Clemson South Carolina football

ACC’s “8+1” scheduling model has potential, but needs outside support

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For the past few years ACC commissioner John Swofford has been saying his conference needs to step it up in games against the other big conferences. Not so long ago the ACC was perceived to be sitting behind not only the SEC in the conference pecking order, but the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 as well. In a season that saw Florida State win the BCS championship against SEC champion Auburn and Clemson knock off Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, the image may be starting to change for the conference.

As the conference preps for upcoming changes in membership (so long Maryland, hello Louisville), what to do about future conference scheduling remains an unknown. With conferences exploring the ideas of nine-game conference schedules, the ACC is left with a complicated issue thanks to a football scheduling agreement with Notre Dame. The Irish are not a football member of the conference but set aside a handful of guaranteed games each season for ACC schools as part of the conference membership deal Notre Dame agreed to when joining in other sports such as basketball. One idea currently being discussed within the ACC is an “8+1” model that would set up eight conference games and set aside one spot on the schedule to be played against SEC opponents in a crossover scheduling agreement.

According to a report by ESPN.com, the scheduling model is just in the concept phase has and is a long way from becoming a reality. Getting the SEC to agree to provide full conference support for the agreement is just one of the obstacles in the way. If it were to come together though, it would be a great move by the ACC and SEC to provide fans with one more attractive game on the schedule. Of course, it also ramps up the strength of schedule on both ends and that could be a selling point when college football moves in to the College Football Playoff era. Strength of schedule is expected to carry more weight in the selection process for the playoff.

The ACC and SEC already have four match-ups that take place annually. Florida State and Florida, Georgia and Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Clemson, and Louisville and Kentucky are all games that will take place at the end of the season. That leaves 10 programs in each conference without an interconference rivalry game. The idea is not exactly unique of course. The Big Ten and Pac 12 previously had a tentative plan in place to schedule conference-wide crossover games after the conferences had expanded to 12 members, but the Pac 12 backed out of the agreement before it could fully develop due to conference scheduling changes coming up at the time. If the ACC cannot get the full support from the SEC, perhaps working something out with the Big Ten (or Big 12) could become a realistic possibility.

The drawbacks would be the possibility that an ACC-SEC crossover game late in the season could knock one team out of contention for a playoff spot. And if the idea is to schedule these games in the final week of the regular season — Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, South Carolina-Clemson and Kentucky-Louisville are already the final games of the regular season — it would take away from the tradition of some key games on the college football calendar, such as the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn. Alabama vs. Duke just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

But these games don’t have to be scheduled all on the same weekend. Perhaps some could, to keep some of the existing rivalry games at the end of the year in place both within conferences and between conferences. The idea of mixing in some crossover games in the beginning of the season would work well.

Whatever happens with the ACC scheduling, anything that can be done to improve the strength of schedule across the conference and make for more entertaining games for fans is a win for us all.

Northwestern remembers Randy Walker 10 years after his passing

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Ten years ago Wednesday, the college football world was rocked by the unexpected and sudden loss of Northwestern coach Randy Walker.

The athletics department produced a touching video tribute to the man who suffered a heart attack at the age of 52, seven years into his tenure in Evanston.

Walker’s death unexpectedly thrust a young former Wildcats linebacker named Pat Fitzgerald into the head coach’s chair.

“I would prefer to be toasting to his longevity right now,” Fitzgerald says in the video.

Walker posted a 37-45 mark at Northwestern, including a surprising 8-4 campaign in 2000.

That followed a successful nine-year run at Miami University, the southwest Ohio school where he was a player.

Report: Ole Miss violations laid out to NCAA by stepfather of Laremy Tunsil

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The Mississippi football program might not find out its NCAA fate very soon, but the rest of the world learned more specifics regarding the accusations the Rebels face Wednesday.

Sports Illustrated published the results of its investigation, including specific allegations levied by a man in the process of getting a divorce from the mother of star offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil.

Lindsey Miller detailed several potentially serious violations involving Tunsil and his family, and SI was able to view some of the information he says he turned over to the NCAA during extensive interviews.

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations is consistent with Miller’s claims in numerous places, including 12 occasions of free lodging that totaled $2,253. Miller says he told the NCAA those nights were arranged by boosters he met through [Mississippi DL coach Chris] Kiffin, but the NCAA never found that link. Kiffin’s name appears 13 times in the Notice of Allegations, but none of those prove he set Miller up with boosters.

Tunsil was part of a surprisingly star-studded recruiting class in 2013, but head coach Hugh Freeze has consistently defended his program against accusations his recruiting success was thanks to illegal methods.

