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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Key transfers

Jake McGee

The lifeblood of a college football program comes through recruiting, but there are times when recruiting requires making sales pitches to experienced college football players as well. Seniors looking for a chance to compete for a starting job in the final year or years of eligibility can turn into great stories at any school, and this season is no exception.

We already took a look at some of the impact freshmen and the top Heisman Trophy candidates this season, but here is a look at some of the names you may already be familiar with looking to take advantage of a clean slate with a new program.

MICHAEL BREWER, VIRGINIA TECH, QB
With Virginia Tech looking for a new starting quarterback to replace Logan Thomas, the Hokies could be hoping Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer emerges as the best available option. The spring game failed to answer the question under center so the addition of Brewer figured to spice things up a bit. By all accounts it appears Brewer is making his case for playing time this fall as well, taking over the top spot in the depth chart during fall camp. Brewer appeared in just four games last season for Texas Tech, completing seven of his 10 pass attempts for 65 yards and a touchdown. He graduated this spring, making him eligible to play this fall for the Hokies.

JACOBY BRISSETT, NC STATE, QB
A change of scenery could be just what Jacoby Brissett needed after a disastrous 2012 season at Florida. With Jeff Driskel taking on the starter role for the Gators, Brissett made the decision to transfer to NC State, where head coach Dave Doeren will finally get a chance to coach him after attempting to recruit the quarterback to Wisconsin out of high school. Fortunately for NC State, Brissett’s desire to transfer to Miami was blocked due to a lack of room on the roster at the position in January 2013. Little did Miami know at the time the potential need for a transfer option  in 2014 (more on that later). Brissett played in five games in 2012 for Florida, completing 65.7 percent of his pass attempts for 249 yards and a touchdown. Brissett will be the starting quarterback for NC State, and he will have a stable of healthy receivers and good running back depth surrounding him on the field.

JACOB COKER, ALABAMA, QB
Looking to find his third starting quarterback in six seasons, Alabama head coach Nick Saban may not have been able to find a more suitable option through a transfer than Jacob Coker. Coker came to Alabama from Florida State, looking to get out from under the tremendous shadow cast by Jameis Winston. He does so with the personal endorsement of Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher. Coker could likely be a starter on just about any team in the country, but it is not a guarantee just yet Coker will be the Tide’s starter just yet. Coker will have to beat Blake Sims for the job and Saban is known to let these competitions play out as long as he needs before coming to a final decision, even if it means a week or two into the season.

BRANDON CONNETTE, FRESNO STATE QB
An opportunity to play his final year of eligibility closer to home and his ailing mother landed Brandon Connette at Fresno State. Leaving a promising and developing Duke program was surely a tough decision, but as far as football is concerned Connette appears to be landing in another good position as well. Connette is competing for the starting job at Fresno State, offering a bit of a different style than the Bulldogs had grown accustomed to under Derek Carr the last few years, but it is what Connette offers with his feet that could be beneficial for the Bulldogs in their quest to repeat as Mountain West Conference champions. Connette rushed for 14 touchdowns for Duke last season, a big reason why Duke was able to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and play for the conference championship. He may not wing it like Carr, but he did throw for 1,212 yards on 145 pass attempts last season, including 13 touchdowns.

DEE HART, COLORADO STATE RB
Colorado State has some big shoes to fill at running back after Kapri Bibbs rushed for 1,741 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. It is clear the Rams like to run the football, so bringing in a running back from Alabama is certainly a good way to go for head coach Jim McElwain, the former Alabama assistant who secured a new contract recently. Dee Hart, who is looking for a more prominent role in an offense rather than part-time work in the crowded and deep Alabama backfield, arrives at Colorado State and should slide right into the starting role right away. Hart, who has battled through various knee injuries already, had just 22 carries in 2013 and with T.J. Yeldon leading the way for the Crimson Tide it looked as though getting many snaps was out of the question for Hart in Tuscaloosa this season. That should not be the case at Colorado State.

JAKE HEAPS, MIAMI QB
Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Jake Heaps. The former BYU and Kansas quarterback has arrived at Miami and may have done so at just the right time. With an injury to projected starting quarterback Ryan Williams in the spring, Al Golden left the door open for all possibilities to plug the hole, including transfer options. That left an option on the table for Heaps to find a better situation for the remainder of his eligibility. He was once a highly rated recruit but has struggled to match that expected potential. With the right pieces around him, like running back Duke Johnson, Heaps could finally be ready to enjoy some stable success on the football field this fall. Heaps is currently one of the top two candidates for the starting job at Miami.

