Sun Belt Conference

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 17: Xavier Thigpen #32 of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles and Ja'Boree Poole #85 pressure Anthony Jennings #11 of the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns during the first half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 17, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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NCAA denies appeal for extra year for Louisiana-Lafayette QB Anthony Jennings

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The football-playing career for Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Anthony Jennings has officially come to a close. An appeal for an extra year of eligibility was denied by the NCAA, according to coach Mark Hudspeth.

I’m very disappointed for Anthony,” Hudspeth told The Daily Advertiser. “I would’ve loved to have seen what he could’ve done with a year under his belt in our system.”

Getting an extra year for Jennings was believed to be a long shot, but there is no harm in trying. According to The Daily Advertiser, the case for Jennings was focused on Jennings being used sparingly during the 2015 season as a junior at LSU. Jennings appeared in two games for the Tigers in 2015 and recorded no stats. He transferred to Louisiana-Lafayette at the end of the 2015 season and was given a chance to play a significant role with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Louisiana-Lafayette now has a bit of a concern at quarterback for the upcoming season. The program returns reserve options Jordan Davis, Dion Ray and Jake Arceneaux, who redshirted last season. All three will be expected to be given a chance to compete starting this spring for the starting job this fall.

CFP extends contract of executive director Bill Hancock

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 10:  College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock attends the ESPN College Football Playoffs Night of Champions at Centennial Hall on January 10, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images for ESPN)
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The leadership at the top of the College Football Playoff will remain as its been since its inception.

In a press release Wednesday morning, the CFP board announced it has reached an agreement on a three-year contract extension with executive director Bill Hancock.  The new deal leaves Hancock signed through June of 2020.

“Bill Hancock is not only one of the most widely respected people in college football, he’s one of the kindest, most decent, and able people anyone will ever meet,” said USC president and CFP board chair C. Max Nikias in a statement. “Under Bill’s leadership, the playoff for three years in a row has been a huge success, making it an event that is loved by fans, students and alumni throughout the country. We’re delighted to extend the contract of a man who is so dedicated to helping students be successful in college and in life.”

Hancock has been the executive director of the playoff all three years of its existence.  Prior to that, he served in the same capacity for the Bowl Championship Series.

One of the biggest issues facing Hancock, Nikias and the rest of the board will be declining television ratings and what if anything can be done about them. (Hint: moving the title game to Saturdays certainly couldn’t hurt.)

New pro league would help players bypass college, prep for NFL

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 10: This is the 50 yard line marker in Rice Eccles Stadium before the Utah Utes and Brigham Young Cougars college football game on September 10, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
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College football’s talent pool could get a bit shallower if one “in-between” football league comes to fruition.

According to the esteemed Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, a handful of individuals, including Mike Shanahan, ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter and officiating guru Mike Pereira among others, are among a group in the midst of creating what’s being called Pacific Pro Football.  Unlike other pro leagues, however, the PPL wouldn’t look to compete with the NFL; rather, it will look to develop college-aged players in the pro-style aspects of the sport, particularly on offense, and becomes what Wetzel writes is “a place with a preferable set-up for training and identifying potential draft picks.”

Each team in the four-team league, all based in Southern California initially, would consist of 50 players, with those players receiving $50,000 apiece — and full workers’ comp — instead of tuition. The league, which is tentatively scheduled to begin play in 2018, would also offer tuition reimbursement if a player wanted to go to a community college. There would be an age limit, with players only permitted to compete up to being four years removed from high school.  Those who have already played a year or two in college would also be welcome, provided they’re not beyond the age limit — someone looking for a non-NFL option for his fifth year would not be permitted to play in the PPL.

As for the financial particulars, Wetzel writes that “[a] round of angel funding recently closed and additional funding efforts are possible.” There’s also hope that a media rights deal could be reached as the group includes former ESPN and FOX Sports executives.

If the league is ultimately launched, the season would consist of a maximum of eight games (six regular season, up to two playoff games) and be played on Sundays in July and August. The following, from Wetzel’s report, though, will likely most raise the interest of those in the NFL charged with procuring talent:

  • Each team will have eight full-time coaches with pro and college experience, plus about eight part-time assistant coaches.
  • Play will be pro-style, and based on development and evaluation. For instance, there will be no spread offenses. Quarterbacks will take snaps under center, need to call plays in the huddle and identify defenses at the line of scrimmage. There will be a premium put on one-on-one plays to get viable tape. For example, perhaps rules that prohibit crossing routes for receivers.

Also of interest to the NFL?  None of the practices will be closed as is the case at some colleges, although most of the successful programs provide extensive access to NFL personnel any way.

Non-qualifiers coming out of high school who would normally go the junior college route before heading to the FBS level would seemingly be prime candidates to join the league.  Because of NCAA bylaws, however, they couldn’t go from the PPL back to college football because they would’ve been paid to play the sport.  The league could also be a landing spot for players who find themselves with academic or even legal issues after beginning their careers at the collegiate level.

