58 percent in favor of power conferences splitting to form own division

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To many it seems inevitable that the big power conferences will soon be getting a chance to operate somewhat independently of the NCAA system. Whether that is ultimately good or bad for college sports remains up for debate, but if nothing else it could allow for a chance to see the schools with the power to operate on a different level find a way to do so without having to be held back by those without as much clout in the game. With university athletics personnel gathering this week for an annual NCAA convention, the topic of a split among division one schools has been a hot topic, and it appears there is support for a split to be made.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports reports 58 percent of administrators from all levels of NCAA membership support the power conferences forming their own division. If majority rules, brace yourself. Changes are coming.

“It makes sense for the five big revenue conferences to have their own voice,” NCAA president Mark Emmert told Yahoo Sports Friday. “A year ago that would have been a very difficult conversation. Now [power member schools] are saying, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’ … People have just become more comfortable with the ideas and concepts of it.’ ”

According to Forde, the structure of the NCAA will be evaluated more in the next general meeting to take place in April. At that time it is expected a potential plan will be shared and taken back to the various conferences to review with university presidents during the various conference meetings. After that revisions will be brought to the table and reviewed before any votes can formally take place. Basically, this is not going to be an overnight process, but nobody expected it to be. The good news, for the sake of finding some sort of resolution, the goal is in place to find some peace by the end of the summer.

At the heart of the idea of a division split continues to be the boiling point of compensation for student-athletes beyond the typical scholarship limits currently in place. The big conferences have the funds available to offer more for players that smaller conferences do not. They are already playing on different playing fields in many respects, but the bigger conferences feel they are held back by not being able to do more because of the limitations the smaller conferences face.

There are a number of benefits to allowing the power conferences to run independently in their own division, but there should be concerns what this means for the other conferences that will be left behind. It is ultimately not the responsibility of the SEC or the Big Ten to worry about the stability of conferences like the Sun Belt or MAC, but it will certainly not be a positive result for the MAC or the Sun Belt and so on unless there will be a way to continue to allow for scheduling between the conferences. That would likely remain in play under any new structure that is formed, but we have a long way to go before seeing just what the powers that be cook up.

Ex-USC DL Noah Jefferson won’t be transferring to Arizona after all

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In early March, Noah Jefferson announced on Twitter that he would be transferring from USC to Arizona.  Nearly five months later?

Never mind.

Wednesday, UA head coach Rich Rodriguez announced that Jefferson will not, as previously expected, be playing for the Wildcats this season.  No reason for the abrupt and unexpected about-face was given.

The coach did, though, intimate that a future pairing between the player and the program isn’t out of the question.

Jefferson wouldn’t have been eligible to play in 2017 for the Wildcats even if his move to the desert had come to fruition. He would’ve, though, had two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018 at his disposal.

A four-star member of USC’s 2015 recruiting class, Jefferson played in 14 games, starting one of those, as a true freshman. After starting the season-opening loss to Alabama last season, Jefferson never played another down for USC.

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.