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ACC confirms conference’s football title game returning to Charlotte

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After a one-year sabbatical, the ACC’s football championship game is returning to the state of North Carolina.

Late last month, shortly after the state announced that it had replaced the controversial House Bill 2 (HB2), the ACC Council of Presidents voted that the state would again be considered as venues for future league championships.  Wednesday, the conference confirmed that this year’s football title game will again be played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Furthermore, to in some ways compensate the city for its one-year loss of the game, the ACC announced that the agreement to play the game in Charlotte has been extended through the 2020 season. The original agreement was expected to expire in 2019.

The league also noted in its release that “[c]hampionship events in women’s basketball, baseball, men’s and women’s swimming & diving, men’s and women’s golf, and men’s and women’s tennis will also return to the state during the 2017-18 academic year, and the ACC Women’s Soccer Championship will follow suit in November 2018.”

“We are pleased that ACC neutral site championships will return to the state of North Carolina beginning with the 2017-18 academic year,” said ACC commissioner John Swofford in a statement. “We value all of our partners in North Carolina and appreciate their support and cooperation. We are thrilled to renew our relationships with so many terrific people, outstanding cities and first-class venues.”

The ACC announced in late September of last year that the football championship game for the 2016 season would be played in Orlando.

The move to Orlando came almost two weeks to the day that the ACC announced it was yanking the title game away from the city of Charlotte and out of the state of North Carolina. The move was in response to HB2, a law which some claimed fostered discrimination against members of the LGBT communities.

Charlotte had played host to the ACC football championship game every year since 2010. Prior to 2010, the first three league title tilts were played in Jacksonville (2005-07) and the next two in Tampa (2008-09).

Virginia announces transfer of WR David Eldridge

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For the third time since the end of the 2016 season, Virginia has seen a player take the transfer train out of Charlottesville.

In a tweet posted to its official Twitter account Tuesday morning, UVa. announced that David Eldridge has decided to leave the Cavaliers football program and transfer from the university following the spring semester.  No specific reason for the wide receiver’s departure was given.

A three-star member of the Cavaliers’ 2015 recruiting class, Eldridge was rated as the No. 24 player at any position in the state of Virginia.

As a true freshman, Eldridge caught two passes for 88 yards in seven games. Last season, the 6-1, 185-pound receiver started two of the 11 games in which he played, catching eight passes for 177 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

His 22.1 yards per reception led the team, while his two receiving touchdowns were tied for fourth.

Last month, the football program had also confirmed that linebackers Matt Terrell and Landan Word had left the team and would be transferring.  The latter was projected as a starter and is the son of Barry Word, the former UVa. running back who was the ACC Player of the Year in 1985.

NCAA violation leads Virginia to self-impose recruiting sanctions

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Virginia is the latest football program to find itself on the wrong side of the NCAA’s bylaws.

UVA announced Friday that the school’s athletic department self-reported a violation by the Cavalier football program involving impermissible contact with potential recruits that has resulted in a Level II violation.  The violations occurred within the first few months after Bronco Mendenhall took over the program.

Below is a portion of the school’s press release:

On May 10, 2016, UVA head football coach Bronco Mendenhall self-reported impermissible contacts that occurred by members of his coaching staff. The contacts took place during the last week of April and the first week of May in 2016.

The violations involved assistant football coaches, after a brief greeting, engaging with prospects to take a photograph. The action was deemed contact beyond the standard greeting and a violation of NCAA bylaw 13.0.2.5.2-Evaluation Period, bylaw 13.1.1.1 – Time Period for Off-Campus Contacts and bylaw 13.17.4.1-Recruiting Calendars-Football.

There were a total of 32 violations involving this action during a two-week period. The number of violations elevated the overall violation to Level II status.

The specific coaches responsible for the violations were not specified.  As for what specifically the unnamed coaches did?  They were verifying heights and weights of recruits.  Seriously.

From the NCAA’s “Public Infractions Decision:”

The violation in this case occurred when the institution’s newly-hired football staff decided to begin personally verifying the height and weight of position-specific prospects before extending scholarship offers to them. The staff made this decision in early 2016 after previously relying on third-party verification of a particular prospect’s height and weight, only to find when he arrived on campus that he was much smaller than expected. By that point, the staff had already extended a scholarship offer to the prospect. To avoid a recurrence of this situation, the staff decided to pose for photographs standing next to prospects in order to personally verify their height and weight. Thus, during the spring 2016 evaluation period, seven members of the coaching staff posed for photographs with a total of 32 prospects at 23 high schools. They distributed the photographs to other members of the football coaching staff via a group text message. The coaches engaged in this conduct from April 28, 2016, to May 6, 2016. They thought this direct, face-to-face contact was permissible because in their opinion it did not extend their interactions with the prospects beyond a standard greeting. The coaching staff was mistaken in this understanding.

By posing for photographs with these 32 prospects at their high schools prior to the end of the prospects’ junior year, the coaching staff engaged in in-person, off-campus contacts during an evaluation period. The parties agreed, and the panel concludes, that these were impermissible contacts in violation of Bylaws 13.02.5.2, 13.1.1.1 and 13.17.4.1.

As  a result of those indiscretions, UVA has self-imposed recruiting sanctions that the NCAA has accepted.

