Bill O'Brien

NCAA to reduce scholarship sanctions on Penn State

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Penn State’s — and state lawmakers’ — prolonged fight with the NCAA over historic sanctions levied on the football program is about to bear some fruit.

The NCAA announced Tuesday that, “[d]ue to Penn State University’s continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity,” its executive committee has agreed to gradually restore scholarships the football program had lost in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. The move to restore scholarships, arguably the most crippling of the sanctions, was based on a recommendation by George Mitchell, who had been hired by the NCAA as an independent “integrity monitor.”.

The original sanctions called for a cap of 15 scholarships beginning in 2013 and running through 2016; the NCAA limit at the FBS level is 15.  Additionally, whereas FBS programs are permitted 85 scholarship players, the Nittany Lions would be allowed just 65.

The new directive from the NCAA, however, will allow Penn State to increase by five its scholarships in 2014, increasing to the full allotment of 25 the following year.  The program will be back up to its full allotment of 85 scholarship players beginning in 2016 — at least two full years ahead of what the original sanctions had called for — after moving to 75 in 2014 and 80 in 2015.

“The decision is the result of a thoughtful and deliberative process to ensure we reached the most appropriate outcome,” said Rita Hartung Cheng, who chaired the recent Executive Committee meetings regarding Senator Mitchell’s annual report and chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. “During our discussions, we had the benefit of engaging with Senator Mitchell’s expert perspective and the views of our Big Ten colleagues.”

Other sanctions, including a four-year bowl ban and $60 million fine, remain in place, although the press release stated that the NCAA “may consider additional mitigation of the postseason ban in the future depending upon Penn State’s continued progress.”

Even if the bowl ban remains in place, the restoring of scholarships is by far the biggest win for the football program in general and head coach Bill O’Brien specifically.  That specific sanction has crippled O’Brien and his coaching staff on the recruiting trail; the additional scholarships will now allow the program to make bigger inroads in the recruiting game, the lifeblood of any program, and begin scaling back its “run-on” program beginning as early as this recruiting cycle.

O’Brien has been a big part of the progress over the past couple of years as Penn State continues to climb out of the hole created by the Sandusky scandal.  That progress was noted by embattled NCAA president Mark Emmert.

“The goal has always been to ensure the university reinforces clear expectations and a daily mindset within athletics that the highest priority must be placed on educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” said Emmert in a statement. “The Executive Committee’s decision to restore the football scholarships provides additional education opportunities and is an important recognition of Penn State’s progress.”

Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett was happy with the NCAA’s decision.

“I am pleased that the NCAA is recognizing the important changes and reforms that the university has undertaken and will continue to make moving forward,” he said.

Temple trustees vote to pursue new on-campus football stadium

Students, such as Casey Dougherty, rally outside a meeting of Temple University's Finance Committee on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Philadelphia. Temple University is pumping the brakes on plans to study building a $100 million football stadium on its north Philadelphia campus. (Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)  PHIX OUT; TV OUT; MAGS OUT; NEWARK OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
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With a loud protest taking place just outside, Temple’s board of trustees voted unanimously in favor of pursuing a new football stadium for the Owls program. A study to review potential stadium options could cost the school up to, but not exceeding, $1 million.

The latest plans for a new football stadium would have a proposed 35,000-seat stadium costing up to $126 million placed on Temple’s campus, thus eliminating the need to rent out space in Lincoln Financial Field. Temple’s football program has called The Linc home since the doors opened in 2003. Temple has not played its home games on its campus since leaving Temple Stadium in 1977, at which point it moved its home games to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia’s sports complex. The vote to pursue a new stadium today is a giant step forward for Temple and the football program and perhaps a long time coming, but it is not one without its share of controversy.

The talks of a new football stadium at Temple have gone on for years, but are now finally seeming to take some steps forward despite a vocal objection from many around Temple’s campus and the Philadelphia community. Protests and demonstrations were planned as the board reviewed the next steps in a new stadium, which is still not a certainty for the university at this point. Among those voicing their opinions on Monday afternoon were students, Philadelphia citizens and more concerned about what a stadium dropped in the middle of North Philadelphia might mean for the community. Given the lackluster impact and results seen at similar campuses, there is legitimate reason for some concern at Temple, which is just now experiencing a new high in football success.

