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Report: Chick-fil-A, Cotton, Fiesta ‘overwhelming favorites’ to join semifinal rotation

Texas A&M quarterback Manziel carries the ball as University of Oklahoma linebacker Wort and defensive end Ndulue pursue during the first half of the Cotton Bowl Classic NCAA football game in Arlington, Texas AP

Earlier this week, it was reported that Cowboys Stadium was a “virtual lock” to host college football’s first championship game in the new postseason format following the 2014 season.

The reporter behind the, uh, report was ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, who now adds that four bowls — the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl and Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl — met the Wednesday deadline to bid for a spot among the six rotating semifinal sites for the four-team playoff.

Of those three, McMurphy writes that the Chick-fil-A, Cotton and Fiesta bowls are “overwhelming favorites”  to receive the remaining three bids, citing sources with knowledge of the situation.

It should not, however, be an overwhelming surprise that the aforementioned three are the favorites to finish out the semifinal rotation as it’s been widely presumed for months that those three bowls would likely join the Rose, Sugar and Orange bowls in the 12-year playoff contract.

Officially, though, BCS commissioners will meet next month to select the three remaining semifinal sites along with the championship site.

The soonest one of the at-large sites will host a playoff game is following the 2015 season, along with the Orange Bowl.

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Nearly two decades later, Priest Holmes graduates from Texas

BYU v Texas

Twenty-three years after he arrived from San Antonio, 19 years after he helped his Longhorns to a stunning upset of Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 championship game, 14 years after he led the NFL in rushing, 13 years after winning the AP Offensive Player of the Year award and eight years after leaving the NFL, Priest Holmes has graduated from the University of Texas.

The obvious question: what in the world was Holmes doing in the eight years between leaving the NFL and earning his degree? Doing philanthropic work in his native San Antonio while serving as the NFLPA’s Alamo City chapter.

As part of his NFLPA duties, Holmes told TexasSports.com, was setting up a quarterly conference that emphasized professional development and the value of earning a college degree. The message sank home with him.

“I got fired up to finish that degree,” he said. “It really motivated me and gave me that passion.”

Holmes spent his Wednesdays and Thursdays driving to and from San Antonio to finish his degree in applied learning and development.

Diploma in hand, Holmes will use his education to enhance his current work with the Priest Holmes Foundation, which works to empower young people.”I was taking courses and able to turn around and immediately implement them in our programs,” Holmes said. “That made the transition easier.”

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PHOTO: Drake stops by Houston football offices

Rapper Drake

Started from the bottom now he’s…. at Houston’s football offices.

In no doubt purely coincidental timing (wink wink) just hours after landing the most highly-touted recruit in program history Drake stopped by Tom Herman and the gang to show some love.

No word on if Drake will abandon Kentucky – or Texas A&M – for the Coogs.

As Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger columnist Hugh Kellenberger put it, Drake is the hip-hop version of Kenny Chesney.

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Former Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase rejoins program as assistant DFO

Nathan Scheelhaase

It’s becoming something of a tradition in the Illinois football program. Start at quarterback, then come back a few years down the road and get your feet wet in the coaching business.

Earlier this week, Illinois announced the hiring of former quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase as the program’s assistant director of football operations. The man he replaces? None other than former Illinois quarterback Juice Williams.

Williams, who also preceded Scheelhaase as the Illini’s signal-caller, left for a job on the athletic development staff at Georgetown.

“I am honored to be working for the university I call home,” Scheelhaase said in a statement. “The memories I made as a player were special, and I can’t wait to be a part of creating more memories for the players and fans. As the Assistant Director of Football Operations I am excited about supporting the coaching staff and players in every way possible. I am confident that my experience as a student-athlete and as a leader both domestically and internationally will be a valuable source in helping the football program achieve greater success. I can’t wait to get to home and get to work.”

Scheelhaase started at quarterback from 2010-13 and remains the program’s all-time total offense leader with 10,634 yards. He stands as one of just two players in Big Ten history with 8,000 career passing yards and 2,000 career rushing yards, and is the only quarterback in school history to lead the club to bowl wins in back-to-back seasons.

Elsehwere in the program, Patrick Embleton has been hired as director of student-athlete development.

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Former Syracuse player to receive Medal of Honor for World War I heroics

Maryland v Syracuse

William Shemin played football and lacrosse at Syracuse before graduating in 1924. Prior to that, though, he was a war hero. Shemin joined the the Army in 1917, and by August of the next year he was near the Velse River in France, where his actions saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers, exposing himself to artillery fire while dragging the wounded to safety.

Shemin passed away in 1973. A week and a half from now, he will receive the Presidential Medal of Honor.

Shemin’s daughter, Elsie Shemin-Roth, will receive the medal from President Barack Obama at a ceremony at the White House, according to a press release from the White House (via Syracuse.com).

