Arkansas wide-receiver Damon Mitchell (7) leads the Razorbacks out of the tunnel before their spring NCAA college football game Saturday, April 25, 2015, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
AP Photo/Gareth Patterson

Arkansas pushes SEC spring game attendance past 500,000

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The Arkansas Razorbacks were the last of the SEC teams to wrap up their spring football practice schedule this weekend. That meant the hogs had a chance to push the SEC’s nation-leading spring game attendance number past the 500,000 mark with a solid turnout for the spring game. Arkansas reported a spring attendance of 30,546 on Saturday, which took the SEC’s spring attendance figure to 508,994 to cap the spring.

Georgia led all SEC schools with a packed house of 93,000 for its spring game, which featured a concert by Ludacris for the fans (and recruits, definitely for the recruits). Georgia dethroned Alabama from the top spot, where the Crimson Tide had been the previous two years, but Alabama did record its highest spring attendance in that time frame with 76,212 fans coming out to see the defending national champions in action. Tennessee, a perennial strong spring draw, reported a crowd of 67,027.

Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and South Carolina all saw an increase in spring game attendance this year (Kentucky and Texas A&M also recorded attendance figures after not holding spring games in 2015). These five schools combined for an increase of 96,569 fans this spring. That helped counter a downward attendance trend at Auburn and some other mild drops around the conference. Ole Miss did not hold a spring game due to stadium renovations.

The SEC’s total attendance number easily outpaced the number pulled in by the Big Ten, which finished in a firm second place in spring game attendance this season after edging the SEC last spring. The Big Ten’s total spring attendance of 376,049 was pushed by Ohio State’s record-setting 100,189 fans for the Buckeyes’ spring game, which was complimented by the usual respectable crowds at Nebraska and Penn State as well as a program record turnout for Michigan State. The Big Ten’s spring attendance eclipsed the 400,000-fan mark last spring but failed to hit that number this season. Part of that is because Michigan saw a drop-off in the second spring game under Jim Harbaugh by moving from a traditional Saturday afternoon to a Friday night (25,000 fewer fans than 2015) and four Big Ten schools (Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota and Northwestern) not reporting a spring attendance compared to three last year.

The SEC saw a reported 482,762 fans attend spring games in 2014, which was impressive enough considering Texas A&M was unable to hold a spring game due to ongoing renovations to Kyle Field. The SEC’s official attendance number dipped to 408, 566, which again was held back by Texas A&M being unable to hold a spring game due to the renovation project but also because Kentucky did not hold a spring game.

The ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 still have spring attendance numbers to confirm, but there is no chance any of the other three power conferences will come close to rivaling the SEC or the Big Ten. The ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 are all projected to fall under 200,000 fans this spring, although the ACC may come the closest depending on pending results from this past weekend that have yet to be confirmed.

You can see an updated database of spring game attendance on this Google doc, which is updated periodically.

Vols add UNC DB coach Charlton Warren to coaching staff

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 7:  A Tennessee Volunteer holds up his helmet in the team huddle before the NCAA football game against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders at Neyland Stadium on September 7, 2002 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won 26-3. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Following a somewhat disappointing season in Knoxville, changes are in the air for the Tennessee Vols coaching staff. Among the first changes of the offseason comes at the defensive back coaching position.

Tennessee has announced the addition of Charlton Warren as the new defensive backs coach for the Vols. It is the same role he previously filled at North Carolina for the past two seasons. Warren will replace Willie Martinez, who will not be returning to the Tennessee staff in 2017, according to a released statement from the university’s athletics department.

“Coach Warren is a passionate, knowledgeable and driven football coach that has an outstanding history of developing defensive backs on the collegiate level,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said in a released statement. “He also has a great reputation as one of the top recruiters in the country with strong ties to our recruiting areas. We feel extremely fortunate to add someone of his caliber to our coaching staff and our defensive meeting room.”

Tennessee finished ranked 10th in the SEC in passing defense, allowing an average of 230.7 yards per game through the air to opposing quarterbacks. The Vols allowed the fifth-lowest opponent passer rating and picked off 11 passes while allowing 18 touchdown passes, which actually fared well among SEC peers even if just around the middle of the pack or just toward the bottom half of the conference in each category. For a school that prides itself on its defensive backs, a change was necessary.

