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.

Conference USA releases 2018 schedule

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Conference USA released its 2018 schedule on Tuesday, confirming that once again the league will play football this fall.

The league slate kicks off Sept. 8 with FIU’s visit to Old Dominion, while the first game involving a C-USA team is set for Aug. 25, when Rice hosts Prairie View A&M. Conference games are scattered throughout the month of September, with the first full Saturday slate coming on Oct. 6 with Old Dominion at Florida Atlantic, UAB at Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee at Marshall, North Texas at UTEP and UTSA at Rice.

While the MAC has opted for a full embrace of midweek football, Conference USA has gone in the exact opposite direction. Not one C-USA game is scheduled as of today for a weeknight — Thursday or Friday included — and only one game will be played on a day other than Saturday, a Friday, Aug. 31 visit to Wisconsin by Western Kentucky.

The most-anticipated non-conference games involving C-USA teams are Florida Atlantic’s opener at Oklahoma and on Sept. 1 and the Owls’ Sept. 22 visit to reigning American and Peach Bowl champion UCF. North Texas also has two shots to win nationwide respect for the league in its opener against SMU on Sept. 1 in Denton and a Sept. 15 visit to retooling Arkansas.

The highlight of the league schedule comes on Nov. 17 with a rematch of the 2017 title game when Florida Atlantic visits North Texas. The Owls won both meetings last season by a combined score of 110-48.

The 14th C-USA Championship will be held on Dec. 1 at the home of the division winner with the best conference record. FAU will look to become the second straight back-to-back C-USA champion, joining Western Kentucky in 2015-16.

Former LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada reportedly lands at Maryland

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It’s good to be Matt Canada.

He parachuted into Baton Rouge for a year, got paid a bunch of money, then got paid even more money to leave. And now he’s set to get paid from another school.

According to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Canada is set to join the Maryland staff as offensive coordinator. Rittenberg notes that Canada signed a multi-year agreement with the Terps, though salary terms were not revealed. Walt Bell, who left to become the offensive coordinator at Florida State, made $500,000 in 2017, according to USA Today.

Maryland will be Canada’s seventh school to call plays for in this decade alone. He spent 2010 (and three years before that) at Indiana, then moved to Northern Illinois in 2011. He parlayed that into one season at Wisconsin, three at NC State, and then one season stints at Pittsburgh, LSU and now Maryland.

Report: Oklahoma State signs 27-year-old Australian punter

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Australian punters are the hot new commodity in college football, and word has made it back to the Land Down Under: punt the ball far and high enough and you, too, can receive a full scholarship to an American university.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express — which you now is legit, because its header as of press time already reads Wednesday, January 24 — 27-year-old Australian punter Tom Hutton has signed with Oklahoma State. Hutton hails from Newborough, Australia, about a two hour ride from Melbourne, and in December attended a training session at Prokick Australia.

“I was told about [American football] a few years ago so I thought ‘I’ll probably be too old for it now’, thinking that it was like Aussie Rules and that if you were over 21 then you had no chance,” Hutton told the paper. “But then I saw a few older blokes getting scholarships so I thought I may as well give it a go.”

Prokick Australia claims the last five Ray Guy Award winners as alums, including 2017 victor Michael Dickson of Texas. Oklahoma State saw his ability up close, as Dickson punted 11 times for a 50.9-yard average in October, nearly booting his way to victory in a 13-10 Cowboys overtime victory. “Their punter is — did he win the Ray Guy Award last year?” Mike Gundy said after that game. “He should have won it. He changed the field on us. I don’t know what the yardage is, I just know that every time we go a little bit of field position, he changed the field … he was fantastic for them.”

The story of how Hutton was approved for an Oklahoma State offer doesn’t go into details, but Hutton’s recollection of how Hutton, who works overnights at a paper mill in addition to playing Aussie rules football in the Mid Gippsland Football League, received the offer is perfect.

“I woke up after night shift on two hours sleep and this person said ‘we know where you’re going, you’re going to Oklahoma State and we’ve got the coach on the phone,'” he said. “I thought ‘Jesus Christ, can you give me half an hour? I need to have a shower and actually wake up and make sure this is not a dream.'”

According to the Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing, Hutton will arrive in Stillwater in July and have four years of eligibility.

Arkansas adds TCU signee who signed with New York Yankees

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Austin Aune‘s circuitous sports journey, one which Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden would approve, has taken its next stop in Fayetteville.

According to 247Sports.com, Aune has joined the Arkansas football program and is enrolled in classes at the university.  At least initially, the quarterback will be a part of the Razorbacks as a walk-on; it’s expected he’ll take the field with the rest of his new teammates when spring practice kicks off month after next.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aune had also considered TCU and North Texas before the SEC’s mystique proved to be too much.

“The allure of the SEC and the SEC West and Chad [Morris] and Coach [Joe] Craddock, and everybody being on the same page up there as far as the opportunity goes,” the player’s father, Greg Aune, told the Democrat-Gazette. “He likes their system. It’s a fast-paced system, wide-open system. That’s what he played in high school. It’s a pass-oriented offense. He’s a read-run oriented guy, so that’s a lot of what those guys do.”

The fact that Aune considered TCU as a potential landing spot before settling on Morris and UA shouldn’t come as a surprise as he actually signed with the Horned Frogs back in 2012.  However, he was drafted by the New York Yankees that same year and, after signing a contract that included a $1 million signing bonus, embarked on what turned out to be a six-year career in the minor leagues.  Despite that financial commitment, Aune never made it past Single-A ball.