Media picks Alabama to beat Georgia again in SEC title game

Defending Southeastern Conference champion Alabama is the favorite to once again beat Georgia in the title game in a preseason media poll. The Crimson Tide was selected by 203 of 260 voters this week at SEC media days in results released Friday. Georgia, which lost to Alabama in the championship game last season, received 49 first-place votes. Eight teams were picked as the SEC champion on at least one ballot. The predicted order of finish in the West was Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn, Mississippi State, Mississippi and Arkansas. Georgia was picked first in the East, followed by Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Alabama also led the way with a record 12 first-team preseason All-SEC picks, led by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and linebacker Dylan Moses.
July 19, 2019

UCF picked to win American

Central Florida has been picked to win the American Athletic Conference and face Memphis in the championship game for a third straight season. UCF was the top choice among media members to win the East Division and the league when the American released its preseason poll Tuesday at conference media day. The Knights received 19 of 30 first-place votes to win the East and 12 of 30 to win the conference. Memphis is favored to win the West Division over Houston. The Tigers received 15 first-place votes and 165 points. Houston, in its first season under coach Dana Holgorsen, had 14 and 162. USF was picked third in the East, followed by Temple, ECU and UConn. Tulane was picked behind third in the West followed by SMU, Navy and Tulsa. The American also announced its bowl lineup for the 2020-25 seasons. The conference is guaranteed seven bowl slots each year, including one in a new game to be played at Fenway Park in Boston against the Atlantic Coast Conference. The American will annually send a team to the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland, and alternate sending a team to the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Hawaii Bowl. The conference also has agreements with a pool of eight bowl games that will host as many as four AAC teams annually. Those games are: Birmingham Bowl; Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa, Florida; First Responder Bowl in Dallas; Boca Raton (Florida) Bowl; Frisco (Texas) Bowl; Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida; Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) Bowl; and New Mexico Bowl.
July 16, 2019

Oklahoma favored to win 5th straight Big 12 title

Oklahoma is the favorite to win another Big 12 football title, according to the conference's preseason media poll released Wednesday. The Sooners have won the league the last four years and 12 Big 12 championships overall. Oklahoma also made the College Football Playoff three of the past four seasons. Texas was picked second by media covering the league. The top two teams will meet in the conference championship game on Dec. 7. The Longhorns lost to the Sooners in the title matchup in 2018. Iowa State, TCU and Oklahoma State round out the top five picks. The Big 12 will have four new head coaches in 2019 with Les Miles at Kansas, Chris Klieman at Kansas State, Matt Wells at Texas Tech and Neal Brown at West Virginia.
July 10, 2019

NCAA adjusts transfer waiver guidelines

Following fresh concerns about the handling of athletes switching schools, the NCAA approved several adjustments Wednesday to the guidelines used to determine when waivers can be granted to transfers seeking immediate eligibility to play. The adjustments approved by the Division I council will require schools requesting a waiver for an incoming transfer to provide more documentation to support the argument - and more detailed verification of athletes' claims about why they are leaving the original school. "The overall goal of these adjustments was to provide the membership with as much information and knowledge and education as to what they need to be including in their waiver requests," said Brandy Hataway, NCAA director of academic and membership affairs. "I don't know if I'd say it's extra (information). A lot of it is information that was already being requested in the process. It's just now letting schools know on the front end rather than them submitting their requests and staff going back to them and saying we need x, y, z." The move comes 14 months after a directive helped clear the way for immediate eligibility for all approved requests. Previously, the legislative relief available to athletes requesting a transfer waiver was a sixth year of eligibility. Only in cases where the student was a victim of egregious behavior by a school could immediate eligibility be granted. Since the change, high-profile cases involving quarterbacks Shea Patterson of Michigan and Justin Fields of Ohio State have been decided in favor of the players. But the overall rate of approval of waiver requests during that time has been about the same as previous years. What has gone up significantly is the number of waiver requests. Attorney Tom Mars, who has worked on waivers for Patterson, Fields and other college athletes, said "massive, widespread confusion" about why waivers are granted has caused the uptick in requests. He said he gets two or three calls and email a day from parents and head coaches seeking assistance. "More often than not, the parents and coaches asking for my help have already convinced themselves that the student-athlete they want me to represent should get a waiver just because some other player they read about was given one," Mars told AP in an email. "On top of that, some head coaches have been putting undue pressure on their compliance staff to pursue waiver requests that don't stand a chance of being granted." The waiver process affects football and basketball players more often because those sports do not allow students to transfer without having to sit out a season at their new school. In most of the so-called Olympic sports, athletes are allowed to use a one-time exception to the so-called year-in-residence rule and play right away. The year-in-residence rule was debated and examined anew by college sports administrators in 2017 and '18. A package of transfer rules reforms passed last year by the NCAA - separate from the change to the waiver process - left the status quo in place. Sitting out a season was still required for most transfers in high-profile sports. Changing the waiver rules to allow the opportunity for more athletes to become immediately eligible seemed like a compromise move, but it has only led to more complaints about how the waivers are granted. There was recent criticism of the NCAA after the denial of a waiver to Illinois tight end Luke Ford, who says he transferred from Georgia to be closer to home because of ailing grandparents. The latest changes focus on the four guidelines (out of 13) most frequently cited in waiver cases: Claims of athletes being run off a team by a coach; claims of egregious behavior by the original school; injured or ill immediate family member; and injury or illness to the athlete. The changes could lead to fewer requests being granted since it appears to raise the bar on what is required by a school to make a case for immediate eligibility for an athlete. Hataway said the measure approved by the council was not meant to curb the number of approvals and a review of the guidelines is annually done by the committee. "Most of what's in here is what was already being done," she said. "It's just putting it in writing so that way the members would have better clarification on the front end."
June 26, 2019