MATT JOECKEL, TCU, QB
The former back-up to Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M decided it was best to try and compete for a starting job at another program rather than go through another round at Texas A&M. That led senior Matt Joeckel to TCU, where he is eligible to play right away this fall and making his case for the starting job. Joeckel is in the thick of the competition at TCU with Trevone Boykin, who has started 15 games for the Horned Frogs. TCU head coach Gary Patterson could have some options though, with the possibility of moving Boykin to receiver and allowing more time under center for Joeckel addressing two areas of need with one decision.

GUNNER KIEL, CINCINNATI QB
Despite Cincinnati working incumbent starter Munchie Legaux back from injury, it looks like the new guy may be the number one option to lead the American Athletic Conference favorites. Gunner Kiel, who transferred to Cincinnati from Notre Dame, put on quite the show in Cincinnati’s spring game and brings plenty of potential to the passing game for the Bearcats. Kiel sat out the 2013 season due to transfer rules and is now poised to take on the role of starting quarterback for a contender in the AAC as well as for a spot in a big revenue bowl.

WES LUNT, ILLINOIS QB
Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit thinks the Illini can have the best offense in the Big Ten this season. That may not be totally unrealistic with the addition of quarterback Wes Lunt, from Oklahoma State. Lunt arrived at Oklahoma State with loads of hype and potential as an early enrollee looking to succeed Brandon Weeden in 2012, but injuries quickly erased those plans in Stillwater. As he struggled to regain a footing on the depth chart, it became necessary to look for other options to compete for a starting job. Illinois had the need to improve at the position, and Lunt has become the top candidate for the starting job this summer.

JAKE MCGEE, FLORIDA TE
This one came as a bit of a surprise, and is a pretty significant blow to Virginia. Jake McGee was Virginia’s leading receiver last season, and after transferring to Florida he fills a position in need of a major upgrade at Florida. Tight ends at Florida combined for four receptions for 42 yards last season. McGee had a little over 10 times as many catches for the Cavaliers in 2013 and should immediately give Jeff Driskel a competent target in the field. The two have already been developing some chemistry in fall camp, with highlight plays apparently giving the offense a lift. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper intends to make McGee a significant part of the rejuvenated Florida offense.

RUSHEL SHELL, WEST VIRGINIA RB
Going from one end of the Backyard Brawl to the other, Rushel Shell transferred from Pittsburgh to West Virginia last summer. After sitting out the 2013 season, Shell is ready to go and make his case for playing time in a West Virginia offense in need of some physicality. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has said Shell has some of the best skills at the position this camp. In 2012, at Pittsburgh, Shell backed up Ray Graham but still accounted for 641 rushing yards and four touchdowns. West Virginia was seventh in the Big 12 in rushing offense in 2013. Shell could help the Mountaineers improve on the ground as a key contributor.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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About face: Baylor AD plans to beef up non-conference schedules after all

Baylor West Virginia Football

SMU, Lamar, Rice, Northwestern State, Liberty, UTSA, Duke, Abilene Christian, Incarnate Word, and Lousiana Tech. That’s the full list. The names of schools you just read comprise the entirety of Baylor’s non-conference schedule through 2020. The entire thing. This isn’t the filler in between home-and-homes with Penn State or neutral site games with North Carolina and Oregon – that’s it.

No matter how many times athletics director Ian McCaw and head coach Art Briles denied it, that schedule – this year’s slate included SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo – and the stigma surrounding it were the reason Baylor played in last season’s Cotton Bowl and not the Sugar Bowl. Trade the road game at Buffalo for a trip to Boston College and the Bears are probably the last team in the inaugural College Football Playoff, not eventual champion Ohio State.

On Thursday, McCaw finally acknowledged that fact. Sort of.

When we’re in the midst of a 14-year bowl drought, our scheduling philosphy is: ‘Let’s try to find six wins,’ because we needed to end that drought. We were scheduling with an eye on let’s try to find a way to get to six,’ McCaw told David Ubben of FoxSportsSouthwest.com. “Obviously, as we’ve won back to back Big 12 championships and our program’s in the national stage and we’re recruiting at an extremely high level and have McLane Stadium in place, we’re able to take on a higher level of competition and that’s what we’re looking to do.”

