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AAC latest league to allow walk-ons to transfer without losing a year

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The so-called ‘Baker Mayfield Rule’ continues to spread throughout the country as players’ freedom of movement becomes a hot button issue in the world of the NCAA.

Per a release from the league office, the American Athletic Conference has formally approved a rule change that will allow walk-ons (or, more formally, student-athletes not on scholarship) to transfer to another school in the conference without having to sit a year. 

The move came as part of a broader set of issues that were discussed by AAC presidents and athletic directors during their annual fall meetings this week.

“We had another extremely productive meeting with our presidents and athletic directors this week in Philadelphia,” Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “There was a great deal of discussion about the future of our league and the momentum that we have created as we prepare for our new television/media agreement with ESPN beginning next year. There is enormous enthusiasm in the wake of the Conference’s increasing football, basketball and Olympic sport success and we will continue to energize and refresh our successful P6 campaign.  We discussed the NCAA Board of Governors’ recent statement on name, image and likeness and we will be forming a conference working group to examine further that issue. We are all in agreement that this is a very complicated matter, and that preserving the amateur experience in a way that is fair to all student-athletes is of the utmost importance.”

The Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma first called attention to the issue after he was a walk-on at Texas Tech before eventually transferring to the Sooners and being placed on scholarship. Big 12 rules at the time stated Mayfield had to lose a season of eligibility as a result of the move but that was later amended to allow for such a scenario to happen without a player dropping a season. The Pac-12 and others have followed suit in recent years, with the AAC the latest at the Group of Five level to join the growing chorus.

In January, the NCAA also approved rules changes allowing walk-ons to transfer without penalty but many individual conferences had rules against doing so within their own league. That’s no longer the case in the AAC and others now as walk-ons finally get a measure of freedom that they didn’t have before.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis endorses bill mimicking California Fair Pay to Play Act

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The NCAA played tough with California when its name, image and likeness bill rolled through the state’s assembly and right to Gov. Gavin Newsom‘s desk, where he ultimately signed it into law.

Just how much longer do you think that act will fly publicly?

On Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his support for a pair of bills that would see the Sunshine State’s college athletes win the right to market their own name, image and likeness.

Speaking to the media, DeSantis told the Tampa Bay Times he expected issues to arise, but he wouldn’t allow that to crumble his support of the issue.

“I’m confident those issues can be addressed in a way that will maintain college athletics as really special thing but also provide the ability for our student athletes to be able to benefit just like anybody else would be able to benefit,” DeSantis said.

“To the 470,000 student athletes across this nation: help is on its way,” state Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, author of an earlier bill to pay college athletes. “We’re sick and tired of the hypocrisy within a classroom setting where young athletes are taught about capitalism and taught about the free market but are being told, on the other hand, they cannot participate because they have a gift.”

With the governor already on board, it seems as if it’s only a matter of time before Florida joins California in breaking the NCAA’s ranks. A bushel of other states are actively considering measures, and there are currently multiple bills making their way through Washington to force the issue nationally.

The NCAA can puff its chest and say it’s prepared to boot California’s member schools in the event the Fair Pay to Play Act goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. That’s largely and empty threat, and state politicians across the country are showing just exactly how empty it is by joining the Golden State. Either the NCAA can change, or it can cling to its rulebook until the rulebook is all it has left.

Updated coaches salaries database released, with Dabo Swinney leading the way

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You might want to sit down for this: college football head coaches continue to make a spitload of money.

As it does around this time every year, USA Today Tuesday released an updated version of its FBS coaches salaries database.  The highest-paid?  Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and his $9.32 million in total pay, overtaking Alabama’s Nick Saban, who was tops at $8.3 million in 2018 and now sits at No. 2 at $8.86 million.

At the opposite end of the financial spectrum is Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell, whose $360,000 in total compensation is the lowest salary of those obtained by USA Today.  Compensation for coaches at eight universities — Air Force, Army, BYU, Liberty, Miami, Rice, SMU, Temple — wasn’t available.

Arguably the most improbable name in the Top 10 in compensation?  Jeff Brohm at $6.6 million, ahead of the likes of Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma ($6.4 million), James Franklin of Penn State ($5.6 million) and David Shaw of Stanford ($4.6 million).  Brohm, whose wooing by Louisville led to a hefty new contract, is 2-5 this season after going 13-13 his first two seasons with the Boilermakers.

