Big Ten coaches say they’re keeping distance from PSU players

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Many would probably agree that the most crippling sanction levied against Penn State by NCAA president Mark Emmert was the mass reduction of scholarships over the next four years.

The penalty is two-fold: a reduction of 10 initial scholarships for the 2013-16 signing classes and 20 total scholarships from 2014-17, giving the Nittany lions a 65-scholarship player cap.

It could take several years before Penn State is able to recover from that, and the NCAA did them one more by opening the transfer gates, allowing any player wishing to leave to do so without the slightest restriction based on conference, head coach or otherwise. On paper, that sounds like a good idea. Transfer restrictions can be, and often are, absurd. But the counter argument in favor of them has always been the free-for-all that would inevitably follow.

And what a free-for-all it’s been already.

CBSSportsBruce Feldman was first to report the free agent frenzy, and as of Wednesday, members of Illinois’ coaching staff were apparently hanging out in State College trying to grab a player or two*.

(*Illinois coach Tim Beckman denied coaches being present at PSU, however)

“We have chosen to stay at Penn State and opposing coaches are outside our apartment, was that the intention of the NCAA?” tweeted Penn State defensive back Adrian Amos

Embellished or not, there was a chaotic vibe coming out of Happy Valley.

Day 1 of Big Ten media days was more subdued. Partially because Nittany Lions running back Silas Redd wasn’t in attendance — he’s reportedly very close to signing with USC — and partially due to other Big Ten, coaches taking a by and large less-controversial approach when it comes to poaching from their fellow Big Ten member.

Bret Bielema (Wisconsin), Brady Hoke (Michigan), Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Bo Pelini (Nebraska) and Kevin Wilson (Indiana) are among the coaches who said in one form or another that they would not actively pursue Penn State players.

“I made the decision as a head coach that we would not reach out to any Penn State players,” Bielema said. “One of the things that I’ve loved and appreciated about being in this conference is there is a genuine respect for everybody in our league. You are a Big Ten brethren.”

I have a problem with [recruiting Penn State’s players],” Meyer added. “I think if a player reaches out and says, ‘I’m outta here and I’m gone,’ a player has a right to do what he wants to do. But to go actively recruit, I have a problem with that.”

And, to be clear, that was the overall theme of coaches not wanting to get involved with Penn State: it would be the player, not the school, initiating the contact.

Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t.

I’m a firm believer in the power of the coaching fraternity, where coaches generally look out for one another. And no other coach needs support like Penn State’s Bill O’Brien.

At the same time, the NCAA has made it abundantly clear that coaches are allowed to pursue any kid from Penn State that they want provided they give proper notification. Beckman and Purdue’s Danny Hope seemed less reserved — and, perhaps, more honest — about the possibility of recruiting Penn State.

“The NCAA has established the rules and the guidelines and obviously because they’re strong from an ethics standpoint, and as long as we’re compliant, we’re going to exercise every opportunity we can to enhance our own football team,” Hope said.

And ethics be damned, Hope, along with any other coach seizing the opportunity, is doing the exact same thing Penn State players are allowed to do: look out for No. 1.

Saying otherwise is a PR move, and actually refraining from actively recruiting Penn State is the more humane course of action. But doing the right thing doesn’t equal wins, which is the most the most important metric for college football coaches. If a player can provide immediate assistance somewhere else, the natural reaction is to make it happen.

Funny how the NCAA thought Penn State was the school in need of a culture change.

NCAA rule prevents Penn State football players from participating in THON activity

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This weekend is the annual THON dance marathon at Penn State, which has traditionally done wonders in racking up donations to help fight pediatric cancer. This year, however, the NCAA rulebook is getting in the way of one of the events members of Penn State’s football team typically participate in.

A message from Penn State informed media members there would be no media availability for football players at the THON event at the Lasch Building due to an NCAA rule regarding time restrictions in the offseason.

“We were informed this afternoon that due to the NCAA Time Management regulations, our current student-athletes are not permitted to participate in the THON event at the Lasch Building nor conduct media interviews [today] as it is a mandatory day off for the team,” a statement from Penn State Associate Director of Athletic Communications Kris Petersen said.

Members of Penn State’s football team have typically spent part of the day interacting with kids benefitting from THON’s mission, but that has tended to overlap with offseason days already scheduled through the athletics department for the football program. Because this was a scheduled day off for the football program, players are not permitted to take part in any organized activity while representing the football team. Although, one wonders just how far the NCAA would have been willing to challenge Penn State on this infraction in the event there was a conflict.

Players on the team can still participate and appear at the main event in the Bryce Jordan Center, and a couple already have along with head coach James Franklin.