  • Public reprimand and $5,000 fine (standard NCAA penalties for Level II violations)
  • Self-imposed reduction from six to four off-campus contacts for those prospects with whom coaches took photographs
  • Self-imposed reduction of spring 2017 evaluations from 168 to 150
  • Self-imposed additional rules education for the football staff as to what is deemed an impermissible contact

“I am disappointed these actions occurred during engagements with prospects and resulted in violations,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “It is incumbent upon everyone associated with our program to have a complete understanding of the NCAA bylaws and interpretations and it’s my responsibility to ensure that happens. We have already taken steps with our compliance staff to improve our training and rules education to ensure we meet that standard. It is our goal to operate at the highest level of compliance to support the University and positively represent our students, faculty, staff, alumni, supporters and community.”

“I believe we have established a positive culture of compliance regarding the NCAA bylaws and Coach Mendenhall’s response, cooperation with the NCAA and steps to move forward following these violations confirms that commitment,”a statement from athletic director Craig Littlepage began. “This is a reminder to all of our programs of the level of diligence required regarding our dedication to compliance. We are committed to abiding by all NCAA rules and I expect our entire athletics department to operate with that goal in mind.

College football spring games: Dates, TV times

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As the calendar flips from March to April, the rush of college football spring games commences in earnest.

On the Power Five side alone, there are nearly 60 spring games scheduled to be played in the month of April.  Last year around this time, Urban Meyer was urging Ohio State fans to show up en masse; the Buckeye faithful responded with a record-breaking turnout.  That six-figure record should be safe — maybe.

Channeling his inner Urban, James Franklin earlier this month very passionately challenged fans to attend Penn State’s spring game to showcase to recruits and the rest of the country that “football is a very, very important part of Penn State.” Texas seemingly has momentum, what with Tom Herman replacing Charlie Strong as head coach, and that hire could cause a spike in interest and spring butts in the seats.  Clemson, coming off its first national championship in three decades and with some question marks given key departures, will certainly see a surge in attendance, although the official seating capacity of 81,500 at Memorial Stadium would preclude them from doing anything other than (barely) cracking the Top 10 in all-time spring game attendance.

Alabama historically fares well in spring attendance — four of the Top 10 — although the last huge crowd was six years ago.  Coming off the first title-game loss under Nick Saban, don’t expect a big jump this year either.

With those storylines in mind, below is the complete slate of spring games for the next four-plus weeks.

FRIDAY, MARCH 31
Arizona, 9 p.m. ET

SATURDAY, APRIL 1
Northwestern, 11 a.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
South Carolina, noon ET (SEC Network)
North Carolina State, 1 p.m. ET
Michigan State, 3 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Texas Tech, 4 p.m. ET

FRIDAY, APRIL 7
Florida, 7 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

SATURDAY, APRIL 8
Ole Miss, noon ET (SEC Network)
Purdue, 1 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Auburn, 2 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Iowa State, 2 p.m. ET
Oklahoma, 2 p.m. ET
Texas A&M, 2 pm. ET (ESPNU)
Clemson, 2:30 p.m. ET
Florida State, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)
North Carolina, 3 p.m. ET
Wake Forest, 3 p.m. ET
Mississippi State, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
TCU (time still to be determined)

THURSDAY, APRIL 13
Indiana, 7 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)

FRIDAY, APRIL 14
Kentucky, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

SATURDAY, APRIL 15
Ohio State, 12:30 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Louisville, 1 p.m. ET
Minnesota, 1 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. ET
Utah, 1 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
West Virginia, 1 p.m. ET
Kansas, 2 p.m. ET
Missouri, 2 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Nebraska, 2 p.m. ET
Oklahoma State, 2 p.m. ET
Texas, 2 p.m. ET (Longhorn Network)
USC, 3 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Stanford, 4 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Arizona State, 5 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)

FRIDAY, APRIL 21
Georgia Tech, 7 p.m. ET
Wisconsin, 7:30 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Iowa (time still to be determined)

SATURDAY, APRIL 22
Syracuse, 10 a.m. ET
Boston College, noon ET
Maryland, 12:30 ET (Big Ten Network)
Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m. ET
Baylor, 1 p.m. ET
Cal, 2 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Georgia, 2 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Kansas State, 2 p.m. ET
Virginia Tech, 2:30 p.m. ET
Alabama, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Penn State, 3 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Washington, 3 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Tennessee, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Rutgers, 5 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Washington State, 5 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
LSU, 8 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

SATURDAY, APRIL 29
Arkansas, 1 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Oregon, 2 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Virginia, 3 p.m. ET
UCLA, 4 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)

*Neither Miami nor Michigan will conduct traditional spring games.
*Arizona, Duke, Illinois, Oregon State and Vanderbilt played their spring games in March.

ACC votes to consider North Carolina as host for future championship events

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North Carolina is back in business with the ACC.

The conference announced on Friday afternoon that the ACC Council of Presidents has voted that the state of North Carolina will again be considered for hosting future ACC Championships. The move comes just a day after the state legislature replaced H.B. 2, a controversial law aimed at protections for LGBT people.

Back in late September, the ACC pulled events from the state as a result of the uproar surrounding the bill. That resulted in the football championship game being moved from Charlotte down to Orlando, Fla. in a game where Clemson beat Virginia Tech on the Tigers’ way to a national title.

The NCAA also followed suit in removing events from the state but has taken a more cautious approach over the repeal of H.B. 2. President Mark Emmert said on Thursday at his annual press conference prior to the Final Four that the association would consider the recent changes to the law but did not commit to any formal actions.

It appears that is not the case for the ACC, which moved quickly to return to the state that is most closely associated with the conference. While it was not confirmed in the league’s statement, chances are high that the 2017 ACC Football Championship Game will likely be back in Charlotte following the conclusion of the upcoming regular season.