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Cook says Michigan State to have more swagger in 2014

Michigan State v Notre Dame Getty Images

Michigan State has been climbing a bit of an uphill battle on their way to a Big Ten championship last season. Always flying under the radar and playing with a chip on their shoulders, the Spartans opened some eyes last season by coming together to make a run for the Big Ten title by overcoming rough play early on, handing Ohio State their first loss under Urban Meyer and then shutting down Stanford in a defensive battle in the Rose Bowl. Now on top of the Big Ten, will the Spartans be able to stay there? If nothing else, quarterback Connor Cook is full of confidence heading in to the spring.

“Heading into 2014, our expectations are so high that I feel like anything less than a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl would be a failure,” Cook told Bruce Feldman in an interview for CBSSports.com. “But it’s different now. I feel like we’re going to have more of a swagger heading into this season.”

Michigan State will be moving to a new division in the fall as the Big Ten expands. The Spartans will remain in the same division as in-state rival Michigan, but will also be in the fray with Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana and newcomers Maryland and Rutgers. The increased exposure in the east could not have come at a better time for the program as they currently hold the Big Ten’s title belt. And if they can get out of the Big Ten’s East Division, the odds may be pretty good they can play their way right back to Pasadena, or perhaps enter the College Football Playoff discussion.

“We won the Rose Bowl. We know what we’re capable of.,” Cook explained. “It’s everyone’s dream to win a national championship, and we feel like we can do that but you just have to take it one step at a time. The main goal at our program, which is what it is every year, is to win the Big Ten championship. If you win that, you’re in a BCS bowl. But it’s still the main goal is to win the Big Ten championship and then really everything else will take care of itself.”

Cook also discussed his trianing and how he is preparing for the upcoming season with Feldman, as well as a number of other topics. You can read the full interview on CBSSports.com.

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Report says Jalen Collins “failed multiple drug tests” at LSU

Jalen Collins, Ryan Timmons

Over the last few years there has been a good handful of players from LSU who have been questioned about or have been tied to various degrees of drug concerns.

Now you can add former cornerback Jalen Collins to the list of Tigers with some drug use baggage traveling with them, just as the NFL Draft is about to get underway next week.

Albert Breer of the NFL Network reported via Twitter on Friday Collins failed multiple drug tests while in college…

There are two key pieces of information we are missing from this. First, we do not know exactly how many drug tests were reportedly failed by Collins. Second, we do not know when these supposed failed tests occurred. What we do know is Collins appeared in 13 games in each of LSU’s past three seasons, at least according to CFBStats.com.

As noted by Bryan Fischer on NFL.com, this news of failed drug tests does not seem likely to affect the draft stock for Collins in the NFL Draft. Collins still has plenty of talent that NFL teams are going to be interested in acquiring, and sometimes talent prevails over what seem to be minor drug concerns.

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Nick Saban says Alabama must regain mojo and identity

Alabama Football - Saban Presser: Spring Practice 6

One of the most recognizable brands in college football has an identity crisis on its hands. That seems to be the vibe coming from head coach Nick Saban, who is already dropping a reality check on his program following a second straight postseason ending with a loss and a spring that lacked the kind of development Saban would have preferred to see.

We need to get our mojo back … we need into get our identity back,” Saban said Thursday to a group of media on a caravan tour stop in Huntsville, Alabama (via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

He’s not wrong. Alabama is not exactly falling off the surface of the college football world, but more is expected from Alabama, its fans and its coaches. An SEC championship is nice, as is a victory over Auburn, but Alabama is thinking about national championships. It has been a whole three years since Alabama’s last title. It is quite a drought for Tuscaloosa.

“We used to be a team nobody wanted to play,” he explained. “We’ve had a few distractions with the last couple years that I think have affected how we’ve finished the season.”

Alabama is still a really good football team, but the intimidation factor has been diminished in recent seasons for a variety of reasons. First, the Crimson Tide have become vulnerable in some areas on defense, and teams excelling in offense have taken note of that. But the bar is set incredibly high at Alabama, rightfully so given a handful of national titles in recent seasons.

Saban has a way of giving his team a reality check, and it appears now is one of those times. Alabama may very well be one of the preseason favorites and among the top-ranked teams in the nation when the preseason polls start coming out this summer, but Saban is not one who will buy into it and wants to see his team earn that accolades.

This is not the first time Saban has played this tactic, nor will it be the last.

