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NCAA forms working group to consider name, image and likeness payments to athletes

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In the state of American politics in the year of our Lord 2019, there is an ever-dwindling list of things Democrats and Republicans can agree on. One of those issues: hatred of the NCAA’s amateurism model.

Following separate bills authored by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) with aims on blowing up amateurism, the NCAA on Tuesday announced it has formed a working group to consider the state of its ban on name, image and likeness (NLI) payments to college athletes.

“This group will bring together diverse opinions from the membership — from presidents and commissioners to student-athletes — that will examine the NCAA’s position on name, image and likeness benefits and potentially propose rule modifications tethered to education,” said Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East and working group co-chair. “We believe the time is right for these discussions and look forward to a thorough assessment of the many complexities involved in this area.”

Added co-chair and Ohio State AD Gene Smith: “While the formation of this group is an important step to confirming what we believe as an association, the group’s work will not result in paying students as employees. That structure is contrary to the NCAA’s educational mission and will not be a part of this discussion.”

A close reading of Smith’s statement will reveal it is actually an admission. Those on the pro-NLI side of the aisle do not argue for college athletes to become W-2 employees of the athletics departments for which they play. Instead, NLI rights would allow all college athletes from Trevor Lawrence on down to get the best deal they can get on the open market, from Nike on down to Big Bob’s Tractor Supply.

By denying something no one’s arguing for, Smith confirms the working group will discuss the issue activists (and lawmakers) are arguing for.

Says the NCAA text:

As part of its efforts, the working group will study modifications of current rules, policies and practices. In particular, it will focus on solutions that tie any changes to education; maintain the clear demarcation between professional and college sports; and further align student-athletes with the general student body.

The Board of Governors charged the working group with writing a set of overarching principles to guide each division as it devises consistent legislation. A final report is due to the Board of Governors in October, with an update provided in August.

Yes, amateurism and all the trappings therein remains a core belief of the NCAA. But this is the same organization that forbid NCAA-sanctioned championship events from being held in states that permitted sports gambling… until the Supreme Court lifted the prohibition on nationalized sports gambling. Less than a year from that decision, the NCAA has granted itself permission to stage a championship event across the street from a casino.

Federal law saw one of the NCAA’s core beliefs wilt in the name of practical survival. Could more pressure from Washington lead to another major change?

Mother of former Michigan OL James Hudson takes issue with Jim Harbaugh’s mental health comments

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Jim Harbaugh‘s statement during Big Ten media days saying he’d support granting a one-time waiver for all players to transfer and play immediately figures to win him many fans in the pro-player camp. But a comment Harbaugh made did not win him any fans in a household of a player that tried to transfer and play immediately but was denied.

“And the other piece that bothers me about it is, the youngster that says ‘this is a mental health issue, I’m suffering from depression.’ Or that’s a reason to get eligible,” Harbaugh said, via the Detroit Free Press. And once that’s known that ‘hey, say this or say that’ to get eligible. The problem I see in that is you’re going to have guys that are ‘OK, yeah, I’m depressed.’

On Friday, Glenda Hudson criticized Harbaugh for not practicing what he preached. Hudson is the mother of former Michigan lineman James Hudson, whose waiver to play immediately at Cincinnati was denied because, according to him, he and/or Michigan did not provide proper documentation for the mental health issues that Hudson says forced him to leave Ann Arbor.

“Not just as a mom but as a professional that deals with mental health, this is why people don’t come out and say these things, because people don’t believe them,” Hudson told WTOL-TV. “So it upsets me because there are lots of athletes that suffer with depression I’m sure that don’t say things. But, again, hearing these type of things, they won’t. They will not do it in the future because you get, ‘Oh, he’s lying.’ You get blamed for feeling the way that you feel.”

For what it’s worth, Harbaugh seemed to hear the click-bait headlines being written and backtracked his comments during a radio interview.

