ACC pushing for conference championship game changes; Big 12 listening

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Ask anyone who follows ACC football who the best two teams in the conference were in 2013 and the response would likely be Florida State and Clemson. both went on to play in BCS bowl games, Florida State winning the BCS National Championship and Clemson winning the Orange Bowl,but it was Duke that played the Seminoles in the ACC Conference Championship Game in Charlotte last season. Florida State and Clemson were the best two teams in the conference in 2012 as well, but Florida State was paired up with Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game despite the Yellow Jackets actually being the third best option out of their own division (Miami voluntarily sat out of the postseason and North Carolina was on a postseason ban). If the ACC gets its way, the two best teams in the conference regardless of division affiliation will get a chance to compete for the conference championship in the future.

According to a report by Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, the ACC is asking for a deregulation of football conference championship games. If approved by the NCAA, conferences will be permitted to establish the rules and guidelines for their respective conference championship games instead of following the mandated NCAA blueprint that requires two division champions to face off even if potentially more worthy teams are available. If approved, the Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, Conference USA, MAC and Mountain West Conference could do the same. The American could follow suit when Navy joins the conference and a championship game is introduced in 2015. And yes, even the Big 12 could revisit the idea of a conference championship game.

The Big 12 has had to put their conference championship game on ice in after the previous rounds of realignment reduced the conference to a 12-member league to 10. Texas A&M and Missouri left for the SEC, the pioneer conference of the championship game. Nebraska joined the Big Ten, allowing that conference to form two divisions and create a conference championship game. Colorado left to join the Pac 10 along with Utah from the Mountain West Conference. That allowed the Pac 10 to rebrand to the Pac 12 and start their championship game as well. The Big 12 has since added West Virginia and TCU, but has been sitting on 10 members for the past few years. Although the Big 12 could have applied for a waiver to approve a conference championship game — any conference below 12 members is allowed to ask — the Big 12 has settled on life without a conference championship game. But how long will that last?

“You wouldn’t any longer have to have 12 (teams),” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in Dodd’s report. “You wouldn’t any longer have to play a full round-robin in your subdivision. That would actually afford us the opportunity to have a playoff between two selected teams by whatever process we would want to select. I doubt we’re going to do that but we would likely have the prerogative.”

With conference media rights packages continuing to draw big bucks, the demand for more attractive match-ups is rising and television partners are more than willing to give a nudge when needed. If the Big 12 does not want to be left behind, returning to a conference championship game might be a good idea. The best part is it would help the Big 12 stay at 10 members because the need to expand will no longer be there for the conference. If the NCAA allows for a deregulation of the conference championship games, getting to 12 teams becomes less of a priority. The problem the Big 12 faced once losing Texas A&M, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado and adding West Virginia and TCU is there was a lack of attractive expansion candidates that would boost the membership to 12 schools. The BYU talk has been sitting in a corner waiting for a reason to pull up a seat to the table, but without a 12th member that made any sense for the Big 12, nothing really developed.

The Big 12 has the perfect setting just waiting for the championship game to make a return in Arlington. The television partners with the conference, ESPN and FOX, surely would jump at the opportunity to add another championship game to the line-up as well. The pieces are just about all in place for the Big 12. Somebody just needs to put them all together.

Potential 2013 Conference Championship Match-ups with Deregulation
(using BCS standings for placement)

So what would the conference championships have looked like in 2013 if there was a deregulation of the championship game rules in 2013? Honestly, perhaps not all that much different. The Big Ten and Pac 12 would have had the same match-ups, but the match-ups may have been different in the ACC and SEC, where an Iron Bowl rematch would have taken place one week after that memorable finish. The Big 12 may have given Oklahoma State a Mulligan for a loss in the Bedlam game to Oklahoma if using BCS standings, but the Sooners finished second in the conference standings. One of them would have faced Baylor, who won the Big 12 title last fall.

ACC: Florida State vs. Clemson

American: UCF vs. Louisville

Big 12: Oklahoma State vs. Baylor

Big Ten: Ohio State vs. Michigan State

Pac 12: Stanford vs. Arizona State

SEC: Auburn vs. Alabama

Conference USA: Marshall vs. Rice (although a Marshall vs. East Carolina rematch may have come in to play if going off expanded BCS standings)

MAC: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green

Mountain West: Fresno State vs. Utah State

Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Arkansas State

Florida State planning new facility to catch up with Clemson

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Florida State completed a major facility overhaul not even three years ago. But the thing about arms races is that when someone pulls ahead of you it means you are behind.

And Clemson officially pulled ahead earlier this year with the opening of its glistening, slide-equipped new home.

As such, Jimbo Fisher told reporters Friday that Florida State now has plans to construct its own standalone facility, going as far as meeting with an architect.