McCaw said to having “two or three discussions” with fellow Power Five foes about scheduling games between 2016 and 2020, but made no promises the Bears would line up a major-conference foe on a yearly basis. “It’ll vary a little bit from year to year because we have a number of years still fully committed and a number of years still looking to schedule games, but we’re certainly open to playing a Power 5 game in addition to the nine we’re playing,” he said. “Probably not every year, but a good number of years.”

Outside the home-and-home with Duke, Baylor’s lone Power Five foe lined up for upcoming schedules is Utah, with whom the Bears will meet in 2023 and ’24.

 

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Kickoff set for inaugural American championship game

On Wednesday, the American set kick times for its opening-weekend games and a number of contests afterward. And on Thursday the league set the time and date for its inaugural championship game.

The first American championship will be held Saturday, Dec. 5 at noon ET on either ABC or ESPN. Last year, ESPN showed Houston at Cincinnati at noon ET on Championship Saturday, so this isn’t much of a change from years past.

Of note above: the title game will be hosted by the team with the best conference record and not the highest-ranked division championship, which sometimes isn’t necessarily the same thing.

As a refresher, the American divisions are divvied up as follows:

EAST
Connecticut
Temple
Cincinnati
East Carolina
Central Florida
South Florida

WEST
Memphis
Tulane
Houston
SMU
Tulsa
Navy

Yes, Navy is in the West Division. Best get used to it now, people.

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Gary Pinkel inducted into MAC Hall of Fame

Gary Pinkel

Gary Pinkel is about to enter his 15th season as Missouri’s head coach. That’s a long time in any job, and especially long as a head football coach at a Power Five institution. Long enough for Pinkel to pass a pair of College Football Hall of Fame coaches in Don Faurot and Dan Devine as Mizzou’s all-time winningest coach. It’s three coaching lifetimes, really.

But there was a Gary Pinkel before he arrived in Columbia. And, kids, he was pretty darn successful.

From 1991-2000, Pinkel guided Toledo to a 73-37-3 mark. He guided the Rockets to an 11-0-1 mark in 1994, claiming a MAC championship and a top 25 final ranking. Pinkel’s teams also won the MAC West Division in 1997 and 1998, losing to those great Marshall teams in the title game each time, and won a share of the division crown in 2000 before leaving for Mizzou before the 2001 season.

Pinkel won enough to become Toledo’s all-time winningest coach, joining him with Steve Spurrier as the only active coaches to hold the all-time wins mark at two separate schools.

And on Wednesday, Pinkel was inducted into the conference’s hall of fame.

“When I got the call that this happened I had tears in my eyes, that I could be honored like this,” Pinkel told Cleveland.com. “I am very, very appreciative of this award. This (getting to the dinner) was really important to me.”

In addition to his coaching exploits, Pinkel was also honored for his accomplishments as a player. Playing with teammate Nick Saban and for College Football Hall of Fame head coach Don James at Kent State, he earned All-MAC and honorable mention All-America honors as a tight end.

Wednesday night’s honor gave Pinkel the distinction of residing in the Kent State, Toledo and MAC halls of fame.

In perhaps the most interesting anecdote of the story, Pinkel nearly missed the ceremony after his Cleveland-bound plane could not make it out of Destin, Fla., but Kentucky head coaches Mark Stoops and John Calipari, also making their way north from the SEC’s spring meetings, let him bum a ride, even pleading with their pilot to drop Pinkel off in Cleveland before heading to Lexington. “It’s a miracle,” he said. “I really wanted to be here.”

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Arizona State linebacker Davon Durant pleads guilty to assault

Davon Durant

In March, Arizona State juco signee Davon Durant was arrested and suspended for a domestic violence incident. Durant’s accuser officially recanted her claim a day later… and the story didn’t go anywhere in the two months that followed. Until Thursday.

Facing charges of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct for his Tempe arrest, Durant pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, an offense that carries up to six months in jail, supervised probation, up to $2,500 in fines, possible restitution and participation in a domestic violence treatment program.

The Arizona Republic reported that sentencing is set for June 15.

Durant’s attorney Benjamin Taylor called Thursday’s results a win for his side, saying he was “happy to get a positive result in the case.”

David Dow, attorney for Durant’s one-time accuser, argued the judge to drop a moratorium on contact between his client and Durant, saying the two sides would prefer to remain in contact. Dow also said his client would not seek restitution.