This won’t be the first time Shemin is honored for his efforts. He has previously been bestowed a Purple Heart and a Distinguished Service Cross.

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Army and Navy stand ground against College Football Playoff scheduling

Army v Navy Getty Images

One of college football’s best traditions will not budge for one of its newest traditions. Army and Navy stand united against adjusting its traditional scheduling of the Army-Navy Game to satisfy the College Football Playoff schedule for rankings and bowl pairings.

“We have no intention of moving it. None,” Navy athletics director Chet Gladchuk told Paul Myerberg of USA Today. “It would show that we’ve realigned our priorities in a way that doesn’t complement our mission. We can’t do it. It’s something that’s that special.”

The Army-Navy Game has found a permanent place on the college football calendar the Saturday after championship Saturday, which puts the annual rivalry in the national spotlight all by itself without competition from other conferences, aside from lower division playoff match-ups. With Navy joining the American Athletic Conference, the possibility Navy could be in the mix for one of the guaranteed spots in the New Years Six posed a slight problem to the College Football Playoff process. The College Football Playoff announced the final rankings and bowl pairings for associated bowls on the Sunday after championship Saturday. Navy playing one more game after the scheduled selection process poses a hypothetical problem.

What if Navy is 12-0? What if Navy is the highest ranked Group of Five conference champion but loses to Army? We may not be discussing Navy in its prime with national title contenders on a regular basis, but the new postseason format does make it easier or more realistic for Navy to play a key role in the big game bowl picture than it has in decades. Judging by another quote from Gladchuck to USA Today, Navy may be willing to pass on the whole playoff as long as it means it can play Army.

“If it means that we’ve got to sacrifice the opportunity to participate in the playoff system, then that’s something we’ll have to deal with,” Gladchuk said. “We’ll have to work on that.”

I don’t know if Navy will win the American Athletic Conference or not, but they will know if they have by the time the Army-Navy Game is played. IF Navy wins the conference, then the Midshipmen would be stacked up against conference champs from the Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference, MAC and Conference USA, and they would also have played just 11 games. This would be similar to Baylor and TCU each playing 12 games compared to the other power conference champions that played 13 games last season. Should Navy be warned of the dangers of having one fewer game on the record when the selection committee goes to work to put the final pieces together?

I’d love to see how that is handled by the selection committee.

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Tom Herman lands Houston’s highest-rated recruit in over a decade, possibly ever

Photo credit: Rivals

Houston’s new head coach has yet to coach a game, but he’s already making things happen. As best we can tell right now, new Houston head coach Tom Herman has broken down a wall that Houston has yet to climb since as far back as 2002.

Class of 2016 defensive tackle Ed Oliver, rated four stars and the seventh-best defensive tackle in the nation by Rivals, has given Herman and Houston his verbal commitment. This, of course, is a long way from becoming officially official with National Signing Day not until next February. It is, however, a sign that Herman is already having an impact on the recruiting trail at his new gig. While Oliver receives four out of five stars from Rivals, other recruiting services are a tad higher on him (he has a five-star composite ranking according to 247 Sports).

As it stands now, Oliver is choosing Houston over offers from programs like Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA and more.

Per Rivals, Wide receiver Deontay Greenberry was Houston’s most recent four-star recruit in the Class of 2012. Since 2002, Houston has signed a total of five four-star players.

Go to work, Herman.

Helmet sticker to The Student Section.

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Former Wolverine Blake Countess checking out Auburn

Utah v Michigan Getty Images

Cornerback Blake Countess has now graduated from Michigan, which means he can now take advantage of a graduate transfer to play one more season anywhere he chooses if given a spot on a roster. Auburn appears to be one team of interest.

After previously visiting former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez and Arizona, Countess will reportedly spend this weekend at Auburn. Al.com also reports Countess intends to visit Oklahoma and Oklahoma State later this month. Should Countess wind up at Auburn, he will likely step into a key role on what could be a revamped defense under new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. Muschamp has been helping to increase the intensity on defense, something Gus Malzahn spoke about earlier this spring. Countess would have a good chance to grab a starting job in the secondary after the Tigers have lost five players in the defensive backfield since January.

Countess announced earlier this month his intention to play the 2015 season somewhere else instead of Michigan. His announcement came a day after Jim Harbaugh welcomed another graduate transfer to Ann Arbor, defensive back Wayne Lyons from Stanford.

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UNC receives notice of allegations from NCAA

152205 UNC Getty Images

The University of North Carolina has received a Notice of Allegations letter from the NCAA offices, but the school will not release the details of the investigation until a later date. When that date will be is not yet known. Inside Carolina reports UNC may make a formal announcement later today regarding the arrival of the NCAA’s notice of allegations.

The NCAA reopened an investigation at Chapel Hill last June to follow-up on some new information shed regarding academic irregularities on the campus involving student-athletes. The basis for reopening the investigation was the belief those who previously did not help with the NCAA’s original investigation in 2011 would be more willing to provide details and information.