Below are the highest-paid Power Five coaches, per conference:

  • ACC — Swinney, $9.32 million
  • Big 12 — Texas’ Tom Herman, $6.75 million
  • Big Ten — Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, $7.5 million
  • Pac-12 — Washington’s Chris Petersen, $4.63 million
  • SEC — Saban, $8.86 million

Conversely, these are the lowest-paid Power Five coaches for each league:

  • ACC — Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson, $2.19 million
  • Big 12 — Kansas State’s Chris Klieman, $2.3 million
  • Big Ten — Indiana’s Tom Allen, $1.8 million
  • Pac-12 — Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin, $2 million
  • SEC — Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead, $3 million

At $5 million, USF’s Charlie Strong‘s total compensation is far and away the highest for a Group of Five coaches, with Houston’s Dana Holgorsen‘s $3.7 million the next closest.

Of the other four G5 leagues, North Texas’ Seth Littrell of Conference USA ($1.9 million), Toledo’s Jason Candle of the MAC ($1.2 million), Wyoming’s Craig Bohl of the Mountain West ($2.1 million) and Louisiana’s Billy Napier of the Sun Belt ($875,000) are the highest-paid for their respective conferences.

One final tidbit: The combined salaries of the coaches in the Sun Belt Conference ($6.5 million) is less than the compensation of eight individual head coaches — Swinney, Saban, Harbaugh, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher ($7.5 million), Georgia’s Kirby Smart ($6.9 million), Auburn’s Gus Malzahn ($6.8 million), Herman and Brohm.  Swinney and Saban also make more individually than the MAC does combined ($7.8 million).

Mike Aresco confirms AAC has received waiver to hold title game with 11 conference members

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Counting in college football is hard but at least the NCAA makes it easy to obtain a waiver to deal with such issues.

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco confirmed to reporters during a break in SMU’s victory over Temple on Saturday that the league has received the necessary waiver for the 2020 season to hold a conference title game despite having 11 members.

“It’s really a relief that this got done,” Aresco said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The conference championship is so important to the league.”

The reason the AAC is in the position of needing to get a waiver is, of course, the result of UConn’s decision to re-join the Big East in most sports and try their hand at football independence starting next season. The conference has so far declined to pursue a new member to replace the Huskies, resulting in 11 football programs going forward unless they make significant changes this offseason.

NCAA rules dictate that conferences must have either 12 teams in multiple divisions or require a round-robin schedule in order to hold a league title game. The waiver allows the American to bypass the requirements and keep their existing contracts with ESPN in place going forward for such a game, resulting in a nice little windfall in addition to their standard broadcast contract with the world wide leader.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Aresco also confirmed that the league will abandon it’s two division format starting next season and that the top two teams in the conference will meet in the title game in a manner similar to the Big 12 — albeit with 11 teams instead of 10.

Like we said, it can be hard to count in college football but thankfully, there’s always a waiver from the folks in Indianapolis for that.

Reports: USF quarterback Blake Barnett to undergo season-ending surgery on ankle

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The Blake Barnett era at USF appears to be over.

According to a report from Bulls247 and others, the senior quarterback’s career will likely end at the school after he undergoes surgery on his ankle that will knock him out the rest of the 2019 season.

The signal-caller was originally injured in a loss to SMU last month and hasn’t played since with what was described as a high ankle sprain. He was the team’s starter both last season and at the beginning of this one but was eventually replaced by redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud after several tough performances.

While there’s still an outside shot that Barnett could receive a sixth season from the NCAA thanks to a medical redshirt in 2019, the chances of that happening are always anyone’s guess. He did play in just four games this season but already used his redshirt when transferring the first time from Alabama to Arizona State. He made his way to Tampa prior to the 2018 campaign and led the team to a 7-0 start before the wheels came off for Charlie Strong’s team.

A former five-star recruit who once started for the Crimson Tide over current Heisman favorite Jalen Hurts, Barnett has had a meandering career to be sure but has shown flashes at times with the Bulls. He threw for 3,139 yards across two seasons at USF, completing just under 60% of his passes while tossing 16 touchdowns against 13 interceptions.

Losing Barnett is a big blow to the team’s depth at the position the rest of the season as McCloud has seen limited playing time so far and backup Kirk Rygol is a walk-on. USF takes on Navy this Saturday in Annapolis in a critical game if the team wants to make a bowl game in 2019.