Sun Belt commissioner remains ‘optimistic’ about future of conference

10 Comments

Which is hard to do if you’re Karl Benson, the former WAC commissioner who saw the Mountain West pick apart his conference over the course of the past couple of years of realignment. With the news yesterday that FAU and Middle Tennessee would be leaving the Sun Belt for Conference USA — that was made official today in a release —  well, it’s been tough sledding for Benson as of late.

Yet Benson claims to be ‘very optimistic’ about the future of the Sun Belt in a statement released Thursday regarding the departures of FAU and MTSU:

“While I am disappointed that Middle Tennessee State University and Florida Atlantic University have elected to depart the Sun Belt Conference, the SBC is still very well positioned for the future and I remain very optimistic that the momentum that has been created in the past six months will continue to grow. The continuing 10 members of the SBC are committed to excellence and I am confident that the SBC will take advantage of these latest changes in the landscape. As I have stated many times in the past six months, the SBC will be a major player in the future, especially within its geographic footprint.

As for future members, there are several outstanding universities that have indicated interest in joining the SBC. While we have conducted research on these universities in the past six months, we will now focus on identifying the ones that will be the best “fit” for the conference and the ones that will contribute immediately in achieving our goal of being the best of the FBS conferences that currently do not receive automatic qualification into the BCS.

The future is still very BRIGHT for the SBC and I look forward to working with the leadership of the SBC in the coming days, weeks and months to continue the growth and development of this outstanding athletic conference.”

FAU and MTSU are the third and fourth departures from the Sun Belt to C-USA, joining North Texas and FIU. Those teams will be replaced by the trio of Georgia State, Texas State and UT-Arlington next season. Idaho and New Mexico State, formerly of the WAC, and Georgia Southern are also possible additions to the Sun Belt

Texas approves two-year contract extension for Tom Herman

Getty Images
1 Comment

With Texas being back (?), the football program’s sideline boss is being rewarded for getting the Longhorns there.

Amidst speculation that surfaced earlier this month, the university confirmed Thursday that a two-year contract extension for Tom Herman has been approved.  The head coach is now signed through the 2023 season, the same season, incidentally, a home-and-home with Alabama will finish up.

According to the Associated Press, the two-year extension is worth a total of $13.25 million.  This past year, Herman’s $5.5 million in compensation was ninth nationally and tops among all Big 12 coaches.

“I’m so grateful for President [Greg] Fenves, [athletic director] Chris Del Conte and the UT Board of Regents, and for all the support they provide me, my family and our football program,” Herman said in a statement. “I truly love being the head football coach at Texas. I’m enjoying every minute of it, am so fortunate to have a tremendous staff, and the players in our program are just awesome to work with.

“We’ve done some good things, but have so much more we are preparing to accomplish. I’m excited for the future.”

After a 7-6 first season in Austin, Herman guided UT to a 10-4 record in 2018, which included a Sugar Bowl win over fifth-ranked Georgia.  The 10 wins marked the first time the Longhorns hit double-digits since going 13-1 in 2009 under Mack Brown.

K-State’s leading receiver last two years to transfer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The latest addition to the portal is a rather significant one.

In somewhat of a surprising development, a Kansas State official confirmed to CFT that Isaiah Zuber is now listed in the NCAA transfer database.  The official made sure to note that Zuber could return to K-State by pulling his name from the database; conversely, CFT will make sure to note that K-State has the option to pull the wide receiver’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered the portal.

As a graduate transfer, Zuber will be allowed to use his final season of eligibility immediately at his next stop.  As a highly-productive player, Zuber should be a highly sought after player in college football’s version of the free agent market.

Zuber led the Wildcats in receptions each of the past two seasons — 52 in 2018, 51 in 2017.  During his time in Little Manhattan, Zuber totaled 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns on 127 receptions.

P.J. Fleck doesn’t practice what he preaches when it comes to commitment

Getty Images
2 Comments

P.J. Fleck thinks there’s a problem in this country, and he doesn’t have a clue how correct he is.

As you may or may not have noticed, the NCAA transfer database is wide open and has been doing a significant amount of business.  There’s not a day goes by where there aren’t multiple posts on CFT about Player X entering — or reentering, as the case may be — his name into the portal. And then there are high school prospects committing to one school while (gasp!) still taking visits to others.

The personnel movement both before and after entering the collegiate ranks has caused significant angst within the coaching profession, not the least of whom is the current Minnesota head coach.  From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

I have a rule: You commit to me, you can’t go see another place,” Fleck said. “Not because I’m insecure. But if you want to be committed, you’re going to be committed. Too many people teach young people to be committed but also one foot in and one foot out. … You’ve got to be all in.”

Or as Fleck termed it: “We have a problem in our society. We don’t have a problem in our program.

The problem with that?

In December of 2014, Fleck signed a six-year contract extension as the head football coach at Western Michigan.  Less than two years later, speculation was running rampant that he was the frontrunner for the Minnesota job; in January of 2017, Fleck was named the head coach of the Golden Gophers.

It’s easy to talk about loyalty and commitment when it’s somebody else’s, right coach?  Coaches are free to move above the country at their leisure, while the vast majority of the very same profession will do anything and everything to restrict a player’s movement to a situation the student-athlete feels is better for his future.

Fleck is right about there being a problem in the sport, but it sure as hell isn’t limited to player movement.

(Tip O’ the Cap: @CFAAEliteClips)

Outback Steakhouse to continue sponsorship of Tampa bowl game

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For those fans of Team Bloomin’ Onions or Team Coconut Shrimp, you’re in luck when it comes to your annual foodie freebies.

In a press release, “Outback Bowl officials announced… that long-time Title Sponsor Outback Steakhouse has agreed to extend its contract with the New Year’s Day Bowl for six additional years through the January 2026 game.” The Tampa-based game, sponsored by a Tampa-based company, has been played annually since 1986; this new agreement ensures that Outback Steakhouse will continue as the longest-running title sponsor in college bowl game history.

Perhaps most importantly, Outback officials also announced that, over the next seven postseason games, the Outback Bowl will contribute $45 million to universities and donate at least $3.5 million to charities through its Charitable Giving Initiative

“We are proud to announce the continuation of our long-term relationship with Outback Steakhouse,” said Outback Bowl president/CEO Jim McVay in a statement. “With Outback Steakhouse’s continued commitment, the Outback Bowl will be able to grow the more than $1 billion economic impact it has generated to date, allow us to continue to positively showcase the Tampa Bay region both nationally and internationally, add to the almost $150 million generated for universities and expand our Charitable Giving Initiative program which has already benefited over ninety non-profits.”

The first iteration of what would ultimately become the Outback Bowl — at the time it was called the Hall of Fame Bowl — was played on Dec. 23, 1986, a 27-24 win for Boston College over 17th-ranked Georgia.  The steakhouse became the title sponsor in 1995, with Penn State beating Auburn 43-14 in the first game known as the Outback Bowl.

This past season, Iowa upset No. 18 Mississippi State 27-22 in the most recent iteration of the Outback Bowl that’s now played annually between members of the Big Ten and SEC.