Wetzel himself acknowledges, though, it would have little effect on big-time college football.

It certainly won’t be the preferred option for every player. The majority of the best college-age players seek the glamor and excitement of the collegiate game.

No one thinks it will topple, or even adversely impact major college football. Certainly, there will be a few less players, but Alabama or Clemson isn’t under any threat of needing to shutter its program.

One of the biggest impacts this league, if it actually launches and is even mildly successful, could have: drive college coaches back toward more of a pro-style offense and away from the spread offenses that have somewhat leveled the playing field all across the sport.  In its never-ending quest to find the unicorn also known as a serviceable quarterback, let alone a franchise one, the NFL will leave no stone unturned.  One of the biggest issues the NFL faces is trying to project how a successful spread quarterback will translate to the pro game.  If a quarterback has spent the previous three years being tutored by former pro coaches on the pro-style game, why wouldn’t the NFL at least give them the same look they give a successful college spread quarterback?

And why wouldn’t the quarterbacks themselves seek out a route to the NFL that wouldn’t have them learning a spread offense for 3-4 years before having to unlearn it?  Conversely, there’s no replacement for steeling and improving yourself against high-level competition, so that would be something both the player and the pros would need to factor in as well.

Another potential impact, if the league were to thrive and grow beyond its Southern California roots? Creating a bigger gap between the Power Fives and Group of Fives by siphoning off talent. By and large, the big names in the high school recruiting game will still go the collegiate route and opt for big-name programs; it’s the shallower end of the talent pool, the recruiting fields the G5s harvest, that would potentially be drained by the PPL.  Three four-team “pods” — Southern California, Northern California, Midwest — with 50 players each means 600 highs schoolers who may otherwise be available to FBS programs would suddenly vanish and have an effect on the G5s’ recruiting bottom lines as the P5s will still get theirs.

All of that, and the effect it would have on the FCS hasn’t yet been mentioned, either.

There is another potential game-changer, if the league is successful and puts players in the NFL causing the salaries to jump from $50,000 a year to, say, $100,000. Or even $150,000  Then, Houston… and Alabama… and Florida… and campuses all across the country, the college football game could have a problem.  That, of course, is a long way down the road, but this league and what if any viability it may have is certainly something to keep an eye on if you’re a fan of the sport.

Peyton Manning, Steve Spurrier (again) among 13 elected to College Football Hall of Fame

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29:  Former Tennesse quarterback Peyton Manning and current quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts is honored alongside his former college coach Phillip Fulmer before the start of the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks on October 29, 2005 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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If you’re looking for a class with star power, this one has it.  In spades.

Monday morning, the National Football Foundation announced the 2017 class that will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this year.  The group includes 19 players and three coaches.

Players:

  • BOB CRABLE – LB, Notre Dame (1978-81)
  • MARSHALL FAULK – RB, San Diego State (1991-93)
  • KIRK GIBSON – WR, Michigan State (1975-78)
  • MATT LEINART – QB, Southern California (2003-05)
  • PEYTON MANNING – QB, Tennessee (1994-97)
  • BOB McKAY – OT, Texas (1968-69)
  • DAT NGUYEN – LB, Texas A&M (1995-98)
  • ADRIAN PETERSON – RB, Georgia Southern (1998-2001)
  • MIKE RUTH – NG, Boston College (1982-85)
  • BRIAN URLACHER – DB, New Mexico (1996-99)

Coaches:

  • DANNY FORD – 122-59-5 (66.9%); Clemson (1978-89), Arkansas (1993-97)
  • LARRY KEHRES – 332-24-3 (92.9%); Mount Union (Ohio) (1986-2012)
  • STEVE SPURRIER – 228-89-2 (71.8%); Duke (1987-89), Florida (1990-2001), South Carolina (2005-15)

Spurrier is already in the Hall of Fame as a player.  He will become just the fourth individual to be inducted as both a player and a coach, joining Bobby Dodd, Amos Alonzo Stagg and Bowden Wyatt.

In 2011, Faulk was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Gibson is likely known to most as the former Los Angles Dodgers baseball player, whose home run trot in the 1988 World Series remains one of the most iconic moments in the sport’s history.

Kehres is the only head coach at any level of college football to finish with a winning percentage above .900 — his Purple Raiders won a staggering 332 of 359 games (with three ties) for a .929 win percentage during the incredible run that lasted nearly three decades.

Urlacher is the first player from the University of New Mexico to be elected, while the “other” Adrian Peterson is just the second from Georgia Southern (Tracy Ham, 2007).

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

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 13:  Greg Sankey the new commissioner of the SEC talks to the media before the quaterfinals of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 13, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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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.”