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No. 9 Penn State tops No. 11 Washington in Fiesta Bowl as B1G sweeps Pac-12

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No. 9 Penn State burst to a 28-7 lead and held on for a 35-28 win over No. 11 Washington to take the Fiesta Bowl. The triumph clinched back-to-back 11-win seasons for Penn State for the first time since 2008-09 and moved the Nittany Lions to 7-0 all-time in the Fiesta Bowl, but it was hard to limit Saturday’s result strictly to what happened on the field.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 were both left out of the College Football Playoff this winter, and the leagues responded in completely opposite fashions. Penn State’s win lifted the Big Ten to 6-0 with two games still to go, while the Pac-12 completed its postseason with a dismal 1-8 mark, including losses in all four contests against the Big Ten. According to a tweet from ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura, the 1-8 record is the worst bowl season ever by a Power 5 conference.

The Nittany Lions accepted the ball to open the game and promptly moved 83 yards in eight plays, the final 48 on a Trace McSorley dime to DaeSean Hamilton. McSorley fired an interception in the end zone on Penn State’s next possession, but made up for that mistake by piloting an 11-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in a 2-yard Saquon Barkley rush to put the Lions up 14-0 just over a dozen minutes into the game.

Needing a score, Chris Petersen cracked open his book of trick plays. Jake Browning fired a backward pass to wide receiver Andre Baccellia, who then lofted the ball to defensive lineman Will Dissly for a 52-yard gain down to the Penn State 12. Browning put the Huskies on the board two plays later on a 1-yard keeper. 

Though Washington (10-3) was back in the game, that didn’t last long. Penn State pushed the lead back to two scores with a 7-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, then broke it open when Barkley charged for a 92-yard touchdown run to give the Nittany Lions a 28-7 lead at the 9:01 mark of the second quarter.

The Huskies cut back into the deficit with help from Penn State, thanks to a fumbled exchange between McSorley and backup running back Miles Sanders at their own 33. Myles Gaskin pulled the Huskies back within 14 with a 13-yard scoring jaunt with 4:15 to play in the half. Washington then opened the second half with a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended on a 28-yard toss from Browning to Aaron Fuller.

Their deficit shrunk to seven points for the first time since it was 7-0, Penn State responded with a 70-yard touchdown drive, culminating in Hamilton’s second touchdown catch of the game and the 212th total grab of his career, setting the Penn State career record. The Nittany Lions had a chance to push their advantage to three scores early in the fourth quarter, marching to the Washington 18, but McSorley’s 2nd-and-5 pass was tipped and intercepted.

Washington could not immediately capitalize but did on its next possession, as Gaskin burst free for a 69-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 35-28 with 6:52 to play. Penn State consumed all but 34 remaining seconds on its ensuing drive, setting up a 4th-and-1 that would have clinched the game. However, the Nittany Lions were flagged for a false start and, faced now with a 4th-and-6, Tyler Davis‘s 45-yard field goal sailed wide right, giving Washington the ball back at its own 28.

Armed with no timeouts, Washington attempted a hook-and-ladder play but, playing on the same field as the mythic 2007 Fiesta Bowl, no miracle was in order for Petersen’s team this time. Dante Pettis crossed midfield with the opportunity to go out of bounds and regroup for a Hail Mary, but his lateral attempt back toward the middle of the field was intercepted by Penn State’s Brandon Smith.

In (probably) the final game for college football’s best backfield tandem, McSorley and Barkley were as good as ever. McSorley completed 32-of-41 passes — including a perfect 12-of-12 on third down — for 342 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing 12 times for 60 yards, and Barkley rushed 18 times for 137 yards and two scores while catching seven passes for 38 yards. Hamilton added five grabs for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Facing a defense that ranked in the top five nearly across the board, Penn State gained 545 yards on 6.9 yards per play with 25 first downs and 13 third-down conversions on 17 tries.

Browning completed 18-of-28 passes for 175 yards and a score, while Gaskin led the Huskies with 14 carries for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

Jim Delany was highest paid conference commissioner in 2017-18; NCAA president Mark Emmert’s salary climbs to nearly $4 million

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The life of a conference commissioner is not an easy one given the amount of criticism from just about every level but at least they are well compensated for their troubles.

Really well in most cases.

Thanks to the latest round of 2017-18 tax returns from the various Power Five conferences and the NCAA being released, we now have a good picture at how everybody stacks up and business booming has resulted in even larger paychecks for most. Here’s the latest figures for the Power Five and NCAA President Mark Emmert:

  • The Big Ten’s Jim Delany moved into the top spot as the highest paid commissioner thanks to a reported $5.5 million paycheck, per USA Today.
  • Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was not far behind his Rose Bowl counterpart with over $5.2 million in compensation, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
  • Big 12 head honcho Bob Bowlsby was bumped to a total of $4.1 million.
  • ACC commissioner John Swofford took home slightly over $3.5 million.
  • SEC leader Greg Sankey was by far the best bargain of the group, with the most recently appointed commissioner making right around $2 million last year.
  • Emmert’s salary was the biggest mover of the group of power players as Yahoo! Sports notes his take-home pay jumped 60% by going from $2.4 million the previous year to $3.9 million. All told, the NCAA’s public face has seen his salary jump by some $2 million since 2015 alone.