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Extension makes Gary Pinkel SEC’s 10th $4 million coach

Gary Pinkel

Following a second straight SEC East Division championship in just its third year in the SEC, Missouri has extended the contract of head coach Gary Pinkel and rewarded him with a nice bump in pay. Pinkel’s contract has been extended through 2021 with a guaranteed salary of $4.02 million.

Cha-ching.

The investment in Pinkel seems to have been a long time coming, as Pinkel may have exceeded many expectations for Missouri since making the transition from the Big 12 to the SEC.

Pinkel was hired by Missouri in 2001 after a successful stint at Toledo. Since arriving in Columbia, Pinkel is 113-66 with six bowl victories, including three in the last four seasons. After going 5-7 in Missouri’s first season in the SEC after leaving the Big 12, Pinkel coached Missouri to two consecutive SEC East Division championships and appearances in the SEC Championship Game.

If you are wondering how many coaches are left in the SEC not receiving $4 million, the number is apparently down to four; Jim McElwain (Florida), Derek Mason (Vanderbilt), Mike Stoops (Kentucky) and Butch Jones (Tennessee).

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Vols WR Von Pearson a suspect in alleged rape investigation

TaxSlayer Bowl - Iowa v Tennessee

Tennessee wide receiver Von Pearson is a suspect in an alleged rape investigation in Knoxville, the Knoxville Police Department said Friday afternoon. Pearson has not been charged with any crimes at this time, and the police are currently investigating the story.

According to The Knoxville News Sentinel, the incident in question was reported early Friday morning and police have interviewed the alleged victim and several potential witnesses. Police have already contacted the Sexual Assault Center as the investigation gets underway.

Pearson was Tennessee’s second-leading receiver last fall behind Pig Howard. Pearson recorded 393 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 11 games.

This is not the first time this spring a Tennessee player has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Earlier this month offensive lineman Coleman Thomas had a felony theft charge dismissed. Former defensive lineman Michael Sawyers was soon charged with the same offense. Sawyers was actually dismissed from the team in February by head coach Butch Jones for a violation of team rules.

Tennessee’s spring game is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Given this recent report, it may be safe to assume Pearson will not participate in it as the legal process plays out. At this time, Tennessee has not issued any statement on the situation or Pearson’s status with the program.

UPDATE (6:27 p.m.): Tennessee has suspended Pearson from all team activities.

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Baylor and TCU getting return on investments in Briles, Patterson

Art Briles, Gary Patterson

It may be safe to say Baylor and TCU are getting what they paid for with Art Briles and Gary Patterson, respectively. The head coaches of the co-Big 12 champions in 2014 were each paid at least 2.5 times what they made just a few short years ago according to documents cited in a USA Today report Friday afternoon.

According to the report by USA Today, TCU paid Patterson a base salary of $3.5 million in 2013, which was roughly tripled from his 2008 salary. In all, Patterson received a total compensation of $3.9 million. Briles was paid a base salary of $3.6 million in 2013 by Baylor, or 2.5 times what he was paid in 2009 by the university. Briles received a total compensation of $4.2 million.

There is no question the impact each of these coaches has had on their respective programs. Briles (55-34 at Baylor) has successfully turned Baylor from a perennial cellar-dwelling candidate in the Big 12 to a regular threat to win the conference. Baylor has won at least a share of the Big 12 championship each of the past two seasons, although the Bears are still looking for their first BCS/New Years Six bowl victory after two straight losses in the postseason. Baylor’s success has come at a good time with the Texas Longhorns struggling as a program, relatively speaking.

Patterson (132-45 all-time) has been the man in charge of the TCU football program through plenty of changes in the realignment scene. Under Patterson TCU has competed in Conference USA, the Mountain West Conference and now the Big 12, with a brief detour heading toward the Big East in the process. Patterson has coached TCU to a top 25 finish in all but five seasons since taking over as head coach in Fort Worth in 2001 (he was an interim coach in 2000 for TCU’s bowl game). Patterson has led TCU to a Rose Bowl victory and a Peach Bowl victory, and in 2015 the Horned Frogs are expected to be a top national championship contender.

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Cal cutting ties with Pierre Ingram following solicitation of prostitute

California v Northwestern

Cal will not be bringing back receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Pierre Ingram in a move that is probably not to be unexpected.

Ingram’s contract is scheduled to expire on April 30. Cal will not be renewing the contract after Ingram was arrested earlier this month for solicitation of a prostitute. He was immediately placed on administrative leave, and now the program is going to wipe its hands clean of him entirely.

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Report: Old Big East rivals Syracuse and UConn getting back together

Florida State v Syracuse

The rivalry between Syracuse and UConn was one of the best things about the old Big East. Well, in basketball at least. The rivalry never really reached the same height of animosity or excitement in football as it did in basketball, but the two schools are reportedly working on plans to begin a home-and-home football series in the future.

