NCF Nation: 3-point stance

1. The week before Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon resigned under pressure last October, the university athletic department announced the price of football student season tickets would drop from $42 per game to $25 this fall. That's what they cost in 2009, the year before Brandon took the job. The steady price increases alienated students, perhaps the biggest of Brandon's many miscalculations. In a statement Monday releasing more details about ticket prices, student government president Bobby Dishell said, "This is a big step in the rebuilding of the relationship between Athletics and students." Halleluyah.

2. I don't get the cynical reaction to the idea of bringing back freshman ineligibility. It would be a boon to college athletics, and it would be a boon to the freshmen, allowing them to mature physically, emotionally and academically before they take the field. It would give the top players only two years to play before they could leave for the NFL. So what? I see it as a win-win. The only thing I would suggest is don't call it, as the Big Ten has, "year of readiness." (From the people who gave us Legends and Leaders). Call it what it is.

3. Only three of the top 10 in FBS passing efficiency last season return for 2015: sophomore J.T. Barrett of Ohio State, who may not have a starting job; senior Cody Kessler of USC, who had the best season (3,826 yards, 39 touchdowns, 5 interceptions) no one noticed; and junior Zach Terrell of Western Michigan, who got even less attention than Kessler, despite being remarkably accurate (.679). Terrell threw for 3,443 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 picks. We find out how he measures up against the big boys early: Western Michigan plays Michigan State and Ohio State in September.
1. The West Virginia Legislature is considering naming a Marion County highway for local-boy-made-good Nick Saban. Fear not -- the legislature has taken care of the state's own before venturing to Alabama. Three former Mountaineer coaches who are in the College Football Hall of Fame -- Ira Errett Rogers, Greasy Neale and Don Nehlen -- have been so honored. No Marshall coaches have a road named for them, although Pro Football Hall of Famer Frank "Gunner" Gatski, a Thundering Herd player, does. Saban's road wouldn't be far from Mary Lou Retton Drive in Fairmont, which is also in Marion County.

2. As DraftWorld descends on Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine, there's something that Florida State all-everything wide receiver Rashad Greene said at the Rose Bowl that has stuck with me. "I'm not the biggest guy (6-0, 175), but at the end of the day, size is not what matters," Greene said. "... Right now that seems like what the NFL is more interested in is the look part, having the big guys. You know, I feel like they have their reasons. The NFL is definitely a red zone game, and you need big bodies like that. But I have my strong points that can be very dangerous."

3. The schools that begin spring practice in February have different reasons for doing so. Several start early, take two or three weeks off, and finish with two weeks in April. At Stanford, it has to do with the quarter system. At USC, it's to provide rest to a roster depleted by NCAA scholarship reductions. Curtis Johnson, the head coach at Tulane, provided a couple of more reasons as the Green Wave began practice Wednesday: the earlier the start, the more time for players to focus on end-of-the-semester academics. It also leaves more time for the injured to heal and the healthy to get stronger.

Roquan Smith got it right by waiting

February, 16, 2015
Feb 16
1. So Roquan Smith went on ESPNU on signing day and put on a pair of UCLA gloves to announce his decision, and 10 days or so later, he signed with Georgia. The fact is, the description of Smith and the other saviors riding to the rescue of their nationally-ranked teams, didn't match what ESPNU televised, which was a lot of wide-eyed 17-year-olds scared to death of being on a national television stage. They were, essentially, a lot of boys pretending to be men. Good for Smith -- he had the luck to do his second-guessing before he sent in his paperwork.

2. The NCAA Football Rules Committee recommended that the distance that offensive linemen may go downfield to block on a pass be trimmed from 3 yards to 1 yard, and every defensive coordinator in the Pac-12 yelled, “Halleluyah!” No teams have done a better job of turning that 3 yards into 5 or 7 than Oregon and Arizona. NCAA rules editor Rogers Redding said that officials had a tough time keeping an eye on where the linemen were while seeing when the quarterback released the ball. It will be interesting to see if this change impinges on the offenses, or merely makes it easier for the striped shirts to do their jobs.

