Karl Benson

Karl Benson: 12 still desired number for Sun Belt membership

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Get ready for continued offseason conference expansion and realignment rumors this offseason, because the Sun Belt Conference still wants to do what they can to reach a football membership of 12 members. Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson addressed the topic in a Q&A with AL.com Friday in Mobile during a luncheon for the GoDaddy.com Bowl before hopping on a plane for Pasadena. In it Benson reflected on a successful year for the Sun Belt and confirmed the conference is still hoping to get to 12 football members in the near future.

“There are schools who want to be the 12th member,” Benson said to AL.com, suggesting discussions of some sort have been ongoing, although Benson did not specify which schools may have been showing interest. One of the draws for a conference getting to 12 football members is the ability to hold a conference championship game. Benson noted the Sun Belt is the left out of the championship mix between Conference USA, the MAC, Mountain West Conference and, soon, the American. The American Athletic Conference is expected to play a championship game following upcoming realignment changes that will see Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) leave but Tulane, Tulsa and East Carolina join and Navy on the way in 2015.

“I know that this past December 7th when the MAC and Conference USA and the Mountain West had their championship games and next year the American will have their championship game and the Sun Belt will be the one in our peer group that doesn’t have a championship game,” Benson said. “We miss out not having that type of exposure on that championship Saturday.”

Asked about a timeline for finding a 12th conference member, Benson said in order to make it official for 2015 the conference will have to have a deal done by June 1 of this year, although he says it is too early to speculate on the confidence level of having a school confirmed by then.

Western Kentucky will leave the Sun Belt for Conference USA officially on June 1. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will join the conference in their transition from FCS to FBS at that time. Idaho and New Mexico, left abandoned following the crumbling of the WAC’s football operations and unwanted by the Mountain West Conference, will also join the conference as affiliate members. Those changes leave the conference with 11 members for 2014.

The Sun Belt will not be likely to pry a school away from any of the other FBS conferences, so the most likely route for the Sun Belt may be to add another FCS program. Benson suggested finding a school situated within the current footprint of the conference may be ideal, suggesting it would be nice if Appalachian State could have a travel partner. That would seem to suggest another school in or nearby North Carolina would be the ideal addition for the Sun Belt. Charlotte and Old Dominion are each heading to Conference USA, so those options are off the table for the Sun Belt.

Two schools to keep an eye on might be Coastal Carolina and Liberty. Both have been improving their football programs in recent years and would be in a good location as a traveling partner for Appalachian State.

Florida AD Jeremy Foley suggests no long-term revival of Gators-Hurricanes

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 07: Quinton Dunbar #1 of the Florida Gators is tackled by Stacy Coley #3 of the Miami Hurricanes during a game  at Sun Life Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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The Florida Gators play Florida State every year, and that appears to be the only school from the ACC Florida will continue to play annually. Sorry, Miami.

Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley was a guest on WRUF in Gainesville, where he was on to discuss a number of various Florida sports topics. Among them, of course, was a question about the future of the Florida-Miami series, if you can even call it a series these days. Foley did not leave much room for the possibility of a long-term series with the Hurricanes.

“No, I do not see them on our schedule on a regular basis,” Foley said. “I think when you’re asking your football team to play eight games in this league and Florida State? That’s a tough slate. This league is obviously as good as it gets, and Florida State is as good as it gets.”

SEC schools are locked to an eight-game conference schedule and must schedule one opponent from another power conference each year. The ACC has a similar rule, and Florida and Florida State each meet their respective conferences’ scheduling rules with their annual series at the end of the regular season. Miami has no such power conference rival to work with, so the Hurricanes are forced to look elsewhere to satisfy their scheduling requirements.

Florida and Miami are scheduled to open the 2019 season against each other in Orlando, but that is the only game in the foreseeable future for a pair of power conference programs that once played on an annual basis until 1987. Since 1987, Florida and Miami have played just six games, including a pair of postseason bowl games.

Helmet sticker to Gridiron Now.

Michigan’s epic summer of satellite camps is here

Jim Harbaugh
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Here’s hoping Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff are getting plenty of rest and relaxation this Memorial Day weekend, because the next month is going to be very busy for them. With the start of June just days away, Michigan’s month-long tour of satellite camps is about to begin with 38 stops over 21 states and two countries.

