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.”

Reports: Paul Haynes out as head coach at Kent State

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And another one bites the dust.  Reportedly.

FootballScoop.com was the first to report Wednesday morning that Paul Haynes has been let go as the head football coach at Kent State.  The Associated Press subsequently confirmed the initial report, noting that the Golden Flash players were informed of the move earlier today.

The not-yet-official move to part ways with Haynes is far from surprising as the former Ohio State and Arkansas assistant is just 14-45 during his five seasons at the school.  For perspective, the Golden Flashes won 11 games in 2011, the year before Haynes’ arrival.

With Haynes’ ouster, there are now eight FBS head coach openings, with KSU joining Florida, Georgia Southern, Ole Miss, Oregon State, South Alabama, Tennessee, UCLA and UTEP.

Minnesota, P.J. Fleck reach agreement on contract extension

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Not even through his first full season as head coach, and P.J. Fleck has already been rewarded for his work.

Minnesota announced Wednesday morning that it has reached an agreement on a contract extension with Fleck into 2023.  The 36-year-old head coach originally signed a five-year contract with the school, making this a two-year extension.

A December meeting of the school’s Board of Regents will rubber stamp the extension and make it official.

“It’s an honor to coach at the University of Minnesota and in the Big Ten,” said Fleck in a statement. “[athletic director] Mark Coyle and I share the same goal of building a championship culture and team at Minnesota. It’s a goal that we are working on daily together and one that we will achieve. I am proud of how hard our young men have worked to improve this season on living a holistic life. They have taken great strides in bettering themselves athletically, academically, socially and spiritually. I look forward to leading them and watching them grow on and off the field as we continue to move this program forward.”

In his first season at Minnesota after coming to the Big Ten program from Western Michigan, Fleck has the Gophers at 5-6.  Fleck took over a team that won nine games in 2016, and, if they fail to beat fifth-ranked Wisconsin Saturday, would have their fewest wins in a season since going 3-9 in Jerry Kill‘s first year in 2011.

On the flip side, his five wins are the first for a first-year Gophers coach since Murray Warmath won seven games in 1954.  Additionally, he became the first coach to win his Gophers debut since John Gutekunst did the same back in 1986.

“When we hired Coach Fleck, I talked about his authentic energy and passion, and his dedication to building a unique team culture. This year, I have seen our students connect with his energy and embrace that culture,” Coyle said in his statement. “From the commitment and hard work of our current students, to building a nationally-ranked recruiting class that will be among the best in program history, I have seen the foundation of what Coach Fleck is building, and I’m looking forward to supporting him for years to come.”

Status of TCU’s top two QBs up in the air for Baylor game

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For a game with significant implications on a couple of levels, this is a little more than mildly intriguing, at least at this point in the week.

If TCU handles one-win Baylor Friday, the Horned Frogs will play Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game next Saturday. If they don’t, they could allow Iowa State to sneak into the title-game side door.

With that much on the line, Gary Patterson seemingly confirmed Tuesday that both his top two quarterbacks, Kenny Hill and Shawn Robinson, are questionable for the Week 13 home game vs. the Bears with unspecified injuries.

The day before, though, Patterson had labeled Hill as “closer to probable” with what’s believed to be a concussion.  Then again, in the days leading up to the Texas Tech game, Patterson had Hill listed as “between probable and questionable” as well.

Hill started the first 10 games of the season, but was injured in the Week 11 loss to Oklahoma and was ultimately ruled out prior to the Tech game. Robinson then started his first career game in Week 12, but was injured in the win over the Red Raiders as well.

If neither is able to go, Grayson Muehlstein would get the nod. The redshirt sophomore, who has yet to attempt a pass in his career, would become the second Horned Frogs in as many weeks to make his first career start at the collegiate level.

Charles Barkley to serve as College GameDay’s guest picker ahead of huge Iron Bowl showdown

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Really, could there be anybody else?

As it’s the last full Saturday of the 2017 college football season, there are a handful of huge matchups with significant implications both nationally and conference-wise.  Given where each stands in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, however, there’s none bigger than No. 1 Alabama traveling to No. 6 Auburn in the latest edition of the Iron Bowl.

Not surprisingly, ESPN‘s wildly popular College GameDay pregame show had previously announced that it would set up shop on The Plains for the rivalry game.  And just as much of a non-surprise is the show’s designated guest picker.

Charles Barkley, of course, played his college basketball at Auburn and has since turned into not only an NBA Hall of Famer but also someone who is never, ever shy about giving an opinion on pretty much anything — including issues related to college football and, of course, “hatred” of all things Crimson Tide. Well, except for the Nicktator.

Of course, there’s also the little matter of a preseason bet with a certain ‘Bama starting quarterback that will no doubt get some run during Barkley’s third appearance on the show.  His first two, Barkley picked Auburn… and was correct both times, the first being 2004 when he opted for his alma mater over Tennessee.  The second?  November of 2013, when he tabbed the Tigers to top the Tide, which they did.

Just sayin’, is all.