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Big Ten ADs chirping for College Football Playoff expansion

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The Big Ten has seen its champion left out of the College Football Playoff three times overall and twice in the past two seasons. Now, as the Big Ten powers gather for spring meetings, the talk about potential changes to the College Football Playoff are picking up some steam among Big Ten athletic directors.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez has previously been outspoken about the idea of expanding the playoff format beyond four teams. As a member of the selection committee, Alvarez has one of the most prominent voices in the game when it comes to playoff expansion, even if the company line from the College Football Playoff is that four teams is the best possible number right now. But the Big Ten is in the midst of changing the discussion as best it possibly can as Jim Delany has begun speaking more favorably for discussing potential expansion, and other Big Ten ADs are beginning to step up to the plate as well.

“I’m open to the consideration and to looking at it and to thinking about it,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said this week, according to MLive.com. “Anytime our Big Ten champion is left out of the playoff … that’s something that needs to be discussed. Because I obviously believe that you go through and you win the Big Ten championship in this league, you’ve accomplished something that deserves to put you in position to play for the national championship.”

Of course, maybe the Big Ten champion just has to avoid having one major bad loss on its schedule at the end of the season. That has been the biggest setback for Ohio State the past two seasons and was at least a part of the reason why Penn State didn’t make the cut a few years ago too.

Even if the Big Ten takes a hard stance in favor of playoff expansion, there is no guarantee that will be nearly enough to lead to any imminent changes to the system. The ACC and SEC remain confident in the current structure, for example, which would seem to make it difficult to pass any proposed changes to the format at this current time. The current contract for the College Football Playoff runs through the 2025 season, the 12th and final year of the initial 12-year TV and media contract for the playoff format with ESPN. Executive director Bill Hancock has said on multiple occasions no changes to the playoff model as far as how many teams may be involved would happen until at least the end of the current contract. As we creep closer and closer to the current contract’s expiration date, the discussions about the future of the playoff will begin to be heavily scrutinized. Contracts can always be adjusted at any time, of course, but the standard response from the College Football Playoff representatives has stayed true to the idea no changes would happen during the current 12-year deal.

Whether you like the current four-team model or not, history in sports has shown the trend is for playoff fields to expand at some point in time. They have expanded in pretty much every sport for as long as postseason sports have been in existence. And it wasn’t really all that long ago the powers that be in charge of the BCS were adamant a playoff would never happen. Now, those same people are running a four-team playoff field that is likely to be inevitable to succumb to the idea of expansion, for better or worse. Right now, the Big Ten is showing its hand in favor of expansion, or at least opening up a dialogue about the future of the College Football Playoff. If you are in favor of expansion, this is your battle cry.

In statement, AD John Cohen says Mississippi State is ‘disappointed’ in Mike Leach’s controversial tweet

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Mississippi State has officially responded publicly to the brouhaha kicked up by their new head football coach.

Last Thursday, Mike Leach sent out a tweet in which he apologized for anyone he offended in a previous tweet.  In the controversial tweet in question, the caption read “After 2 weeks of quarantine with her husband, Gertrude decided to knit him a scarf..”  The picture attached to it?  An elderly woman knitting a noose.

A handful of Leach’s followers were offended by the tweet.  In response to Leach’s original tweet, Mississippi State football player Fabien Lovett wrote simply, “Wtf.” Lovett soon thereafter announced that he was entering the transfer portal; his father confirmed later that the tweet played a role.  Monday, one of Lovett’s, Brevyn Jones, announced that he too will be transferring.

In the midst of that social media maelstrom, Mississippi State had been largely silent.  Until now.  In a statement, MSU athletic director John Cohen expressed disappointment in Leach’s tweet.  He also stated that the university is confident that Leach has learned from what was described as a “misstep.”

Below is the statement, in its entirety.

No matter the context, for many Americans the image of a noose is never appropriate and that’s particularly true in the South and in Mississippi. Mississippi State University was disappointed in the use of such an image in a tweet by Coach Mike Leach. He removed the tweet and issued a public apology. The university is confident that  Coach Leach is moving quickly and sincerely past this unintended misstep and will provide the leadership for our student-athletes and excitement for our football program that our fans deserve and that our students and alumni will be proud to support.

