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CFP: ‘way too soon’ to know if playoff expansion ‘is even a possibility’

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On the same day college football crowns its national champion, the stewards who control the current system of determining the champion have left no doubt about where they stand on expanding the field — for now.

Over the past month or so, there seemed to have been a growing sentiment to at least begin serious discussions on expanding the field of College Football Playoff participants from its current number of four to X number of schools.  Two powerful commissioners, the Big Ten’s Jim Delany and the Big 12’s Bob Bowlsby, went public with acknowledgments that expansion is something they would consider.

Monday afternoon, ahead of tonight’s championship game and after its annual meeting, Mark Keenum, chairman of the CFP Board of Managers, issued a statement in which he threw a 55-gallon drum of cold water on expanding the field, saying in part that “it’s way too soon – much too soon – to know if [expansion] is even a possibility.”

Below is Keenum’s statement, in its entirety:

We have concluded our annual meeting of the College Football Playoff Board of Managers. As we do every year, we meet alongside the commissioners, and Notre Dame’s Athletics Director, to review the ongoing operations of the Playoff, now entering its sixth year.

It is our unanimous agreement that the Playoff has been a tremendous success for students, fans, and universities. We are very proud of it. Fans love to watch it and we look forward to its continued success.

When it comes to the Playoff, as part of our normal review, we always look at everything and we will do so again.

Our job as university presidents is to listen to a variety of views, as we do every day back on campus, and every year when we consider how best to run the CFP. Academics, student-athlete well-being, existing contractual agreements and the overall good of the game are just a few of the issues we consider. At all times, we want our students who play sports to be successful in college and in life.

As far as expanding the number of teams in the Playoff, it’s way too soon – much too soon – to know if that is even a possibility. It’s fair to say the speculation about expansion has outdistanced the reality of what the commissioners and the presidents have discussed. If a decision were to be made down the road, the Presidents would be the ones to make it and we are not there.

At some point down the road, as part of our regular review of all matters pertaining to the Playoff, the management committee will meet, and it will consider all aspects of the Playoff, as it routinely does. When that discussion happens, I advise observers not to read too much into it. We have a twelve-year contract we are very happy with. It is always appropriate to ask the right questions and to examine every issue to be sure we have things right. We are very satisfied with the Playoff and look forward to its continued success.

The 11-member CFP management committee, consisting of all 10 FBS conference commissioners as well as Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, reports to the CFP Board of Managers, which is made up of 11 individuals who are presidents/chancellors at FBS institutions.  It’s those presidents/chancellors, with input from the commissioners, that will ultimately decide when or even if the playoffs will expand.

For those interested, those 11 current members of that board are:

  • Eric Barron – President, Penn State University (Big Ten)
  • Rodney Bennett – President, University of Southern Mississippi (C-USA)
  • Greg Fenves – President, University of Texas-Austin (Big 12)
  • Anthony Frank – President, Colorado State University (Mountain West)
  • Jack Hawkins – Chancellor, Troy University (Sun Belt)
  • Rev. John Jenkins – President, University of Notre Dame (Independent)
  • Mark Keenum (chair) – President, Mississippi State University (SEC)
  • Kirk Schulz – President, Washington State University (Pac-12)
  • John Thrasher – President, Florida State University (ACC)
  • Satish Tripathi – President, University at Buffalo (MAC)
  • R. Gerald Turner – President, Southern Methodist University (American Athletic)

The CFP’s current 12-year contract with broadcast partner ESPN runs through the 2026 season.

NCAA adjusts targeting, overtime rules

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The NCAA will tweak the targeting rules and has ended ultra-marathon overtime games, the organization announced on Tuesday.

The Playing Rules Oversight Panel on Monday will now require replay officials to either confirm or deny all targeting fouls called on the field. Any targeting foul that cannot be confirmed by video review will now be overturned. On the flip side, the NCAA has now approved a penalty system for repeat offenders, where all players who accrue three targeting fouls in the same season will now serve a 1-game suspension.

In the other major change to emerge Tuesday, the NCAA has officially ended any 7-overtime games. Spurred by the marathon LSU-Texas A&M game last November, all games that get beyond a fourth overtime will now see both teams alternate 2-point plays until one team converts and the other does not, rather than begin at the 25-yard line like any other overtime session. The first four overtime sessions will remain unchanged, where teams will be required to go for two after the second overtime. A mandatory 2-minute break will now be instituted after the second and fourth overtime sessions.

Finally, the NCAA also banned blind-side blocks, to be penalized with a 15-yard flag, and the 2-man wedge formation on all kickoffs.

