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Report: there will be a Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl this year

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I think we can all agree with this: it’s about damn time.

Since the St. Petersburg Bowl was launched in 2008, it’s undergone several name changes, from the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl (2008) to the St. Petersburg Bowl presented by Beef O’Brady’s (2009) to the Beef O’Grady’s Bowl (2010-13) to the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (2014).  Now, the game that’s been known as the St. Petersburg Bowl the past two seasons is set to undergo its most glorious name change yet as Brett McMurphy is reporting that it will now be known as the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

See, absolutely and utterly glorious.  In a similar vein, move over Poulan Weed-Eater Bowl as we have a new king wearing the “Greatest Bowl Game Name Ever” crown.

Bad Boy Mowers bills itself as “delivering the finest cut lawn care professionals and serious landowners demand;” the fact that the home of the bowl game, Tropicana Field, utilizes Shaw Sports Turf as its playing surface merely serves to add to the greatness of the name. And from where does Gasparilla come? McMurphy describes it as “an attempt to make the bowl seem more regional for the Tampa Bay area since the annual Gasparilla Parade is held each year in Tampa.”

The name change for the game, which pits teams from the AAC and Conference USA against each other, is expected to officially be announced Monday.

Running of the Bulls: USF the decisive preseason media favorite in AAC

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Charlie Strong may be taking over a new program this fall, but he will do so in a familiar role as preseason favorite. The preseason media poll was released by the American Athletic Conference today, and Strong’s USF Bulls were the runaway favorite to win the conference championship in 2017. USF swept the first-place votes in the AAC East Division and took 26 votes out of 30 to win the conference championship.

Strong returns to the conference where he previously made a name for himself as a head coach, dating back to the conference’s days as the Big East. In Strong’s first season as head coach at Louisville, the Cardinals were picked to finish last in the conference, to which Strong reflected on how he had never been picked to finish last before. Soon enough, Strong, with the help of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, quickly ascended the ranks of the Big East and developed into a top contender in the conference. At USF, Strong once again has one of the top quarterbacks in the conference with Quinton Flowers, and these Bulls are locked and loaded for a run to a conference title. After a disappointing experience with Texas, USF appears to have everything in place for Strong to quickly prove he can still coach, and now the bar has been placed as high as it can within the conference.

UCF is also expected to improve this season, as the Knights were picked second in the division behind the in-state rivals from Tampa. Defending conference champion Temple, with a first-year head coach in Geoff Collins, was picked third in the East Division by the media.

In the West Division, Memphis enters the year as the prohibitive favorite after receiving 22 first-place votes. Houston picked up six votes, and Navy and Tulsa each picked one one of the remaining first-place votes from the media.

AAC East Division

  1. USF (30 first-place votes)
  2. UCF
  3. Temple
  4. Cincinnati
  5. East Carolina
  6. UConn

AAC West Division

  1. Memphis (22)
  2. Houston (6)
  3. Navy (1)
  4. Tulsa (1)
  5. SMU
  6. Tulane

AAC Championship

  1. USF (26)
  2. Houston (2)
  3. Memphis (1)
  4. Navy (1)

As noted by the AAC, the preseason conference favorite has ended the year as the conference champion just once in the four years of the existence of the AAC. Cincinnati was picked as the 2014 preseason favorite and ended the season in a three-way tie with UCF and Memphis. In 2013, Strong’s Louisville team was picked to win the conference, but UCF ended the year as conference champion. Louisville did go 12-1 that season, with the lone loss coming against the Knights, who went on to beat Big 12 champion Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.

American going all in on Power 6 push

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There are five power conferences in college football, and the American isn’t one of them. Those five leagues each have their own guaranteed tie-ins to New Year’s Six bowls, while the American tussles for one spot with the Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt. That’s just the reality of college football.

It hasn’t stopped the AAC from trying to change the reality, though.

The league’s media days are underway in Newport, R.I., Monday, and the league has opted to use its public relations extravaganza to make its “Power 6” push official.

Note the hashtags.

And nothing says official like a golf ball, right?

This all-too-public push has the potential to backfire on the conference in the inevitable event that the Peach, Cotton or Fiesta bowls do not extend yearly, guaranteed invites to the American. (The Rose, Sugar and Orange spots are all taken.)

Then again, if the conference wants to change its station in life, why not push for it? Ask and ye shall receive, right? Didn’t LaVar Ball teach us that if you want your impossible dreams to become real you have to speak them into existence?

Central Florida and Houston have won BCS or New Year’s Six bowl games in the past four seasons. Cincinnati, Navy and Tulsa have been as consistent winners as anyone else in their weight class. SMU has had its moment in the sun and is rising under Chad Morris. Temple nearly took down a good Notre Dame team two years ago, the same season Memphis beat Ole Miss. South Florida enters the fall as likely the odds-on favorite to snare the Group of 5 this season.

The football in the American is good, but, still, it’s hard to argue the AAC is on par with the Power 5 when a third of the conference has watched its coaching roster leave for Power 5 jobs in the past two years. The American, through new hashtags and logos, is going to make that argument.

Despite nepotism laws being violated, Randy Edsall’s son can coach at UConn — for one year

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The tenure of Randy Edsall‘s son will be a short one.  Whether there should be a tenure at all is another story.

In late March, it was reported that the Office of State Ethics in Connecticut expressed concern about UConn’s hiring of the head coach’s son, Corey Edsall, as an assistant coach is in violation of the university’s Code of Ethics. According to the code, state employees are banned from using their position to benefit family members.

The university’s argument at the time was that Edsall was not a state employee when he was helping his son negotiate a contract that would lead him to become the Huskies’ tight ends coach.  The ethics office subsequently found that the arrangement violated state laws banning nepotism.

However, ethics lawyers for the state are, the Hartford Courant writes, “recommending that the state ethics board take no action against Randy Edsall or UConn, and that Corey Edsall be kept in the $95,000-per-year job for this coming season — as long as the one-year pact is not renewed.”

From the Courant‘s report:

The ethics board recognizes the “potential disruption” to UConn’s football program if Corey Edsall were prohibited from coaching this year, the draft opinion states. It will be presented to the state’s citizen ethics advisory board at its July 20 meeting.

The opinion notes that it isn’t unusual across the county for sons to coach in their father’s major-college football programs, but states that Connecticut isn’t willing to overlook the nepotism clause in the state ethics code to allow that to happen in this instance.

That advisory board is expected to approve the recommendations at the July meeting.

Pair of 2016 finalists headline Outland Trophy watch list

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In yet another sign that the offseason is quickly coming to an end and another season is rapidly approaching, the Outland Trophy has become the latest college football award to release its preseason watch list.

Given annually to the nation’s top interior linemen on either side of the ball, the Outland’s watch list this year consists of 81 players from all 10 FBS conferences.  Headlining that group are Washington State senior guard Cody O’Connell (pictured, No. 76) and Texas junior offensive tackle Connor Williams, two of the three finalists for the 2016 award won by Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson.

From the release, courtesy of the Football Writers Association of America:

The ACC (17) led all conferences with members on the Watch List, followed by the Big Ten and SEC (11 each), Pac-12 (10), American Athletic (9), Big 12 and Mid-American (6 each), Independents and Mountain West (4 each), Conference USA (2) and Sun Belt (1).

The list includes 24 offensive tackles, 21 defensive tackles, 20 centers and 16 offensive guards.