In October a new report from former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein suggested the academic scandal at UNC was more widespread than initially thought. His report’s findings said more than 3,1000 students enrolled in classes they did not have to show up for to receive credit over decades. Half of those students were also UNC athletes according to the report.

How much more in-depth the NCAA investigation managed to dig remains to be seen, but it would seem there was reason to suggest it was able to come up with enough new information to sanction UNC once again to some extent. We will just have to wait to find out just what the new penalties may be for the Tar Heels and how it may or may not impact football.

UPDATE (12:37 p.m.): UNC has confirmed the receipt of the notice of allegations and released a statement from Chancellor Carol L. Folt and director of athletics Bubba Cunningham.

“We take these allegations very seriously, and we will carefully evaluate them to respond within the NCAA’s 90-day deadline,” the statement said. “The University will publicly release the NCAA’s notice as soon as possible. The notice is lengthy and must be prepared for public dissemination to ensure we protect privacy rights as required by federal and state law. When that review for redactions is complete, the University will post the notice on the Carolina Commitment website and notify the news media. When we respond to the NCAA’s allegations, we will follow this same release process.“Consistent with NCAA protocols, the University cannot comment on details of the investigation until it is completed.”

“Consistent with NCAA protocols, the University cannot comment on details of the investigation until it is completed.”

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Ex-Aggie Kenny Hill ready to thrill at TCU

Kenny Hill, Sharrod Golightly

Of all the teams around the country with a quarterback question this offseason, TCU is not one of them. Trevone Boykin is entering his senior season with some Heisman hype and in position to lead the Horned Frogs to a Big 12 title and possibly the College Football Playoff. But once Boykin moves on, TCU could have its next quarterback ready to go. Former Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill is about to get started in classes at TCU, and he still plans to join the Big 12 program.

The Star-Telegram reported Thursday night Hill will begin classes at TCU on June 1. While starting classes is still to come, Hill has already been on campus to observe spring practices so he can get familiar with the offense under head coach Gary Patterson.

Hill captivated the college football world early last season ans carried over the momentum from the Johnny Manziel era at Texas A&M. However, after the hot start, Hill’s success and production fell back to Earth in harsh fashion. He eventually lost the starting job to Kyle Allen following a miserable loss at Alabama and he missed time while serving a two-game suspension. Seeing the writing on the wall, Hill opted to seek a fresh start this spring.

The fresh start could be a good call. After sitting out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Hill will have a chance to once again win a starting job. Perhaps the life lessons learned from his first time starting at Texas A&M and being a couple of years older will allow for Hill to handle the situation better. In the meantime, Hill will have a chance to learn while watching Boykin do his thing in Fort Worth, and that’s not a bad mentor to have.

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Ex-Sooner RB Keith Ford says he’s going to Aggieland

Keith Ford, Le'Vander Liggins

Just days after saying he was leaning toward transferring to Texas A&M, former Oklahoma running back Keith Ford is now reportedly an Aggie. Ford said earlier this week Texas A&M was on the top of his list of options but said some details had to be squared away before he could officially join Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies. That appears to be taken care of now.

I’m going to Aggieland,” Ford said to 247Sports Thursday night. “What really helped me come to my decision was when I sat down with Coach (Kevin) Sumlin. It didn’t sound like it was rehearsed or anything. He was just talking to me man-to-man and laid out his expectations for me. He also wanted me to believe in him. After I heard all of that I was like, ‘Yea, I’m coming here.’ I can’t wait to get up there.”

Ford will have to sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but when he is eligible once again in 2016 the Aggies will be adding quite a talented running back. Ford, a four-star running back in Oklahoma’s Class of 2013 according to Rivals, appeared in eight games as a freshman for Oklahoma last season, rushing for 392 yards and five touchdowns. Ford’s season came to an end when he broke his leg against Tennessee in September. He was suspended indefinitely by Bob Stoops in the spring for a violation of team rules.

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Tulane adds future dates with Oklahoma, Ole Miss

Devon Walker

In a busy day on the scheduling front, Tulane secured a serious boost to its future schedules by announcing future games with Oklahoma and Ole Miss.

Tulane and Oklahoma will play a three-game series spread out over seven years; the Green Wave will come to Norman in 2017 and 2024, with the Sooners visiting New Orleans in 2021. The series will mark the first-ever meetings between the schools.

“We are excited to begin the series with the University of Oklahoma. There were a lot of moving pieces required to put this together and I thank my good friend Joe Castiglione for working with us to ensure Oklahoma would come back to Yulman Stadium as soon as scheduling would allow,” Tulane Rick Dickson said in a statement.

