With UT in deep financial problems, the Butch Jones hire has to work

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The pressure to win and win right away is evident in major college football. But when an athletic department finds itself in the situation like the one Tennessee does, the pressure can be even greater.

The Sports Business Journal released a startling article Monday about the enormous debt, which is more than $200 million, that Tennessee is dealing with right now.

Among the other eye-opening numbers in the piece include the $1.95 million UT currently has in reserves (that’s down from $30 million five years ago and currently ranks as the lowest in the SEC) coupled with the $21 million the athletic department spends annually in debt payments (about two-thirds of which come from the athletic department’s nearly $100 million budget).

You can check out the entire article HERE. It’s astonishing.

There are a lot of reasons why an athletic department would fall on such hard times, but the declining attendance numbers at 102,000-seat Neyland Stadium since the 2005 season coupled with the rising cost of season tickets for a poor on-the-field product would be a good place to start.

“We’ve got to get football healthy,” Vols athletic director Dave Hart told the SBJ.

Tennessee has finished with five wins in four of the past eight years and have never won any more than nine games in a regular season since back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007 under Phillip Fulmer. Since 2005, attendance at UT home football games have gone down an average of about 12,600 fans while season ticket prices have gone up an average of roughly $70 since 2008. There have been three different head football coaches in that span: Fulmer, Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley.

Now, the Vols have former Cincinnati coach Butch Jones. Though he didn’t have the name recognition of, say, Jon Gruden when he was hired by Tennessee last month, Jones has been successful at Cincinnati and Central Michigan. Personally, I thought that anyone who hired Jones would be getting a getting a tremendous coach.

But the pressure on Jones to win is heightened when you put it into context of Tennessee’s financial woes. In addition to the money the athletic department is moving around just to stabilize itself, the school is expected to pay Jones just under $3 million a year as part of a six-year contract. That’s not an absurd amount of money, but it’s not dirt cheap either. Consider that Tennessee has spent $11.4 million in buyouts for fired coaches recently and that does not include the reportedly $7 million that’s owed to recently fired Dooley and his assistants.

If Tennessee fires Jones before Feb 28, 2014, the buyout would be $4 million. Dooley’s was $5 million.

I don’t foresee that being an issue as I believe Jones will have a lot of success with Tennessee. But if he doesn’t, the result could even costlier to Tennessee.

Ex-Michigan WR Freddy Canteen announces transfer from Notre Dame

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So much for getting a chance to play against his former team. Notre Dame wide receiver Freddy Canteen says he is going to look for a new program to play football. Canteen previously transferred to Notre Dame from Michigan (Notre Dame hosts Michigan in Week 1 of the 2018 season).

“I will be transferring to another university to obtain a graduate degree that unfortunately Notre Dame does not offer,” Canteen said in a statement on Twitter. “I will also utilize my remaining two years of eligibility to play football.”

Canteen played in just three games for Notre Dame in 2017, with one reception for seven yards. A torn labrum brought his 2017 season to an abrupt end. The former Michigan player transferred to Notre Dame after the 2016 season, which was also wiped out by injury after his 2015 season was ruined by an injury.

As a graduate transfer, Canteen will be eligible to play right away this fall for whatever program he transfers to. And, as confirmed by Canteen, he will have two more years of eligibility to continue playing football for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

ACC revenue increases 12% but ACC members still receive lower distributions compared to other P5 programs (for now)

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When it comes to per school revenue distribution, ACC schools are still lagging behind the rest of the power conferences, but the ACC did see its revenue for the past fiscal year jump by 12 % to a reported $418.1 million. According to tax documents reviewed by Steve Berkowitz of USA Today, the ACC paid each football member of the conference between $25.3 million and $30.7 million for the 2017 fiscal year.

