With talk of a potential division one split once again heating up and becoming a more realistic possibility, the domino effect that would play out in college football could put the past few years of realignment to shame. If the big power conferences went off to play under their own set of rules, programs not wanting to be left behind would scramble to make sales pitches looking to entry in to any of the conferences willing to add one more member or two, or more.
So, where would Notre Dame fit in to that mix?
You can bet your next paycheck there would be little standing in the way of Notre Dame finding a way to be a part of the new structure and super division in college football. The Irish have long been owners of a seat at the big boy table regardless of conference non-affiliation. Notre Dame has figured out a way to get special access to the BCS bowls without conference affiliation, if they manage to meet a certain set of requirements available only to them, and Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick remains one of the power names in collegiate athletics. More importantly, Notre Dame brings money with them wherever they go.
Notre Dame’s place in college sports took on a different look recently by abandoning the Big East and hooking up with the ACC for a unique membership that allows for football independence while providing conference affiliation for just about every other sport. Part of the agreement between the ACC and Notre Dame arranges for a handful of guaranteed games between the Irish and ACC opponents on a rotating basis, as well as ways for Notre Dame to get in on the ACC’s bowl tie-ins. The ACC would surely be a part of the upper tier in any division split, along with the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC, so the question would be what that would mean for Notre Dame’s status.
Could this division one split be the final hurdle standing in the way of Notre Dame and full-conference membership? It is far too early to tell, but that could become a realistic possibility depending on how the new structure is set up moving forward. This is all hypothetical at this point, of course, but if the power conferences split and formed their own division, it may be realistic to expect they work out a way to form their own postseason and split potential revenue between the conferences. Would they want to be splitting a share with Notre Dame, or would the ACC want to be sharing their share with the Irish? Put yourself in the shoes of the conferences. Would you want to do it?
Regardless of what would happen with Notre Dame, there would be plenty of schools looking to make a push for an invite to a power conference. For starters, would the American be included in any power shift? After losing Louisville (ACC in 2014) and Rutgers (Big Ten in 2014), the conference may lack the appeal to be in the same room as the top conferences. That could lead to AAC programs like Cincinnati or UCF trying to work their way in to another conference willing to take them on board. Perhaps even Houston. Remember, television markets are key ingredients in any realignment move. The power conferences likely have all of them accounted for at this point, but adding a little extra is rarely frowned upon.
He probably won’t win the sport’s most important individual award, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson took home a nice consolation prize on Tuesday.
Watson was announced as the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the top senior or fourth-year junior quarterback in college football. A three-year starter for the Tigers, Watson has completed 775-of-1,115 career passes for 9,489 yards with 86 touchdowns against 30 interceptions while also adding 1,829 yards and 23 scores on the ground.
Most importantly, he’s led Clemson to back-to-back ACC championships and consecutive trips to the College Football Playoff. His 2nd-ranked Tigers will face No. 3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31.
Watson was named a Heisman Trophy finalist on Monday for a season in which he’s thrown for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Recent winners of the Unitas award are Colt McCoy, Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota and, in 2015, Connor Cook. Watson will accept the honor at a ceremony in Baltimore on Friday night before jetting up for the Heisman ceremony on Saturday.
On Monday, Army displayed the World War II-themed uniforms the Black Knights will wear against Navy on Saturday.
On Tuesday, it was Navy’s turn.
With President-elect Donald Trump in attendance, the Midshipmen will put their 14-game winning streak on the line by channeling one of the best Navy teams of all-time — the 1963 bunch.
That 1963 team was led by Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach and finished the season ranked No. 2 in both polls, falling to No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl.
The ’63 game remains one of the most memorable in the 116-year history of the game, played on the insistence of Jacqueline Kennedy amid talk of canceling the contest following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
And, oh by the way, Navy won that fabled game, 21-15.
Christian McCaffrey will declare for the NFL Draft, according to a report from Matt Miller of Bleacher Report.
He would join Texas’s D'Onta Foreman and LSU’s Leonard Fournette among early entrant running backs.
McCaffrey, of course, offers a different skill set than those two and any other running back. Just as much a threat catching the ball or as a returner, McCaffrey set the FBS single-season all-purpose yardage record — rushing for 2,019 yards and eight touchdowns, receiving for 645 yards and five scores, accumulating 1,070 kick return yards with one touchdown and returning punts for 130 yards and a touchdown. He finished runner-up to Derrick Henry in the Heisman Trophy voting while leading Stanford to the Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl victory.
This season, McCaffrey’s profile dropped as Stanford dropped from the national title conversation, but he actually improved as a running back. McCaffrey’s averages jumped in both yards per game (145.1 vs. 144.2) and yards per carry (6.3 vs. 6.0).
Assuming he does indeed declare, McCaffrey will wrap up his Cardinal career as Stanford faces North Carolina in the Sun Bowl (2 p.m. ET Dec. 30, CBS).
Former Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam died on Tuesday, a family spokesperson announced Tuesday. He was 42.
Salaam was found dead in a Boulder, Colo., park on Monday night. Authorities said there were no signs of foul play.
“The Buff Family has lost an outstanding young man and a great Buff today,” CU athletics director Rick George said in a statement Tuesday. “We are heartbroken for Rashaan and his family and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this very difficult time.”
Salaam was best known in college football for winning the 1994 Heisman Trophy, beating out Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter, the late Alcorn State quarterback Steve McNair and Penn State quarterback Kerry Collins after a season in which he rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns on 7.61 yards per carry. Salaam also claimed the Walter Camp Player of the Year award and the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back after helping the Buffs to a season in which they finished 11-1, beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 3 in the AP poll.
Salaam was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bears in the 1995 NFL Draft and became the youngest player in league history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. His career fizzled from there, though, as a broken leg derailed his career and his yearly totals dwindled to 496, 112 and later two yards with the expansion Cleveland Browns in 1999. Salaam later tried comeback efforts in the XFL and CFL before calling it quits.
Oddly enough, Salaam is the first Heisman winner in more than half a century to pass away.
“He was very coachable,” former CU coach Bill McCartney said. “He had a happy heart. I loved being around him. He didn’t take himself too seriously, and he always credited those around him, especially his offensive line. What I liked about him is that he had a sparkle in his eye. He was upbeat and positive.”