Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Part of a record crowd of 50,500 watches Clemson's spring football game Saturday, April 9, 2016, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. (Ken Ruinard/Anderson Independent-Mail via AP)
Ken Ruinard/Anderson Independent-Mail via AP

Clemson is No. 1 in spring game attendance (for now)

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Coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history, the Clemson Tigers saw the largest crowd attend its spring game during the second weekend of April. With an estimated 50,000 fans coming out to see the defending ACC champs in action, Clemson narrowly edged division rival Florida State for the top spot in the early going of the spring football game attendance leader board.

If history is any indication, Clemson will not remain on top for very long unless Mother Nature gets involved. Ohio State set the record last year with nearly 100,000 coming out to see the defending national champions. Urban Meyer is hoping to cross the 100,000-fan barrier this year. Alabama, Tennessee, Nebraska and Penn State are all traditionally big draws for spring football games as well, and they each have spring games still to be played.

When evaluating spring game attendance it is important to keep a few things in mind. First, every school handles the number differently. Some keep an actual count, while others merely give a rough estimate. Some do not even bother to keep track at all, which is why not every spring game attendance can be accounted for. Second, some spring games are held in a different venue than the football stadium. For example, Stanford held a spring scrimmage in a soccer stadium with a much smaller capacity. So take some of these numbers for what they are with all of that in mind.

Here are the most up-to-date spring game attendance numbers as of April 12, 2016 as provided by each school (note: schools with no attendance tracked are not included, as are schools that did not respond to College Football Talk via email on the subject);

  1. Clemson – 50,000
  2. Florida State – 49,913
  3. Florida – 46,000
  4. Auburn – 45,723 (read more about Auburn’s attendance)
  5. Oklahoma – 42,436
  6. Michigan – 35,000
  7. South Carolina – 32,916
  8. Texas A&M – 27,412
  9. BYU – 18,000
  10. Boise State – 6,100
  11. Colorado – 5,100
  12. UNLV – 2,800
  13. Stanford – 2,500
  14. Wake Forest – 2,100
  15. Nevada – 600
  16. Air Force – 500

All updates to this year’s spring game attendance database can be viewed HERE, and you can break the data down by conference.

Western Kentucky adds Wake grad transfer Steve Donatell

Steve Donatell
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Western Kentucky went into the 2016 offseason knowing it would need to replace four graduating tight ends, including Tyler Higbee, widely considered one of the top prospects at the position in the upcoming NFL draft.  Thanks in part to an addition from outside the program, the team has taken at least a small step toward helping to potentially replace the lost production.

In a conversation with the Bowling Green Daily News, Steve Donatell confirmed that he had decided to leave Wake Forest and transfer to WKU.  Donatell is coming to the Hilltoppers as a graduate transfer, which means he’ll b eligible to play right away for what will be his final season of eligibility.

Donatell’s father, Chicago Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, was a defensive assistant at Pacific in the mid-eighties and one of the players on that side of the ball was Nick Holt, WKU’s defensive coordinator.  It was a couple of offensive-minded coaches, however, that sealed player’s transfer decision.

“Right away, talking to [tight ends] coach [Tony] Levine, he seemed like a good guy and a good coach,” Donatell told the Daily News. “Obviously with his past coaching experience, and then getting to know [head] coach [Jeff] Brohm, he was very impressive as well.”

Donatell began his career at Wake as a linebacker, starting the first three games of his redshirt freshman season at the position before a knee injury sidelined him for the remainder of 2013.  The 6-6, 230-pound senior moved to tight end in spring practice last year and caught three passes for 31 yards.

John Swofford non-committal on future of ACC network

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 25:  John Swofford, ACC Commissioner (C) addresses the media during a press conference to announce the New Era Pinstripe Bowl's multi-year partnership with the Atlantic Coast Conference at Yankee Stadium on June 25, 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jason Szenes/Getty Images)
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It’s possible there’s never been a better time to be the Atlantic Coast Conference. Virginia is the reigning College World Series champion. Florida State is a recent football champion and a perennial contender, and Clemson came damn close last year. Notre Dame is aboard, and the league’s footprint has been successfully extended to Louisville, Syracuse and Pittsburgh (Boston College’s 0-for-26 notwithstanding.)

And, by the way, there are six ACC basketball teams gearing up to play in the Sweet 16 later this week.

Life is good on Tobacco Road, so why not strike while the iron’s hot and move forward with the long-awaited ACC Network?

