Orange Bowl to be one host of 2016 playoff semifinals

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We already knew that the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl would play host to the semifinal games in the first year of the newly-minted playoff system following the 2014 season.

Now, we know one half of the pair of bowls that will host the next year’s version of the new system used to determine a national champion in college football.

In a press release issued Friday morning, the BCS announced that the Orange Bowl will be one of the hosts of the semifinals in 2016 (the playoffs following the 2015 season).  The group stated that the other host is a yet-to-be-named bowl.

In that vein, the BCS also announced that (chuckle) “it has invited 31 bowl committees to consider whether they are interested in submitting a proposal to host the national semifinals and other bowl games to be played New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.”  The deadline for the various bowl committees to submit their initial bids is March 27 of this year.

“This is about giving as many fans as possible the opportunity to enjoy the new playoff and the other bowls in person,” said Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the BCS and the future playoff. “A rotating event means more fans in more places will be able to experience the excitement of the new playoff. Because of the criteria, we don’t expect every bowl to proceed with a bid, but we want to extend an offer to all that are part of the college football bowl tradition.”

While 31 bowls have been invited to submit a proposal to host a national semifinal, the bowl venues must have a seating capacity of at least 65,000.  That criteria eliminates 11 of those 31 bowl games right off the bat.

Furthermore, while the aura of inclusion is a nice touch on the part of the exclusionary BCS, it’s a hollow one as it’s widely believed that the Chick-fil-A, Cotton and Fiesta bowls will fill the other three slots in the six-bowl rotation for hosting national semifinals.

In addition to filling out the slots in the rotation, the BCS stated that the group is working on resolving a couple of outstanding issues ahead of implementing the first playoff system at the FBS level, including:

— Creation of a selection committee that will rank the teams to play in the playoff, giving all the teams an equal opportunity to participate; (Among the factors the committee will value are win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and conference championships.);

— Identifying the host city for the first national championship game;

— Naming of the new event.

The first issue is easily the most important one the new group overseeing the playoff faces.  The selection committee is expected to consist of 15-20 individuals, with those individuals likely to be some mix of former coaches, ex-administrators and current/former media members.  When the announcement of that committee — certain to be the biggest hot-button issue moving forward in the new system — will be made is not known, although it could happen at some point before the end of the 2013 season, if not sooner.

As for the naming of the new event, two things are certain: one, it will not be called the BCS and, two, there won’t be corporate sponsorship attached to the four-team playoff, which marks one of the few times universities didn’t grab the money first and ask questions later.

Hugh Freeze makes first public comments since exiting Ole Miss in disgrace

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For the first time since his unceremonious exit from Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze has spoken publicly.  Somewhat.

In what was described as a brief interview with USA Today Sports Wednesday, the former Ole Miss head coach said his family and church have helped him get through the storm of the last few days. When asked if his family was standing by him, Freeze responded, “Oh, gosh, yeah.”

“God is good, even in difficult times,’’ Freeze told the website. “Wonderful wife and family, and that’s my priority.”

“I got some good friends,” the former head coach added.

The stunning news dropped last Thursday night that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  While Freeze blamed the call on a misdial, the administration found a “pattern of misconduct” during a deep dive into his phone records, leading the school to confront the coach about the situation.

After meetings with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, it became apparent that, if he didn’t resign, the school was going to fire him.

Because of a moral turpitude clause in his contract, there was neither a buyout nor a settlement.

Five-star 2017 Auburn signee undergoes ‘minor procedure,’ should be a go for start of summer camp

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It appears Auburn has dodged what could’ve been a significant injury bullet.

Citing a person familiar with the situation, Brandon Marcello of the Auburn arm of 247Sports.com is reporting that Calvin Ashley underwent a procedure on one of his eyes recently.  SECCountry.com described it as “a minor procedure”; both websites stated that the touted offensive tackle will be ready for the start of summer camp on July 31, this coming Monday.

The reports come a few days after Ashley posted a picture on social media of what appeared to be him in a hospital room.

The football program has not yet, at least publicly, addressed what if any type of health issue with which Ashley is dealing.

A five-star member of the Tigers’ 2017 recruiting class, Ashley was rated as the No. 6 tackle in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in Washington D.C.; and the No. 27 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Ashley was the highest-rated player in AU’s class this year, the only five-star recruit pulled in by Gus Malzahn and company this cycle.

The 6-6, 310-pound Ashley is expected to compete immediately for the starting job at left tackle.

USC the media’s choice to win 2017 Pac-12 title

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Thanks to how they finished the 2016 season, USC is getting substantial preseason love heading into the 2017 season.  Not surprisingly, that affection continued Wednesday.

At the Pac-12 Media Days Wednesday, 28 of the 52 media members covering the conference picked USC to win the league’s title this season.  Another 22 picked reigning champion Washington to defend its title, while there was one vote each for Oregon and Utah.

Both USC and UW received 49 first-place votes when it comes to winning the South and North divisions, respectively.  Oregon, Stanford and Washington State received one first-place vote each to win the North Division, while Colorado, UCLA and Utah received the same for the South crown.

Also of note from the opening of media days:

  • The Pac-12 Championship Game will remain at Levi’s Stadium through the 2019 season, with an option for 2020 as well.  The home of the San Francisco 49ers has been the venue for the conference’s last two title games.  New NFL stadiums in Inglewood and Las Vegas will be options beyond that.
  • Halftime of games broadcasted on Pac-12 Networks will be reduced from 20 minutes to 15.  In an attempt to further shorten the length of games, commercial breaks during those games will be reduced as well. “We are trying to be progressive and experiment with ways to manage the game presentation through a reduction of TV timeouts and some of the 30-second commercial spots,” commissioner Larry Scott said as the league targets three hours as the ideal game time.
  • The conference has centralized its replay reviews for all 12 teams this season after experimenting with centralization for two teams in 2016.

USC confirms K Matt Boermeester won’t return to Trojans

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What was rumored a few months ago has been confirmed.

In early February, USC announced that an unspecified code of conduct issue had led the football program to indefinitely suspend Matt Boermeester.  At the time, reports had an incident involving the placekicker’s ex-girlfriend as the trigger for the suspension, although no details surrounding that situation were released.

Fast-forward to late July, and the school officially confirmed that Boermeester is no longer a Trojan.

“Boermeester… won’t return because of a student code of conduct issue,” the football program wrote in its preseason notes package.

In his first season as USC’s starting kicker last year, Boermeester connected on 75 percent of his 25 field goal attempts and all but one of his 54 point afters.  His 46-yard field goal with no time left on the clock pushed USC past Penn State in an epic comeback win in the Rose Bowl.

The 18 field goals on which Boermeester connected in 2016 were one shy of tying the school’s single-season record.

Michael Brown is the only other kicker currently listed on USC’s online roster.  Brown has yet to attempt a kick at the collegiate level.