Brett McMurphy of ESPN reports (via Twitter) are putting the finishing touches on a pair of games between 2016 and 2018. Per McMurphy, UConn would host the Orange in 2016 and Syracuse would host the Huskies in 2018. Specific dates have not been reported or confirmed.

Syracuse will not meet its ACC power conference scheduling requirement with this series, but the requirement has already been met for 2016 with Notre Dame in MetLife Stadium and 2018 against the Irish in South Bend.

UConn leads the all-time series between the two schools, with a 6-3 edge over nine games. The series started in 2004 after UConn upgraded from FCS to FBS and joined the Big East. Syracuse left the crumbling Big East for the ACC in 2013, and UConn stayed a part of the conference as it morphed into the American Athletic Conference. Syracuse won the most recent meeting between the two schools in 2012 with a 40-10 victory.

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North Dakota State brings new meaning to “championship drive”

North Dakota State team

It is Friday afternoon, which tends to mean things can get a little slow as we head into the weekend. Fortunately, North Dakota State decided to have a little fun and make some people smile* with this photo of its four national championship trophies going for a Friday drive.

Judging by this photo, seen on the North Dakota State Facebook page, the national championship trophies are practicing safety first by wearing their respective seatbelts.

NDState-Trophy-Drive

North Dakota State won the 2014 Division 1 championship by defeating Illinois State. The previous year the Bison defeated Towson for the national title, and the previous two years saw North Dakota State beat Sam Houston State for the championship. North Dakota State’s championship drive will continue this season as the Bison will likely be the team to beat once again in the land of the FCS. North Dakota State will not play any FBS opponents in 2015, but a trip to Iowa is on the schedule for 2016. The 2015 season will kick off against Montana on August 29 in Missoula, Montana.

* With the possible exception of fans of Sam Houston State, Towson and Illinois State. Apologies to you.

Helmet sticker to Reddit.

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NCAA: Oklahoma State did not fail to monitor football program

Oklahoma State did not follow its drug testing policy and allowed the Orange Pride to host prospective student-athletes. The result? A one-year probation, the suspension of the Orange Pride program and $8,500 in fines on top of university-imposed recruiting restrictions.

The NCAA released a statement outlining the mild sanctions handed to Oklahoma State Friday afternoon. The violations are the result of a previous investigative story published by Sports Illustrated last year. The report was quick to be torn to shreds from any number of critics of the evidence and information reported, and perhaps the severity of the original report can be summed up best by the light punishment extended by the enforcement hand of the NCAA.

The NCAA opened its investigation into Oklahoma State following the publication of the Sports Illustrated story. The investigation included a review of over 50,000 emails and about 90 different interviews with current and former student-athletes, coaches, staff members and boosters. The end result was the NCAA determined many of the allegations reported by Sports Illustrated were unfounded, according to the NCAA statement. But Oklahoma State did not get off without some criticism.

Accusations the program did not follow its drug testing program were confirmed by the NCAA, stating suspensions for players violating the banned substance rules had suspensions determined on a case-by-case basis. This led to five players competing on the field in seven games they should have been suspended. There was no mention of which games were included, nor is there a mention of vacating any victories. Instead, part of the $8,500 in fines includes a $500 payment by Oklahoma State for each of the seven games a player should have been suspended.

On the recruiting side of the punishment, Oklahoma State self-imposed a reduction in coaches participating in off-campus evaluations by one and the reduction of total evaluation days by 10 in the fall and spring through the 2015-2016 calendar.

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Trollin’ Jim Harbaugh invites ALL coaches to Michigan football camp

Michigan Football Spring Game

If you are not following Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh on Twitter, you should probably take care of that right now. At the end of a week that has been filled with talk and debate about satellite camps, Harbaugh took to Twitter to extend an open invitation to all college football coaches to join he and his staff in Ann Arbor this summer.

It is already being considered a Grade-A troll move, and there is likely no coincidence it looks that way.

Just this week we have been talking about comments from Alabama’s regarding the ridiculousness of satellite camp rules, the perception of a loophole being exploited by northern coaches (in addition to Harbaugh, Penn State’s James Franklin and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly have taken advantage of the satellite camp rules). Folks in the ACC are not pleased either, but willing to adapt. The NCAA is also expecting to address the satellite camp discussion in the football rules oversight committee.

