Mike Slive (again) lobs ‘Div. IV’ bomb amid autonomy debate

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As conferences and their respective commissioners continue to debate and attempt to wrap their heads around autonomy for the Power Five conferences, one of the most powerful men in the sport of college football has once again warned what could/would happen if that initiative fails.

Speaking at the end of the SEC’s spring meetings Friday, commissioner Mike Slive was asked what would happen if autonomy for his conference, along with the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12, didn’t pass muster and stalled in committee this August.  In response, Slive sang a very familiar refrain.

“I think if it doesn’t pass, I think the next move is to go to a Division IV,” Slive said. “It’s not something that we want to do.

“From day one, we said want to stay in Division 1, with the access to championships and a revenue distribution that won’t change. But within that structure, we want the ability to have autonomy in areas that has the nexus to the well-being of student-athletes.”

While Slive did allow that he’s “optimistic we’re not going to the Division IV” model, this is far from the first time a man of power has dropped the “D-IV” hammer in a public forum.

In December, Slive himself mentioned a potential split from the other FBS schools — and perhaps from the NCAA entirely — if the Power Five leagues couldn’t get a meaningful structural change to the current model. The “D-IV” talk stretches to last October and even further back.

In the same month Slive implored those with the power to make significant changes to the current system, his counterpart in the Big Ten, Jim Delany, got off a “Division IV” blast as well.

Division IV concepts are out there,” Delany said in what amounted to a very thinly-veiled threat. “There was a lot of chum in the water about the sustainability of the NCAA.”

In order to reach Slive and Delany’s goal of autonomy, 66 percent of the 65 members of the Power Five conferences (43 schools) AND four of the five conferences have to vote in the affirmative.  During his speech today, Slive stated that he would like to see that threshold lowered to 60 percent (39 schools) and three of the five leagues; that appears unlikely to happen.

The next step in the process is a little more than two months down the road.

Based on the recommendation from the NCAA steering committee, the Board of Directors could vote this August on forwarding the autonomy initiative for a vote of the full membership next January.  Deeply intertwined with autonomy, however, are issues such as the O’Bannon lawsuit and Northwestern’s attempts to unionize that could forever change the face of college football.

Sadly it appears that, as it was with expansion, this upcoming season is going to be more about what’s going on off the field than on it… and in the first year of the College Football Playoff no less.

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.

Ohio State claims 2017 national championship… for spring game attendance

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For the third consecutive year, Ohio State is your national champion in the all-important category that is spring game attendance. The Buckeyes once again had the largest attendance for its spring game this month despite stadium renovations cutting out 20,000 seats from Ohio Stadium. After a weekend that saw Alabama and Penn State prove to be the final hurdles necessary to clear, the Buckeyes can once again boast about having the highest attendance this spring, for whatever that is worth.

Alabama (73,426), Penn State (71,000) and Georgia (66,133) made their final push to round-out the top five spring crowds this year over the weekend. The only power conference programs remaining on the spring game schedule are Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and UCLA this coming weekend. If you took the combined spring attendance of each of those schools, they would collectively fall shy of Ohio State’s spring crowd total for this season.

Spring Game Attendance Top 10 for 2017 (as of 4/24/2017)

  1. Ohio State – 80,134
  2. Nebraska – 78,312
  3. Alabama – 74,326
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Georgia – 66,133
  6. Clemson – 60,000
  7. Michigan – 57,418
  8. Florida – 48,000
  9. Auburn – 46,331
  10. Oklahoma – 43,723

How valuable the attendance figures for the spring game varies from fanbase to fanbase, and even within each fanbase there is a wide range of opinion on what the significance of the spring game attendance really is. It does help inject some reason to be enthusiastic about the program on the recruiting trail, but it ultimately is open to interpretation just like so many other recruiting tools. Remember, the majority of schools out there hardly make an effort to promote their spring game and make it an event fans look forward to. There may be no conference that demonstrates the wide range of affection for the spring game than the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is led by Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and, recently, Michigan when it comes to spring game crowds, but then there is the curious case of Wisconsin. The Badgers have a loyal following, but have not cracked the 10,000-fan mark since 2014, when I began tracking spring game attendance figures. Northwestern has never even kept track of its spring scrimmage numbers, and neither has Indiana for the past three years.

You can check the updated spring game attendance numbers and sort them by conference HERE.

Edgerrin James’ nephew to transfer from Miami

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Last season, Jeff James was one of seven players  suspended for Miami’s Russell Athletic Bowl game against West Virginia.  Nearly four months later, he’s gone.

In a press release, Miami announced that the defensive back “is no longer a member of the football program.” No reason was given for the nephew of former Hurricane great Edgerrin James deciding to leave The U.

“I talked to Jeff and we both felt it was in his best interests to get a fresh start somewhere else,” head coach Mark Richt said in a statement released by the school. “We wish him all the best in his future plans.”

James was a three-star member of UM’s 2016 recruiting class.  247Sports.com had the Orlando high school product rated as the No. 112 safety in the country and the No. 1,678 player in its composite rankings.

The defensive back played in one game as a true freshman, the season-opening win over FCS Florida A&M.