Maryland basketball programs violated NCAA rules

The University of Maryland and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that the men's basketball program exceeded the number of permissible countable coaches, while the women's basketball staff utilized impermissible recruiting aids with prospects, according to a negotiated resolution agreement approved by a Division I Committee on Infractions panel. This case was processed through the new negotiated resolution process. Since Maryland and the enforcement staff agreed on the violations, the level of those violations, the classification and penalties, the process was able to be used instead of a formal hearing or summary disposition. The Division I Committee on Infractions reviewed the case to determine whether the resolution is in the best interest of the NCAA and whether the agreed-upon penalties are appropriate. Negotiated resolutions may not be appealed and do not set case precedent for other infractions cases. According to the agreement, the men's basketball program exceeded the number of allowable coaches when the director of player personnel, who is now an assistant coach, coached a student-athlete on his shooting form 10 times during a three-month period. The assistant coach reported that he knew coaching the student-athlete was a violation and that he offered the sessions without informing the coaching staff. He also delivered oral scouting reports to the men's basketball team eight times at the direction of the head men's basketball coach. Both the assistant coach and the head coach understood the assistant coach in his role as director of player personnel could not coach during practices but did not realize film room presentations were impermissible. Maryland and the enforcement staff agreed that the women's basketball staff used recruiting booklets with personalized covers for 17 prospects on their unofficial visits. The head coach said she did not correctly understand the rules about what could be reviewed in person during visits. Additionally, an assistant coach sent 150 personalized tangible items to prospects, contrary to NCAA rules. Maryland and the enforcement staff used ranges identified by the Division I membership-approved infractions penalty guidelines to agree upon Level II-Standard penalties for the assistant coach and Level II-Mitigated penalties for the school. Those penalties, approved by the Committee on Infractions, are detailed below:
  • A two-year show-cause order for the assistant coach. During that period, he must attend two NCAA Regional Rules Seminars. Because the university suspended the assistant coach from 15 practices and six games during the 2018-19 season, his athletically related duties are not restricted during the show-cause period. 
  • Reduction of men's basketball countable athletically related activities by one hour per week during the off-season and a reduction by two hours per week in-season (self-imposed by the university).
  • The compliance office must attend at least one men's basketball practice per week, travel to at least four regular-season away games and all postseason games, attend at least nine men's basketball film review sessions and provide additional education (self-imposed by the university).
  • Letter of reprimand issued to the head men's basketball coach by the university (self-imposed by the university).
  • Reduction in the number of women's basketball official visits by three visits per year from 2018-19 through 2020-21 (self-imposed by the university). 
  • Reduction of one women's basketball scholarship from 2018-19 through 2020-21 (self-imposed by the university).
  • Prohibition on distributing women's basketball recruiting materials for one week each month during the 2018-19 year (self-imposed by the university).
  • One year of probation.
  • A $5,000 fine.
Members of the Committee on Infractions are drawn from NCAA membership and members of the public. The members of the panel who reviewed this case are Norman Bay, attorney in private practice; Thomas Hill, chief hearing officer for the panel and senior vice president emeritus at Iowa State; and Stephen A. Madva, attorney in private practice.
June 18, 2019