This is just one step out of many that needs to happen in order for Temple to construct a new football stadium. Approval from the city to build such a facility would have to be given, and that is no guarantee.

Ex-Oregon Duck QB landing at Towson

Quarterback Morgan Mahalak hands off to running back Lane Roseberry during the University of Oregon opening day of college football spring practice at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex in Eugene, Ore. Tuesday, March 31, 2015. (AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Brian Davies)
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Former Oregon quarterback Morgan Mahalak is heading to the FCS for a chance to compete for a starting job. Mahalak will join the Towson Tigers of the Colonial Athletic Association, where he will be eligible to play immediately starting this fall.

“We are happy that we have secured a commitment from such a talented young quarterback,” said Towson head coach Rob Ambrose in a released statement.  “Morgan brings a tremendous amount of potential and secures great competition at the quarterback position.”

Mahalak was released from his scholarship at Oregon in January, at his request. The former four-star recruit should be a nice addition for the Towson program. Mahalak had a tough time finding playing time in Eugene during his two seasons with the Ducks while Marcus Mariota was winning a Heisman Trophy and Vernon Adams was transferring to take the starting job for Oregon. Mahalak served on Orgeon’s scout team last season. With Oregon once again going the FCS transfer QB route this season with Dakota Prukop, it appeared unlikely Mahalak was going to get a chance once again.

Illinois adds Central Michigan to future schedule

Kent State running back Myles Washington (26) loses his helmet after being tackled by Illinois defensive back Chris James (12), defensive back Dillan Cazley (25) and defensive back Cedric Doxy (26) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Champaign, Ill. Illinois won the game 52-3. (AP Photo/ Stephen Haas)
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For those planning ahead, Illinois has added a future game against Central Michigan to the 2022 football schedule. The Illini will reportedly host the Chippewas on September 24, 2022 in a one-game scheduling agreement. Illinois will pay Central Michigan $1.5 million for the game. The two schools have never faced each other on the football field, so this could very well end up being the first meeting barring any potential postseason matchups.

Big Ten teams are required to schedule at least one power conference opponent each year as part of its non-conference scheduling commitment. Central Michigan does not satisfy that commitment, but the Illini are already covered that season with a home game against Virginia. Illinois is scheduled to host Virginia from the ACC on September 10, 2022 in the second of a two-year home-and-home series. Virginia will host Illinois on September 11, 2021. Illinois has its power conference non-scheduling commitment fulfilled from 2021 through 2026, but will have to do some schedule tweaking if it is to satisfy the commitment before 2021. The Big Ten also already granted exemption status for some games due to schedules being booked years in advance. Illinois has their non-conference slate booked for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020 and has just one vacancy to fill in 2019.

Central Michigan has also added a future series against FAU. FAU will host Central Michigan on September 21, 2019 and Central Michigan will serve as host to the Owls on September 18, 2021.

Helmet sticker to the always schedule-aware FBSchedules.com.

Chad Morris building SMU with Texas recruits

SMU head coach Chad Morris, center, takes field with his team for warm ups before an NCAA college football game against Baylor, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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The rebuilding of SMU is a project that is no easy task. As Chad Morris gets ready for his second season on the job, he continues to do what he can to build a foundation based on Texas recruits. For the second straight season, SMU assembled a recruiting class consisting of only Texas recruits.

I’m extremely proud of that,” Morris said last week, per The Dallas Morning News. “You’ll hear a lot of talk about us being Texas tough.

“The toughest thing was trying to create the momentum that we had a year ago, especially coming off a season that wasn’t up to our standards. The majority of our kids were committed to us before the season ever started.

SMU is the only FBS program to land a recruiting class consisting of just players from the state of Texas over the past two recruiting classes. The state of Texas has always been a large and competitive recruiting state, and SMU is certainly facing some stiff competition left and right between traditional heavyweights like Texas and Texas A&M, emerging powers in Baylor and TCU and rising conference rival Houston in addition to other programs from the Big 12 and SEC and beyond making visits into the Lone Star state.

If restoring pride in the SMU program is going to succeed, installing a strong Texas connection is a smart way to go for Morris and the Mustangs.

“It was important for us to do that, to build that continuity, build that relationship with these guys,” Morris said. “The majority of them had big-time offers, so we were battling all the way up to the final hour.”