Who says rabid interest in spring football is limited to just the SEC and Deep South?
With a spring game slate featuring a whopping nine schools from the 12-team (for now) conference, Penn State stood head and shoulders above every other Big Ten program as slightly more than 72,000 fans took in the Nittany Lions’ spring closer. The school came within a few thousand of breaking the program’s spring-game record of 76,500, set in 2009.
A big reason behind the turnout is the enthusiasm generated by new head coach James Franklin and his PSU coaching staff. After just a handful of months on the job after replacing Bill O’Brien, Franklin and his staff have already been credited with “breathing new life into a program still in recovery mode” from the you-know-who scandal. Recruiting has picked up to a very brisk pace and, as evidenced by the turnout Saturday, enthusiasm from the fan base appears to be growing at roughly the same clip.
Yes, it’s the spring, but the energy Franklin has brought to Happy Valley is refreshing to see — and well-deserved for a community that’s been doubled over the last couple of years by the one-two hook of the scandal and subsequent NCAA sanctions.
In other Big Ten attendance news, both Nebraska and Ohio State saw crowds in excess of 61,000 for their respective spring games. The former had an exact total of 61,772 — 61,773 if you count the cat — while the latter was announced at just over the 61,000-fan mark. The total for the Buckeyes may be a bit of a disappointment to head coach Urban Meyer, who had been hoping to see 85,000-plus pack the Horseshoe and put on a show for recruits; OSU didn’t help that cause by initially charging $20 for what amounts to nothing more than a glorified practice session with referees.
While the school ultimately dropped the price to $5 a head, it was seemingly too little, too late to get to the number for which Meyer had hoped.
And another once-future Bear bites the dust.
Brandon Bowen has been granted his release from Baylor, a school spokesman confirmed to the Waco Tribune-Herald on Thursday. Bowen, a 6-foot-5, 233-pound defensive end, signed with Baylor as a four-star prospect out of Byron Nelson High School in Trophy Club, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He chose Baylor over Oklahoma and Oregon last winter.
Bowen becomes the 11th member of Baylor’s 2016 class to be granted a release from his scholarship or otherwise leave the team this summer. The previous 10 are — deep breaths — B.J. Autry, Parish Cobb, Tren'Davian Dickson, Devin Duvernay, Donovan Duvernay, Jeremy Faulk, Patrick Hudson, Kameron Martin, J.P. Urquidez and DeQuinton Osborne.
That’s 11 members of Baylor’s 22-man signing class now gone. The Bears’ 2017 class has one commitment and is ranked 113th by the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Dickson transfereed to Houston, Martin signed with Auburn, Osborne left for Oklahoma State, and Hudson, Urquidez and the Duvernay brothers all migrated to Texas.
One of the final aftershocks of the Great Realignment from earlier this decade officially reaches the surface today.
The Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina are now officially all-sports members of the Sun Belt Conference. In every sport, that is, except football. Joe Moglia and his 41-13 football program will compete this fall as an FCS independent before making the leap in 2017.
“This is a great day for the Sun Belt Conference as we are very proud to have Coastal Carolina University officially join our membership,” Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson said in a statement. “The Sun Belt has a bright future and Coastal Carolina makes a perfect fit as it too has seen a tremendous amount of growth and success with its baseball team most recently winning the College World Series and a national championship. Under the leadership of President DeCenzo, Athletics Director Matt Hogue, and all the Chanticleer coaches and student-athletes, I expect CCU to be very competitive in the Sun Belt immediately and represent the SBC in NCAA championships in the upcoming season.”
The oddity here is that no Sun Belt member has ever won a national championship while a member of the Sun Belt (Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Louisiana-Monroe each claimed Division I-AA/FCS national championships). Meanwhile, Coastal Carolina registered its first ever national championship in baseball just yesterday, its final day as a Big South member and on the eve of moving to the Sun Belt.
That, of course, didn’t stop the Sun Belt from covering the Chanticleers’ run through Omaha like they were one of their own.
Coastal Carolina’s first football season will also mark affiliate members Idaho and New Mexico State’s final season in the Sun Belt. The sleeker, geographically cohesive 10-team Sun Belt will launch its championship game in 2018.
Jeremy Foley‘s rise up the ranks of Florida’s athletics department is a path that launched thousands of sports careers.
After obtaining a Master’s degree in sports administration from Ohio, a 22-year-old Foley took an internship in Florida’s ticket office. He was hired full-time after the internship ended. Then he was promoted to ticket manager. Then he took over all ticket and game operations. Before his 30th birthday Foley was running Florida’s business operations and by age 39 he was the Gators’ athletics director.
He remained in that position, of course, throughout the duration of his career. A career that will end in October.
Foley’s quarter-century run atop the Florida sports pyramid and four decades working within it will come to an end soon, and in the process of finding his replacement it appears the Gators will choose from a well different than they found the old boss. Foley was famously and obviously loyal to Florida, and also to his team of senior executives.
His top three executives, executive associate AD for internal affairs Chip Howard, executive associate AD for external affairs Mike Hill and executive associate AD for administration Lynda Tealer have been in Gainesville since 1989, 1993 and 2003, respectively. And each has taken their name out of the running to become Florida’s next AD.
“Each of the internal people have made a decision not to pursue the athletic director position for their own individual reasons,” Florida spokesman Steve McClain said in a statement on Thursday to the Florida Times-Union.
Georgia AD Greg McGarity, a former Foley protege in Gainesville, took his name out of the running earlier last month.
With the start of summer camp just up the block and around the corner, Colorado State has seen its secondary take a rather significant hit.
A CSU official has confirmed to the Loveland Reporter Herald that Preston Hodges has been dismissed from Mike Bobo‘s football program. The Reporter Herald writes that Hodges “had become academically ineligible and was dismissed from the team.”
The past three seasons, Hodges had started 28 games in the Rams’ secondary. Eight of those starts came at cornerback last season.
Exiting the spring, the senior Hodges was listed No. 2 on the depth chart at one of the safety spots.
In addition to Hodges, offensive lineman Blake Nowland is no longer on the team’s roster. There was no reason given for his departure.
After playing in three games as a redshirt freshman in 2014, Nowland missed the entire 2015 season because of a broken leg.