NCAA moving men's 3-point line to international distance

The 3-point line is moving back in men's college basketball. The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel announced Wednesday that the arc will be moved to 22 feet, 1 } inches for the 2019-20 season, matching the international distance. The change will not go into effect in Division II and III until 2020-21 due to the potential financial impact on schools. The committee said the line was moved to make the lane more available for drives from the perimeter, to slow the trend of making 3-pointers so prevalent and to create more offensive spacing by requiring the defense to cover more of the court. The international line was used on an experimental basis in the National Invitational Tournament the past two seasons. Teams attempted 23.1 3-point shots in the 2019 NIT compared to 22.8 in the 2018-19 regular season. The 3-point shooting percentage also dropped 2.2% to 33%. The 3-point line was last moved in 2008-09, extending a foot to 20 feet, 9 inches. The NCAA Women's Basketball Rules Committee approved an experimental rule last month using the international 3-point line in postseason events outside of the NCAA championships in each division. The panel also approved resetting the shot clock to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound and gave coaches the ability to call live-ball timeouts in the last two minutes of the second half and any overtime period. Players also will be assessed technical fouls for derogatory language about an opponent's race, religion, sexual orientation or disability.
June 5, 2019

Top US prospect R.J. Hampton signs with New Zealand team

Guard R.J. Hampton, a top U.S. prospect, has decided to forego his college eligibility to sign with the New Zealand Breakers in the National Basketball League. The 18-year-old Hampton, who is a possible top 10 selection in the 2020 NBA draft, turned down offers from several top colleges, including Kansas, to sign with the Auckland-based team. The 2019-20 NBL season, which features eight teams from Australia and the New Zealand side, begins in October. "To secure a player of his talent is a tremendous endorsement of our program and a coup for our club," Breakers chief executive Matt Walsh said Wednesday. "We think R.J. will have an important role to play as we look to compete for a championship and give him a great taste of what is a world-class league and provide an ideal platform for his NBA journey." Hampton said he never intended to play college basketball. "My dream has always been to get to the next level and play in the NBA," Hampton told ESPN. "I think (the NBL) was the best route for me - to live like a pro and to play with grown men and not have to juggle books and basketball, and just focus on my main goal." From Little Elm High School in Texas, the 6-foot, 4-inch (1.96-meter) Hampton averaged 30.3 points, eight rebounds and 6.6 assists per game as a sophomore and was a member of USA Basketball's 2018 U17 FIBA World Cup team. The Next Stars program in the NBL was introduced last season following the drafting of Terrance Ferguson by the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder after he elected not to go to college. He spent the 2016-17 NBL season with the Adelaide 36ers straight out of high school. Brian Bowen Jr., became the first NBL Next Star when he played for the Sydney Kings last season and will be eligible for next month's NBA draft.
May 28, 2019

Hawaii Bowl returns to Christmas Eve for 2019

The Hawaii Bowl will be back on Christmas Eve this year after being played on Dec. 22 last season, only the fourth time in the game's history that it had not been held on Dec. 24. The game will feature teams from the Mountain West Conference, the American Athletic Conference or BYU. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. EST on ESPN. The game was created in 2002 after Hawaii finished the 2001 season with a 9-3 record and was not invited to a bowl game.
May 23, 2019

Belk Bowl moving to New Year's eve

The Belk Bowl is moving to New Year's eve. The annual football game which features a matchup between the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference teams will be played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina and begin at noon Eastern time. The game will be televised by ESPN. This is the third time the game is played on Dec. 31, but the first since 2010. Belk Bowl executive director Danny Morrison says "we look forward to continuing our tradition of showcasing the city of Charlotte to the teams, conferences and college football fans."
May 23, 2019

Clemson forward Baehre tears knee ligament

Clemson forward Jonathan Baehre is out indefinitely after tearing a knee ligament. The school says the injury occurred during practice Monday. There is no timetable for his return. Baehre is a 6-foot-10 junior transfer from UNC Asheville who sat out last season. With four senior starters gone off this year's team, Baehre was expected to play a major role for the Tigers. Coach Brad Brownell says it's an unfortunate injury for Baehre and the team. Brownell says Baehre had worked hard since joining the Tigers and he had no doubt Baehre would approach rehab strongly "and have a very productive career at Clemson." Baehre, from Germany, started 21 games for UNC Asheville in 2017-18 and averaged 7.4 points and 4.6 rebounds a game.
May 21, 2019