Roll Tigers! Auburn looking to pad historical title résumé

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Despite losing out to Florida State in the final BCS title game earlier this month, Auburn could be flying a handful of new banners at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the very near future.  Or, at the very least, recognizing a handful more than they currently do.

Officially, the Tigers claim two football national championships: 1957 and 2010.  Unofficially, AU could, as other schools do — hello, Alabama — claim multiple “unofficial” titles.

Utilizing the “all the cool universities are doing it” line of reasoning, AU athletic director Jay Jacobs confirmed that the football program is indeed considering recognizing seven additional national championships in football.

“If other schools are using these same polls to declare a national championship, we should at least consider it,” Jacobs told AuburnUndercover.com. “I don’t think there’s a better time for the Auburn family to consider it than right here at the end of the BCS era.

“As we transition into another playoff format for the national champion, I just think we need to look hard at it.”

The 1910, 1913, 1914, 1958, 1983, 1993 and 2004 teams, the 247Sports.com website notes, are all under consideration.  Three of those title teams — 1913, 1983 and 1993 — are recognized by the NCAA in its record book, although not through either the Associated Press or coaches’ poll.  The unbeaten 1913 team was named national champion by six organizations (Chicago and Harvard also claim titles for that year), the one-loss 1983 team by 10 (Miami was the AP, FWAA and UPI champ) and the undefeated 1993 team by four (Florida State was the AP, FWAA and UPI champ).

The most noteworthy of the seven under consideration, and the one that would likely cause the most debate, is the 2004 team.  The Tigers that year finished the season as unbeaten SEC champions; unfortunately for AU, there were two other Big Five conference teams — USC and Oklahoma — that went undefeated as well.  The Trojans and Sooners finished one-two in the final regular season BCS standings that year and met in the Orange Bowl in the seventh BCS title game.  Because of NCAA sanctions stemming from the Reggie Bush controversy, however, USC was forced to vacate the title for the 2004 season, with the NCAA officially recognizing no one as that year’s champion.

A book published in 2012 and written by Birmingham attorney Michael Skotnicki laid out the case for his alma mater to claim many more football titles than they already do.  In an interview with 247Sports.com, Skotnicki gave several examples of other football programs padding its football résumé, including two from the SEC.

“Texas A&M decided upon entering the SEC that they would add the 1919 and 1927 titles,” Skotnicki said. “Minnesota added the 1904 title last summer. USC added the 1939 title in 2004. Ole Miss claims three national titles and not one is AP, Coaches’ Poll or BCS.

“Why should Auburn be any different? In this day and age, why should Auburn be so stuffy about it?”

Left unmentioned was Auburn’s hated in-state rival.  Alabama claims 15 national championships, 10 of which came from the Associated Press, coaches’ poll or, in seven seasons, both.  The other five are pre-World War II titles added to the team’s media guide in the eighties.

While not mentioning their Iron Bowl rival specifically, Jacobs made it clear that if it’s good enough for other programs, it’s good enough for his.

“We’re so competitive. We compare ourselves to other schools,” Jacobs, who played on the ’83 team that’s under consideration for title recognition, said. “If they’re counting something that we’re not counting, and we’re on equal footing, wouldn’t it be wise to count it?

“I think it’s something we need to consider right now. It’s been talked about here and there, but let’s get it out there now and look at it and see what we should do.”

Ex-UCLA OC helped convince Wilton Speight to transfer to Westwood

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When Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight announced he was going to graduate and transfer to UCLA, many were caught by surprise given that the 6-foot-6 pro-style passer is not your typical fit for Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. While the new Bruins’ head coach brought up how Sam Bradford and Nick Foles ran his system to convince the quarterback to pick the school for the 2018 season, it was a former assistant at the program who appears to have been just as convincing in bringing the big QB to Westwood.

That would be Jedd Fisch, who was Speight’s coach in Ann Arbor for two years before he left to take the offensive coordinator job with the Bruins when Jim Mora was still in charge last season. The veteran coach returned to the NFL as an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams shortly after Kelly was hired but he reconnected with his old pupil to give him an honest assessment of how he’d fit in with a school sporting a different shade of blue.

“As a coach, you can kind of sniff out the B.S.,” Speight told the LA Times, “and he was able to do that and say, ‘Look, you’re getting what you see at UCLA and I think it’s the right fit,’ and I couldn’t have agreed more.”

