Indiana blazes a student-athlete ‘Bill of Rights’ trail

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Just as the O’Bannon trial, which could (eventually) completely alter the landscape of collegiate athletics forever, is mercifully winding down, one university is taking a B1G step toward giving their current and future student-athletes a few morsels of what’s a very big and ever-growing Power Five financial pie.

In a press release titled “Indiana University Announces Unprecedented Student-Athlete Bill of Rights,” the school revealed what it describes as “a groundbreaking, 10-point document that sets forth the University’s commitment to student-athletes during their time at IU and beyond.”  The unveiling comes a couple of days after a statement from the Big Ten which said that they, along with other conferences across the country, must provide greater benefits to their student-athletes.

The conference wrote, in part, that “[w]e must guarantee the four-year scholarships that we offer” to those participating in collegiate athletics; as part of IU’s 10-prong rollout, and in what’s described as a “central feature of the Bill of Rights,” the school will, moving forward, provide what it calls the Lifetime Degree Guarantee. From the release:

Under the “Hoosiers for Life” program, Indiana University will pay the tuition (plus books and fees) for an IU undergraduate degree for any scholarship student-athlete who leaves school early to tend to a family emergency, pursue a professional athletics career, or for any other reason. This program is open to any former student-athlete who was eligible for at least two seasons, left IU in good standing, did not transfer, and is readmitted under university rules.

That is part of the overall commitment the school is making to provide, as its conference has “suggested,” guaranteed four-year scholarships to its student-athletes in — and this is the most important aspect — every sport, non-revenue and revenue sports alike.

IU Athletics is also making a Four Year Scholarship Commitment to every full head count scholarship student-athlete regardless of sport entering Indiana University to ensure that they have the time needed to earn an undergraduate degree. No athletic scholarship will be reduced because of injury, illness, physical or mental condition, or on the basis of a student-athlete’s ability, performance or contribution to the team’s success. While four-year scholarships were made permissible by the NCAA in 2011, most member schools have only selectively provided them.

Other aspects of the “Bill of Rights” include what’s being called a formal Collective Voice in which student-athletes will be a part of committees, including, but not limited to, search or advisory committees for new head coaches or athletic directors; IU student-athletes will also have access to cutting edge technology, including every student-athlete being supplied an iPad; and a Comprehensive Health Safety and Wellness program that only covers their illnesses or injuries while on scholarship.

(For all the minutia, click HERE)

“For all of its nearly 200 years, Indiana University has been a higher education leader in teaching, research, academic freedom and international engagement, as well as athletics including producing the first African-American to be drafted into pro football and breaking the Big Ten’s color barrier in men’s basketball,” said IU president Michael A. McRobbie in a statement. “That visionary leadership continues with today’s publication of the first ever Student-Athlete Bill of Rights.”

“We are proud to be the first higher education institution ever to publish a Student-Athlete Bill of Rights,” athletic director Fred Glass said. “We developed the Bill of Rights to identify not only what we were currently doing for our student-athletes but what we should be doing. We have committed to this extensive set of benefits and set it out transparently in writing, so that we can be held accountable for them by our student-athletes and other stakeholders such as our faculty and trustees. While no other school has done this, we hope that others will follow for the betterment of the student-athlete experience.”

While it’s a laudable step taken by IU — one that every other school should follow — it has little relevance when it comes to the most important pieces of the collegiate athletics puzzle moving forward: the O’Bannon trial and the Northwestern union push. Those twin facets, not autonomy or too little, too late benefits being showered on student-athletes or anything else, will determine the face of college sports in the future.

Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis potentially out for spring

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Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was optimistic about wide receiver Kyle Davis returning to the team at some point this spring, but the tune has changed regarding his future. Malzahn is now saying Davis may be out for the remainder of Auburn’s spring practices due to personal reasons.

“Kyle Davis is still taking care of some personal business,” Malzahn said, according to SEC Country. “I’m not for sure if he’s going to be back before the end of the spring. He will be back for the fall, just taking a little bit longer than we initially thought.”

It was just a few weeks ago Malzahn said Davis was going to be out for the start of spring practices, which are now close to half over. For now, the plan is simply to have him return over the summer in preparation for the fall.

In the meantime, Malzahn confirmed John Franklin III is working primarily as a wide receiver, which had previously been suspected to be the case.

Penn State announces three captains for 2017 season

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With Penn State just about to get started with spring football practices, head coach James Franklin wasted no time in naming his captains for the 2017 season. Quarterback Trace McSorley, linebacker Jason Cabinda, and safety Nick Scott have been voted captains by their peers on the team.

