NCAA board ‘overwhelmingly’ approves Power Five autonomy

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A day that the haves hoped would come, and the have-nots have dreaded, is finally here.

As expected, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted overwhelmingly to approve autonomy for the Power Five conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, as well as Notre Dame — in the division.  Beginning Oct. 1, the NCAA stated in its release, those five conferences can begin passing legislation that only affects themselves and doesn’t involve the Non-Power Five leagues.

The reason for the nearly two-month gap between board approval and implementation is simple: “[t]he proposed governance redesign legislation is subject to a 60-day override period as specified in the current legislative process. For the board to reconsider the change, at least 75 schools must request an override. Generally, reconsideration occurs at the next scheduled board meeting, set for Oct. 30.”

It’s widely expected that any who oppose autonomy will be able to get anywhere close to the 75 schools necessary for an override.

“I am immensely proud of the work done by the membership. The new governance model represents a compromise on all sides that will better serve our members and, most importantly, our student-athletes,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said. “These changes will help all our schools better support the young people who come to college to play sports while earning a degree.”

So, what does autonomy mean? For Power Five football players, additional money, benefits and (some) voting power, including but not limited to:

— the full cost of attendance above what a scholarship currently covers. That could be, depending on the school, $2,000 additional dollars a year to football players to upwards of $5,000 or more annually.
— two student-athletes will have seats on the new legislative council, which will be responsible for day-to-day operations of the division. Additionally, as the release states, “[t]he legislative process for these 65 schools, which could begin as early as Oct. 1, includes three student-athlete representatives from each conference who will vote on rule changes within those conferences.”
— extended medical benefits and coverage, including post-career.
— “unlimited scholarships,” meaning a player could return to the university at any time and finish up his degree, free of charge.
— benefits for a player’s family, including money for road trips to see their son/grandson/brother/nephew play in important games or postseason games.

These potential changes, mind you, aren’t exclusive to Power Five programs; any and all FBS programs could adopt them at any given time after October 1. The financial cost to the non-Power Five, though, would make it prohibitive to all but a handful of the mid-majors, although the AAC is looking at implementing some combination of those initiatives in order to keep the haves in their sights.

Here’s one more thing: even with all of these changes, the scholarship limits — 85 at any one time — will not change. As had been the case in the past, the top programs won’t be able to stash players on their rosters to keep them out of another program’s hands. The same players that were available to the non-Power Five on the recruiting trail before will be made available to them moving forward.

One thing that might change? Power Five transfers who before would look toward a mid-major for additional playing time might think twice about giving up the benefits — both now and in the future — and moving on to another school.

The ramifications of all of this are, at the moment, unknown and won’t be known for some length of time. What is certain is that the game of college football will likely never be the same again. Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen.

Ken Sparks, fifth-winningest coach at any level in college football history, dies at age 73

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College football has lost a coaching legend of the sport that you may never have heard of.

Carson-Newman announced Wednesday morning that its legendary former head football coach, Ken Sparks, passed away earlier in the day at the age of 73.  Sparks had been battling prostate cancer since being diagnosed in 2012, but doctors stopped treating him in January of this year.

According to WBIR-TV, Sparks had been in hospice care for the last several weeks.

Sparks was the head coach at Carson-Newman from 1980 through November of 2016, when he stepped down because of health concerns. During his time at the Div. II program — the first baker’s dozen years they were an NAIA school — the Eagles went 338-99-2. Sparks laid claim to five NAIA national championships and qualified for the Div. II playoffs 15 times in 24 years, although they failed to win a title at that latter level.

The 338 wins for Sparks are the fifth-most at any level of college football, behind only John Gagliardi (489), Joe Paterno (409), Eddie Robinson (408) and Bobby Bowden (377).

Alabama won’t be rushing Bo Scarbrough back this spring

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Not surprisingly, Alabama is going to err on the side of caution when it comes to one the most productive horses in its backfield stable.

On a second-down carry late in the third quarter of the national championship game loss to Clemson, Bo Scarbrough went down with an injury that turned out to be a fractured bone in his lower right leg.  The rising sophomore running back has recovered enough to be a participant in the Crimson Tide’s spring practice during some drills, albeit in non-contact mode.

Following the fourth practice of the spring Tuesday, Nick Saban made it clear made it clear that, while Scarbrough is getting some work in, the football program won’t be pushing him.

“Bo is doing more and more every day,” the head coach said according to al.com. “He did quite a bit today in practice, non-contact stuff, but he’s sort of gaining confidence. Our goal for Bo is by the end of spring, he’s fully confident that he can do everything he needs to do. Whether he ever scrimmages or is really something that we’re not that concerned about.”

It’s expected Scarbrough, barring a setback between now and then, will be fully recovered well ahead of the start of summer camp in early August.

Scarbrough’s 812 yards rushing year was second amongst Tide backs, while his 11 rushing touchdowns were second on the team.  He ran for 180 of those yards and two of the touchdowns in the College Football Playoff semifinal win over Washington, then had 93 yards and two more touchdowns before going down with the injury in the title game.

Western Kentucky hoops star to give Hilltoppers football a try

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Coming off a season in which he was the best player on Western Kentucky’s men’s basketball team, Justin Johnson is going to try his hand at another sport.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Johnson will practice with the Hilltoppers football team for the remainder of spring practice. The 6-7 forward will, not surprisingly, spend his time at tight end.

At the end of practices this spring, a WKU official told CFT, both sides will determine what if any future Johnson has in the sport.

Johnson admitted in one interview earlier this basketball season that he grew up wanting to play linebacker for Ohio State, and he did play two years of football at his Kentucky high school. Despite the fact that both Kentucky and Louisville had interest in him as a tight end, he ended up signing with WKU’s hoops team in 2014.

That decision has worked out well for both parties as Johnson has led the team in scoring and rebounding each of the past two seasons. He led Conference USA in the latter category as well as double-doubles, and was named second-team all-conference after his junior season.

Victim of alleged WKU football attack plans to file charges

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A former Western Kentucky fraternity member says he was attacked by a group of Hilltoppers football players and plans to file charges.

Jerald Armfield, an alum of WKU’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, told WBKO-TV he was caught in an ongoing feud between the fraternity and the football team:

“I went to the house in the best interest of the fraternity and Western as a whole to prevent any type of violence from occurring. We got up there and realized they were all hiding behind garbage cans, trees, and buildings.”

“I never in my wildest dreams thought they would attack me in the manner that they did. They all started surrounding me. One of them threw a rock at me. It was within a few seconds that one of them punched me in the face.”

“I fell down. I was kicked several times. The whole time they were beating me, I was begging them to stop, telling them I wasn’t here the night before, I had nothing to to do with it, like please stop, please stop, and they didn’t.”

Armfield said between nine and 10 people ultimately attacked him; it isn’t known for sure how many of that group are on the football team, though the program’s involvement in the incident is being investigated.

“We are aware of the allegations involving a few members of our football team,” the program said in the statement when word of the altercation broke three weeks ago. “We are cooperating fully with the authorities. However, at this time, we have not received a police report and cannot provide further comment.”

While the status of the investigation is currently unknown, Armfield told WBKO he would like it to end with multiple charges. “I made it very clear that night when the police arrived on the scene that I wanted charges pressed,” he said. “As far as I know a detective from Bowling Green Police Department has it. As it stands right now, I still want charges pressed. They need to be held accountable for what they did not only as citizens but as students at Western.”