Speight will join a very competitive race to be the starter for the opener against Cincinnati when fall camp rolls around. Devon Modster is the incumbent having gotten experience last year when Josh Rosen was held out of several games while incoming freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson is considered the future at the position and figures to see early playing time.

It remains to be seen just how good UCLA will be in their first season with Kelly in charge but the head coach will certainly have a variety of options to choose from at the most important position on the field this year.

Proposed California amendment would cap coaches salaries at $200,000

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Some states do everything they can to help out athletics programs in their borders, that is something that California has never really been accused of doing. A state-wide travel ban has already caused some ripples with regards to scheduling for some teams and it seems lawmakers in Sacramento are back with a new constitutional amendment that could hamper schools ability to pay their coaches.

UCLA student paper The Daily Bruin passes along news that a new constitutional amendment was announced last week “that aims to restrict the University of California’s autonomy by reducing staff salaries, the length of regents’ terms and the authority of the UC president.” That first item is the biggest to take note of, which would institute a cap on non-faculty salaries to $200,000 per year — something that would affect everybody from coaches to the athletic director and everybody in between.

The University of California (UC) system most notably includes Pac-12 schools like UCLA and Cal, which means coaches like Chip Kelly and Justin Wilcox could be affected. To take Kelly as an example, he signed a five-year contract worth a total of $23.3 million when he was hired by the Bruins this offseason.

Head football coaches salaries are not typically paid completely by a school directly however, so there is some wiggle room should this amendment wind up passing. Often a separate athletics organization will foot most of the bill using funds raised from donors while other outside companies sometimes also get involved. Things might be a little more interesting when it comes to assistant’s salaries or non-football/men’s basketball head coaches and support staffers however, who could fall under the purview of the cap.

In other words, some creative accounting practices might have to be implemented by schools like UCLA or Cal or else they’ll be at a significant disadvantage compared to their private school peers like USC or Stanford as well as conference rivals like Arizona or Oregon.

It’s far from certain the amendment will pass given that it requires a two-thirds vote in the state legislature as well as passing muster on a state-wide ballot measure during a general election. We don’t typically see college coaches wade too far into political waters but, in this case, they might be forced to because its one that directly affects their wallets.

Arkansas moving back to natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019

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It’s a new era at Arkansas with Chad Morris and a new athletic director in charge and not even the turf will be spared from seeing changes.

Per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the school will be moving to a natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium instead of replacing their current artificial turf again as it nears the end of its lifespan.

“Let me say my preference is I love natural grass,” Morris told the paper a few months ago. “That’s just me. Maybe that’s just the high school coach in me.

“Worrying about what the next surface out here looks like is irrelevant to me. I just want to get through a practice and get better today. But I prefer, I’m a natural grass type of guy. I love being on a grass field. There’s nothing better than that in college football, or football period.”

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek confirmed this weekend that the change was being made in Fayetteville after the 2018 season concludes. The current turf was put in back in the Bobby Petrino era in 2009 and will need to be replaced after a decade or so of heavy use.

This will not be the end of Razorbacks playing on turf however, as they will not only see the stuff for games at neutral sites and at other SEC opponents but also when they make their annual trek to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock — which had turf installed a dozen years ago.

West Virginia President on old Big 12 expansion craze: ‘Little bit messy’

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E. Gordon Gee is one of college athletics’ most recognizable figures, which isn’t exactly what you typically say about school leaders like him. The West Virginia President known for his trademark bow tie (and who has never shied away from an interview or a quip he didn’t like) is on the cusp of his first set of spring meetings in the conference as the new chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News about a range of issues around the league prior to meeting in Dallas, Gee seems to have come around on conference expansion from a few years ago and thinks it not only could have been handled better, but it probably shouldn’t be done in the first place because being the smallest Power Five league has its advantages too.

“I’m not certain it was the best way to do it,” Gee told the paper. “It was a little bit messy — and I was part of the mess.

“Intimacy gives us an opportunity to do something that a lot of other places can’t do… We’ll play to our strengths. We’re small, but we can be very aggressive in positioning ourselves uniquely.”

I’m sure the folks at places like Houston and BYU would agree the entire process was messy but will certainly disagree with Gee about the Big 12 sticking with just 10 members. It certainly sounds as though the issue has been put to bed for the foreseeable future but if the merry-go-round gets going once again, at least we know that the process everybody goes through will be a lot different.