To ensure that Leach has learned from his “misstep,” Mississippi State also announced the following steps it will take when it comes to its head football coach.

Cohen said that a plan is in place for Coach Leach to participate in additional listening sessions with student, alumni, and community groups and to provide the coach with opportunities to expand his cultural awareness of Mississippi. One of those opportunities will include a guided visit to the “Two Museums” – the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum – in Jackson as soon as restrictions from the current public health crisis will allow.

Arizona State LB Tyler Johnson returns from medical retirement

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Arizona State linebacker Tyler Johnson announced after the Sun Devils’ Sun Bowl win that he planned to retire from football for medical reasons. On Tuesday, Sun Devil Source reported Johnson has changed his mind.

A 6-foot-5, 258-pound junior defensive lineman, Johnson collected 22 tackles, 5.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 2019 while battling injuries throughout.

Johnson recorded four sacks in the final seven games of his redshirt freshman season of 2018.

Considered one of Arizona State’s best pass rushers when healthy, Johnson is expected to move from linebacker to defensive end as the Sun Devils move from a 3-3-5 to a 4-3 scheme.

 

Mike Gundy says season should start on time because ‘we need to run money’ through state of Oklahoma

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In arguing that coaches should get back to work on May 1 and the season should start on time, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy inadvertently argued that college football players are professional athletes. That, or indentured servants.

In an hourlong teleconference Tuesday that began with a 20-minute monologue, Gundy said, though he’s not 100 percent, the season should begin on time because players are young and, thus, “have the ability to fight this virus off” and because “we need to run money through the state of Oklahoma.”

He also said there are “too many people that are relying on” college football the sport not to be played.

Gundy floated the idea that games could be played without fans in the stands and students on campus.

Others can debate about Gundy’s thoughts on testing and antibodies and the ability of a 22-year-old to “fight off COVID-19” — though I’d add Boise assistant Zac Alley, a 26-year-old, said his bout with the disease was like breathing with a knife in his ribs — but I’d like to talk about the economic implications of Gundy’s comments.

Gundy is not wrong at all that plenty of families depend on college athletics to put food on the table and that Cowboy football is an important economic engine of the state of Oklahoma. He’s exactly right, of course.

But to argue that a college scholarship is appropriate compensation for risking exposure to the virus while fans and students remain home — “We’re trying to find a way to pay everybody’s salary and keep the economy going.” — then either the players deserve a cut of that economy, or they’re nothing more than indentured servants whose labor belongs to others.

“I’m not taking away from the danger of people getting sick,” Gundy said. “You have the virus, stay healthy, try to do what we can to help people that are sick, and we’re losing lives, which is just terrible. The second part of it is that we still have to schedule and continue to move forward as life goes on and help those people.”

Boise State assistant reveals bout with COVID-19

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Boise State assistant coach Zac Alley revealed to reporters on Tuesday that is among the 392,000 and counting Americans to test positive for COVID-19. And he said it was terrible.

“I had no symptoms, no anything, and in about a 24-hour period I went from 0 to 100,” Alley told the Idaho Press. “I just had some sharp pains in my chest and all that. It got to a point that night where I was pretty short of breath and couldn’t breathe, and thankfully my girlfriend was like ‘we’re going to the ER’. When we got there they were saying thank God you came in.

“Every breath was kind of like taking a knife and sticking it through your ribs.”

Alley, 26, is in his second year on Boise State’s staff, where he coaches the Broncos’ outside linebackers and co-coordinates the special teams. He spent his previous eight years at Clemson as an undergraduate and graduate assistant.

He said he and his girlfriend quarantined at home as all good citizens have, and the only place he’d ventured out was the grocery store, where he theorizes he contracted the coronavirus from a shopping cart.

“As a young healthy person I didn’t think it would affect me as drastically as it did,” Alley said. “I mean my health deteriorated so fast and really I didn’t show any traditional symptoms of what they were saying other than the shortness of breath.”

Alley spent one day at the hospital but was discharged the same day. He is now symptom free.

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