“These three young men have been leaders in our program, on and off the field,” Franklin said in a released statement. “They live our four core values and act with the program’s best interest in mind. Our team is in good hands with these guys!”

McSorley took over the offense as Penn State’s starting quarterback in 2016. A bit of a mystery to most entering the season after being the backup to Christian Hackenberg, McSorley ended his 2016 season with a Big Ten-leading 3,614 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes with eight interceptions and played a key role in guiding Penn State to a late run to a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. He enters the 2017 season as one of the top quarterbacks returning to the Big Ten, along with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett.

Cabinda, an All-Big Ten third team player in 2016, was Penn State’s third-leading tackler last season with 81 tackles. He accumulated that many tackles despite missing five games due to injury. He is slated to be the leader in the middle of the Penn State defense with a starting role already locked down and will look to help guide some younger linebackers stepping into key roles in the defense this upcoming season, such as Manny Bowen and Koa Farmer.

Scott has been a special teams leader for Penn State and is expected to continue to lead the special teams effort once again this season.

New Arkansas house bill will allow some concealed guns at football games

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill regarding a person’s ability to carry a concealed handgun into various buildings at a public university or college into state law. However, House Bill 1249 will not allow all legal gun owners to carry a gun to a football game in the state of Arkansas.

Football games will be considered a “sensitive area,” which require enhanced training in order to be allowed to carry a gun into a football stadium. The law supposedly trumps any provisions already in place to prevent guns from being allowed on the premises.

“The enhanced level of training is very important, and I am convinced the public will be more safe,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This bill, in my view, reflects the view of the general assembly.”

The bill has received praise from Arkansas Republican state representative Charlie Collins and the NRA.

While the bill has now become an act in the state, it will not go into effect until January 2018, so guns will still not be allowed in football games where Arkansas, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, or Central Arkansas during the 2017 season.

The news of the new Arkansas state law comes on the same day the SEC has just unveiled a new clear bag policy for football games in the 2017 season. How the SEC handles this latest state law within its footprint remains to be seen (as well as the Sun Belt Conference). The bigger question will be where the SEC stands on this law considered the law is designed to overrule any stadium policies. The way the law is written, the SEC may not be able to do much to stand in the way, but the conference has those clear bag policies hammered down, rest assured.

Kentucky hands Mark Stoops a two-year contract extension

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After guiding Kentucky through its best season in nearly a decade, Mark Stoops has been rewarded.

Kentucky announced Wednesday afternoon that Stoops’ contract has been extended by two years.  The head coach’s previous deal had been set to run through June 30, 2020; the extension pushes that date out to June 30, 2020.

Stoops will earn $3.5 million in 2017, with the new contract calling for annual $250,000 raises.  In the last year of the contract extension, and barring any additional tweaking, Stoops could earn $4.75 million.

Additionally, if the Wildcats win at least seven games but no more than nine in a season, the contract automatically extends by one year.  If the team wins 10-plus games, it extends by two years. “Stoops will continue to receive $250,000 for each win beginning with the seventh win of each season and $50,000 per semester in which the team grade-point average is 2.75 or higher,” the release stated.

Participation in an SEC-affiliated bowl will net Stoops a $100,000 bonus, provided the Wildcats win at least six games that season.  There’s also a $50,000 bonus for earning a spot in a non-SEC bowl game, with the same six-win threshold.  Last season, UK qualified for a bowl game for the first time under Stoops and the first time under anyone since 2010.

“The last four years have been a grind for Mark and his staff, but he has never wavered in his commitment to building Kentucky football into a consistent winner,” a statement from athletic director Mitch Barnhart began. “While the work isn’t close to finished, we believe Mark is the coach to take us there. We are thankful to Mark and Chantel for all they have done to this point and we look forward to our program’s bright future under his leadership.”

The Wildcats’ 7-6 record last season was the program’s best since hitting the same mark in the last season under Rich Brooks in 2009.  The first three seasons with Stoops in control, UK posted a 12-24 mark.

In SEC play, they are just 8-24 since 2013, although they were 4-4 in conference play this past season.  The Wildcats have finished seventh (2013), sixth (2014), tied-fourth (2015) and tied-second (2016) in league play with Stoops as head coach.

“I want to thank Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and the Board of Trustees for their continued support,” Stoops said. “When we came here, doing a rebuild in a challenging situation, I said that full support from everyone involved was imperative and we have always received that. We needed great commitment, we’ve had great commitment and we’re continuing to get great commitment.”

If Stoops is fired by UK, he’s entitled to receive 75 percent of the remaining guaranteed compensation on the contract.  If Stoops leaves of his own accord, he’d owe the university $1 million regardless of how many years are left on the deal.