Troy Arkansas St Football

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.

Report: Miami blocking Gus Edwards from transferring to Pitt, Syracuse

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 19: Gus Edwards #7 of the Miami Hurricanes runs with the ball against Josh Jones #11 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Miami won 27-13. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
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While the head coach at Georgia, Mark Richt had a (very classy) policy of permitting his transferring  players to move onto any other institution they desired with no restrictions, including other SEC schools or even teams on the Bulldogs’ non-conference schedules.  Apparently, though, that policy hasn’t followed him to Miami.

A Staten Island native, Gus Edwards has opted to transfer from the Hurricanes in order to be closer to his home as he became a father earlier this month.  It had been reported that teams such as Boston College, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple would be of interest to the running back.  Two of those potential landing spots, however, reportedly won’t be an option.

From Scout.com:

According to a source close to Edwards, the Hurricanes and head coach Mark Richt are blocking the running back from picking a school who is on Miami’s 2017 schedule. That means two potential landing spots that are close to home and therefore meet his criteria, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, are blocked by the program.

Not only is that an about-face from his stance at UGA, it’s a 180-degree turn away from Richt’s own words during his first summer camp at The U just five months ago.

“I’ve unconditionally released any guy that ever wanted to leave, because I think life’s too short,” Richt said back in August according to the Miami Herald. “I would call the commissioner and say, ‘The kid wants to go. Wherever he wants to go, let him go.’ I think we had two kids go to Alabama, at least one went to Auburn, maybe two. But I don’t put any limitations.”

The driving force behind Richt’s apparent change of heart appears to be his boss.

“Institutionally, our policy has been that we would not do that for a school we’re going to play in the upcoming season,” UM athletic director Blake James said according to the Palm Beach Post.

Edwards, who will be leaving the football program as a graduate transfer, has yet to formally request a transfer, James added.

Shai McKenzie details restrictions place on Virginia Tech transfer

BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Running back Shai McKenzie #22 of the Virginia Tech Hokies breaks a tackle against the Western Michigan Broncos in the second half at Lane Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Blacksburg, Virginia. Virginia Tech defeated Western Michigan 35-17. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)
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Right or wrong, but unsurprisingly, Shai McKenzie‘s departure from Blacksburg comes with some strings attached.

Nearly two weeks ago, McKenzie took to Twitter to announce his decision to transfer from Virginia Tech and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere.  On the same social media site Monday, the running back revealed that his future elsewhere won’t include any ACC schools as well as none of the teams on the Hokies’ 2017 and 2018 non-conference schedules.

The latter group includes Notre Dame, West Virginia, East Carolina, Old Dominion, Delaware and William & Mary.

A four-star 2014 recruit, only one signee was rated higher than McKenzie in Tech’s class that year.

The Pennsylvania native’s career actually began with promise as he was second on the team in rushing as a true freshman when he went down with a torn ACL in the fifth game of the season.  At that time, McKenzie had 269 yards on the ground; in the two years since, he ran for a combined 126 yards.  His 2015 season was limited to two games because of the lingering effects of the ACL injury.

TCU’s leading rusher arrested for public intoxication

MEMPHIS, TN - DECEMBER 30: Running back Kyle Hicks #21 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks to maneuver by linebacker Roquan Smith #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the TCU Horned Frogs 31-23. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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As the 2017 offseason kicks into high gear, so have the annual and ever-present off-field issues.

According to multiple media outlets, TCU running back Kyle Hicks was arrested over the weekend on a misdemeanor charge of public intoxication.  The 22-year-old Hicks and two former Horned Frog football players, Bryson Henderson and George Baltimore, were charged after police responded to reports of a fight at a Whataburger near campus very early Saturday morning.

No further details of what led to the police being called have been released.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes that “[t]he TCU athletics department said in a statement Monday night that officials are aware of the incident and looking into it.”

As a junior this past season, Hicks led TCU with 1,042 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.  He also led the team in receptions with 47, becoming the first Horned Frog player to lead the team in both rushing and receiving since Basil Mitchell in 1996.

Hicks is expected to again be the focal point of TCU’s offense in 2017.

P.J. Fleck officially turns to familiar face to be his Minnesota OC

CAMBRIDGE, MA - OCTOBER 23:  A detail of an oar during Day 2 of The 52nd Head of the Charles Regatta on October 23, 2016 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, P.J. Fleck will have a familiar offensive face on which to lean as his oars hit the Power Five waters for the first time.

Coming off a couple of weeks worth of reports, Minnesota officially confirmed Monday that Fleck has named Kirk Ciarrocca as his new offensive coordinator.  Ciarrocca had spent the past four seasons in the same position at Western Michigan, coinciding with Fleck’s tenure at the MAC school.

The school’s release stated that Ciarrocca “was instrumental in the development of Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco during his six seasons (2002-07) at the University of Delaware,” which presumably gave him a front-row seat in the “is he or isn’t he elite” argument.

With Fleck and the Gophers, and like his boss, Ciarrocca will be embarking on his first job with a Power Five program.