One question that should be asked is how many coaches from the Big Ten will accept the open invite? Imagine the scene if Mark Dantonio or Urban Meyer or Franklin showed up in Ann Arbor to work at the camp. It is an open invite after all.

This much we know; coaches from the ACC and SEC will not be sending in any R.S.V.P. replies, although they are invited to be a keynote speaker by Harbaugh. Their conferences do not allow for that possibility.

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ASU’s Todd Graham says scheduling cupcakes is un-American

Todd Graham

Keep this in mind the next time Arizona State schedules an easy opponent. Todd Graham, head coach of the Sun Devils, says scheduling easy games is un-American. God bless Todd Graham.

Graham’s comments on non-conference scheduling stem from a discussion regarding the College Football Playoff, which has many believing the emphasis on strength of schedule will help the game overall. It will, unquestionably. If the goal is to see more attractive games between power conference programs, then fans should benefit from the College Football Playoff era with schools not wanting to be left out of the playoff at the end of the year the way Baylor was in 2014.

“We need to consider what the fans want,” Graham said, according to AZFamily.com. “Fans don’t want to see you schedule four easy wins, then get two conference wins to get into a bowl game. That’s un-American.”

For the record, Arizona State has a game scheduled against Cal Poly this season and Northern Arizona in 2016. The Sun Devils also have a game against Texas A&M in Houston this fall and a home-and-home with Texas Tech starting in 2016.

But just as you start to think Graham is speaking for America with his thoughts on non-conference scheduling, he then takes a turn toward communism on other thoughts regarding scheduling.

“Here’s the issue with college football. It should be equal for everybody,” said Graham. “Everybody should play nine conference games. Why nine games instead of eight? Because you play one more conference game that your fans want to see instead of scheduling a team that no one wants to see because you’re scheduling wins and don’t want to be out of the four-team playoff.”

Before we had debates over satellite camps, we had debates over eight-game vs. nine-game conference schedules. Simply put, what works well for one conference does not necessarily make for the best scheduling approach for the other. The Big 12’s nine-game schedule makes sense for a 10-member league. The Pac-12 plays a nine-game conference schedule and the Big Ten has joined the nine-game party. Meanwhile the ACC and SEC remain with eight-game conference schedules, but with the non-scheduling requirement to schedule at least one game against another power conference opponent.

Some things in college football should be equal for everybody. Non-conference scheduling does not need to be one.

Helmet sticker to House of Sparky.

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Hugh Freeze’s spring game idea is not new, and it’s not likely to happen

Hugh Freeze

The spring football season is drawing to a close with a decent handful of teams in action this weekend. Every spring seems to have one idea come up as a new and innovative idea, but it really is not new at all. The idea of having teams play a scrimmage against another school is back in the discussion thanks to Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, who endorsed the idea this week.

I would love to see us be able to scrimmage another team,” Freeze said in a radio interview in Nashville, according to The Clarion-Ledger. “That way you can go ones on ones, twos on twos, threes on threes – really get something out of it.”

Freeze’s idea sounds good, and has some merit. Again, this is nothing we have not heard before, especially in recent years. Having the opportunity to go up against another team can have benefits as you can see how players react in certain situations against players and schemes they may not have seen during the spring practices. It also allows for an opportunity to work on some skills and potential game plans against certain styles of offenses or defenses. But the odds of getting a pair of FBS programs together, even if allowed by the NCAA, is not the most feasible idea due to financial requirements. So what does Freeze recommend?

“Maybe even adopt a charity. Maybe it’s a 1-AA opponent that you don’t play in the regular season,” Freeze suggested. “I think there would be a lot of interest in something like that. I wish we could do something like that.”

This is an idea that would have more traction than a scrimmage against another FBS program. There could be some benefits to take from this as well, on both sides. We already see this kind of exhibition idea in college basketball, with Division 1 programs often scrimmaging with a Division 2 school before officially opening the regular season. This would be the equivalent, and it would be entirely optional. What do you think? Would you be more interested in seeing a school like Ole Miss take on an FCS opponent in a spring scrimmage as a replacement for a traditional spring game or scrimmage?

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No college football abroad in Ireland in 2016

Penn State and UCF opened the 2014 season in Ireland in the Croke Park Classic last season, and it seems it might be the last college football game played in Ireland for at least a few more years. Plans for a potential game in 2016 have been put on ice, and economics are apparently to blame.

“The strength of the dollar against the euro means that the staging of the game at Croke Park was no longer viable for the Association without significant support from government agencies,” a statement from the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland said. That financial support was nowhere to be found for the 2016 plans.