And yes, this is going to cost Michigan a few pennies, but it will be a small price to pay in the long run if it means Michigan will build the kind of dominant program they expected when they hired Harbaugh for the kind of money they did. Michigan already spent $350,000 for the spring break spring football trip to IMG Academy, and now that the trip to Australia is back on for Michigan, the cost will continue to soar. The Detroit Free Press mapped it all out and suggested the satellite camp tour will cover roughly 50,000 miles between stops in the United States, Australia and American Samoa. Of course, not even Harbaugh is making every stop on that tour. For example, he will not be heading to Australia, while a pair of assistants will.

Harbaugh and company will be spanning the nation to work at camps in Connecticut, New Jersey, Alabama, Florida, California, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and many more. Among the programs Michigan coaches will work alongside include Georgia, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Baylor is also hosting one of the camps Michigan will be represented. In March, now former Baylor head coach Art Briles was the guest keynote speaker at a coaching clinic hosted by Harbaugh and his brother, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.

One thing we do suspect is this. Wherever Harbaugh goes will generate buzz and draw interest. It could be a very fun month.

Mike Riley bringing rape victim at Oregon State to speak to Huskers

Mike Riley
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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Nebraska head coach Mike Riley is taking an interesting approach to addressing the impact of sexual abuse to his football players in Lincoln. Riley will bring in a former victim of a gang rape incident at Oregon State, which occurred under Riley’s time at the Pac-12 program. Brenda Tracy

Brenda Tracy was allegedly raped in October 1999 during her freshman year at Oregon State by four men, two of which were football players at Oregon State. The charges were later dropped and the two Oregon State players served one-game suspensions by Riley.

Doing the right thing is the key,” Riley said on Thursday, according to Sports Illustrated. “What I’ve learned is that some things that are not negotiable about the opportunity to be on a team. One of those is certain kinds of assault, and one of them is anything to do with guns.”

Considering no charges were ever pursued and the players each served a simple one-game suspension, it stands to reason Tracy would have some animosity toward Riley, who she also blames to an extent. Riley previously invited her to speak to his team while at Oregon State and is now coming through on his promise to allow Tracy to share her story with his new football program at Nebraska.

I despised that man,” Tracy told The Oregonian, speaking of Riley. “I hated him with every cell in my body. This is a coach who victimized me, and now I’m going to stand in front of his football team and tell them how I felt.”

It should be a very powerful message, and it sounds like one that every college football program should consider hearing if possible. In the wake of recent findings at Baylor and a disturbingly growing list of sexual assault cases involving college football players, why not hear how a victim’s life can be impacted by the poor decisions of young men?

“I think kids have to always understand it’s about choices,” Riley said. “The other basic thing to understand is how you treat people. It’s one more piece. I really appreciate Brenda reaching out, stepping out to do this. I think it will be a real-life thing. I think that’s what players need to know about. There’s people’s lives involved here and how it affects them.”

Last November saw a trio of Nebraska players (Tommy Armstrong, Trey Foster and Jordan Westerkamp) connected to an alleged rape incident, but no charges were filed following an investigation by officials due to a lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Four-star OL JP Urquidez says he will not enroll at Baylor

during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on January 1, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.
Sarah Glenn/Getty Images
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Continuing an unfortunate trend for the Baylor football program over the course of the last week, Class of 2016 offensive lineman JP Urquidez announced he will not be enrolling at Baylor tomorrow morning as originally planned. Urquidez made the announcement via Twitter.

Rivals rated Urquidez as a four-star prospect out of Copperas Cove, Texas. The recruiting service ranked him the ninth-best offensive tackle in the country in the Class of 2016 and the 24th top player overall from the state of Texas. Urquidez sent a message of support to the recently indefinitely suspended (with the intent to terminate) Art Briles once the news became official.

Urquidez joins fellow Class of 2016 recruits of Baylor Patrick Hudson (another four-star offensive lineman) and four-star running back Kameron Martin in deciding not to enroll in the first summer session at Baylor. Others could soon join them as reports suggest four-star wide receiver Devin Duvernay already wants to move on to another program as well.

Baylor’s Class of 2016 ranked 17th in the nation according to Rivals, but in the wake of this latest scandal news the Bears are already seeing key ingredients of that class looking elsewhere at the final hour.There is not a whole lot that can be done by Baylor other than allowing those players a release from their

National Letter of Intent and offering them best wishes on their way out.