Durant was accused of striking the woman once in the face and grabbing her around the neck. Though his accuser dropped her story, a spokesman for the Tempe police department told ESPN multiple witnesses were on the scene.

A five-star prospect out of Butler (Kan.) Community College, Durant has not rejoined the Sun Devils’ roster since his March arrest.

(Photo credit: Tempe police department, Arizona Republic)

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Erstwhile Gator TE appears ticketed for USC

Daniel Imatorbhebhe

It appears that Florida’s loss could soon become USC’s gain.

Earlier this week it was reported that Daniel Imatorbhebhe, a member of Florida’s 2015 recruiting class, had decided to leave the Gators for an unknown destination. Imatorbhebhe’s brother also happens to be a talented football recruit who also just happened to be interested in UF before committing to USC a week prior to his sibling’s decision.

Framed that way, it appears the brothers are angling for a gridiron reunion. And, according to TrojanSports.com, that’s indeed the case as the website reports, citing a source close to the freshman tight end, that Imatorbhebhe is planning to transfer to the Trojans. While there is nothing official from either school, there are reports that Imatorbhebhe has already cleaned out his UF locker.

If Imatorbhebhe does move on from the Gators to the Trojans, he would be compelled to sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. Then, beginning in 2016, he would have four seasons of eligibility remaining.

That, though, won’t help with the Trojans’ well-chronicled issues at the tight end position this season.

Imatorbhebhe was a three-star member of UF’s most recent recruiting class, rated as the No. 18 tight end in the country and the No. 26 player at any position at any position in the state of Georgia. He was an early enrollee who participated in spring practice a couple of months ago.

His brother, four-star wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, committed to the Trojans May 18. The younger Imatorbhebhe is rated as the No. 26 receiver in the country.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Fans’ postgame field rush could prove costly for Big 12 teams

TCU v Baylor Getty Images

The SEC confirmed earlier this week that it would be stiffening its penalties against schools whose fans rush the field/storm the court following wins.  Wednesday, another Power Five conference confirmed it will be carrying a bigger stick when it comes to such potentially dangerous activities as well.

According to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, one recommendation offered up at the conference’s spring meetings this week that will likely pass is instituting rather significant and stiff penalties for the schools of those field-rushers/court-stormers.  The Dallas Morning NewsChuck Carlton writes that “Bowlsby said the penalties could range from reprimands to fines to the loss of a home game.”

While the potential of sanctions would help fans be protected from themselves, it’s done mostly with the protection of players and coaches and other game personnel in mind.

“We are certainly most interested in the safety of our participants and would include home team, visiting team, officials, table crew and the like,” commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “And we have pretty good video evidence of all our big events so we can review them.

The impetus for this push seems to be an incident on a basketball court a couple of months ago. From the Sporting News:

This is undoubtedly the league’s response to Bill Self’s rant in February after Kansas State fans rushed the court and were caught on video intentionally bumping into Kansas players. Forward Jamari Traylor was body-checked by a fan and Self was pushed into the scorer’s table as fans flooded onto the court.

“I wasn’t nervous for me,” Self said after the game. “There were several students that hit our players…This (lack of security) has got to stop.”

The home teams, not the conference, are responsible for in-game security, which is why the onus will be on the member institutions to clean up postgame fan behavior. Or pay the price.

Bowlsby added that while he will consult with others in the conferences, the ultimate decision on how much a price there will be to pay will ultimately be up to him alone.

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Everett Golson talks ‘fresh start’ in move to FSU

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 08:  Quarterback Everett Golson #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reacts as he walks off the field following the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 8, 2014 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Fighting Irish 55-31. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

When it came to the Everett Golson situation, we already knew the who, what, where and when: the quarterback transferred to Florida State earlier this month. What has been unknown is why Golson left Notre Dame to play his final season elsewhere.

Most assumed it had something to do with being behind Malik Zaire in the Irish’s quarterback competition, or clashes with head coach Brian Kelly. Golson would likely never cop to either of those explanations if they were even accurate, and he didn’t in an interview with FOXSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman in which the grad transfer talked of wanting “a fresh start” as his reasoning for leaving South Bend for Tallahassee.

“It’s something that’s pretty crazy right now for me to adjust to (not being a member of the Fighting Irish), but I do think it was best for me,” Golson explained. “I just needed a fresh start. It was me sitting down and thinking, ‘OK, where do I feel the most comfortable?’ It was nothing to knock Notre Dame. I just had to put myself in the best position possible.”

