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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.”

Colorado hires lawyers behind Pepper Hamilton report to investigate Joe Tumpkin response

DENVER - AUGUST 30:  A University of Colorado Buffaloes fag is brought onto the field during the game against the Colorado State University Rams at Invesco Field at Mile High on August 30, 2003 in Denver, Colorado. Colorado defeated Colorado State 42-35. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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Joe Tumpkin is no longer with the Colorado football program, but the Buffaloes are still sorting through the way he left.

To recap: The longtime girlfriend of Tumpkin called head coach Mike MacIntyre in early December to inform him of a pattern of abuse from his safeties coach, which she later told investigators occurred more than 100 times over a 21-month period. According to the woman’s account given to Sports Illustrated — which the school has not denied — MacIntyre and the woman spoke a couple of times with the coach pledging to handle the situation until the line of communication went dead.

In the meantime, Tumpkin remained on staff and was promoted to interim defensive coordinator for the late-December Alamo Bowl after Jim Leavitt left for Oregon. MacIntyre suspended Tumpkin in mid-January, and Tumpkin resigned a couple weeks after that after a restraining order was filed against him.

However, the SI story created a level of blowback in Boulder that prompted MacIntyre to issue a statement defending the program’s response to the situation.

Still, the CU Board of Regents felt necessary to delay the approval of MacIntyre’s announced extension, and on Friday announced they have hired the two lawyers behind the Pepper Hamilton report that sunk Baylor’s leadership to probe the school’s response to the Tumpkin allegations.

“We are looking at what occurred and when, if our policies were violated, or whether those policies should be modified to better explain the reporting (requirements),” CU Board of Regents Chair Irene Griego said in a statement, via the Boulder Daily Camera.

The probe will be conducted by Leslie Gomez and Gina Maisto Smith, a pair of former Philadelphia prosecutors who now work for the Cozen O’Connor law firm in Philly. At center of their investigation will be whether MacIntyre, AD Rick George and chancellor Phil DeStefano followed the university’s protocol for reporting sexual assault.

Still, Greigo noted the pair’s hiring doesn’t indicate a predetermined outcome one way or the other.

“Let me be clear, in no way should this decision to wait be viewed as an indication that the Board of Regents has determined that any employee violated a policy or that any disciplinary action is warranted,” Griego said. “We are simply being prudent.”

David Blackburn comes out and says he wants the Tennessee AD job

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 15: A view of the inside of Neyland Stadium during a game between the Florida Gators and Tennessee Volunteers on September 15, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee.    (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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In reading the tea leaves in and around Knoxville, it seems most in orange want David Blackburn to be the Volunteers’ new athletics director.

Blackburn wants that, too.

A former Vol student and administrator, Blackburn has racked up an impressive resume as the AD at Chattanooga. Considering his only competition for the job at this point seems to be former Vols head coach Phillip Fulmer — who has zero AD experience — that seems like a logical choice for Big Orange.

While Blackburn has hemmed and hawed around the idea of becoming Tennessee’s next AD over the past, oh, six months since it was announced back in August Dave Hart was on his way out, Friday was the first time he came out and said he’d like to be the next head Vol.

“If asked to be a part of this process officially, in terms of an interview I would love to,” Blackburn, said Friday on WNML FM 99.1 (via SEC Country).

“It would mean the world to me to be able to lead the institution that led me, by all the people that allowed me the opportunity to do what I do.”

The AD search has, understandably, been stuck in a holding pattern until the university could hire and install a new chancellor — which it has now done. Beverly Davenport took office Wednesday and said the school was working “very quickly” to hire a new AD, and seemed to outline Blackburn as the type of leader she’d want to fill the post.

“I’m looking for a leader with a proven track record of success on and off the field,” Davenport said in a statement. “I will hire someone who is committed to maintaining the integrity of our program and is dedicated to the success of all of our student-athletes and all of the management of our nationally recognized athletic programs.”

It seems like Blackburn will be the eventual choice for Tennessee. Young-ish career administrators with fundraising chops are the new mold for big-time athletics directors — see Florida’s hiring of  Scott Stricklin and Alabama’s of Greg Byrne — but this is Tennessee. The Volunteers haven’t been good in football since Fulmer was the head coach, so would it really be any surprise if they turned to him to be their AD?

Former Washington LB Pslam Wooching eschews NFL Draft for rugby

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 19:  Psalm Wooching #28 of the Washington Huskies leaves the field following the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils on November 19, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Huskies defeated the Sun Devils 44-18.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Former Washington linebacker Psalm Wooching will be going pro in something other than… well, football. Wooching announced Thursday he is passing up an opportunity to become a late-round NFL Draft pick in order to pursue a career in rugby, with an eye on making the U.S. Olympic team.

“I’ve been in deep thought and pray about whether I wanted to continue to play football and I’ve come to a conclusion that it is time to turn the page in my life,” Wooching wrote in a Twitter post. “I will be exchanging shoulder pads for short shorts and rugby boots. My first love and sport I excelled in was rugby, and it is time for me to follow my heart.”

As a senior in 2016, Wooching finished eighth on Washington’s No. 8-ranked defense with 42 tackles out of his linebacker position. Signed as a running back out of Hawaii, Wooching stepped up to lead the Huskies’ injury-depleted front to lead the team with six sacks on the year.

Wooching’s pursuit of rugby continues his love affair of a sport he has already played at a high level. The Seattle Times noted Wooching played on the U.S. rugby junior national team as a high schooler and helped Washington’s club rugby team to a national championship in 2014.

Michigan State expresses support for Mark Dantonio despite criminal investigations

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio looks on against the Stanford Cardinal during the 100th Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Despite four members of the football program under criminal investigation, Michigan State says its support of its head coach has not wavered.

Michigan State announced Friday it has approved a 1-year contract extension for Mark Dantonio, a rollover provision in his contract. There was question of whether the Spartans would, uh, look into that provision as three unidentified football players and staffer Curtis Blackwell are now under investigation from multiple entities for alleged sexual assault. One of those investigations has resulted in arrest warrants sought by the Michigan State University Police Department.

“My sense is that, if we had anything to be concerned about, we wouldn’t have moved forward with the action today,” Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon told the Lansing State Journal. “We’re still looking at everything, because it’s in his interest, as well.”

The extension means Dantonio is now signed with the Spartans through 2023 on a $4.3 million salary with a $700,000 annual retention bonus.

Heading into his 11th season on campus, Dantonio is 90-42 with the Spartans with two Big Ten championships in the past four seasons but is coming off a 3-9 campaign, his worst in 13 seasons as a head coach.