NCAA: Miami helped itself with self-imposed ban, cooperation

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In a recently-completed teleconference that was short on meat and long on, well, not a whole heck of a lot, there was one very obvious takeaway: Miami’s reaction and actions in the wake of allegations of a booster’s impermissible benefits went a long, long way with the NCAA.

The Committee on Infractions fielded questions from the media shortly after the release of sanctions imposed on the Hurricane football program, with a sizable chunk of the questions centering on the penalties imposed on The U — nine scholarships lost over three years, three-year probation, no further bowl ban chief among them — and how the committee settled on them.

Essentially, in a case described by committee chairperson Britton Banowsky as “among the most extraordinary in the history of the NCAA,” Miami’s cooperation throughout the investigation when combined with the self-imposed penalties led the committee to its decision.  The university had imposed a two-year bowl ban, which actually cost the football program three postseason appearances — and the money that comes along with it — as the Hurricanes would’ve represented the Coastal division in the ACC championship game.

It was intimated that the fact that UM’s self-imposed bowl ban cost them an ACC title game appearance kept the committee from tacking on an additional postseason-less year on the Hurricanes.  Banowsky went so far as to label the penalties Miami imposed on itself as “unprecedented.”

What many deemed as a “slap on the wrist” — those people fail to acknowledge the damage already done to the program over the past three years — came despite the committee’s own damning words.

While Miami lacked institutional control related to the conduct of the booster, it also lacked adequate policies and procedures for staff members to report potential violations without fear of consequence. Miami did not have the policies or monitoring systems to detect improper text messages and phone calls. Many staff members did not have basic knowledge of NCAA recruiting rules or felt comfortable breaking them, and the university did not have sufficient rules education in place. Had the university properly monitored its sports programs, especially the high-profile sports of football and men’s basketball, it may have identified risks sooner. The committee added that the failings of the university enabled a culture of noncompliance within the university and resulted in a lack of institutional control.

The elephant in the room, however, was the botched investigation.

A handful of NCAA enforcement personnel lost their jobs as a direct result of their actions in the Miami probe, actions that went against NCAA protocol in obtaining evidence and information.  Banowsky claimed during the teleconference that the missteps in the probe, which fell outside the COI’s purview, played no role in the level of sanctions that were handed down; most observers, however, feel the COI had no choice but to go “light” on the punitive measures because of how badly the investigation was handled.

Suspended Mich. St. staffer receives one-MONTH contract extension

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A disturbing situation in East Lansing has added a head-scratching twist.

According to ESPN.com, and by way of a Freedom of Information request, Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell was on the receiving end of a one-month contract extension earlier this month.  Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance, was set to see his contract expire at the end of this week.

What makes this development noteworthy is that Blackwell has been indefinitely suspended by the Spartans since early February.

Around that time, it was confirmed by the university that three still-unnamed MSU football players had been suspended after allegations of sexual assault were made against them last month.  An unnamed football staffer was suspended at the time as well; that staffer was subsequently identified as Blackwell.

A police investigation, as well as a Title IX probe, into the allegations continue.  Blackwell is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault, but rather a non-sexual crime that’s connected to the investigation.

Mark Dantonio hadn’t spoken publicly about the allegations until earlier this week, and the head coach probably would’ve been better served to have kept it that way.

A&M, UCLA both add New Mexico to future schedules

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Texas A&M and UCLA announced Wednesday that their 2017 opener had been moved from Saturday to Sunday.  As it turns out, that wasn’t the only scheduling news connecting the two football programs.

As part of a release announcing seven games being added to its future schedules, New Mexico confirmed that two of those contests will include A&M and UCLA.  Both of those games, obviously, will be on the road, with the Lobos traveling to College Station Sept. 18, 2021, and to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Sept. 13, 2025.

In its release, the school wrote that “[t]he game in College Station has a guarantee of $1,100,000 and 450 complementary tickets,” while “[t]he game in Pasadena has a guarantee of $1,200,000 plus 2,000 complementary tickets that UNM can sell for extra revenue.”

The last and only time New Mexico and UCLA squared off was in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl, a 27-13 win for the Bruins.  UNM and A&M actually completed a home-and-home series relatively recently, with the Aggies winning both games played in the 2008 (28-22) and 2009 (41-6) seasons.

In addition to the future Power Five games, a continuation of the long-running rivalry with UTEP will be extended.  UNM will play in El Paso in 2021, then host UTEP in 2022.  Those two games will mark the 79th and 80th contests in the regional rivalry.

Michigan State, Washington round out future schedules with Utah State

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Needing to fill a single spot in some future schedules, both Michigan State and Washington have come calling to the Mountain West for an opponent. Utah State was happy to oblige.

Michigan State will host Utah State on September 1, 2018. The Aggies will travel to Washington on September 19, 2020. For their travels, Utah State will collect $2.9 million between the two games, according to FBScheduels.com ($1.4 million from Michigan State, $1.5 million from Washington).

The Big Ten and Pac-12 each use nine-game conference schedules, leaving three spots open for non-conference games. The Big Ten requires all conference members schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent (the Pac-12 has no such requirement of its members at this time), although exceptions are made. Utah State, as a member of the Mountain West Conference, would not satisfy that requirement for the Big Ten, but the Spartans already have a road game against Arizona State (Pac-12) on the schedule in 2018. Michigan State and Arizona State will play again in 2019 in East Lansing. Michigan State also has future power conference matchups with Notre Dame (2017, 2026, 2027) and Miami (2020, 2021). Michigan State will also play BYU in 2020 in Provo.

Washington has future power conference matchups with Rutgers (2017), Auburn (2018, in Atlanta), and Michigan (2020, 2021). The Huskies will also face Mountain West Competition from Fresno State (2017), Hawaii (2019), and Nevada (2027).

Utah State will face power conference opponents on the road in 2017 (Wisconsin, Wake Forest), 2018 (Michigan State), 2019 (Wake Forest, LSU), 2020 (Washington), and 2021 (Washington State). Utah State will also host Washington State in 2020 as part of a home-and-home deal. Utah State also has an annual series against BYU running through 2020.

Old Dominion hopes to “hit the ground running” on new stadium project

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Some fans of the Old Dominion football program may be getting a little impatient with the progress (or lack of) in the development of the football stadium, but Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig says things are coming along nicely and progress will start to be seen soon enough.

“Once we get the architects engaged, we’ll figure out what $55 million will buy in 2019 dollars,” Selig said, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “Then we’ll have an idea for how much additional money needs to be raised to support the project.”

Old Dominion is planning on tearing down Foreman Field at the end of the 2018 season and rebuild it with modern seating and amenities. The $55 million project remained on the books in the Virginia budget in February, allowing the university to move ahead with their plans. The first step is finding an architect to take on the job.

Because Old Dominion’s football stadium is among the smallest in the nation and will remain so even after the rebuild and renovations, the entire project is expected to move fairly swiftly once the work actually begins. Old Dominion isn’t building a grand football palace, so any concerns over the lack of updates on the stadium should be calmed.

If nothing else, the concerns raised about the lack of updates on the stadium renovations may just mean Old Dominion has some eager fans excited about the future of the program.