Georgia football coaches all getting well-deserved raises

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File this one under stories that should have been expected from a mile away. The football staff at Georgia, following up on an SEC title and appearance in the College Football Playoff national championship game, are getting bumps in pay. As a whole, the assistant coaching staff under head coach Kirby Smart will be paid roughly $2 million more than the staff received a year ago, according to a report from Seth Emerson of Dawg Nation.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will see the biggest pay raise with of $900,000 to bump his total pay up to $1.5 million. That would make him one of the top assistant coaches in assistant coaching salaries. Based off last year’s USA Today salary database, Tucker would be the fifth highest-paid assistant coach, and that may even be higher now given some of the offseason changes in the assistant coaching pool. Last year, four assistant coaches received a total pay of at least $1.5 million, and three of them were in the SEC (LSU’s Dave Arranda and Matt Canada, and Texas A&M’s John Chavis; Clemson’s Brent Venables was the outlier).

Keeping in line with another growing trend when it comes to power conference programs and how much money is budgeted for the football staff, Georgia will give strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Sinclair a $150,000 raise from his previous contract of $300,000.

What has not been finalized, publicly at least, is what the future holds for the contract of Smart. After a wildly successful season, Smart is expected to receive a raise as well as Georgia continues to build something special under his leadership after just two seasons. Smart was paid a base salary of $3.75 million last year, according to USA Today’s salary database, which made him the 9th highest-paid coach in the SEC in 2017. That is fair, considering Smart was a first-time head coach and other coaches in the conference had more head coaching experience, but Smart has quickly proven himself among his peers in the conference and is likely to move up the SEC coaching salary ranking quite quickly. Nick Saban (Alabama) and now Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) may still be on another playing field in terms of salary, but Smart should manage to move up closer to the high-end of the SEC salary spectrum.

Purdue raises $388,000 in beer and wine sales at football games

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Around the nation, college football attendance took a downward trend, but the Big Ten was the rare conference to see an increase in attendance. At Purdue, not only did more fans attend games in the first season under new head coach Jeff Brohm, but Purdue saw a revenue surplus fueled by the expanded sale of alcoholic beverages at football games.

According to The Journal & Courier, Purdue athletic department recorded $567,000 in gross revenue, of which $388,000 was generated from the sale of beer and wine last fall at football games in Ross-Ade Stadium. It was the first time alcohol sales had been expanded to the entire football stadium, as opposed to limited offerings in premium sections of the stadium.

“In general, it was very positive and it added to the game day experience. Fans responded to it,” athletic director Mike Bobinski said. “We’ve talked to our concessionaire group (Levy Restaurants) about how we can improve the operation so we don’t create bottlenecks and long lines that cause people to miss extended periods of the game. It was a really good start.”

The success of expanded alcoholic beverages at football games at Purdue continues a growing trend of alcoholic sales at athletic events around the country and will only help to encourage other schools to explore similar options if they have not already. Ten schools in the Big Ten already offer alcohol sales to fans at football games, but Purdue is just one of four to currently offer the sales throughout the majority of their football stadium.

The games that saw the most amount of money spent on alcohol at a Purdue home football game were the Michigan and Indiana games, with $88,341 and $98,223 spent on alcohol, respectively. Bottoms up, indeed.

The other chunk of revenue that helped pad Purdue’s budget sheet was a season-opening game in Indianapolis against Louisville. The game was played in Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, and each school received a check for $805,267.

Alabama a potential landing spot for Rice grad transfer Preston Gordon

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Yet another Rice graduate transfer lineman is drawing interest from an SEC school.

Preston Gordon confirmed to al.com this week that he has had “some preliminary contact” with Alabama as a potential landing spot. Last month, the defensive tackle decided to take the graduate transfer route out of Rice.

As the Crimson Tide, which is also in play for a grad transfer quarterback, lost three linemen to the NFL and signed just two in the Class of 2018, a move to Tuscaloosa could make sense for both parties.

“If Alabama were interested, that’s a top-tier program and I would definitely be interested,” Gordon told the website. “As a D-lineman, that’s where it’s at, so it would definitely be high, high interest.”

Gordon has already received an offer from Texas Tech after visiting Lubbock, and has taken a trip to Kansas as well. The lineman also told the site that he has spoken with Syracuse, TCU, Tulane and UConn.

The last three seasons, Gordon started 28 games for the Owls, including all 12 in 2017. In 2016, Gordon tied for the team lead in sacks with 3.5, while his 6.5 tackles for loss led all interior linemen on the squad. This past season, he was third on the team in tackles for loss with 4.5.

Gordon’s former teammate and the Owls’ starting left tackle the past three seasons, Calvin Anderson, has drawn interest from Auburn as a graduate transfer and has already visited the Tigers. It’s believed that Michigan and Texas are the frontrunners, although Texas A&M has entered the mix for Anderson as well.