Bryan Fischer

National college football columnist. FWAA Super 16 voter. Travel virtuoso.
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North Carolina offensive lineman Avery Jones hits transfer portal

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North Carolina will hit the weekend down one player to the NCAA transfer portal.

As first noted by Inside Carolina, offensive lineman Avery Jones has submitted his name to the database.

The redshirt offensive lineman was considered a four-star as part of the Class of 2018. That pre-dates Mack Brown‘s (second) time in Chapel Hill but he was expected to provide some depth for North Carolina whenever the 2020 campaign rolled around.

Instead, Jones Will Likely be playing elsewhere for the eventual season’s kickoff. He wound up appearing in just one game for the Tar Heels during his time on campus, a single snap against FCS Mercer last year.

Interestingly, Inside Carolina notes that Jones is the ninth player to depart from the UNC program this offseason. Tight end Carl Tucker (to Alabama) is the most notable of those names.

It goes without saying that playing time could be a big factor for Jones’ departure. Not only did he not see much of the field, but he was recruited over in recent classes quite a bit. Add in an upcoming haul from Brown and snaps would be hard to come by.

No word on any potential destinations for Jones in the report. He was recruited out of high school by a number of ACC programs, however. In addition, East Carolina, Maryland and Vanderbilt also offered him.

Griffin twins to speak at UCF virtual commencement

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One of the best college football stories of the past few years is getting a very cool second act at UCF. Virtually, at least.

In an announcement by the school on Thursday, the Knights have confirmed that their commencement speakers this year will be none other than Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin. The two brothers were stars on the football field at Central Florida before becoming draft picks and starters for the Seattle Seahawks.

The twins will deliver their speeches online on May 2 as the university confers degrees on thousands of students over the internet. The event is a marquee one too in more ways than one. The school is celebrating their 50th anniversary commencement and will involve nearly 8,600 students.

Shaquill is a former Knights defensive back who turned into a third round NFL draft pick in 2017.  Brother Shaquem played a large role in leading the team to an undefeated season the following year, earning numerous accolades for his play on the field despite being a partial amputee. He was eventually drafted in the fifth round by the Seahawks.

The two earned their degrees from UCF together in 2016.

Now they’ll be trying to pass on some words of wisdom to the next generation of black and gold.

UNLV could be cutting air travel for away football games amid budget concerns

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UNLV could be trading plane rides for bus rides in 2020 and beyond.

Citing budget concerns surrounding the coronavirus, Rebels athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois noted that slashing the program’s travel expenses are among the items being looked at as the school deals with the financial fallout related to COVID-19.

“We’ve been in continuous conversation with the Mountain West Conference,” Reed-Francois told the Las Vegas Sun. “We’re going to look at travel expenses, we’re going to look at the number of away games. We may be looking at bussing to places we may have flown before.”

The Sun notes that UNLV spent some $2.7 million on travel across all sports. Football made up nearly a fifth of that amount to the dune of $587,000.

As currently constructed, the Rebels will have seven home games in 2020. While it would be a stretch to bus to an away game like the ones at Iowa State or certainly Hawaii, they do have somewhat manageable (if long) visits to MWC venues at San Diego State, San Jose State and Fresno State that they could travel to via the highway.

Needless to say, this would be quite the headache for a new coaching staff under Marcus ArroyoIn addition to the travel issues, there are also outstanding concerns over the opening of Allegiant Stadium and its usage for the school as well.

Cutting back on air travel is bound to be something other programs start exploring either way — especially at the Group of Five level.  It seems the Rebels will just be the first of many to drill down into some of the details on the balance sheet over the coming weeks and months.

Baylor hearing with NCAA Committee on Infractions put on hold due to coronavirus

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Baylor has waited nearly four years to hear their NCAA fate. Thanks to the coronavirus, the school will keep waiting indefinitely.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News this week, BU athletic director Mack Rhoades confirmed that his school is among those impacted by a pause in the NCAA enforcement process. The organization announced the Committee on Infractions would be put on hold until at least May 31.

“I think everyone wants to know,” Rhoades said. “At this point in time, I can honestly say it’s something I can’t answer because I don’t have the answer. We’re waiting for whenever that time is and will be prepared to do what we need to do when that time comes.”

The allegations stem in large part from the scandal surrounding Art Briles‘ tenure in Waco. The school was cited over two years ago for lack of institutional control and had hoped to know their fate prior to the 2020 season.

Yet, the sport has hit pause due to COVID-19. As a result, both the season and any potential NCAA penalties may not be known until 2021. There had been some hope that a resolution could have been reached in the next few months but an already lengthy process figures to hang over the start of new coach Dave Aranda‘s tenure — whenever it begins.

It’s possible that the NCAA may hold hearings over video conference after the end of May but given everything on their plate right now, slapping the wrist of some football programs may not rank all that high on their list of priorities.

Luke Fickell, Ryan Silverfield added to AAC working group on football’s return

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The AAC is turning to some of their football coaches to get a better handle on how — and when — college football will return in the fall.

Speaking to the Orlando Sentinel, American Athletic commissioner Mike Aresco confirmed the creation of a new conference working group designed to “discuss various scenarios for a potential football season.” Among those involved is Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell and new Memphis head coach Ryan Silverfield

Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen and Temple counterpart Pat Kraft are also involved.

“We don’t know if we’ll have a green light or if we start later in September or October, you’re still going to need that time to work,” Aresco told the paper. “There’s got to be that lead time, regardless.

The proper lead up or ramp up time involved in a college football start unlike any other is a key question for the sport right now. We’ve seen suggestions of everything from eight weeks prior to the season to seven to as short as four from a select few.

Interestingly, Aresco seems to be one of the few who is coming around to the idea of CFB starting up even if there are not students on campus. That point has generally been reinforced in comments from others but it seems the situation among the Group of Five leagues, especially financially, could be hastening a return sooner rather than later.

“I’m still weighing that. My position right now is if schools are offering virtual classes, as far as I’m concerned, they’re in session,” said Aresco. “It may be that you can’t accommodate thousands of kids on campus because you can’t control the situation with social distancing. But you could deal with 100 football players or 50 athletes from other sports. Perhaps you can accommodate that with quarantine and testing and other types of things. Perhaps you can play even if there weren’t students physically on campus. If there’s a safe way to do it, that’s the key. I would emphasize that health and safety have been the top priority in everything we’ve talked about.”

Who knows ultimately what kind of 2020 season ends up happening in college football but it’s been pretty clear that even with everybody stuck at home due to COVID-19, everybody is working on advancing scenarios for a potential return to the gridiron.