruling the ACC before even thinking about moving to a higher-quality football conference.

“My message would be stay in the ACC,” Bowden told Arute in a transcript provided by SiriusXM. “Do you want to win a National Championship at Florida State?  You’ve got a better chance in the ACC than you have in the Big 12, or even the SEC.

“You say, ‘Well, gosh, they’re much stronger in those conferences.’  Yeah!  They beat up on each other and you can’t hardly get there.  You know what?  Florida State, wait ‘til you get good enough to rule the ACC then you start looking for someplace to jump.  But my opinion?  They should stay right where they are.”

Those comments will likely not sit well with FSU supporters, some (most?) of whom blame the current state of the football program on Bowden and his decision to “cling” to the job until being forced out after the 2009 season.

Like Barron, Bowden cited increased travel costs in other, non-revenue sports as a reason for FSU to stay right where it is.  He also disputed claims made by Derrick Brooks, the former FSU All-American linebacker and former school trustee who stated during a radio interview Wednesday that “[a]s far as I know, the Big 12 reached out to us.”

“All this talk about Florida State, it kinda tickles me because, in the first place, I don’t think the Big 12 has even talked to Florida State,” Bowden said. “I could be wrong.  I hear different opinions.

“I think the president of Florida State is correct.  Florida State, you’re in the ACC, it’s a nice solid conference.  Stay with them.  You know, I can’t see Florida State joining the Big 12 to gain three million dollars.  How much is it going to cost to fly the girls’ soccer team, the girls’ basketball team, the boys’ baseball team out to Norman, Oklahoma, or out to Kansas to play?  They’ll gobble that three million up so quick they won’t know what it’s like.  I think we need to stay right where our base is, that’s right here on the east coast.”

It remains to be seen whether the people who are actually still in power at the school and will ultimately make the decision on conference affiliation, up to and including the board of trustees, concur with the line of thinking put out there for public consumption by Bowden and Barron.

New Arkansas house bill will allow some concealed guns at football games

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill regarding a person’s ability to carry a concealed handgun into various buildings at a public university or college into state law. However, House Bill 1249 will not allow all legal gun owners to carry a gun to a football game in the state of Arkansas.

Football games will be considered a “sensitive area,” which require enhanced training in order to be allowed to carry a gun into a football stadium. The law supposedly trumps any provisions already in place to prevent guns from being allowed on the premises.

“The enhanced level of training is very important, and I am convinced the public will be more safe,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This bill, in my view, reflects the view of the general assembly.”

The bill has received praise from Arkansas Republican state representative Charlie Collins and the NRA.

While the bill has now become an act in the state, it will not go into effect until January 2018, so guns will still not be allowed in football games where Arkansas, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, or Central Arkansas during the 2017 season.

The news of the new Arkansas state law comes on the same day the SEC has just unveiled a new clear bag policy for football games in the 2017 season. How the SEC handles this latest state law within its footprint remains to be seen (as well as the Sun Belt Conference). The bigger question will be where the SEC stands on this law considered the law is designed to overrule any stadium policies. The way the law is written, the SEC may not be able to do much to stand in the way, but the conference has those clear bag policies hammered down, rest assured.

Kentucky hands Mark Stoops a two-year contract extension

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After guiding Kentucky through its best season in nearly a decade, Mark Stoops has been rewarded.

Kentucky announced Wednesday afternoon that Stoops’ contract has been extended by two years.  The head coach’s previous deal had been set to run through June 30, 2020; the extension pushes that date out to June 30, 2020.

Stoops will earn $3.5 million in 2017, with the new contract calling for annual $250,000 raises.  In the last year of the contract extension, and barring any additional tweaking, Stoops could earn $4.75 million.

Additionally, if the Wildcats win at least seven games but no more than nine in a season, the contract automatically extends by one year.  If the team wins 10-plus games, it extends by two years. “Stoops will continue to receive $250,000 for each win beginning with the seventh win of each season and $50,000 per semester in which the team grade-point average is 2.75 or higher,” the release stated.