ACC commissioner John Swofford discussed the topic with WRAL in North Carolina and was customarily non-committal on the league’s future.

“I’m confident that our television [partnership] will turn out to be very successful and beneficial to the league. All I can tell you is those conversations are continuing, and until we reach a point where we’re definitive in our path forward, there’s really not going to be a whole lot to say about it. Our confidence in the future has not changed.”

The ACC is already ESPN’s largest content provider so the question plaguing the mythical ACC Network, with ESPN under widely-reported pressure to cut costs, is why the Worldwide Leader would have an interest in paying extra for content it’s already paying for? And if not, wouldn’t it make the most sense to go digital?

“It remains to be seen. Sometimes being first is a good idea, and sometimes it’s not such a good idea. That’s all part of the evaluation of where the industry is going, where the technology is going. All of that comes into play. I think the most important thing, from our perspective, is that we have a very good partner [in ESPN] that’s very progressive and has been at the top of the food chain for a long time and I suspect will be for a long time,” Swofford said.

“I think we’ve put ourselves in a very good position as a league with our footprint and the population base that we now have, and therefore the television sets we now have, to do some things we would not have been able to do otherwise. It gets back to what I said earlier – whatever we do, we want to give ourselves the best chance, and whatever that is, the best chance to be very successful from a timing standpoint and a distribution standpoint.

“The one thing we’ve learned from other conferences that have taken this step, a potential channel, is that there are ways to do it that work extremely well immediately. There are ways to do it where it had to evolve and develop, like the Big Ten, who had huge growing pains its first years. And then the PAC-12, which continues to really struggle with their approach. It’s all out there, so there’s something to be learned from each.”

Reading between those lines, it sounds like Swofford feels exactly zero rush to do anything ESPN doesn’t want him to do.

Vanderbilt and Wake Forest schedule future home-and-home series

Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews, right, catches a pass for a 41-yard gain as he is defended by Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson, left, in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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Staying ahead of the scheduling game, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest have announced a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to be played in 2022 and 2023. Vanderbilt will host the Demon Deacons on September 10, 2022. Wake Forest will serve as host to the Commodores the following season on September 9, 2023.

The two schools, traditionally sitting at the bottom of the football standings in their respective conferences, are no strangers to each other. The two programs have squared off six times in the past decade. Vanderbilt owns a 10-6 lead in the all-time series, which dates back to 1964.

This scheduling announcement will also ensure both Vanderbilt and Wake Forest fulfill their power conference scheduling requirements in the SEC and ACC, respectively. Members of the ACC and SEC are each required to schedule one game per year against another power conference opponent. Vanderbilt’s SEC scheduling requirement is fulfilled in 2016 (at Georgia Tech), 2017 (Kansas State), 2019 (at Purdue), 2020 (at Kansas State), 2021 (Stanford), 2022 (Wake Forest), 2023 (at Wake Forest), 2024 (at Stanford), 2025 (Stanford), 2027 (at Stanford) and 2029 (Purdue). Wake Forest has its obligation met for 2016 (at Indiana), 2017 (at Notre Dame), 2018 (Notre Dame), 2019 (North Carolina), 2020 (Notre Dame), 2021 (at North Carolina), 2022 (at Vanderbilt), 2023 (Vanderbilt, at Notre Dame), 2024 (Ole Miss), 2025 (at Ole Miss), 2026 (at Purdue) and 2027 (Purdue).

In addition to the two games with Wake Forest, Vanderbilt has also announced it will host Mercer University on September 5, 2020.

Wake adds former Syracuse assistant Clark Lea

SYRACUSE, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Head coach Dave Clawson of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons checks on the well being of his player during the second quarter against the Syracuse Orange on September 12, 2015 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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After not being retained by a new regime, Clark Lea has landed on his coaching feet.

Wake Forest announced in a press release Wednesday that Lea has been hired by Dave Clawson to oversee the Demon Deacon linebackers.  Lea and Clawson have a previous working relationship, serving as linebackers coach on the head coach’s Bowling Green staff.

“Clark will be a great addition to our coaching staff,” a statement from Clawson began. “He has an intricate knowledge of our defensive scheme from the time he spent with us at Bowling Green.”

Lea had spent the past three seasons as Syracuse’s linebackers coach. Prior to his one season with Clawson at BGSU in 2012, Lea was UCLA’s linebackers coach from 2009-11.

After Dino Babers replaced Scott Shafer with the Orange, the new head coach opted to hire Tom Kaufman as linebackers coach as well as special teams coordinator.