The revenue distribution was up from the $23.8 million each school was paid the previous year when the total revenue distribution was reported at $373.4 million. The ACC’s revenue actually dropped last season from the year prior to that, but that was influenced by a $31.4 million exit fee paid by former ACC member Maryland as the school left the ACC for the Big Ten. Each team in the conference receives an equal base share, but the conference then supplements the distribution to adjust for bowl expenses. Because of that, Clemson was paid $30.7 million after playing in two straight College Football Playoff games, including the championship game in the 2016 season.

Notre Dame, who was paid $4 million by the ACC last year, was given a distribution of $5.8 million due to its affiliation with the ACC in other sports outside of football.

ACC commissioner John Swofford was paid $3.3 million for the fiscal year with a base salary of $3.15 million. It is the first time Swofford has been paid $3 million by the conference after coming up just shy of the $3 million mark last year.

Where does the ACC stack up against its power conference peers? On a per-school breakdown, the SEC is the absolute king with each SEC member receiving an average of $41 million in the most recent revenue distributions from the conference. The Big Ten is also comfortably ahead of the pack in total revenue, with each member receiving about $37 million for the past year. The Big 12 generated $371 million in revenue in the past year, leading to payouts of $34.3 million for its 10 members. The Pac-12 reported a revenue of $509 million for the past year with a distribution to conference members doling out $30.9 million per school.

On a per-school basis, the ACC is lagging behind the other conferences in terms of how much each school is receiving from the conference. However, the ACC is moving forward with plans to launch an ACC Network which is expected to spike the revenue figures a bit. The SEC and Big Ten have really thrived with their own networks, while the Pac-12 continues to try capitalizing on its network in a similar way. With ESPN lending a helping hand with the ACC’s network plans, the conference likely will benefit more than the Pac-12 has, which should allow ACC schools to begin pulling in more with revenue distributions following the launch of the eventual network.

Michigan offers massive eighth grade football prodigy

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Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines are looking to get in some early work on the recruiting trail with a Massachusetts recruit. As has become a bit of a trend over the years, Michigan is offering a scholarship to an eighth grader with the size that scouts cannot miss.

Tyler Martin of Cambridge, Massachusetts announced via Twitter he has received an offer from Michigan. Of course, to receive an offer form a program like Michigan before entering high school for the first time doesn’t happen to just any middle schooler. Martin just so happens to stand out in the crowd at 6′-3″ and 227 pounds, according to USA Today. Having played both tight end and linebacker in middle school, Martin has already shown some skill that future coaches will hope develops to stay ahead of the curve.

As noted by USA Today, Martin is already thinking about his future. Just last month, Martin visited Boston College to scope out the scene. Given his size and ability to play two positions, if that continues to excel in high school, more and more programs from around the country will take an interest if they have not already.

This bit of a recruiting tactic is one that is aimed to be brought to an end by a proposal from the ACC regarding the recruiting process. As previously reported, a proposal from the ACC would restrict schools from extending any form of offer to a prospective student-athlete until September 1 of that player’s junior year of high school. Of course, that doesn’t mean that student can’t begin the recruiting process. It simply means making an offer to a middle schooler just about to go into high school would be prohibited.

Houston, Utah confirm 2026-27 home-and-home series

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A mini-Houston scheduling day at CFT continues, with the AAC school confirming another future matchup with a Power Five program.

On the heels of their tweaked series with UT-San Antonio, UH also announced a future home-and-home with Pac-12 member Utah.  The Cougars will host the Utes at TDECU Stadium on Sept. 5, 2026, then travel to Salt Lake City’s Rice-Eccles Stadium Sept. 11, 2027.

Th two football programs have met four times previously, with the Cougars winning all four of those matchups.  Three of those four games were played in Houston, with the most recent meeting coming way back in 1978.

In confirming their series, the two programs also took care of a couple of other scheduling notes.

Utah announced a three-game series with Weber State that will be played in 2023, 2026 and 2027.  That trio of games against the FCS program will, obviously, be played in Salt Lake City.  Houston, meanwhile, confirmed a home-and-home with Rice, with a Sept. 24, 2022, game at the Cougars’ home and a Sept. 9, 2023, game at the home of the Owls.