Elsewhere, Tulane has pushed back a visit to Ole Miss from 2017 to 2025 and added a home date against the Rebels for the 2023 season. The two schools have met 71 times previously in a series dating back to 1893. Ole Miss holds a 43-28 edge over the Green Wave.

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Five off-the-field Harbaugh lieutenants to earn $100K-plus in 2015

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh‘s off-the-field staff will be significantly better paid than his predecessor’s. According to an open records request filed by Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free-Press, two non-coaching assistants will earn $250,000 in 2015 and five will top the six-figure mark, up from the salaries Michigan paid for the same positions on Brady Hoke‘s staff.

Leading the way is Jim Minick, a longtime military man and lifelong friend of Harbaugh’s who was suspended last week after a DUI arrest. He’ll earn $250,000 as the Wolverines’ assistant athletics director for football, up from the $143,000 that Bob Lopez made in the same job last year.

Minick’s salary will be matched by the $250,000 earned by strength coach Kevin Tolbert, a $9,000 bump from the salary garnered by predecessor Aaron Wellman.

Elsewhere in the department, director of operations Rick Finotti will earn $120,000, recruiting coordinator Matthew Doherty will earn $107,000 and director of player development Gwendolyn Bush – also known as the mother of Wolverines graduate transfer Wayne Lyons – will earn $106,000 in 2015.

The five assistants raking in six figures-plus is up from three on Hoke’s staff.

Assistant strength coach Nathan Barry and recruiting operations assistant Chris Partridge will also earn $80,000, while recruiting assistant Anthony Binker sits as the low man on the totem pole at $41,000.

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Haskell Indian Nations U suspends football program for 2015 season

The empty seat of football stadium

Haskell Indians Nation University, a tribal university located in Lawrence, Kan., and competing in NAIA, announced Thursday it will suspend its football program for the 2015 season, citing the rising costs of college athletics.

“Conference changes, the cost of maintaining ten athletic programs, the lack of coaching staff to recruit and develop players and programs, and the dependency of Intercollegiate Athletics on university funding,” led university president Venida Chenault to halt the program for the upcoming season. In a university release (via the Lawrence Journal-World), the school said plans to scale back its athletics programs from 10 to six.

Haskell players may use the fall as “a developmental year for academic and physical conditioning,” but the university noted it is granting releases for players that have arranged them. Still, there is no guarantee the program will return, as the announcement says this fall will be used to determine the “viability” of the program long-term.

Naturally, Haskell’s players did not take the news kindly.

 

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Kansas State to induct four players to Football Ring of Honor

Oklahoma Sooners v Kansas State Wildcats Getty Images

Kansas State announced Thursday that former Wildcats Michael BishopJordy NelsonClarence Scott and Darren Sproles will enter the program’s Ring of Honor this fall. This immediately brings to mind one question, “Wait, how could Kansas State have a Ring of Honor and Michael Bishop and Darren Sproles weren’t a part of it until now?”

Anyway, the above four represent K-State’s third Ring of Honor class, bringing the group’s total to 14. The four players will be enshrined to the interior facade of Bill Snyder Family Stadium during a halftime presentation of the season opener against South Dakota on Sept. 5.

“Like previous Ring of Honor classes these are not only skilled athletes and All-Americans at the positions they played at Kansas State but quality gentlemen who genuinely care about their university and their football program,” Snyder said. “They join the previous 10 Consensus All-Americans having represented their university with class and dignity.  I am so very proud of this and previous classes having coached nine of the 14 of them.”

Bishop went 22-3 (15-1 Big 12) as the Wildcats’ quarterback from 1997-98, leading the club to its first-ever No. 1 ranking while earning All-Big 12 honors both seasons and winning the 1998 Davey O’Brien Award. Nelson worked his way from walk-on to defensive back to one of the best wide receivers in school history, posting school record marks 111 catches and 1,606 yards while earning All-America honors in 2007.

Scott earned First Team All-America honors as a defensive back in 1970 and is already a member of K-State’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Sproles helped the Wildcats win their first Big 12 title in 2003 while setting a school record with 2,735 all-purpose yards. His 4,979 rushing yards remain a school record.

The group will join the likes of Lynn DickeyMartin GramaticaMark Simoneau and Terence Newman in the Wildcats’ Ring of Honor.

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Kick times set for a number of bowl games

We’re only 100 days away from the official start of the 2015 season, which means we’re only 100 days plus 17 weeks from everyone’s favorite time of year: bowl season.

  • Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (MW vs. MAC): Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Boca Raton Bowl (MAC vs. American): Dec. 22, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (American vs. Mountain West/BYU): Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Hyundai Sun Bowl (ACC vs. Pac-12): Dec. 26, 2 p.m. ET, CBS
  • AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Big 12 vs. SEC): Jan. 2, 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

So pleas, everyone, clear your schedules ahead of time and make room for the Boca Bowl. No you have no excuse for missing such a momentous post-season extravaganza.

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