3. Charlie Weis didn't win enough at Notre Dame and he went to Kansas, which, if it's not a dead-end job, is certainly a cul de sac, and didn't win at all. He's been getting $2 million a year not to coach Notre Dame since he was fired five years ago. He's still getting $2.5 million from Kansas, where he's no longer the coach. Did he coach himself out of the game? Of course. He could latch on as an assistant, but he told the South Bend Tribune he'd rather go try to do some good somewhere. Good for him -- he has the money and the time to do so. I still believe, all things being equal, Weis would prefer to do his good on the practice field. The Weis I know would rather coach.
1. The argument over pace of play is over, and the offense won. Alabama coach Nick Saban made the case to the NCAA Football Rules Committee last year that player safety was at issue -- more plays, more chances for injury. But the committee looked at the numbers this past season and found no real change in injury rates. Also, NCAA rules editor Rogers Redding said Wednesday, “There was a lack of heat” regarding the issue. No debate means the status remains quo, with one exception: offenses that stretch the field and up the tempo demand one more official. After two years of experiments, the committee will recommend a rule change to allow -- but not require -- an eighth striped shirt.

2. Cal coach Sonny Dykes made a good point in his signing day news conference. With recruiting starting so early now -- if you’re not talking to high school sophomores, you’re falling behind -- a staff like his, beginning its third season, finally recruited on equal footing with its competitors. “We've had a chance to see a lot of these kids grow up,” Dykes said, “really know them as people, really think that they fit our mission as a university and our mission as a football program.” Or, you could always save time and hire a Will Muschamp. A coach like Muschamp brings recruiting relationships with him.

3. Rice is losing two All-Conference USA defensive linemen who gave up their final year of eligibility. Tackle Christian Covington made himself available for the NFL draft. End Brian Nordstrom, who will get his civil engineering degree in May, is taking a six-figure job as a project engineer. “It was something I felt like, for me professionally, it would be hard to turn down and maybe not have the opportunity come up again,” Nordstrom told the Houston Chronicle. Nordstrom interned with the engineering firm last summer. That’s the ideal of how a student-athlete’s life is supposed to unfold -- and so rarely does.
1. The NCAA Football Rules Committee, which begins its annual meeting Tuesday, may take a long look at how to integrate technology into a live game. Texting from press box to sideline, in-game iPads to review opponents, radios in helmets -- you name it, the NCAA doesn't allow it. Big 12 associate commissioner Ed Stewart, one of two FBS members on the 11-man committee, believes that should change. “College football is behind the times as far as what's allowed, whether it's the coaches box or the sidelines,” Stewart said. “I think we need to realize the world has certainly evolved.”

2. Remember the controversy a year ago when the rules committee proposed to disallow snapping the ball in the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock? The lack of discussion going into the meeting indicates that the opponents of the change have won the argument. However, the issue will be discussed, if only because the committee tabled it a year ago. Also, expect the committee to make the addition of an eighth on-field official permanent. Several FBS conferences have liked the results of experimenting with eight-man crews over the last two seasons.

3. Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams has decided he will play his postgraduate year at Oregon. He has to graduate first, which likely means he won't get to Eugene for spring practice. Adams is a unique talent. He threw for 475 yards and seven touchdowns against Washington last fall. He is a slick runner, too. But after spending a lot of time last offseason speculating about how well Jake Coker would transition to Alabama, forgive me for waiting to make sure Adams picks up the Oregon offense before we anoint him the next great Duck quarterback.
1. Every time I looked up Wednesday, an ESPN RecruitingNation 300 recruit from east of the Rockies put on a USC or UCLA hat (or in the case of linebacker Roquan Smith, UCLA gloves). And it feels as if the Pac-12 is stronger: Oregon played for the national championship, USC signed a full class, UCLA and Stanford have national profiles they didn't used to have. In the ESPN 150 five years ago, 27 players signed with Pac-12 schools, eight from east of the Rockies. I expected an increase in 2015, but the numbers are 29 and eight, respectively. Maybe the late deciders just brought the Pac-12 up to par.

