Sun Belt Conference

Nathan Harris
Troy athletics

Motorcycle accident claims life of Troy DB Nathan Harris

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Sadly, tragedy has hit the college football community yet again.

Troy confirmed in a press release that Trojans football player Nathan Harris has passed away due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident earlier Saturday.  Harris was just 19 years old.

Other than the accident occurred in Gulf Shores, Ala., no details were made available.

“This is an unthinkable tragedy and the thoughts and prayers of the Troy Athletics Department and the Troy University community are with Nathan’s family and friends,” Troy athletic director Jeremy McClain said in a statement. “It is devastating to see a young life end in such a heartbreaking way, and we will provide support and comfort for his teammates, friends and coaches as they go through the grieving process.”

“Nate was a tremendous person and a very caring young man,” a statement from Troy head coach Neal Brown said began. “While his time here at Troy University was brief, his impact was felt by many. He was loved by his teammates and had a positive effect on our team’s culture in a short time.”

Harris, who starred as a quarterback at Gulf Shores High School, joined the Troy football team as a walk-on this past semester.  During the course of spring practice, Harris had worked his way up to being the Trojans’ starting holder.  He was listed as a safety on the school’s online roster.

The sudden passing is hitting the Gulf Shores community particularly hard.

“We are struggling here,” Harris’ high school coach, Ben Blackmon, told WALA-TV, adding, “He has gone to live with God.”

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Harris’ passing.

B1G gained ground, but SEC still reigned in NFL draft

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces Leonard Floyd of the Georgia Bulldogs as the #9 overall pick by the Chicago Bears during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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In each of the last two years, the Big Ten was barely within 20 of the SEC in total draft selections.  In the 2016 version of the annual selection meeting, the former conference gained significant ground on the latter — but couldn’t quite get over that Southern hump.

With three days and seven rounds officially in the books, the SEC led all conferences with 51 players selected in the 2016 NFL draft.  That total is down from the 54 a year ago, but up from 49 in the 2014 draft.

The past two drafts, the Big Ten had gone from 30 picks in 2014 to 34 in 2015; thanks in large part to 12 from Ohio State, that conference made a B1G leap to 47, second-most of any other conference in college football this cycle and the closest any league has come to unseating the SEC in a handful of years.  The last two years, the ACC, No. 2 in 2014 and 2015, got to within seven of the SEC — 47 picks in 2015 for that conference, 42 the year before.

This year, the ACC’s 26 selections were tied with the Big 12 for No. 4 among conferences.  No. 3?  The Pac-12, with a whopping nine picks in the seventh and final round, with 32.

No Group of Five conference could come close to the Power Five leagues, with the AAC and Conference USA pacing those “mid-majors” with 10 draft picks each.  The Mountain West was next with nine, followed by the MAC with six and the Sun Belt with three.

Independents saw eight players drafted, with Notre Dame accounting for all but one of those (more on the Irish later).

From the lower divisions of college football, 21 FCSers were drafted while two from Div. II were scooped up.  And, internationally, there was one player each from Canada and Germany who heard their name called.

Ban on satellite camps rescinded, NCAA announces

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh plays shirtless with participants during the Coach Jim Harbaugh's Elite Summer Football Camp, Friday, June 5, 2015, at Prattville High School in Prattville, Ala. (Albert Cesare/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)  NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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Somewhere, Jim Harbaugh is dancing a jig.  And his SEC counterparts are pitching a fit.

Earlier this month, the NCAA Div. 1 council controversially voted to ban the practice of satellite camps.  A short time later, NCAA executive Oliver Luck confirmed that the rule would likely be revisited, which it was at a Board of Directors meeting Thursday morning.

Ahead of that meeting, Harbaugh hoped the board “gets it right” by rescinding the ban; coming out of the meeting, the Michigan head coach — along with the rest of the Big Ten and most of the Group of Five conferences, not to mention recruits who will now have more opportunities for additional exposure — will be ecstatic as the board did just that, with the NCAA announcing the directors have “rescinded a rule prohibiting Football Bowl Subdivision coaches from holding or working at camps and clinics away from their school.”

While the lifting of the ban is effective immediately, meaning coaches can continue on with their planned “satellite camps,” it doesn’t mean the issue has completely run its course.  The board has requested that the council, which implemented the ban initially, “conduct a broad assessment of the FBS recruiting environment” as well as “consider the entire recruiting model, including potential modifications to camps and clinics participation.”

The Div. 1 council consists of all 10 FBS conferences with the votes of the Power Five leagues (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) holding twice the weight as their counterparts from the Group of Five (AAC, Conference USA, MAC, MWC, SBC).  That group approved the initial ban by a by a 10-5 margin. Those voting for the ban included the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, Mountain West and Sun Belt; those against the ban were the Big Ten, AAC, Conference USA and the MAC.

