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After NFL interest, Florida confirms extension, raise for DC Todd Grantham

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After it was reported that Todd Grantham had spurned an opportunity with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals and would remain as the defensive coordinator at Florida, we wrote the following:

While not specifically mentioned, it’s believed that Grantham, who made $1.4 million with the Gators in 2018 and was set to earn $1.5 million in 2019, will return to Gainesville for a second season on an enhanced contract.  His 2018 salary, which made him the highest-paid assistant in UF history, was 10th nationally among FBS assistants and fifth in the SEC (second in the SEC East behind Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who is now the head coach at Colorado).

As it turns out, it didn’t even take the Bengals sniffing around their coordinator before the Gators took action.

Early Tuesday afternoon, Florida confirmed that Dan Mullen‘s top defensive assistant will remain with the Gators “following a mutual courtship with the Bengals, who interviewed Grantham on Tuesday and Wednesday to become their defensive coordinator.” Last month, the football program revealed, Grantham had already agreed to a contract extension through the 2022 season that would pay him an average of $1.8 million annually.

Compensation of $1.8 million in 2018 would’ve tied Grantham, who had previously turned down overtures from the NFL while at Georgia (HERE) and Louisville (HERE), with Texas A&M’s Mike Elko as the fourth-highest-paid assistant in the country and second in the SEC.  Interestingly, Elko has also been reported as a candidate for the job with the Bengals turned down by Grantham.

During his first season in Gainesville, Grantham had the Gators 21st nationally in scoring defense (20.4 points per game) and 26th total defense (339 yards per game) in 2018.  The year prior to Grantham’s arrival, they were 72nd (27.3 ppg) and 31st (349 ypg) in those same categories.

Mizzou reportedly tore less than 25,000 tickets per game in 2018

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The SEC is the home of the most fanatical college football fans in the sport, they tell us. It’s the place where they’d draw 80,000 fans to watch walk-ons practice catching punts. It really does just mean more.

So what does it say about the conference, and the sport as a whole, when one of its members tore less than 25,000 tickets per game?

That’s the case at Missouri, where, according to a report Tuesday from Columbia Missourian, the Tigers scanned an average of 24,377 tickets over the course of the team’s seven-game home schedule.

Now, there are some mitigating factors here. The school says the number is a far cry from the actual paid attendance because the stadium’s electronic ticket scanners did not work on a number of occasions, thereby allowing untold thousands of paying customers to enter the stadium without being counted. And, no doubt, that was a factor — though how big a factor, no one can say.

But it’s still a far cry from the 51,865 fans Missouri says attended each game, which itself is a far cry from Faurot Field’s listed capacity of 71,168.

Another mitigating factor: the home schedule. Tiger fans did get to see Georgia come to Faurot Field. Their other opponents, though: UT-Martin, Wyoming, Memphis, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Arkansas. Not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents Mizzou fans grew up learning to hate. And as the article says, weather and timing didn’t help the Arkansas gate.

However, it’s not as if a poor attendance number can be blamed on poor performance. Mizzou went 5-2 at home in 2018.

And then there’s this: the 2018 schedule is more or less Mizzou’s home schedule every year. In 2019, Missouri plays host to West Virginia, Southeast Missouri State, South Carolina, Troy, Ole Miss, Florida and Tennessee.

Let’s see if Missouri can tear more than 25,000 tickets per game this time around.

Report: American signs $1 billion TV deal with ESPN

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The American has signed a new TV deal with ESPN that will represent a massive raise for the conference, according to a report Tuesday from Sports Business Journal.

The new deal will pay the conference a sum of $1 billion over the next 12 years, a split of $83.3 million per year, or around $7 million per year per school. That’s pennies compared to the $50 million-plus doled out by the Big Ten, but it’s a windfall compared to the league’s current contract that pays less than $2 million per year per school.

The contract will run from the 2020 football season through 2031, according to the report.

It’s good news for the conference insofar that rates are still going up in light of the cord-cutting shift affecting the entire TV business, but it does come with some caveats.

First, AAC fans must now pony up for ESPN+ subscriptions if they’d like to see many of their school’s games. Marquee games will remain on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, but the rest will go to the paid, online streaming service — which, obviously, ESPN hopes will help recoup much of the money they’re giving the AAC in the first place. More games should make TV airwaves moving forward, depending on how you define TV airwaves.

The other bit of mixed-bag news is that, according to the report, ESPN did not require a Grant of Rights agreement to fork over the $1 billion contract. That’s good if you’re a UCF or a Connecticut; it allows you to hang on to your free agent status should the Big 12 or ever come calling. But it’s bad if you’re a Tulsa or an East Carolina fan, because it means your conference’s most valuable members — thus, your ticket to continued $1 billion deals — are (still) only in the AAC until they get a better offer and not one moment longer.

NCAA grants immediate eligibility to Miami QB Tate Martell

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The NCAA has granted immediate eligibility to transfer quarterback Tate Martell, Miami announced on Tuesday.

“We are pleased with this ruling and appreciate the NCAA recognizing that this waiver met the criteria under the membership established guidelines,” Miami AD Blake James said in a statement. “We would like to thank the NCAA, as well as Ohio State University, for their assistance and support throughout the waiver process. We look forward to seeing Tate compete for the Hurricanes this season.”

Miami head coach Manny Diaz offered his own restrained comment as well.

Martell transferred after Justin Fields executed his own transfer from Georgia to Ohio State. Fields used a documented case of a then-Georgia baseball player using the N-word to refer to him during a September football game as evidence why he should be eligible for a waiver, which has since been granted.

Martell had no such incident, but he was granted a waiver anyway, leading many (yours truly included) to argue his case would bring along full-fledged free agency in major college football.

The NCAA has since announced it will take a look at the loosened waiver guidelines, which were only approved last April. So it appears Martell may use the loophole, then get it closed behind him.

But those are matters for another day. For now, Martell is officially a Miami Hurricane for the 2019 season. The redshirt sophomore will join a quarterback derby pitting him against returning starter N’Kosi Perry and redshirt freshman Jarren Williams for the open job.

Texas Tech coach Matt Wells suspends four players as spring practice starts back up

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There’s a new sheriff in Lubbock and the message is quickly spreading at Texas Tech.

New Red Raiders head coach Matt Wells confirmed reports that the program has suspended four players as spring practice returns to the program after a recent break:

Of those four, DeMarcus Fields is probably the biggest name as he started every game at cornerback for the team last season and was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection. Joe Wallace is also a returning starter while Da’Leon Ward has been in the doghouse before with the previous coaching staff after missing 2017 and taking a redshirt prior to returning in 2018. Fulcher is the only one of the four who has not seen the field for Tech.

Wells did leave open the possibility that the quartet could return to the team at any time but it’s pretty clear they have work to do in order to get back in good graces with the new staff.

The Red Raiders have a rather unique schedule for spring practice so at least there’s still time for any or all the players to do just that before Tech holds their spring game on April 13th.