2. New Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst, a former assistant to Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema, held onto four of the top eight recruits in the state. All nine preferred walk-ons are Wisconsin kids. "Coach Alvarez was right, we were talking about it earlier today," Chryst said. "I think there are certain formulas or pillars to this program that I think are true. ... For us to be the best team, we need to have the best players in Wisconsin coming here." One of my all-time favorite quotes came from Alvarez when he took over a lifeless Badger program 25 years ago. "Our hearts and minds will come from Wisconsin," Alvarez said, "but our hands and feet better come from somewhere else."

3. The era of the big cornerback is officially upon us. None of the top 10 corners in the Class of 2015 is listed at shorter than 6-0, and they averaged 6-1 1/4, 191 pounds. Big receivers demand big corners, right? Well, of the 10 All-American corners in the last four seasons, only three made it to 6-0 (Dee Milliner Mo Claiborne, David Amerson), the same number as were 5-9 or shorter (Senquez Golson, Lamarcus Joyner, Tyrann Mathieu). Height may help, but speed, quickness, open hips, and an outfielder's ability to pick up the ball in mid-air and figure out where it's going will take a corner a long way.
1. The late Beano Cook used to say that every coach has a loss that will awaken him at 3 a.m. 20 years after retirement. Before Sunday night, Pete Carroll's 3 a.m. loss was in the Rose Bowl to Texas for the 2005 BCS Championship. The Trojans led Texas 38-33, had 4th-and-2 at the USC 45, and went for it. LenDale White gained 1 yard. Now LenDale White was a good back. He gained 1,302 yards that year. But he was not Reggie Bush, the 2005 Heisman winner, who rushed for 1,740 yards, wasn't on the field. Bush ran for a 26-yard score against Texas with 11:19 to play. He never carried the ball again.

2. Every coach suffers last-second losses that are painful bordering on humiliating. But it seems like the great coaches suffer them more than the others. It could just be that the great coaches play games with more at stake. But think about it. Pete Carroll now has lost a BCS title game and the Super Bowl in excruciating fashion. Nick Saban has the two losses to Auburn, the Collapse against Cam Newton in 2010 and the Kick Six in 2013. Bob Stoops has the overtime loss to Boise State in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. And Bobby Bowden had all those Wide Rights.

3. Texas A&M seems to have safely tucked away Allen (Tex.) quarterback Kyler Murray. What should make Aggie fans feel good about Murray is not that he's the son of former Aggie quarterback Kevin Murray, or that he teased Texas before recommitting to Texas A&M last week. Murray also took a long look at Oregon. Johnny Manziel actually committed to Oregon before deciding to gig ‘em. If three state titles at Allen High somehow failed to convince doubters that the 5-11, 178-pound Murray could play FBS football, the Duck seal of approval should close the sale.
1. Ryan Day spent the past three seasons as offensive coordinator for Steve Addazio at Temple (2012) and Boston College (2013-14). Addazio comes out of the Urban Meyer School of Offense -- a big, physical running game and, hopefully, the quarterback can do his share of the running. In the past two seasons, Chase Rettig and Tyler Murphy combined to throw 28 touchdowns for the Eagles, two-thirds of what Marcus Mariota threw this season alone. But Day is the new quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. Here’s where you should know that Day started at quarterback for three seasons at New Hampshire, where his position coach was Chip Kelly.