Golson also confirmed that ND blocked any potential transfer to not only 2015 opponent Texas, but also any school on this season’s schedule. While admitting he would’ve been interested in the Longhorns — if you’re a quality quarterback looking for a new home, why wouldn’t you be? — he also allowed that the decision to keep him away from UT wasn’t at all surprising.

“I would’ve definitely entertained [a transfer to UT], but just knowing that I couldn’t, it kinda limited me,” Golson said. “It was pretty awkward, but it was kind of expected. It would’ve been interesting to see Texas. They (Notre Dame) basically limited me to the schools that we wouldn’t play. I wasn’t really surprised by it. …

“The biggest thing for me was I wanted to be somewhere down south, too. They didn’t necessarily block me from something I was strongly considering, except maybe Texas.”

That said, Feldman wrote, Golson “appreciates how ND compliance tried to help him through what was a very nerve-wracking process.”

Finally, Golson confirmed that, as had previously been speculated, he had an interest in multiple SEC schools, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU. He also confirmed that getting a waiver from one of those schools, which would’ve been required by the SEC because of his previous academic misconduct issue, was proving problematic and took that conference and those schools out of the process.

Earlier this week, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher talked of having a quarterback competition between Golson and spring front-runner Sean Maguire, not controversy.  Fisher also stated very firmly that nothing was promised to Golson when it came to guaranteeing a starting job.  On that front, the player backed up his new coach’s public stance.

“That wasn’t a worry for me at all,” Golson said of going from a competition in South Bend to one in Tallahassee. “I think that’s what a lot of people misconstrued. I’m not afraid of competition at all. There’s gonna be competition when I go to Florida State as well. It was about where I can most benefit myself.”

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Ex-OSU Cowboy, UA Wildcat QB Daxx Garman to give Terps a try

West Virginia v Oklahoma State Getty Images

Daxx Garman has already been a quarterback in the Pac-12 and Big 12, so now he figures he’ll hit up one more Power Five conference for his final collegiate act.

Thursday afternoon, Maryland announced that the well-traveled quarterback will join the Terrapins football team for his last season of football.  As the strong-armed Garman will be a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2015 and, right away, be thrust knee-deep in his new team’s quarterback competition.

“We are excited that Daxx will be joining our program,” head coach Randy Edsall said in a statement. “He is an experienced quarterback who has proven himself as an accomplished starter in the Big 12, helping to lead his team to a postseason bowl game. Daxx is an outstanding student who has displayed tremendous poise and maturity during his college career. He comes in knowing he is competing for the starting quarterback position and is looking forward to the competition and being part of our football family”

After weeks worth of speculation, Mike Gundy confirmed in early March that Garman would be transferring… again.  He came to OSU after transferring in from Arizona; in high school, he transferred on two separate occasions as well.

Garman will enter the signal-calling mix in College Park this summer, with his main competition likely being Caleb Rowe.  Coming off a torn ACL, Rowe exited spring practice as the favorite to win the starting job even as he didn’t participate in any of the 15 sessions.  The new contender, though, has plenty of experience to be a significant threat to Rowe’s standing.

Garman replaced J.W. Walsh, who sustained a season-ending leg injury in Week 2, and started the next eight games at quarterback last season before going down with a concussion in a Nov. 15 loss to Texas. Freshman Mason Rudolph replaced Walsh against Baylor and, in three starts, led the Cowboys to at least 28 points in going 2-1, including a 30-21 win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl that saw him pass for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Because of that three-game stretch — and because a Garman-led offense failed to score more than 27 points in five of eight starts — Rudolph was widely viewed as the overwhelming favorite to win the starting job heading into spring practice.  In fact, Gundy stated around the time of Garman’s transfer that Rudolph would enter the spring as the unquestioned starter, with Walsh as his backup, meaning it’s essentially the 6-4, 217-pound true sophomore’s job to lose.

Coming out of high school in Southlake, Tex., as a three-star prospect, Garman originally signed with Arizona in 2011.  He announced in December of that year that he would be transferring from the Wildcats to the Cowboys.

“Coach Edsall has done a great job with the football program and he truly cares about his players,” Garman said. “I’m very excited to compete in the Big Ten Conference. Maryland is an outstanding university and I’m excited to further my education and continue playing football. I enjoyed my visit in College Park and I’m excited to have this opportunity.”

