Sun Belt commish wants fewer ‘contract games’

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It’s officially game week, and everyone’s excited about the first round of college football. If you look over Saturday’s schedule, though, you’ll see a handful of meaningful nonconference matchups mixed in among dozens of other season-opening cupcake games.

The addition of the 12th regular season game beginning in 2006 didn’t help the cause. Major football programs want that seventh — or, in some instances, eighth — home game to bring in more revenue, not to mention what’s supposed to be a guaranteed win. More often than not, the only schools willing to agree to a one-time away game are the ones that need the money for athletic funding.

They’re the “contract games”, and they’ve become somewhat of a folly. The Big Ten’s been known to “MACrifice” an opponent or two on Labor Day weekend while some poor Sun Belt school gets tossed around like a rag doll at the hands of a Big 12 or SEC powerhouse all in the name of money.

The commissioner of the Sun Belt, Karl Benson, wants to change that. In an interview with the Associated Press, Benson said the league is looking into a new scheduling philosophy to limit contract games and put more emphasis on scheduling with other “peer conferences.”

“We’ve talked about scheduling philosophy, scheduling strategy. Ideally we’d like to establish across the board some scheduling parameters that would limit those guarantee games to one a year,” Benson said.

Good luck.

The problem is that contract games help keep Sun Belt schools, like many other “below the line” programs (as Benson puts it), afloat. The SBC doesn’t have a flashy, high dollar TV deal to funnel money back into the conference, and that’s most important measure of a conference’s health nowadays. Part of it is because there’s no SBC championship game. Part of it is because the demand is only so high for the brand of Sun Belt football.

What it all boils down to is perception. The Sun Belt actually posted a winning record of 5-2 against Conference USA, the SBC’s biggest rival in recruiting and exposure, last year; overall, the SBC went 7-6 against all other mid-majors. There are decent programs in the Sun Belt — Arkansas State, FIU and Troy come to mind — because its members are located in the right part of the country for recruiting, but the perception of the league is one of a bottom-feeder because TV time is limited and what people do see is generally a blowout.

If that changes, then the conference can rely less on other programs’ paychecks.

Jalen Jelks eschews leaving early for NFL, will return to Oregon

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We haven’t yet reached the first-ever early signing period, and Oregon has already bolstered its 2018 defense.

Jalen Jelks confirmed to The Oregonian that he has decided to push off the NFL and will instead return to Oregon for another season.  The redshirt junior indicated that he needs to work on his game before he takes it to the next level.

“I’m back for sure,” the redshirt junior defensive end told the newspaper. “I talked to my parents and my family and everything and just probably the best decision for me is to make the best out of next season and make a lot more plays than I did this season.

“I missed a lot of plays, and if I can capitalize on that and translate it to next season I could contribute a lot to the draft.”

This season, Jelks led the Ducks in tackles for loss with 15; in sacks with 6.5; and in quarterback hits with four.  The tackles for loss were second in the Pac-12 to Washington State’s Hercules Mata’afa‘s 21.5.

Rashaan Salaam’s 1994 Heisman up for auction, could fetch $300K

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A little over a year after his death, one of the most noteworthy pieces of Rashaan Salaam‘s athletic career finds itself up for sale to the public yet again.

According to the Denver Post, the former Colorado star running back’s 1994 Heisman Trophy will be auctioned off next month and is expected to sell for upwards of $300,000. A portion of whatever the trophy fetches will be donated to CTE research.

Salaam, who took his own life at the age of 42 last December, was diagnosed with CTE symptoms postmortem.

After rushing for more than 2,000 yards, Salaam in 1994 became the first, and thus far only, Buffaloes football player to win the most prestigious trophy in college football.  In 2013, Salaam sold the trophy to a sports memorabilia dealer who subsequently sold it to the unnamed individual who is selling it at auction. “The trophy also includes a letter from Salaam, acknowledging the 2013 sale,” the Post wrote.

Based on what we’ve found, the largest amount a Heisman Trophy has ever brought in was the $395,000 a California businessman paid for Minnesota’s Bruce Smith‘s 1941 award in 2005.

Nick Saban, other write-in votes may have helped decide Alabama’s contentious Senate election

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Could Nick Saban have inadvertently played a role in the outcome of a historic election?  Believe it or not, that may actually be a valid question.

As this is a college football site, we won’t go into the background of the contentious U.S. Senate campaign waged between Democrat Doug Jones and scandal-plagued Republican Roy Moore in the state of Alabama.  In the run-up to the special election in the state Tuesday, however, one Democrat-leaning political action committee urged Republican voters who couldn’t vote for a Democrat and were leery of voting for Moore to use a write-in vote, specifically using the name of the Alabama head football coach to illustrate that option.

With 99 percent of the vote tabulated, NBC News reported earlier this morning that Jones held a lead of just under 21,000 votes.  It has since been reported that, with 100 percent of the votes in, there were nearly 23,000 write-in votes cast, with Jones’ lead still holding at just under 21,000 votes.

Because of a new state law, some are saying it’s likely we’ll know exactly how many of those write-in votes were for Saban.  From fivethirtyeight.com late Tuesday night:

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Jones has a margin of 0.7 points over Moore, and the share of write-in votes is more than double that, at around 1.7 percent. Who were people writing in? If that difference holds, we’ll know in due time. In 2016, the Alabama state legislature passed a law requiring the write-in votes to be tallied if the share of write-ins exceeds the margin between the first- and second-place candidates — exactly the situation we’re in now.

“I’m a life-long Republican,” voter Gary Dobbins told MSNBC by way of al.com. “This is the first time in my entire life that I haven’t voted for the Republican candidate.

“I wrote in Nick Saban instead. The reason why is at first I was going to vote for the other guy. Then, I had a crisis in the voting booth and started thinking about what Richard Shelby had said and Condoleezza Rice. I just wrote in Nick Saban.”

West Virginia the landing spot for ex-Michigan DB Keith Washington

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After a brief pit stop at the junior college level, Keith Washington has found his way back to the FBS level.

The defensive back announced via Twitter that he has committed to West Virginia and will continue his collegiate playing career with the Mountaineers. As Washington spent the 2017 season at a Mississippi JUCO, he will be eligible to play for WVU immediately in 2018.

Washington held two other Power Five offers in this second round of recruitment, and both were from fellow Big 12 programs — Kansas and Texas Tech. East Carolina, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Toledo and UAB had extended offers as well.

Washington was a three-star member of Michigan’s 2015 recruiting class, Jim Harbaugh‘s first with the Wolverines, coming out of high school in Alabama. After redshirting as a true freshman, he played in nine games during the 2016 season.

Before the start of this past season, he decided to transfer from the Wolverines.