It subsequently surfaced that the Pac-12 representative, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrerodid not vote the way he was supposed to on the satellite camp issue.  Prior to that vote, 11 of the 12 schools in that conference were in favor of the status quo and against banning the practice, with UCLA the lone abstention.

The SEC as well as the ACC will no doubt continue stumping against the practice and pushing for the ban to be reimplemented as the camps mostly infringe on “their” recruiting territory.  In the meantime, the SEC, at least, is expected to rescind its own conference ban on the camps, allowing its coaching staffs to spread out across the country if they so desire.

For now, however, Harbaugh’s program seems pleased with winning this particular battle in the recruiting war.

Also for now, the practice is back on, with the not-so-thinly-veiled implication, however, that it could be back off at some point in the not-too-distant future.

The Board of Directors is interested in a holistic review of the football recruiting environment, and camps are a piece of that puzzle,” said Board of Directors chair Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina, in a statement. “We share the Council’s interest in improving the camp environment, and we support the Council’s efforts to create a model that emphasizes the scholastic environment as an appropriate place for recruiting future student-athletes.”

UPDATED 2:34 p.m. ET: Officials from both the ACC and SEC have confirmed to CFT that their bans on satellite camps will be rescinded.  The former’s lifting is effective immediately, while the latter’s will go into effect at the end of May.

Idaho makes move to FCS, Big Sky official

Kibbie Dome
Idaho athletics
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Less than 24 hours after the first reports surfaced, Idaho has confirmed it is dropping down a rung on the college football ladder.

The university announced at a press conference Thursday that the Vandals football program will indeed move down from the FBS to the FCS and compete in the Big Sky conference, where all of its other varsity sports are housed.  Idaho will remain a member of the Sun Belt for the 2016 and 2017 seasons before making the move to the FCS for the 2018 season.

Idaho becomes the first FBS program to ever drop back to the FCS level.

The announcement comes less than two months after the SBC announced that Idaho, along with New Mexico State, would no longer be a part of the league when their four-year terms expired following the 2017 season.  At that time, university officials indicated they would decide whether to accept an invitation to join the Big Sky of the FCS or compete as an independent at the FBS level.

In the end, the university “concluded that competing as an independent with an extremely uncertain future conference affiliation would be irresponsible” and opted for a return to the Big Sky.

“I know many passionate Vandals view football’s place in the FBS as a mark of our institution’s ‘prestige’ and ‘relevance.’ But we consider prestige and relevance in an institution-wide context,” UI president Chuck Staben said in a portion of his statement. “UI is our state’s land-grant institution, the unquestioned statewide leader in higher education.

“Success on the football field will complement UI’s prestige and relevance, but we will be defined by our individual and societal impact, measured by the entire student body experience, including our student-athletes; our academic excellence; our research, scholarly and creative success; and our deep engagement with communities across the state. Providing the best student experience for all students, across all aspects of university life is our responsibility and privilege.”

Idaho spent the past 20 seasons at the FBS level after moving up from the FCS for the 1996 season. Since making that move, the Vandals have appeared in just two bowl games (1998, 2009) and won more than five games in a single season five times, the last in 2010. In the five years since that 6-7 season, the Vandals have gone 9-50.

“We are extremely motivated to compete in the Sun Belt for the next two years,” said athletic director Rob Spear,”and then align with like institutions that make geographic sense in the Big Sky Conference that will provide our student-athletes with a quality experience.”

UMass faculty to push for dropping out of FBS

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 13:  Head coach Mark Whipple of the University of Massachusetts Minutemen speaks to an official during a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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It hasn’t been a good week for the lower rungs of FBS. Just a day ago Eastern Michigan warded off rumors the school would drop to Division II, and earlier today word broke Idaho will leave FBS for FCS. Now UMass will have to join the inauspicious group, as the university’s faculty senate will push to leave FBS or drop football altogether.

As with the Eagles and the Vandals, it’s not as if the naysayers don’t have a point. The Minutemen are just 8-40 since leaving the Colonial Athletic Association for the Mid-American Conference, and the MAC has since left them. UMass is now without a permanent home either in conference structure or in stadium, bouncing between an on-campus facility and the New England Patriots’ cavernous and distant Gillette Stadium.

In a regularly scheduled session, the faculty senate will on Thursday “urge Chancellor Subbaswamy, President Meehan, and the Board of Trustees of the University to end Division I football (Football Bowl Subdivision) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and either move to a different division or discontinue NCAA football altogether.” As noted by MassLive.com, this is just the latest in a three-and-a-half year effort to question the university’s alliance with big-time college football.

Will anything result of this latest push? Probably not, except a hastily written open letter to reaffirm UMass’s commitment to FBS.

But one thing is clear: as football gets more expensive, the political capital of losing games grows as well.