This brings a disappointing end to the planning for the next college football game in Ireland, but it appears the writing had been on the wall. The 2016 event, long rumored to include ACC opponents Boston College and Georgia Tech, was supposed to be formally announced on St. Patrick’s Day, but never was. That led many following the developments of the game to believe the game may not happen at all. The planning involved with a game like this requires plenty of time to plan and budget for all parties involved, and the delaying of an announcement did not look good.

So as things stand now, Boston College and Georgia Tech will move forward with the expectation of playing their regular season meeting on American soil. Boston College is scheduled to host the Yellow Jackets, although the exact date of the game has not been determined by the ACC (the ACC will not release the 2016 schedule until early next year). The rumored plans originally suggested Boston College and Georgia Tech would meet in Ireland later in the season as opposed to a season-opening game like Penn State and UCF played in 2014.

Does this mean college football will never return to Ireland? That is probably not the case, especially since ACC commissioner John Swofford has said before he would like to see the conference explore overseas opportunities in the future. A return to Ireland should not be considered out of the mix, just not in 2016.

Helmet sticker to BC Interruption.

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Study: UAB football proved financially viable

UAB FOOTBALL PROGRAM SHUT DOWN 12-2-14

In March, the task force evaluating UAB’s decision to cancel its football program hired California-based consulting firm OSKR to produce an independent analysis of the financial number-crunching used to justify cutting the sport. Less than a month later UAB fired OSKR and hired Collegiate Sports Solutions out of concerns that OSKR, the same group that consulted on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon vs. the NCAA trial, could not provide an unbiased report. Still, OSKR continued on with its study, and the 156-page findings compiled by Daniel Rascher and Andrew Schwartz were released Thursday.

And they don’t look good for UAB.

“We find that the three sports in question did not cost the university anywhere near the $3.75 million indicated on UAB’s accounting statements,” the pair wrote. “Instead, after making the sort of adjustments suggested by the economics literature, we conclude that the three sports were effectively break-even to slightly positive. Football and bowling showed a modest positive return for 2013-14, the last year for which complete data was available. Rifle showed a deficit, but the three-sport balance was positive to the tune of $75,000.”

OSKR differs from UAB’s conclusions on two main points. First, the cost of the 85 required scholarships, the consultants say, are 65 percent less than what the university reported; OSKR cited the a full scholarship’s actual cost to the university, rather than the price UAB would have otherwise charged a regular student. Second, OSKR says UAB did not properly account for rising revenues from the College Football Playoff and increased ticket sales generated by a successful debut season under head coach Bill Clark.

Not only could the school afford to keep its football (as well as rifle and bowling) program, it could also afford to provide cost of attendance scholarships. “We conclude that going forward, anticipated improvement in ticket sales from 2013-14 levels and new College Football Playoff revenues will outpace new expenses from Cost of Attendance stipends and unlimited food allowances,” OSKR wrote. “Once these new revenues and expenses kick in, we anticipate the aggregate annual surplus from football, bowling, and rifle would exceed $500,000, even without including the anticipated but hard-to-quantify benefits to admissions and enrollment, donations, and media exposure.”

What does this report mean in the real world? Likely nothing. It’s more ammunition for those that would like to see UAB president Ray Watts removed from his post, but nothing more than that. UAB commissioned the study to provide a third-party analysis ahead of annual Conference USA meetings in June. The conference has hinted it may boot the Blazers from the conference, citing a bylaw that all of its institutions must sponsor a football program. UAB would like to remain in the conference, and Collegiate Sports Solutions’s report – not OSKR’s – will be what UAB uses to justify its decision.

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Former Tennessee DL Michael Sawyers charged with felony theft

KNOXVILLE, TN - Football Headshots

A little more than a week after felony theft charges against Tennessee offensive lineman Coleman Thomas were dismissed, former Vols defensive lineman Michael Sawyers has been charged with the same crime.

Thomas was originally accused of stealing an XBox and three video games in a March 25 incident, but a three week investigation by the Knox County District Attorney’s office found no evidence against him, so it dropped the charges.

The DA’s evidence found evidence against Sawyers, and it was of the self-incriminating variety. According to the Associated Press, “police said Sawyers sent a text message to the original owner of the games in which he apologized for pawning the items and offered to buy him a new Xbox.”

Sawyers was booked Wednesday and released on $1,000 bond.

A rising sophomore, Sawyers was dismissed from the team on Feb. 4 for what head coach Butch Jones described as “violations of athletic and team policies.” The Antioch, Tenn., native saw action in four games as a freshman, collecting two tackles.

(Photo credit: Tennessee athletics)
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