I hear this a lot:
“Sooooooo…..I guess this is your slow time of year. What do you even do these days?”
Well, to quote the great SNL character (played by the late Gilda Radner) Roseanne Roseannadanna, when it comes to college football “It’s always something!”
Bottom line: There is going to be a lot to talk about between now and the start of SEC Media Days on July 19.
Here are just five predictions to start the discussion:
1—There will be some kind of NIL legislation passed before July 1: The NCAA moves ever so slowly until forced to make a change. Well, it is being forced to make a change.
This change has to be made because if it isn’t a bunch of states—like Florida, Georgia and several others—will see their individual state NIL laws kick in. Then you’ve got what we would call a “recruitin’ situation” where every state would need an NIL law for its schools to compete.
One other thing: The Georgia NIL bill signed by Governor Brian Kemp last week included a provision that allows schools to let athletes keep 25 percent of the money they earn under NIL and share the other 75 percent with the athletes in other sports.
There is no chance this will happen. Zip. Zilch. Nada. The schools want no part of this.
2—The SEC will change its rules on intraconference transfers: Currently, athletes who want to transfer from one SEC school to another must sit out a year unless they obtain a waiver from the commissioner’s office.
But with the advent of NCAA’s decision to allow one free transfer without sitting out a year, several conferences like the ACC, American, and the MAC have done away with their intraconference transfer rule.
Will the SEC join them? Yes. But not without an argument.
Will teams still poach off the rosters of their conference competitors to fill a competitive need? You bet.
Will the financial opportunities brought about by NIL make it possible that players will leave one conference school for another to get a better financial deal? Absolutely.
Are there going to be some hard feelings and charges of tampering over this increased freedom of movement by the players?
What do you think?
But consider this: Henry To’o To’o, Tennessee’s leading tackler last season, recently announced he was going to Alabama. If you’re the SEC, do you want to keep a guy like that in your conference or do you want him to go to Ohio State and have to play against him in the playoffs?
That’s why the SEC will change its rules.
As in all cases like this, the best coaches will adjust.
3—We will have an expanded College Football Playoff. But the number will be eight, not 12. And it will begin with the 2023 season or the 2026 season.
Andy Staples and Stewart Mandel of The Athletic have done some outstanding reporting on this issue and recently quoted college football leaders who were willing to discuss an expansion to 12 teams. I just think it’s too big of a jump, even if the money is off the charts, which it will be.
And the suggestion that schools can just cut back on regular-season games or eliminate conference championship games to get the 12-team playoff to fit into the current calendar won’t fly. You could squeeze an 8-team playoff into the calendar but not 12, unless you moved the national championship game to a week later in January.
Besides, the SEC WILL NOT give up its conference championship game.
The timing of the change is easily explained. Each season two of the New Year’s Six bowls host CFP semifinals on a three-year rotating basis. The third rotation in the current 12-year contract will be completed after the 2022 season. So you make the change then or wait until the end of the contract after the 2025-26 season.
Don’t forget this: As the current television partner of the CFP, ESPN has an exclusive negotiating window through the end of this contract. After that it goes to the open market.
Amazon Prime just got into the NFL television business by obtaining the Thursday night package starting in 2022. The 11-year deal will pay $1 billion per season to show 15 games.
Would the CFP want to get to the end of this contract and then see who REALLY wants to play?
4—If the CFP goes to eight teams, there is an assumption that each of the Power Five conferences would get an automatic bid and that the best team from the Group of Five would get an automatic bid.
I’m not so sure about that.
Consider this scenario: Alabama finishes 13-0 after beating 12-0 Georgia in a close SEC championship game. Texas A&M is 11-1 and its only loss was a close one to Alabama.
If each of the Power Five gets an automatic bid, the best of the Group of Five gets a bid, and Notre Dame gets a bid, that leaves one at-large bid. Let’s say 12-1 Georgia gets that one. So Texas A&M gets left out and a 9-4 winner of a conference championship game gets in?
“You just made the case for 12,” someone in the college football industry told me
While there is an argument to be made for taking the eight best teams, the reality is that without automatic bids for each of the power five conferences the deal probably doesn’t get done.
The bigger argument is what to do with the Group of Five. With a No. 8 ranking in the final CFP standings, Cincinnati could have made it last season if we had an eight-team playoff.
What if the highest-ranked G5 champ is in double digits?
You can bet that Mike Aresco, the commissioner of the American Athletic Conference, will be fighting hard for the G5 to be included.
“It really comes down to fundamental fairness,” he told me in an interview last fall. “We’ve proven we can compete with the Power Five.”
But it’s one thing for the G5 to have a guaranteed spot in the New Year’s Day six bowls, which it currently does. It’s another thing entirely to have an automatic bid to the playoffs. It will be a helluva argument.
So if the CFP expands the debate won’t change: Do the bids go to the best teams or the most deserving teams? It will be quite an argument.
5—The NCAA is about to change the rules so that there will be less full-speed contact in pads during preseason practice. Stay tuned because there will be more changes in the future under the umbrella of player safety.
A recent five-year NCAA study revealed that 72 percent of all football concussions occur in practice. And of that total 50 percent happen in preseason practice.
So changes will be made in the number of practices in full pads and the number of full speed scrimmages teams are allowed to have in preseason.
Todd Berry, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association told me that these changes reflect what most of his coaches are doing now. But there is a concern on whether or not new players will get enough contact to get them acclimated to the speed and physicality of the college game.
Again, the good coaches will adjust.
Keep this in mind: This season there will be a deep-dive examination over the use of “cut blocks” below the waist and the number of injuries related to them.
Cut blocks on the line of scrimmage are usually used by triple-option teams which are looking for ways for smaller players to block larger players.
It could be an interesting debate next year.