Participation in an SEC-affiliated bowl will net Stoops a $100,000 bonus, provided the Wildcats win at least six games that season.  There’s also a $50,000 bonus for earning a spot in a non-SEC bowl game, with the same six-win threshold.  Last season, UK qualified for a bowl game for the first time under Stoops and the first time under anyone since 2010.

“The last four years have been a grind for Mark and his staff, but he has never wavered in his commitment to building Kentucky football into a consistent winner,” a statement from athletic director Mitch Barnhart began. “While the work isn’t close to finished, we believe Mark is the coach to take us there. We are thankful to Mark and Chantel for all they have done to this point and we look forward to our program’s bright future under his leadership.”

The Wildcats’ 7-6 record last season was the program’s best since hitting the same mark in the last season under Rich Brooks in 2009.  The first three seasons with Stoops in control, UK posted a 12-24 mark.

In SEC play, they are just 8-24 since 2013, although they were 4-4 in conference play this past season.  The Wildcats have finished seventh (2013), sixth (2014), tied-fourth (2015) and tied-second (2016) in league play with Stoops as head coach.

“I want to thank Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and the Board of Trustees for their continued support,” Stoops said. “When we came here, doing a rebuild in a challenging situation, I said that full support from everyone involved was imperative and we have always received that. We needed great commitment, we’ve had great commitment and we’re continuing to get great commitment.”

If Stoops is fired by UK, he’s entitled to receive 75 percent of the remaining guaranteed compensation on the contract.  If Stoops leaves of his own accord, he’d owe the university $1 million regardless of how many years are left on the deal.

Toledo, Jason Candle reach agreement on contract extension

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After just one year on the job, Jason Candle has earned himself some additional job security — or a bigger golden parachute should he be canned.

Toledo announced Wednesday that the university and its head football coach have reached an agreement on a contract extension.  Candle is now signed through 2021, meaning he received a one-year extension of his original five-year deal agreed to in December of 2015.

There was no word on what if any financial bump was included in the reworked contract.  Candle’s $675,000 salary in 2016 was second to Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck ($820,000) in the MAC.  With Fleck now at Minnesota, Candle is likely the highest-paid coach in the conference.

“Jason has played a very important part of the success of our football program over the last eight years, first as an assistant coach and now as head coach,” said athletic director Mike O’Brien in a statement. “He is a tremendous leader and teacher of young men, and has a great desire to elevate our football program to even greater heights. We look forward to his leadership for many years to come.”

Candle spent seven seasons as a Toledo assistant, the last four as offensive coordinator, before taking over the program after Matt Campbell left for the Iowa State job.  In his first year as head coach, Candle guided the Rockets to a 9-4 record.

“I’m very appreciative of the support and confidence that President Gaber and Mike O’Brien have in me and my staff,” said Candle. “Our program is built on a strong foundation of success, and we are focused on bringing a Mid-American Conference Championship to this great University.”

WKU RB Leon Allen medically cleared to return to practice

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Leon Allen‘s return from a devastating injury has taken a major step forward.

In September of 2015, Allen, one of the top running backs in Conference USA, sustained a significant and serious knee injury in Western Kentucky’s Week 2 win over Louisiana Tech.  While he received a medical hardship waiver in March of last year, he hadn’t played in a game or even fully participated in practice since the injury.

Tuesday, that all changed as the football program confirmed that Allen has been medically cleared to participate in practice.  The Hilltoppers will kick off spring practice Thursday afternoon, with the back adding the next chapter to his comeback.

“There are a lot of Western Kentucky fans that have been around the program multiple years who haven’t seen an athlete do some of the things he’s done on the field,” head coach Mike Sanford said according to the Bowling Green Daily News. “To me it’s disappointing to think there’s even a thought of him not having a chance to return to that football field.

“So the football side of it to me is extremely important to … end what he started well.”

Allen was far and away the Hilltoppers’ leading rusher in 2014, totaling 1,542 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Those totals were good for third in Conference USA and 18th nationally.

The multi-purpose back was also a threat out of the backfield, with his 51 receptions that season finishing up fourth on the team.