Freeze, who took over as coach in December 2011, may minimize the NCAA’s case, but nine of the 13 football allegations relate to his tenure there. (Four allegations, including fraudulent ACT scores, occurred under former coach Houston Nutt.) There are four Level I violations under Freeze and a significant Level II failure to monitor charge in which the NCAA says the athletic department and football program failed to monitor Tunsil driving three different loaner cars between August 2014 and June 2015. (That latter allegation is the one Ole Miss is disputing.)

Perhaps complicating matters is the fact Miller went to the NCAA only after having a fallout with Tunsil and his mother, Desiree Polingo, during the summer of 2015.

Polingo denied Miller’s accusations via a statement to SI, and in another statement a lawyer for Tunsil told SI, “You have to consider the source.”

Mississippi has already admitted to 12 of the 13 allegations and self-imposed penalties, but it remains to be seen if the NCAA Committee on Infractions will find the punishment sufficient or more is added.

The full SI story goes into deeper detail about the situations facing not only Ole Miss athletics but also the NCAA enforcement model itself.

NCAA announces common-sense change to bowl selection process

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Andy Janovich #35 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers jumps over Jayon Brown #12 of the UCLA Bruins during the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi's Stadium on December 26, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The NCAA Division I council announced 5-7 teams will still have a chance to make a bowl this fall.

They will have to wait until all of the 6-6 teams have been picked, though.

The common sense rule tweak was announced Wednesday.

Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose State all made bowls last season despite finishing the regular season 5-7, and coincidentally they all won.

In a statement, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who serves as chair of the football oversight committee, said the postseason selection process “makes sense and is fair to the schools and the bowls.”

APR scores will continue to be used to designate which 5-7 teams are eligible to take up the bowl slots left available after all of the 6-6 teams have been selected.

After swelling to 41 games last season, the postseason is not set to expand again until at least the 2020 season as a result of a moratorium on the certification of new bowls was established by the council in April.

NCAA inquires about additional Sandusky victims from Penn State lawsuit

BELLEFONTE, PA - OCTOBER 09: Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky (C) leaves the Centre County Courthouse after being sentenced in his child sex abuse case on October 9, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The 68-year-old Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years and not more that 60 years in prison for his conviction in June on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, including while he was the defensive coordinator for the Penn State college football team. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Penn State and Joe Paterno‘s family have already done their part to return the tragic Jerry Sandusky saga to the news this year.

Now the NCAA apparently wants to join in.

The Centre Daily Times reports the college sports governing body has requested information regarding two men allegedly victimized by Sandusky, a long-time Penn State assistant coach, in the 1970s.

Their stories came to light in a court filing from a lawsuit involving Penn State and an insurer. The school tried to collect on a policy to help pay settlements it reached with more than 30 individuals who accused Sandusky of sexually abusing them.

The university tried to recoup money for those settlements from liability insurer Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, but PMA challenged that in court. The two men’s cases were revealed in an order by Philadelphia Judge Gary Glazer that referenced their cases, years earlier than the 10 Sandusky was convicted of in 2012. One said he told Paterno.

The CDT story does not give any indication the NCAA might want to revisit the sanctions that were handed down in 2012.

Rather, it is looking for defense fodder in a defamation lawsuit filed by the family of Paterno, the legendary Nittany Lions head coach

The estate claims the college sports oversight group defamed the man who helmed the program from 1966 until his firing in 2011 after the Sandusky story broke.

A key point is the NCAA’s acceptance of the findings of the Freeh report, the university-commissioned investigation of the Sandusky scandal, which placed blame on four Penn State leaders, including Paterno, who died six months before it was released. The NCAA then levied historic sanctions on the university, including stripping 110 wins from the Nittany Lions, dropping Paterno from first place in the leaderboard for most wins by a Division 1 coach.

But in new documents, the NCAA says it needs the information about the two claimants to refute the estate’s defamation claims.

Sandusky was convicted in 2012, and some of the sanctions Penn State agreed to accept from the NCAA were gradually lifted in the following years.

While Sandusky reportedly continues to work on getting his convictions overturned, it’s not hard to imagine Sandusky’s victims and plenty of members of the Penn State community would prefer to move on from the tragedy — allowing both time to heal in whatever way is possible.

The same can most likely be said of current coach James Franklin, who took the job two-plus years ago after coach Bill O’Brien endured the brunt of the storm and maintained solid recruiting despite the sanctions.

During the spring, Franklin told CBSSports.com, “This is really year one for us in a lot of ways,” citing a return to having close to a full allotment of scholarships.