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FBS commissioners thinking about doing something about ever-growing game length

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The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one, and college football is well beyond that point. As ESPN’s Brett McMurphy points out, the average game in 2016 lasted three hours and 24 minutes. That 3:24 figure, McMurphy writes, has grown seven minutes over the past four years despite the average number of plays dropping slightly over that span — from 143 in 2013 to 142.6 in ’16.

Reporting on the ground from Tampa, McMurphy canvased the powers-that-be in college football, and nearly all of them agreed there’s a problem.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott: “I would like to see shorter games.”

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey: “Fundamentally, we have to have that conversation,”

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze: “I firmly believe we have to shorten games for the good of the game.”

While (most) everyone is in agreement games need to be shorted, there is no consensus in how to shorten them. Writes McMurphy:

These were some of the most common suggestions on how to shorten the games: a running clock on first downs (until the final two or five minutes of each half); shortening halftime; limiting the number of replays; reducing the number of timeouts; a shorter play clock; changing in-game substitution rules; and limiting the number of commercial breaks.

Shortening halftime, reducing television timeouts and limiting commercial breaks are all non-starters. Each would ask television networks to give back money, money those networks need to recoup after buying each commissioner, head coach and AD their second homes and third country club memberships. A shorter play clock seems like it would actually lengthen games.

The only sure-fire way to shorten games would be to limit replay reviews and/or to move toward an NFL-style timing system. While the former move may be possible, the latter would meet a brick wall of resistance. Reducing the number of plays in the average game would mean less reps for players, writing off a number of team and individual numeric standards and records as unattainable, and losing another differentiator between the college game and the NFL.

“There is a consensus, if not unanimity, the games need to be shortened, but there is also a strong belief that we don’t want to reduce the number of plays in a game,” Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said. “So until the majority agrees that shorter games will require fewer plays, we will be at a standstill.”

Ex-Auburn TE Landon Rice transfers to Alabama FCS team

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The latest addition to one FCS team comes with some off-field baggage, to say the least.

Jacksonville State confirmed Monday night that it has added Landon Rice to its football roster.  The tight end had spent the 2017 season at a Mississippi junior college after parting ways with his original Power Five home under a cloud of controversy.

In early September of 2016, Rice left the Auburn football program for what were initially described as “personal reasons.” It was subsequently reported that Rice had been accused of first-degree rape.

A 19-year-old female filed a police report July 27, 2016, accusing Rice of raping her three months earlier at an on-campus residence hall and sought a protective order against him Sept. 12, with a temporary order issued three days later.

The attorney for Rice issued a statement shortly after the accusations came to light in which he labeled the allegations as “false” and that his client has been “vilified” and “unfairly treated” because of them.  In response to that statement, the lawyer for the unnamed 19-year-old allegedly raped by Rice released a series of text messages between the player and alleged victim in which the former apologized to the latter on multiple occasions.

Rice had denied any wrongdoing through his lawyer; while he was never charged in connection with the allegations, a Title IX investigation found him to be responsible for sexual assault and, as a result, he was barred from the AU campus until 2024.  However, those restrictions were rescinded in September of last year, which Landon’s new school alluded to in its statement on the player’s addition to the roster.

Jacksonville State University conducted a very thorough investigation surrounding all of the facts on Landon Rice, just like we do on any of our recruits. After speaking with several officials from Auburn University and getting all of the facts surrounding the investigation, and after meeting with Landon, we decided to allow Landon to enroll at JSU and join our football program.

“On September 26, 2017, all sanctions imposed upon Landon as a result of a Title IX investigation expired and Landon was returned to the status of ‘good standing’ at Auburn University. The matter and all proceedings therein have been concluded, according to a memo dated November 7, 2017, from Kelley Taylor, Director AA/EEO and Title IX Coordinator at Auburn University.

“We have high standards for all of our student-athletes and we do our due diligence on all recruits before they join any of our athletics teams at Jacksonville State and Landon was treated the same. Privacy laws prevents us from releasing more details on the investigation.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2016 recruiting class, Rice was rated as the No. 8 tight end in the country.  He was an early enrollee who participated in spring practice and was expected to contribute as a true freshman before the off-field issue derailed those plans.

Ex-Texas QB/WR Kai Locksley commits to UTEP

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Kai Locksley left the state of Texas, but has now found his way back.

The former University of Texas quarterback announced on Twitter Monday night that he has committed to continuing his collegiate playing career at UTEP. The Miners’ new head coach, Dana Dimel, addressed the development on his own Twitter account.

Locksley, whose father Mike is an assistant at Alabama, was a four-star member of the Longhorns’ 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 6 player at any position in the state of Maryland. After not attempting a pass or playing a down his first two seasons at UT — he ultimately transitioned to wide receiver — Locksley moved on to an Iowa junior college.

After spending the 2017 season at the JUCO, Locksley was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback at that level of football.

Reports: Auburn losing OL coach Herb Hand to Texas

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Thanks to Tom Herman, Gus Malzahn now has a key hole to fill on his coaching staff on The Plains.

First reported by Brett McMurphy, Herb Hand has decided to leave as the offensive line coach at Auburn and take the same job at Texas.  Additionally, Hand will reportedly carry the title of co-offensive coordinator with the Longhorns.

247Sports.com subsequently confirmed the original report.

Hand spent the past two seasons as the line coach at Auburn.  Prior to that, Hand spent two years with Penn State (2014-15) and four at Vanderbilt (2010-13).

Rutgers makes hiring of John McNulty as OC official

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Rutgers officially has its ninth offensive coordinator in as many years.

Late last week, reports surfaced that Chris Ash was set to hire John McNulty as its new coordinator.  Monday afternoon, the Scarlet Knights confirmed the hiring of McNulty as the replacement for Jerry Kill, who stepped down after one season last month due to ongoing health concerns.

McNulty is a very familiar name in Piscataway as he served as the Scarlet Knights’ coordinator and assistant coach under Greg Schiano from 2004-08.

“I’m excited to welcome John back to the Rutgers football family,” a statement from the head coach began. “He has a wealth of football knowledge and experience, and I look forward to him helping develop our quarterbacks. John is a great leader, man and coach, and I’m excited to see him shape the identity of our offense.”

The past two seasons, McNulty served as the tight ends coach for the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers.  In fact, he had spent his entire time as an assistant coach since leaving RU at the NFL level, including stops with the Arizona Cardinals (2009-12),  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2013) and Tennessee Titans (2014-15).  He also spent six seasons in the NFL prior to his RU stint — Jacksonville Jaguars (1998-2002) and Dallas Cowboys (2003).

McNulty, who played his college football at Penn State, began his collegiate coaching career at Michigan (1991-94) before moving on to UConn for three seasons as wide receivers coach.