UMass bracing for life as an independent, but for how long?

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Times are rough for the college football independents, unless you happen to be Notre Dame. With BYU finding out the hard way the evolving world of college football will not be looking upon the program in a very positive light, the Cougars have been tied to the seemingly annual discussion about joining a conference (Big 12? Mountain West Conference?) to find stability as a football program. But even BYU’s perceived troubles may be something a program like UMass would dream of having. Entering the final season as a football associate member of the MAC, the Minutemen are now bracing for the realistic possibility of playing as a football independent until a more permanent solution can be concocted.

UMass athletic director John McCutcheon addressed the possibility of moving forward as an independent, but the long-term goal remains to find a suitable conference home.

“There will come a point fairly soon where we feel like if we don’t have a conference we have to build an independent schedule for a couple of years and we’ll have to get on top of doing that,” McCutcheon said in a report by Daily Hampshire Gazette. “It’s an option. It’s not something you want to do indefinitely, but it may be a necessity just in terms of timing to make sure we don’t get caught short. … I know people want answers and guarantees, but you just can’t give them all the time. It may be necessary for us to get an independent schedule for a few years and show that growth in the program to open some doors. The conference shift has never ended. It never will end. Somewhere an opportunity will emerge for us. It’s just where and when and that I feel confident about.”

The biggest problem for UMass is the realistic or worthwhile options for a conference home just are not to be found at the FBS level. The ACC and Big Ten have no interest in a program like UMass and despite the idea floating around before, the Sun Belt just makes no sense from a fiscal standpoint for the UMass football program. The best option the school may be hoping for at some point may be the American Athletic Conference, but that does not appear to be in the fold either. The AAC will be adding Navy as a football member in 2015, when the conference will have 12 football-playing members. That means the conference has no need to expand just for the sake of expansion (to start a championship game).

The move up to the FBS for UMass is looking more and more like a misguided one, but would the school actually contemplate dropping back down to the FCS? If it can swallow the pride, UMass should at least consider it as an option. It may be the best option left standing.

Marshall football player arrested for domestic battery

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Marshall safety Braydon Drayton was arrested Wednesday and charged for his alleged actions in a domestic assault incident.

According to a report from WSAZ, Drayton was place din custody at a regional jail with a bond set at $55,000. Drayton was charged for suspected strangulation and domestic battery of a woman. A formal complaint submitted earlier in the day claimed the alleged victim had red marks around her neck and chest following the alleged assault by Drayton. The victim claims to have been grabbed by Drayton around her neck as tempers flared.

Drayton has been suspended by the Marshall football program on an indefinite basis, allowing the legal process to play out before any further decisions on his status with the program may be made.

Mississippi State players say Joe Moorhead isn’t leaving SEC for another job

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With Rutgers searching for a new head coach and Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead reportedly being among the top candidates to fill the vacancy, the rumor-denial season is in full swing in Starkville. Days after Moorhead deflected the idea of him leaving Mississippi State to take the Rutgers job, some of Moorhead’s players are coming to his aide to shut down the idea the coach would return to his home state.

“It’s funnier to him than anything,” Mississippi State quarterback Garrett Shrader said, according to a Mississippi Clarion Ledger report on Tuesday. “He’s not leaving an SEC West program. He’s told me that multiple times.”

“He’s our coach. He’s been the same guy,” Shrader said. “He’s passionate about this team. He’s very vocal about that. He’s not going anywhere.”

Joining Shrader in attempting to shut down the Moorhead-to-Rutgers rumor mill was running back Kylin Hill, who summed up the discussion as nothing more than the typical banter that seemingly happens during the silly season that is the coaching carousel.

“There’s always going to be outside noise,” Hill said. “That’s the world we live in today. I’m not too focused on it. Nobody’s focused on it. Everybody loves the man.”

Moorhead and Mississippi State will have their attention set on this week’s game. The Bulldogs hit the road for a game at Texas A&M on Saturday. Mississippi State is looking to even its record at 4-4.

Georgia may be next in line for ‘Fair Pay to Play’ legislation

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The trend sweeping the nation in collegiate athletics appears to be heading to Georgia next. The “Fair Pay to Play” movement will be coming to Georgia, following the lead of California and following similar pushes by other states around the country.

Georgia state representative Billy Mitchell will reportedly be submitting formal legislation that would seek to allow college athletes to be eligible to receive compensation for the use of their image, likeness, and name. This is the same basic principle behind the new law in the state of California which was recently signed and will go into effect beginning in 2023.

If the legislation were to pass within the state of Georgia, it would impact every college football team in the state including FBS programs at Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, and Georgia State. Other states in the southeast to begin getting the wheels in motion for a Fair Pay to Play movement include Kentucky, South Carolina, and Florida. Other states have gotten in on the fun too, including Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New York, Illinois and Nevada.

New York’s proposal went a step farther than the most common proposed legislation in the Fair Pay to Play movement by proposing universities directly share a percentage of an athletic program’s overall revenue with every student-athlete on campus.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addresses concerns over officiating

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In this day and age, officials are being scrutinized to degrees once never dreamed of. With multiple angles for instant replays on television and on the big stadium scoreboards, every little mistake by an official in a football game will come under fire from fans, coaches and players.  Following a tough loss to Florida, South Carolina fans and their head coach, Will Muschamp, were not particularly pleased with some officiating decisions or lack of decisions made in the setback at home against the Gators. South Carolina’s issues were just the latest in a string of concerns folks around the SEC have had about the integrity of the officials calling their games, a story every fanbase in every conference can relate to in some way.

On Wednesday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addressed the general concerns fans about the officials working game sin his conference. In short, Sankey says nobody is perfect.

“The Southeastern Conference is entrusted with supporting an officiating program that is responsible for calling the games of our member schools. We take this duty most seriously,” Sankey wrote on the SEC’s official website. “We view perfection as our desired goal while also understanding it will always be an elusive standard in a game that is filled with surprises. And we are disappointed when we don’t get it right. Because our goal is to get it right, every time.”

Sankey continued to enforce the idea the SEC is constantly monitoring the performance of their officials and explained the assignments for officials may also be adjusted according to their ongoing in-season performance reviews. While the SEC does not make these assignment changes transparent once changes are made, the idea is to have the best officials working the best games without any potential issues becoming growing concerns in key moments.

Sankey also issued a reminder that coaches and administrators throughout the conference are not allowed to publicly rip the officials, a standard operating procedure in every conference (just ask Lane Kiffin about that).

The SEC has taken some strides in an effort to be more transparent about the officiating process with the launch of a new Twitter account (just don’t check the mentions on game days) and programming on the SEC Network to detail how the rules are governed and upheld during games.