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Arkansas-Mizzou lands on Black Friday this year

Arkansas v Missouri Getty Images

With Texas A&M-LSU not a possibility in 2015, the SEC and one of its television partners has (once again) turned to an intradivisional matchup for your Black Friday viewing pleasure.

Amongst the dates and times for its 2015 television schedule announced Thursday, the SEC confirmed that this year’s Arkansas-Missouri game will be played Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving.  The game will be played in Fayetteville at 2:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by CBS.

And, for those who have forgotten, this game has an official moniker: the Battle Line Rivalry presented by Shelter Insurance. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

The 2015 edition of this “rivalry” will be the second one played since Mizzou joined the SEC in 2012, and the first-ever meeting between the two football programs in Fayetteville. The first conference game between the two also took place on Black Friday, a 21-14 Mizzou win in Columbia last season that officially sent the Tigers to their second consecutive SEC championship game appearance.

All-time, the Tigers lead the series 4-2.

And, for those of you curious as to the current SEC on CBS television slate, click HERE for our buddies over at FBSchedules.com.

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Bowling Green adds Notre Dame transfer Eilar Hardy

Eilar Hardy, Shawn Lynch

After four years in Indiana, Eilar Hardy has decided to move one state over for his final season.

In a press release Thursday, Bowling Green announced that Hardy has decided to transfer into Dino Babers‘ football program and play his final season of college ball with the Falcons.  Hardy comes in as a graduate transfer, having received his degree from Notre Dame earlier this month, and will be eligible immediately.

Hardy announced his transfer intentions back in January.

“We are excited to welcome Eilar Hardy to Bowling Green and our football program,” Babers started. “Having lost so much to graduation last year from our secondary, he will provide experience and leadership for that group. He has played at a high level his whole career and we are excited that he has chosen to become a Falcon.”

The defensive back played in 13 games the past two seasons. The only two starts of his Irish career came in 2013.

Hardy’s most notable claim to fame during his time in South Bend was being one of the five players caught up in an academic fraud investigation.

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Harbaugh acknowledges Sparty as ‘biggest guy’ on state’s block

ANN ARBOR, MI - APRIL 04: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during the Michigan Football Spring Game on April 4, 2015 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Sometimes something is so obvious that, regardless of how much it may pain you to let the words roll off your lips, you just have to acknowledge it and move on. Such is the case for Jim Harbaugh when it comes to the current pecking order of Power Five football in the state of Michigan.

From the first time the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry was played in 1898 until 2007, the Wolverines absolutely owned the Spartans, leading the series 67-28-5. That century-long dominance led to the infamous “Little Brother” moniker being slapped on Sparty and hanging around its neck like an 800-pound albatross.

In 2008, Rich Rodriguez‘s first season in Ann Arbor coincidentally enough, the tide quickly began turning in favor of the Spartans. Since a loss in 2007, MSU has ripped off wins in six of the last seven games, with five of those coming by double figures.

MSU is now a Big Ten power, while UM is looking up at not only its in-state rival but its hated rival — and 2014 College Football Playoff champion — Ohio State as well. Speaking to area high school coaches in Detroit Wednesday, Harbaugh took a detour from his usual SOP, tipping his cap in the general direction of East Lansing and the current balance of football power in the state.

“We know we’re not the biggest guy on the block (right now),” Harbaugh said by way of mlive.com. “Michigan State’s the biggest guy on the block.”

“Rightfully so, rightfully so,” the coach added before going into full-blown recruiting mode. “They’ve done a tremendous job and we respect the job that they’ve done. But we want that. We want it. And we ask for your help in doing that. We want Detroit players at the University of Michigan. We’ve got a great history of Detroit players (at Michigan), and not just for football, we want them to get an education. We want to educate your players and we want them to succeed.

“Not just with football, but as great people.”

When it comes to the lifeblood of a football program, the recruiting trail, Harbaugh & Company are gaining momentum. Working on a tight time frame after his January hiring, Harbaugh pulled in the No. 50 recruiting class in the country this past February after that class was ranked 75th exactly a week before National Signing Day. For the 2016 cycle, the Wolverines are somewhere in the neighborhood of 35th(ish) nationally, depending on the recruiting service — the Spartans are Top 10, incidentally, after a Top 25 class in 2015.

That said, it may take a bit of time for the in-season results to catch up with the wildly optimistic — some would say way too wildly optimistic — offseason expectations.