2. All the ado about Marshawn Lynch and his unwillingness to speak with the media made me think of a 2006 profile of him at Cal. I remembered a nice, polite kid. Lynch’s first quote of the piece: “I’m just trying to play. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t do interviews.” The Bears’ head coach at the time, Jeff Tedford, not only called Lynch “the best athlete on the field,” but praised his intelligence. “We’re able to put him in so many positions and he’s so smart,” Tedford said. “He can get it in the meeting and take it on the field and have a pretty good idea of what we’re looking for.” That’s how you stay a force in the NFL for eight seasons.

3. Kudos to North Carolina and Wake Forest for scheduling a “nonconference” home-and-home series in 2019 and 2021. The downside of conference expansion is that plenty of historic rivalries have been sacrificed. But playing a conference opponent and calling it a nonconference game is silly. Let’s say North Carolina loses to Wake in 2019 and goes on to tie Duke for the ACC Coastal Division championship. If you’re Duke, wouldn’t you be upset that Carolina’s loss to Wake didn’t count? Especially if you beat Wake that season?
1. Phil Steele, my Championship Drive podcast colleague and the guru of college football numbers, already has posted on his website the number of returning starters at every FBS school for 2015. The leader is Appalachian State with 20. The leader among Power 5 schools is Notre Dame with 19. The leader among division/conference champions is Baylor with 17. And the leader among the four playoff teams is Ohio State, the national champion, with 15 (that includes only one quarterback). The teams with the fewest returning starters? South Alabama and UTSA, each with five.

2. The Sports Business Journal reported that the NFL is discussing the addition of a wild-card playoff game on the Monday night in January that the College Football Playoff has claimed through the 2025 season. NFL playoff expansion is not a done deal, but the idea that the league would horn in on the college game’s biggest night is appalling. The NBA doesn’t play on Final Four Monday unless forced to. The Portland-Brooklyn game, postponed Monday night because of the blizzard, will be played April 6, Final Four Monday, at 7 p.m. That means it will end as the college championship tips off. Does anyone seriously think the NFL would play a wild-card game at 5 p.m. on a Monday night in January? Me neither.

3. Vince Dooley retired as Georgia head coach in 1988 and as athletic director of the Dawgs in 2004. But that’s not to say that Dooley, 82, has retired. In the Fall 2014 edition of The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Dooley wrote a history of football on the Athens campus during World War II. Not only did the 1942 Bulldogs win a share of the national championship, but they shared the campus with the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight “Skycrackers,” one of five such teams established across the country during the war. The Skycrackers included a few professional players, and an assistant coach, 28-year-old Paul “Bear” Bryant, who would go on to bigger and better things, too.
1. The move from FBS head coach to offensive coordinator, made by Dan Enos (Central Michigan to Arkansas) is unusual, but not unprecedented. DeWayne Walker and Garrick McGee have done the same thing in recent years. As far back as 1992, San Jose State head coach Terry Shea resigned to become offensive coordinator at Stanford for Bill Walsh. Enos, 26-36 in five seasons with the Chippewas, will make $550,000 at Arkansas. A $190,000 raise is one reason to go. Not to mention that, as the Power 5 conferences make their own rules, coaching in the Mid-American Conference will not be any easier.

2. Gary Andersen expounded to about how Wisconsin’s academic standards made him available to Oregon State. "I think (Badgers prospects) did what they were supposed to do and they still couldn't get in. That was really hard to deal with," said Andersen, who left Madison for Corvallis last month. Andersen might not have understood that is an occupational hazard of coaching at a good academic school. But it affects coaches who are prepared for it, too. Nevada head coach Brian Polian left the Stanford staff after 2011 for a similar reason. A coach develops a relationship with a prospect over many months. When admissions says, "No," it takes an emotional toll on both of them.