“We need room. We need meeting space, player development areas. You’ve got to have those areas and also to show off your history. That’s what Florida State is known for, being a great football program,” Fisher told ESPN. “You can never stand still. If you’re not evolving and moving, people are going to bypass you. You’ve got to keep going. The great programs never settle. We’re always looking for that edge. It’s going to help recruiting. It’s going to help player development. We get a lot of guys that are three-and-out, so we’ve got to have space for them to get them developed as quickly as we can so we can get production out of them.”

While saying that it’s a “competitive” race and not an arms race, Fisher also tried to sell that the plans for the ‘Noles’ new home were unrelated to Clemson’s new facility.

“I don’t care what they’ve got,” Fisher said. “I’m worried about what we’ve got. If I don’t think it’s going to make a difference in our program for these kids to develop as people, students and players, I won’t ask. I didn’t grow up with a lot. I was taught if you need it, do what you’ve got to do to be successful but don’t waste. I’m not going to do that. But there’s things you’ve got to have to be successful and that’s the next step, in my opinion.”

Former Michigan TE Jake Butt says college players should be able to cash in on likenesses

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For the record, Jake Butt shouldn’t “be paid” in the strictest sense of the term — to receive a paycheck for services rendered. Rather, the former Michigan tight end believes players should be able to profit from their statuses as college athletes when the NCAA, its conferences and member schools are already doing the same.

(Having an extremely marketable last name probably contributed to the forming of this opinion.)

“Something needs to change,” Butt told ESPN.com at Michigan’s pro day. “I don’t want a check from the NCAA. I don’t know if that’s something that’s likely. But the big thing is they say you can’t use your name to benefit. I can’t go into my favorite breakfast spot, Benny’s, I can’t go in there and get a free breakfast because I’m only getting that because of my name.

“That’s not to say I can’t make friends with the owner because of the person I am. I’m a good guy, a really good guy — sociable guy, made a lot of friends. I can’t accept anything free for that. They said I can’t go down the street, the example one of them gave us is you can’t go to [get] tires and negotiate your price from $600 to $500 because that’s only because of your name. But Joe Schmo can go down the street and he can negotiate his price. It’s kind of ridiculous to me.”

Butt was a victim of the cruelest twist in circumstances possible for a college athlete — a season-ending injury at the end of his final season. A senior, Butt was one of the top tight ends on the draft board before suffering a torn ACL in the Wolverines’ Orange Bowl loss to Florida State. The Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end will be drafted next month, but the damage to his bank account resulting from the injuries is significant. Being able to profit from his own name and image would have served as insurance against the loss of value he suffered due to the injury.

“I should be the example of why college athletes should be getting paid in college or why I can’t use my name to benefit off my likeness in college,” Butt said.

“Why can I see ‘I Like Jake Butt and I Cannot Lie,’ I see those shirts and I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck in college. Who knows? Heaven forbid something happens in the NFL, can I really benefit off of it when it was at the most? No, I can’t.”

Baylor strength coach apparently no longer with the program

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It seems every bit of news related to Baylor football nowadays has to do with the school’s on-going sexual assault scandal but it appears there is one bit of information coming out of the program that doesn’t have something to do with that.

A school spokesperson told ESPN on Friday that football strength coach Kaz Kazadi has been “reassigned to a role outside the athletic performance staff.” A report from the local ESPN Radio affiliate in Waco indicates that the move will eventually have the coach leaving the school altogether.

Kazadi spent nearly a decade with the Bears and played a big role in the team’s on-field turnaround under the former coaching staff. Several former players took to Twitter on Friday to express their shock over the loss of one of the cornerstones of the team in recent years.

After the hire of Matt Rhule this offseason, it isn’t too surprising to see some turnover among those staff members connected to the previous regime. Baylor’s new head coach brought most of his strength staff with him from Temple so it was probably only a matter of time before Kazadi moved on, though the timing of the quasi-announcement (the Bears started spring football last weekend) is somewhat interesting.

Either way, it appears Baylor will have a new direction in the weight room going forward.

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh has ditched his Dockers for another

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Peanut butter and jelly. Milk and cookies. Batman and Robin. Maize and blue. Jim Harbaugh and khakis.

All are iconic combinations, but it appears the latter is undergoing a few changes right now.

The Michigan head coach’s affinity for a pair of khakis has been so strong over the years that it’s become almost comical how much he likes the style of pant. Heck, he even got a commercial out of it a few years ago when he specifically started getting outfitted with Dockers brand khakis.

Despite being a paid endorser though, it appears that Harbaugh has dropped the famous Levi’s brand version of khakis to attack the day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind in another pair of pants.

Not only is the switch from Dockers to Lululemon result in a lot more comfort for the Wolverines coach, it’s probably a bit more of a hit to the ol’ wallet than dropping by Walmart for a pair of khakis off the shelf. It probably doesn’t make a huge difference for Harbaugh though given that he’s the highest paid coach in the country but it might result in a few more trips to the mall.

Either way, what it does mean is that now we demand a new commercial featuring Harbaugh and khakis. After all, if you’re upping the clothing game, you’ve got to up the ad game as well.