Pac-12 calls for sweeping change, greater urgency in “Big Five” reform

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The Associated Press obtained a letter sent from Pac-12 university presidents to their colleagues in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC pushing a greater sense of urgency in making sweeping changes to the NCAA model to give more autonomy to “Big Five” schools.

Spurred by Northwestern’s unionization vote, the Pac-12 presidents want to get out of in front of the concerns raised by Kain Colter and the NLRB. The letter, in part, reads:

it is clear from the recent statements of any number of individuals that, while they may share or view that labor unions are not the answer, the time has come for a meaningful response both to the student-athletes’ grievances and the need to reassert the academic primacy of our mission.

The complete list of proposals in the letter are in the AP story, but a few jumped out:

— Decrease the demands placed on the athlete in-season, correspondingly increase the time available for studies and campus life, by preventing the abuse of organized “voluntary” practices to circumvent the limit of 20 hours per week and more realistically assess the time away from campus and other commitments during the season.

— Similarly decrease time demands out of season by reducing out-of-season competition and practices, and by considering shorter seasons in specific sports.

— Further strengthen the Academic Progress Rate requirements for postseason play.

— Liberalize the current rules limiting the ability of student-athletes to transfer between institutions.

The first two there would seem to be designed to provide student-athletes with more time both in and out of season for studying, though perhaps those “voluntary” workouts are so ingrained in college football’s culture that curbing them would be difficult. The same goes for weight training, conditioning, film study, etc. — unless someone is monitoring what a player does 24/7, it’ll be impossible to tell that player to not focus on football outside of practice.

In short: Players still may find a way to spend 40-60 hours a week on football, even if there’s a mandate against it.

Strengthening the APR requirements for postseason play could get interesting — Oklahoma State became the first power conference school to lose practice time due to a poor APR. Programs that don’t place as much emphasis on academics may have to … or they could find loopholes and ways to skate by to stay bowl eligible.

The last one would be a much-welcome change. However that liberalization of the transfer rules would manifest itself, it’d likely be for the better.

There’s more in the letter — more money and longer guarantees for scholarships, extended medical care, allowing some form of agent contact — that the Pac-12 presidents are pushing. They hope to receive responses by June 4 and continue to move quickly on these issues.

“We acknowledge the core objectives could prove to be expensive and controversial, but the risks of inaction or moving too slowly are far greater,” the letter reads. “The time for tinkering with the rules and making small adjustments is over.”

Ex-Nebraska WR Keyshawn Johnson Jr. reportedly lands at Arizona

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It appears Keyshawn Johnson Jr. will continue his collegiate playing career a little bit further west than where it began.

On the same day that Kevin Sumlin was hired as the head coach at Arizona, Nate Clouse of Rivals.com reported that Johnson will be enrolling at UA this week and play for the Wildcats. The son of former USC great Keyshawn Johnson will be eligible to play immediately for Sumlin in 2018.

In late June of last year, Johnson was cited for marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.  Not long after, the wide receiver decided to take a leave of absence, with his famous father stating that his son needed some time to “mature” and would not play for the Cornhuskers in 2017.

At the time, the plan was for the junior Johnson to return to Lincoln and play his college football for Mike Riley.  With his father’s college offensive coordinator dismissed at the end of the regular season, Johnson took to Twitter in mid-December to announce that he wouldn’t be returning to the Cornhuskers.

Johnson was a four-star member of the Cornhuskers’ 2017 recruiting class who was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, but never played a down for NU. Before signing with Nebraska, he held offers from, among others, Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Ohio State and USC.

Minnesota CB Zo Craighton tweets he’s transferring

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Roster attrition across college football continues unabated, with Minnesota the latest to lose one its football players.

Zo Craighton revealed on his Twitter account Monday that, “[a]fter prayers and considerations,” he has decided to transfer out of P.J. Fleck‘s football program. “There will always be a place in my heart for Minnesota,” the redshirt sophomore cornerback wrote in his social media missive. “I made friends for life and I appreciate the fan base for all the support.”

Craighton played in 11 games the past two seasons, missing the final nine of the 2017 season because of injury. Coming out of high school in Louisiana, the defensive back was a three-star member of the Gophers’ 2015 recruiting class.

Dick MacPherson’s grandson one of six added to Sean Lewis’ first Kent State staff

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Sean Lewis‘ first staff at Kent State will come armed with a famous coaching surname.

The football program announced Monday that Lewis has hired a total of six new assistants. One of the coaching sextet is Mackey MacPherson, the grandson of former Syracuse head coach Dick MacPherson.

The younger MacPherson will coach the Golden Flashes running backs after spending the past two seasons as an offensive graduate assistant with the Orange.  Both Lewis and MacPherson were on Dino Babers‘ staff at the ‘Cuse.

The other full-time assistant hired by Lewis are as follows:

Zac Barton — special teams coordinator
Brian Cochran — defensive line
Jon Cooley — safeties coach
Matt Middleton — wide receivers coach
Bill O’Boyle — offensive line

Nearly two weeks ago, Lewis announced the hiring of his coordinators on both sides of the ball.

Western Kentucky’s Joel Iyiegbuniwe declares early for draft

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There’s a new leader in the clubhouse for “Early Entrant With the Most Vowels in his Surname.”

On his personal Twitter account over the weekend, Joel Iyiegbuniwe announced that he is leaving Western Kentucky early and making himself available for the April NFL draft. The linebacker, a native of Bowling Green, Kent., stated that he came to his decision “[a]fter much thought, prayer and discussion with my family, coaches and advisors.”

This past season, Iyiegbuniwe led the Hilltoppers in tackles with 117, tackles for loss with 11.5 and forced fumbles with three. He was named first-team All-Conference USA following the regular season.

Including last season, Iyiegbuniwe had started 27 straight games at outside linebacker for the Hilltoppers.

Today is the deadline for draft-eligible players to inform the NFL of their intentions.