Ohio State DL coach Larry Johnson denies facilitating player payment at Penn State

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The ongoing federal corruption case against College Basketball, Inc., took an unplanned-but-not-unexpected swerve into college football on Tuesday when a witness for the government said he facilitated payments for numerous college football players from 2000 through 2013.

Pittsburgh-based financial advisor Marty Blazer, who has already pleaded guilty to defrauding clients, is now testifying on behalf of the government during the New York-based trial, and said he paid players representing a handful of programs ranging from Alabama and Michigan to Northwestern and Pitt, funneling them funds ranging from three to five figures.

Blazer did not name names for any coaches on Tuesday, but he did name the name of a player — former Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin — which led anyone who follows college football to figure out his coach — former Penn State defensive line, and current Ohio State defensive line coach, Larry Johnson.

According to Blazer, Maybin was considering leaving school early to enter the 2009 draft when Johnson (without naming his name) arranged a meeting between himself, Blazer and Maybin’s father. There, Johnson got Blazer to give Maybin’s father $10,000, with the hope that the cash-in-hand would keep Aaron Maybin a Nittany Lion while ensuring the player would become a Blazer client when he eventually went pro.

Maybin, as we all know, entered the 2009 draft and was selected 11th overall. Blazer said Maybin’s father later returned the money.

Johnson was reached by Yahoo Sports on Tuesday and vehemently denied the accusation.

“That is not accurate at all,” Johnson said. “That is absolutely false. I would never, ever ask anybody to do that. That is not me.”

“Why is it that something like that comes out and nobody says anything to me?” Johnson Sr. said. “This is the first call I’ve gotten. All of a sudden this Marty Blazer guy can just say whatever he wants? That is absolutely amazing. Wow.”

Johnson coached Penn State’s defensive line from 1996 through 2013 and has been at Ohio State since 2014. The 67-year-old is generally regarded as one of the best defensive line coaches in college football, and while it’s unclear if the NCAA would even take an interest in the case, Johnson obviously wants to make sure the testimony of an admitted fraudster does not ruin his reputation.

Clemson lands No. 1 overall player in Class of 2020

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Clemson has managed to dominate college football without really dominating the college football recruiting rankings. Since 2015, the Tigers’ classes have ranked, in order, No. 9, No. 11, No. 16, No. 7 and No. 10, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Those are good classes, to be sure, but not necessarily great ones; they’re the type of classes you’d expect to lead to a team competing for ACC championships and New Year’s Six bowls, not beating Alabama in the national championship game twice in three years.

Clearly, Clemson’s coaches have cornered the market on finding a few great players and a bunch of really good ones, then developing them to all play like great players. The question then becomes: What happens if Clemson starts recruiting a bunch of great players? What happens if, in addition to playing like Alabama, Clemson started recruiting like Alabama?

We’re about to find out.

The Tigers on Tuesday landed Bryan Breese, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound defensive tackle from Damascus, Md., who happens to be the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2020, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

“At the end of this little run I was really between Clemson, Georgia and Penn State and over that last visit everyone talks about you’ll feel it and I didn’t understand that till the last visit and I got the feeling and knew where I was supposed to be,” Bresee told 247Sports.

But Tuesday’s news wasn’t just about Breese. He became Clemson’s first 5-star commitment of this class, joining a group of 11 4-stars that vaults the Tigers over Alabama for the No. 1 spot in the 2020 team rankings, with three less players on board than the Crimson Tide. Beyond Breese, Clemson is also favored to land 5-star quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, 5-star defensive end Jordan Burch and 5-star Myles Murphy, all of whom rank in the top 10 nationally, plus 5-star linebacker Antoine Sampah, who ranks No. 31 in the country.

If all that comes to pass, Clemson could follow one of the best seasons ever with one of the best recruiting classes ever.

“This class could be by far one of the best classes ever,” Bresee said. “I think definitely one of the best classes for Clemson.”

Transfers from Rutgers, Coastal Carolina land at same FCS school

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The same FCS program has double-dipped in the NCAA transfer portal, FBS division, in bulking up the talent on its football roster.

Monday afternoon, Albany announced via social media that running back Alex James and fullback Max Anthony have officially signed with the program.  James, a redshirt junior, comes to Albany from Coastal Carolina, Anthony, a fifth-year senior, from Rutgers.

As both players come to the Great Danes from the FBS ranks, they will each be eligible to play immediately in 2019.

The past two seasons for the Chanticleers, James has rushed for 475 yards and seven touchdowns on 114 carries.  He also caught 16 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Anthony had started six of the 27 games in which he played for the Scarlet Knights.