“And can I add, please don’t write a bunch of letters,” he said. “I care very deeply about mental health. I’m not saying everybody’s lying about that. Just saying ‘OK, this is America. You started at this school, you didn’t like it and for whatever the reason is, you’re freely allowed to transfer to any other school like any other human being would have a right to do.’ That’s really the bottom line.”

In Harbaugh’s defense, he was not involved in the NCAA’s decision to deny Hudson’s eligibility request.

Former four-star Clemson DB enters transfer portal

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A couple of weeks or so before kicking off summer camp, the defending national champion’s depth in the secondary has taken a bit of a hit.

Exiting spring practice, Kyler McMichael was listed as A.J. Terrell‘s back up at one of Clemson’s cornerback slots. However, as first reported by 247Sports.com, McMichael’s name is now listed in the NCAA transfer database.

It’s at this point in the program where we’re compelled to remind readers that McMichael can pull his name from the portal and remain with the Tigers, although entering is, more times than not, the first step toward a transfer. Taking a seat in the portal also affords other programs the opportunity to contact the defensive back without receiving permission from Clemson.

Should McMichael ultimately opt to leave the Tigers, it’s highly likely that he’d have to sit out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules if he lands at another FBS program.

A four-star member of Clemson’s 2018 recruiting class, McMichael was rated as the No. 8 corner in the country; the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Georgia; and the No. 56 prospect overall on 247Sports.com’s composite board. He was the highest-rated defensive back in the Tigers’ class that year.

McMichael picked Clemson over offers from, among others, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

As a true freshman, McMichael played in 12 games. During that action, he was credited with a pair of tackles in just over 100 snaps.

Oh, SHI? Cue Clay Davis because Rutgers announces new football naming rights deal for what will now be known as SHI Stadium

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Cue Clay Davis because the birthplace of college football has a new name and fans probably can’t wait to make fun of it.

Rutgers announced on Friday that they have agreed to a new stadium naming rights deal with SHI International Corp. that will see the Scarlet Knights’ home rebranded over the next seven years into SHI Stadium. The venue was officially known as HighPoint.com Stadium last year but the naming rights deal with what most know as High Point Solutions expired this offseason.

“As the State University of New Jersey, we are thrilled to partner with SHI,” Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs said in a statement. “Headquartered right here in Somerset, SHI proudly embraces its strong Rutgers ties. As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of college football here at the Birthplace, we are delighted to partner with a company that shares in our Relentless Pursuit of Excellence. This partnership will positively impact athletics, the university and the New Jersey community.”

Terms were not announced by the school but “a person familiar with the contract told NJ Advance Media it’s a 7-year deal starting at $1.25 million and increasing by $100,000 annually to $1.85 million in 2025-26.” At a total of nearly $10 million over the lifetime of the contract, that isn’t quite what other Power Five programs have fetched but a still significant bump over the previous $600,000 a year the school got.

The Scarlet Knights previously played at Rutgers Stadium up until 2011. The first football game at the newly renamed stadium will happen on Aug. 30 against UMass.

Rimington Trophy watch list is out for 2019 and it includes 80 FBS centers

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Are you a starting center for 2019? Good, because chances are high you made the Rimington Trophy watch list.

The Rimington Trophy Committee released their annual pre-season watch list for the award given to the nation’s best center and remarkably, 80 of the 130 FBS teams were represented on the list. While watch lists are always notable for their length and being sometimes too broad, it kind of feels like everybody who is in line to start was granted a place on this year’s edition.

Among the notable names were Clemson’s Sean Pollard, Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz, Michigan State’s Matt Allen, Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, Notre Dame’s Jarrett Patterson, Stanford’s Drew Dalman, Washington’s Nick Harris and LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry III.

You can find the full list of centers nominated here.

The winner of the award will be announced in early December along with a host of other college football honors. The winner will then be recognized at the Rimington Trophy Presentation in Lincoln, Nebraska on January 18, 2020.