Officially the result of the Fiesta Bowl will go down as a significant upset, but UCF left no doubt who the better team was in the Fiesta Bowl. The Knights pulled away in a shootout with Big 12 champion Baylor as quarterback Blake Bortles passed for 301 yards three touchdown passes and running back Storm Johnson rushed for 124 yards and three more in a 52-42 victory. It is UCF’s first BCS bowl appearance and victory, and it puts the cherry on top of the first year for the American Athletic Conference’s existence.
The scary part is UCF may just be getting started.
UCF is currently set up very well for long term success in the American Athletic Conference. With Louisville leaving the conference to join the ACC in 2014 and Rutgers leaving to join the Big Ten, the level of competition in the conference figures to be swinging more and more in favor of UCF given the resources and location for the program. Cincinnati should be a perennial contender as well, but UCF right now has all of the momentum in the conference as some new members will join the fray next season.
Now the question will be whether or not Bortles returns to the program for more in 2014. Bortles is being hyped as a rising quarterback prospect by NFL scouts and those who break down the NFL Draft, although he is officially waiting for the results of an official evaluation and review from the NFL before making any decision final. Against Baylor Bortles completed 20 of 31 passes for 301 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Two of those touchdown passes went to receiver Rannell Hall, the first a fine 50-yard pass in the first half.
Baylor opened the second half by tying the game at 28-28 with a Bryce Petty touchdown run. Petty rushed for three touchdowns in the game and passed for one more, but the high-scoring Baylor offense was unable to keep up with UCF in this one.UCF went on a 28-14 run to close out the game following that game-tying touchdown. The Knights put up 558 yards of offense in a game that saw the teams combine for over 1,000 yards.
UCF will open the 2014 season across the Atlantic Ocean against Penn State in the Croke Park Classic in Ireland. In addition to that opening game, UCF will also play on the road at Missouri, who played for the SEC championship this season. UCF also hosts BYU in October. Are they set up for a run for another impressive season and perhaps sneak in to the new four-team playoff?
Baylor will enter next season as the defending Big 12 champions and expect to have Petty back. As long as the program keeps head coach Art Briles in Waco, instead of leaving for Austin or the NFL, the Bears should offer more of the same sort of offensive production. Defense, as usual, will be what keeps Baylor from being a true national title contender.
Chad Morris was hired in early December and has already gone through his spring practice at Arkansas but just signed that big new contract with the school this week.
The practice of working for a new program but not formally signing a contract isn’t new (just ask Texas A&M and Jimbo Fisher) but all the parties in Fayetteville finally got pen to paper in recent days to finalize the deal, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The deal runs through the end of the 2023 season and will pay Morris roughly $3.5 million in base salary with plenty more available for the head coach to collect in bonuses:
Morris will be eligible for up to $1 million in competition-based bonuses and $200,000 in academic-based bonuses each year, and is eligible for three retention payments of $500,000 apiece, contingent that no “significant” NCAA violations have occurred and the program is not on NCAA probation at the time the payments are due in February of 2019, 2021 and 2023.
(AD Hunter) Yurachek said he signed the contract last Friday and it was executed with the signatures of University of Arkansas, Fayetteville chancellor Joseph Steinmetz and UA system president Donald Bobbitt this week.
Thankfully, there’s no complicated buyout structure like there was with former head coach Bret Bielema. If Morris wants to leave for another job, he’d owe $3 million prior to Dec. 31, 2019 and decreasing amounts each year afterward. If he’s fired by the school before the final day of 2022, he will receive 70 percent of his $3.5 million annual salary until the end of 2023. If he is fired on or after Jan. 1, 2023, he will take the full $3.5 million he’s owed.
Funny enough though, according to the Democrat Gazette, his boss still hasn’t signed his own deal with the school despite being formally hired the day before Morris was last December. One down, one to go we guess.
Death Valley is staying dry.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich spoke to the Post and Courier this week and pretty flatly rejected joining the burgeoning bandwagon in college athletics and allowing beer and/or alcohol sales at the Tigers’ football stadium.
“It hasn’t been a huge topic here because we really don’t look at that as something moving forward inside Memorial Stadium that is on our list of things to get done,” Radakovich said. “There’s a different atmosphere at our games.”
Alcohol is not sold anywhere at the stadium for Clemson home games though there are some unique cases where fan can bring some to specific areas prior to game day for consumption after kickoff.
The policy stands in stark contrast to some of their fellow ACC schools, as everybody from Pitt to Louisville to Wake Forest have begun sales. There’s been significant debate in the SEC on opening things up on the same front and major programs like Penn State to smaller ones like Fresno State are cashing in on the new revenue stream.
It doesn’t sound like the Tigers will be joining them anytime soon.
“Our people in the parking lot have a good time. There’s no question about that,” Radakovich added. “But inside the stadium, I think it’s a little different.”
Mike Gundy and Mike Holder better patch up their relationship because both are set to be in Stillwater a lot longer.
Days after the Cowboys head coach and athletic director got into an interesting back-and-forth over the former’s recruiting prowess following the latter’s comments, Holder received a new contract extension that will keep him at the school through 2021.
Gundy himself is signed a year beyond that as part of the new five-year deal he inked after the 2017 season.
The new deal with Holder includes a hefty six-figure raise from the $644,371 he made from the school last year. There was a point early in his tenure where he was one of the Big 12’s lowest paid AD’s but that story has shifted significantly over the years as OSU’s budget has climbed, with the school taking in some $93 million in revenue according to the latest figures.
Given all of the new contracts, hopefully both Holder and Gundy will both have a conversation in the coming months to get back on the same page and patch up their relationship — because both are set to be attached at the hip in Stillwater for several more years.
Louisville hasn’t even started the season and they’re already behind Alabama. Well, at least when it comes to their bank accounts.
The Louisville Courier Journal obtained the contracts for the Tide and Cardinals game in Orlando that will kick off the 2018 season for both in September and found that Alabama’s payout is $4.5 million — nearly double Louisville’s $2.75 million that they are taking home.
The disparity can probably be chalked up to one team being the national champions and a bigger draw for the game itself but it turns out there’s another reason Nick Saban’s side has a few more dollars on their side of the ledger: tickets.
Alabama’s contract obliges the school to buy 18,000 tickets for distribution to its fans, while Louisville agreed to purchase only 10,000. Both schools will be granted two 20-person suites, 25 parking passes and 200 complimentary tickets, as well as 1,000 tickets at $25 each for students.
While selling 8,000 more tickets could add up to that difference (at roughly $218 a piece) in guarantees, it’s nevertheless a little unusual to hear of such a large disparity between teams. As the Courier Journal notes, Alabama received the same amount as their opponent for neutral site games in 2017, 2015, 2014 and 2012.
Louisville’s game against Auburn also had a bigger pay day than what they’re getting from the folks in Orlando but they were on the hook for three times the number of tickets back in 2015. Perhaps the smaller ticket package this year is a bit of a sign that even the school itself knows this is rebuilding season for Bobby Petrino and opening against the defending champs is going to be a steep challenge between the lines.