3. Life in a metropolitan area with an NFL team is not easy for any FBS program. Outside of the Washington Huskies, few of them have as vibrant and full a fan base as the pro team across town. Georgia Tech’s announcement Thursday that 2015 season tickets are on sale is a reminder of that. The Yellow Jackets won the ACC Coastal, won the Capital One Orange Bowl, and finished 11-3. Here’s the issue: a championship team averaged 48,519 -- 88 percent of capacity (55,000). That must be why season ticket prices remain flat over 2014, and, with prices starting at $245, are a bargain for seven home games.
1. What's remarkable about the $1.6 million that former Miami Hurricane Calais Campbell has donated to the U isn't only the amount, which will endow a scholarship for defensive linemen like Campbell, a 2008 graduate of The U. It is that he is one of seven recent former ‘Canes who have made significant contributions to their alma mater. Former student-athletes are notorious for not giving back to the program that educated them. Their thinking is their blood, sweat and tears were an even trade for their education. Campbell and former ‘Canes like Clinton Portis and Ed Reed are changing that profile.

2. With the announcement this week that South Alabama will play a home-and-home with San Diego State in the next two seasons, three of UAB's four nonconference opponents for next fall have found a replacement opponent for the Blazers, who discontinued football. Tennessee threw money at the problem, paying Bowling Green $1.2 million to replace UAB against the Vols in Nashville. Troy made a deal with FCS Charleston Southern. That leaves Georgia State, which still has an open date. The Panthers' other non-Sun-Belt games? Liberty, Charlotte and -- hello! -- at Oregon.

3. After 13 years as head coach at Utah and Iowa (1958-70), Ray Nagel spent more than half of his life as a former head coach. Nagel, who died Thursday at age 87, went only 58-71-3 (.451) as a head coach. He became a victim of the social turbulence of the late 1960s while in Iowa City, where he endured a boycott by African-American players, was fired and rehired, and finally resigned. Nagel may not have won enough games, but he could identify coaching talent. As an athletic director at Washington State and at Hawaii, Nagel gave both Jackie Sherrill and Dick Tomey their first head coaching jobs.
1.The 14 ACC members received revenue shares of $20.8 million at the end of the 2013-14 academic year, a significant increase from the $16.9 million that each member received the previous year. And yet Boston College cast the lone dissenting vote in the decision of the Power 5 Conferences to begin paying cost of attendance to their student-athletes. It might be that the school’s longtime president, Father William P. Leahy, is taking a stand of fiscal prudence. But that ship sailed a long time ago. If Boston College wants to compete in the ACC and participate in its bounty, which is the very reason that the school left the Big East behind a decade ago, than BC has to pay ACC-level bills, too.

2. Alabama fans are holding their breath, awaiting a signal from offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin regarding the San Francisco 49ers’ interest in him. If Kiffin leaves – he said last month that he “definitely” would stay, but his past indicates nothing is definite – it would mean Saban would be hiring his third offensive coordinator in four seasons. On a lot of staffs, that would mean chaos. But running backs coach Burton Burns came with Saban to Alabama eight years ago. Tight ends coach Bobby Williams arrived a year later. They are the source of the Crimson Tide’s stability in the offensive meeting room.

3. I checked the NCAA statistical database Sunday to see if the all-time coaching records had been updated to show former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno with 409 wins. I went back Monday to double-check, and all I could find was the listing with Paterno at 298 wins. NCAA statistics director David Worlock assured me I hadn’t been seeing things. An updated database briefly went online. He said that because of the Paterno ruling, his staff will upload all data from the 2014 season shortly so that the 2015 NCAA Football Records Book, with Paterno at 409 wins, will be available soon.
1. When I heard Cardale Jones say, "I’m not ready for that level yet," meaning the NFL, I thought he meant that he believed he was not ready for that level yet. Silly me. I don’t know who beat the drum to say that Jones would leave, but that would be a shortsighted decision. By staying at Ohio State, he’s got a better shot at a long NFL career, even if he doesn’t retain the Buckeyes’ starting job. He will be a year older and his skills a year sharper when he goes to the NFL. The pros have chewed up and spit out experienced quarterbacks who weren’t emotionally or intellectually ready. And Ohio State and its vast alumni network will love him for staying. Talk about your long-term contracts.

2. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz held an unusual news conference Wednesday, during which he said that he hasn’t been spending enough time on football. Ferentz said raising money for the Hawkeyes’ new football building pulled him away. And there is this: after 16 years as a head coach, not to mention nine years as a Hawkeyes assistant in the '80s, "I’ve got a pretty good-sized family tree," Ferentz said. When former players stop in, Ferentz wants to see them. But, he said, he needs to see his current players, live or on video, more than he has. I remember Joe Paterno buckling down like that after Penn State went 7-5 in 1992. Next four years: 42-7.

3. I’ll say this for UAB -- they keep it entertaining. Faculty senates are supposed to resent football, aren’t they? How often do we read of professors on salary freezes while coaches get six-figure raises? But at UAB, more than two-thirds of the faculty senate approved a no-confidence vote in President Ray Watts because he killed football. The senate, like the football program, is on the losing side of a political battle. University trustees don’t want any program to detract from the football program in Tuscaloosa, one hour and untold millions of dollars away. As if a healthy UAB football program could.
1. Marcus Mariota leaves the college game as the best Heisman Trophy winner to lead his team to play for a national championship without winning one (there have been eight). He went 36-5 as the Oregon starting quarterback, throwing a touchdown pass in every game. Mariota threw for more 10,000 yards and rushed for more than 2,000, which only three other players have ever done. He elevated the Oregon program with his play and his selflessness. His legacy will live a long time -- not only among the Duck faithful, but in the history of college football.

2. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Thursday, so it's not official yet, but I can't remember a national championship team where no one left early. There may be a couple of things at work here. The Buckeyes, who finished playing only 72 hours before the deadline, didn't have time to deal with it. Not to mention that a team with seven sophomore and four freshmen starters has a lot of players who aren't eligible to leave early. Even if one or two declare by midnight, Ohio State is, by the modern standard, highly unusual. And if you're a college football fan, a reason to celebrate.

3. Hard as it is to believe, it looks as if we are entering flush times for the three service academies. Air Force, coming off a 10-win season, has given head coach Troy Calhoun a new five-year contact. Ken Niumatalolo just became the winningest head coach in Navy history. Most important, Army, under first-year head coach Jeff Monken, went 4-8, the most victories for the Black Knights in four years. Everyone looks forward to the day when all three programs are again credible threats to win the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy every year.
1. The sun did rise in Eugene on Tuesday, as much as it ever does during an Oregon winter, but it shed a harsh light on the performance of the Ducks on Monday night. Here are the numbers that leapt off the stat sheet at me on the morning after. Ohio State held the ball for 13:08 of the third quarter. We all know that Oregon rolls its eyes at time of possession. But that’s predicated on the Ducks being able to score quickly. At 22:31, the Ducks came in 4:06 under their average. Oregon converted 2-of-12 third downs, well below their 52 percent average. And they committed 10 penalties, two more than average.

2. Kevin Steele has a habit of working for successful coaches. Among his bosses in a 35-year coaching career have been Tom Osborne, Bobby Bowden and Nick Saban, and, as of Tuesday, Les Miles. The first two are in the Hall of Fame. The last two will be. Miles hired Steele as LSU's defensive coordinator. There’s a bit of a musical chairs game among defensive coordinators in the SEC. Steele replaces John Chavis, who went to Texas A&M. Fired Florida head coach Will Muschamp will run Auburn’s D. And now Steele is in Baton Rouge. There won’t be many secrets, will there?

3. My reaction to Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones saying he is not ready for the NFL, and to Dak Prescott deciding to return to Mississippi State for his fifth year is pretty much the same: This is news? Of course they should return. It is a good sign in the sense that maybe their decision is a sign of normalcy and common sense returning to the business of underclassmen coming out. The NFL and prominent college coaches have set out to arrest the number of declarations. Maybe the message is getting through.