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SEC to join satellite camp craze if no national rule is enacted

Mike Slive

The dreaded “satellite camp” imbroglio percolated again yesterday, with the SEC essentially threatening to join in the recruiting fun if nothing is done on a national basis about the practice.

Earlier this week, incoming SEC commissioner Greg Sankey intimated that, if a national rule banning coaches from working as “guest” coaches at high school football camps outside of a 50-mile radius from their respective campuses wasn’t enacted, his conference could very well join the fray.  Wednesday, outgoing commissioner Mike Slive confirmed that the conference will indeed let their coaches loose if nothing’s done nationally with a rule proposed by his league.

“We are going to make every effort to have our rule adopted nationally,” Slive said Wednesday night at the SEC’s spring meetings. “If the rule isn’t adopted nationally, come next summer, our folks will be free to fan out all over the country and have at it.”

Sankey added that the league’s coaches are prepared to “canvas the nation if we’re in the same circumstance next year.”

Most view that as a threat from the conference as, the line of thinking of some nationally goes, a good many people in Big Ten or Pac-12 or Big 12 country would probably prefer not to see the likes of Nick Saban and Les Miles setting up camp in their own backyard. That, though, is something the SEC wants to avoid with its proposal.

In order for the SEC’s rule, which is also favored by the ACC, to pass, the majority of the 10 FBS conferences will need to vote in favor of it. The votes of the Power Five conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC — are weighted to count double of those cast by the Group of Five leagues — AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt.

It seems highly likely that the Big Ten and Pac-12, and probably the Big 12, will vote against the SEC’s proposal as those three P5 leagues make use of the satellite camps to one degree or another. On the G5 front, they would seemingly want to keep the SEC out of its recruiting footprint — the SBC is already screwed either way as the SEC is already firmly embedded in it — as much as possible, a goal that this rule would certainly accomplish.

Thus, it would stand to reason that the SEC’s proposal would stand a fairly decent chance of passing national muster: SEC (2 votes in favor) + ACC (2) + G5 (5) = 9 > B1G (2 votes against) + B12 (2) + P12 (2) = 6. Even if Notre Dame, a satellite camp proponent that’s a part of the P5 autonomy group, is added to the mix, that wouldn’t be enough to squelch the proposed rule.  Could those who don’t want to the proposal enacted see a couple of the G5s voting against the proposal and tipping the scales in their favor? It’s possible, I guess, but doesn’t seem too likely.

If it’s not passed?

“We’ll do it, I promise you, all summer next year,” Miles said. “Next year, we’ll be in all different locations.”

“Our ADs have heard us try to push this issue nationally, and they’ve tried to push it nationally,” said Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops. “If it doesn’t happen, then we’re all in. Then we’ll be all over the place next year.”

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Former NCAA executive director Walter Byers dies at 93

Walt Byers

Walter Byers, the man who, for better or worse, created the modern NCAA passed away on Wednesday at his home in Emmett, Kan. He was 93. Byers’ son Fritz said the cause was a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream.

Byers famously left his post as an assistant sports information director for the Big Ten to become the NCAA’s first executive director at age 29 in 1951. The next quarter century saw Byers rapidly expand the NCAA – in terms of its membership, the revenue it took in, and its dominion over its athletes. He took what former NCAA employee and eventual Big 8 and Big Ten commissioner Wayne Duke called a “part-time” organization and nearly tripled its membership, from 381 universities upon his hiring to 1,003 upon his exit in 1987. The NCAA’s own rank and file grew as well, as the organization grew from a handful of employees at its Kansas City offices to 150  by the time of his retirement.

“He had to come up with structure for all kinds of athletics, team and individual, at the national level. Before him there was nothing,” Duke told the Associated Press.

Byers saw the value in televising college sports early on, selling a restricted slate of games to NBC for $1.14 million a year in 1952 according to the New York Times. Byers strategy of grouping NCAA football games together got the sport on television, but membership eventually fought to overrule the model he created. In 1984, Oklahoma and Georgia successfully sued the NCAA for control over their television contracts, creating the marketplace that eventually brought Notre Dame its standalone contract with NBC and created individual networks for the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 and Texas.

“It is virtually impossible to overstate the degree of our resentment,” Oklahoma president William Banowsky said at the time.