North Carolina owned the ACC’s top pass defense in 2016, allowing just 180.8 yards per game and 11 touchdown passes. The one downside was having just one interception recorded in 13 games. Every other FBS program had at least three interceptions last season. How UNC only picked off one pass all season long is quite a remarkable feat considering how respectable the pass defense was last season.

Mike Locksley promoted to full-time offensive assistant at Alabama

EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 14: Interim head coach Mike Locksley of the Maryland Terrapins looks on against the Michigan State Spartans during the game at Spartan Stadium on November 14, 2015 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State defeated Maryland 24-7. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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With some room to work on the Alabama coaching staff this offseason, head coach Nick Saban has found the right opportunity to promote Mike Locksley to a full-time offensive assistant role in Tuscaloosa. The hiring was made official by Alabama on Monday.

Locksley spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst for the Crimson Tide. He spent the previous four seasons as an offensive coordinator at Maryland and was previously the head coach of New Mexico from 2009 through 2011. Locksley previously spent time in the SEC as a running backs coach and recruiting coordinator for Florida in 2003 and 2004 as well. He is a well-known recruiting machine, as if Alabama needs any extra help in that department (I say this in a joking manner, because Alabama didn’t get to where they are today without having to grind on the recruiting trail).

“We are excited to add Mike Locksley to our staff as an assistant coach on the offensive side of the football,” Saban said in a released statement. “He is an outstanding offensive mind who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as both a head coach and offensive coordinator. Mike is also one of the best recruiters in the nation and will be an excellent addition to our staff. His time as an analyst with us over the past season should also ensure a smooth transition and a full understanding of how our organization operates.”

The University of Alabama Board of Trustees still needs to approve the contract to make Locksley’s hiring official, but that should just be a formality.

Report: Ohio Bobcats RB arrested for alleged intoxicated accident and fleeing scene

LAWRENCE, KS - SEPTEMBER 10: Maleek Irons #21 of the Ohio Bobcats rushes for a first down against the Kansas Jayhawks in the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Ohio running back Maleek Irons was arrested over the weekend for his role in fleeing a possible drunk driving accident.

The Athens News reports Irons was arrested Saturday morning by police responding to a call about “an intoxicated male driving a vehicle, colliding with other vehicles, and fleeing the scene.” The vehicles connected to the call was found off the road at 3:39 a.m. When police discovered the car, Irons got out of the car and started to run tow a dorm on Ohio’s campus, failing to stop when commanded by the officer.

Irons has been charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, resisting arrest and obstructing official business. He was released on bond and has a court appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning. There has been no statement from Ohio on his status with the program, although an indefinite suspension of some sort may be expected as is usually the case when an issue like this arises.

With Irons finding himself in some legal hot water, that means The Fulmer cup season is officially underway.

Alabama to hires Arizona AD Greg Byrne for same position

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 19: Athletic Director Greg Byrne of the Arizona Wildcats looks on during the second half of the college football game against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at Arizona Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
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Alabama head coach Nick Saban may be the most powerful person within the Alabama sports department, but even he has a boss.  Now, he will have a new boss.

Alabama Director of Athletics Bill Battle is stepping down into retirement from his current position, although he will remain active in the university as a special assistant to university president Stuart Bell. Battle has been fighting through health issues and completed treatment for cancer last summer. His vacant spot in the athletics department will be filled by Arizona Athletics Director Greg Byrne. A formal announcement has not been made as of yet, but multiple reports have confirmed the pending Byrne hiring. (UPDATE: Alabama has since formally announced the hiring of Byrne)

”Bill has done a tremendous job as director of athletics, and has accomplished so much during his career,” Bell said, according to the Associated Press. ”His business expertise, coupled with his coaching experience and his strong understanding of the role an athletic department has in the daily fabric of a university, has allowed us to achieve the great successes we have enjoyed during his tenure. We are blessed to have the continued benefit of his counsel.”

The hiring of Byrne takes Alabama outside its own foundation to bring in an outsider to lead the sports department. Byrne is an Idaho native who has worked in an administrative role in two SEC schools, so he will be familiar with the landscape the conference has to offer. Byrne was the athletics director of Mississippi State from 2008 through 2010 before moving to Arizona for the past six years. At Mississippi State, Byrne hired football coach Dan Mullen. Byrne also held an associate AD role at Kentucky, where he directed development and fundraising efforts for the Wildcats.