As you all know, the compensation for the student-athletes officially remained at $0 in pay for the same time period.

Alcohol sales expected to be hot topic at SEC spring meetings

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It just means more… beer?

It certainly could in the SEC as early as this upcoming season depending on how the league’s annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla. go next week. As Sports Illustrated reports ahead of everybody’s trip down by the beach, repealing an archaic conference rule banning alcohol sales in the general public sections of stadiums is expected to be the hot button topic that will drive the conversation among school presidents, athletic directors and coaches:

Many of the conference’s high-ranking administrators are optimistic that league presidents will not only seriously discuss the alcohol ban but will overturn an archaic policy that exists in no other major conference. The bylaw will be “front and center” during the four-day event at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort, says one athletic director; another AD says it’s “the main thing.” The administrators spoke to Sports Illustrated on a condition of anonymity.

It probably goes without saying that SEC fans have been clamoring for overturning the rule and expanding sales beyond the club areas where adult beverages are currently allowed to be sold. The conference is one of the few holdouts in this area as college football has swung back from being relatively dry the past decade-plus. Half the Big Ten will permit sales in 2019 and other programs like Oklahoma became the latest big program elsewhere to join the trend earlier this month.

There’s two positives supporters of an SEC repeal will no doubt trot out next week, the first being the increased revenues schools can make by opening up sales and the other being the decrease in binge drinking just prior to kickoff. The latter in particular is not something likely to escape the conference presidents given some of the game day atmospheres in the league.

We’ll see if things ultimately get over the finish line in terms of a repeal after a few years of discussion but it probably speaks to the health of the league that throwing a few drinks back is the topic de jour down in Destin this year.

Thanks to resurgence under Kirby Smart, Georgia donors have contributed $140 million the past two years

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Kirby Smart is just plain good for business at Georgia as much as the head coach is for the Bulldogs on the field.

Like, really good for business.

The Athens Banner-Herald recapped a number of the financial figures for UGA athletics’ recently approved 2020 budget and while the overall $153.89 million figure was notable and the projected $44.5 million distribution from the SEC Network somewhat striking, it was one nugget buried in the story that was really eye-opening:

‘Fueled by the football team’s success the last couple of seasons under coach Kirby Smart, donors have contributed about $140 million total over the last two years.’

$140 million over two years!

“Sustainability in college athletics is an ongoing challenge and we are fortunate to be one of the few institutions being on solid ground,” AD Greg McGarity told the board.

We’ll say. That $140 million figure over two years is slightly more than what fellow SEC peers Kentucky and South Carolina brought in just last year in terms of total revenue, per USA Today’s finances database, and even if you split it in two is still a figure that greatly exceeds most Group of Five programs entire budget. And keep in mind this is just donations for the Bulldogs, not revenues from media deals, ticket sales and other items.

Given that UGA has made the national title game and the Sugar Bowl the past two seasons, it’s probably not a huge surprise to see a big uptick in donations but that quite the whopper of a figure thanks to the Smart-led resurgence in Athens.

Wyoming set to ask the state for funds to help with War Memorial Stadium renovation

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Add Wyoming to the long, long list of FBS schools hoping to complete a facelift for their home stadium over the next few years.

According to the Gillette News Record, the Cowboys are all set to ask the state for nearly $50 million in funds to help with the renovation of War Memorial Stadium and other athletics projects such as a pool.

“On the lower west side, the treads and the risers in the bleacher section and the press box are far below Mountain West Conference standards and we need to find a way to upgrade that,” athletic director Tom Burman told the paper. “We’re going to need, as part of our vision, to make fans feel better, whether it’s back-rests or chair-backs or better concessions. They have an expectation level of what Saturday football’s supposed to be like and it’s very different from what we provide.”

The total cost for the stadium and pool, which are not being separated in the request to the state for funds, is expected to cost $74.2 million. Some $24.6 million is expected to be fundraised by the school with the rest covered by the money provided by the legislature.

War Memorial Stadium seats just over 29,000 people for Cowboys home games but has really only seen minor renovations to upgrade the venue in 2004 and 2010. Given that the venue was built in 1950 and only expanded to near its current capacity in the 1970’s, it’s understandable why the school wants to upgrade the home football experience as a result.

Wyoming opens their 2019 season in Laramie against Missouri on August 31.