Byers made up that revenue by ramping up the NCAA Tournament, helping turn it into the billion-dollar enterprise it is today. “In my opinion he never received credit for his leadership in building that event,” said former NCAA Tournament administrator Tom Jernstedt. “In my mind he is the father of the NCAA basketball tournament and he doesn’t get the recognition for that.”

Byers was also credited with coining the term “student-athlete,” though he later rejected the amateurism model that to this day serves as the NCAA’s bedrock, admitting in his memoir Unsportsmanlike Conduct that the term was a defense mechanism allowing schools to avoid long-term liability for athletes’ disability benefits. “Whereas the NCAA defends its policies in the name of amateurism and level playing fields, they actually are a device to divert the money elsewhere,” he wrote.

By the end of his tenure, Byers considered the idea of creating an “open” division, similar to the Power Five autonomy legislation the powers that be are working through today. “I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that there has to be a major rearrangement on the part of the institutions of higher learning as to what they want to do with their athletic programs. I think there’s an inherent conflict that has to be resolved,” he said. “I’m not prepared to go into how an open division would work. But we’re in a situation where we, the colleges, say it’s improper for athletes to get, for example, a new car. Well, is that morally wrong? Or is it wrong because we say it’s wrong?”

Forever reluctant of the spotlight, Byers made few public appearances following his 1987 retirement, and even no-showed his National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame induction in 2009.

Byers leaves behind two sons, one daughter, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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After year-long study, Auburn won’t claim any more national championships

Jay Jacobs

For years – heck, eons – Alabama’s practice of claiming some, uh, dubious national championships has driven Auburn fans crazy. So much so, in fact, that last year the school launched a study into whether or not it should start claiming some bygone national championships of its own.

The results are in, and Auburn will keep its national championship total at two.

“We’ve earned what we’ve earned and people can count it different ways, but we’ve earned what we’ve earned,” Jacobs told Brandon Marcello of AL.com. “Those players on those teams, like me in 1983, it doesn’t matter if you hang a banner or not. I know what we did.”

The Tigers claim titles in 1957 and 2010, but the NCAA record books credits Auburn with championships in 1910, 1913, 1914, 1983, 1993 and 2004 as well.

This is the path the school should take. For one thing, Auburn was on probation during its undefeated 1993 regular season. For another, the school and its fans would instantaneously lose any moral high ground it claims over Alabama – whatever that’s worth – by following the Tide into handing itself retroactive titles. And even at that the Tigers would still be only halfway way to Alabama’s total.

No, better stick to the commonly recognized total and leave your rivals to wander in the realms of fantasy.

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American sets kick times for a number of ESPN-broadcasted games

Maryland v Connecticut

The season is getting ever closer. We crossed the double-digit barrier until FBS opening day this week, and on Wednesday the American announced a number of finalized kick times for games that will be shown on the ESPN family of networks.

The bulk of the games are opening weekend tilts, allowing the season to feel just that much closer, while the others are weeknight games.

Without further ado, here’s the full set of announced kick times (all times Eastern):

Thurs., Sept. 3: Villanova at Connecticut – 7:30 p.m., ESPN3/SNY
Fri., Sept. 4: Baylor at SMU – 7 p.m., ESPN
Sat., Sept. 5: Florida A&M at South Florida – 7 p.m., ESPN3
Alabama A&M at Cincinnati – 7 p.m., ESPN3
Towson at East Carolina – 6 p.m., ESPN3
Tennessee Tech at Houston – 8 p.m., ESPN3
Missouri State at Memphis – 7 p.m., ESPN3
Sat., Sept. 19: Furman at Central Florida – 6 p.m., ESPN3
Maine at Tulane – 8 p.m., ESPN3
Sat., Sept. 26: James Madison at SMU – 7 p.m., ESPN3
Fri., Oct. 2: Memphis at South Florida – 7 p.m., ESPN2
Thurs., Oct. 8: SMU at Houston – 8 p.m., ESPN2
Fri., Oct. 16: Houston at Tulane – 9 p.m, ESPNU
Thurs., Oct. 22: Temple at East Carolina – 7 p.m., ESPN2
Fri., Oct. 23: Memphis at Tulsa – 8 p.m., ESPN
Fri., Oct. 30: East Carolina at Connecticut – 7 p.m., ESPNU
Fri., Nov. 6: Temple at SMU – 8 p.m., ESPN2
Thurs., Nov. 19: East Carolina at Central Florida – 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Plan accordingly.

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