Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; Jan. 20

A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning...

FIVE THINGS I’D LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN

1. 100 FOOTBALL SCHOLARSHIPS: Currently the number is 85 but the way the system is set up it encourages all sorts of hanky panky. Early enrollees can count against last year’s total. Schools like Alabama and Ole Miss routinely oversign. To get around the numbers, there are gray shirts, kids who sign in February but who don’t enroll until the following January and other shenanigans. It’s a bad system. Here is the better deal. Sign 20 a year, no exceptions for a maximum of 100 on scholarship. If kids transfer you don’t replace the lost scholarship. If kids transfer in they count against this year’s total. If you’re good at keeping kids in school you’re rewarded with extra kids on scholarship. If you aren’t, then you pay the price.

2. ELIMINATE DECEMBER RECRUITING, MOVE NATIONAL SIGNING DAY BACK TO MARCH: Make it a dead period from December 1 until the day after the coaches convention the first week in January. That would help athletic directors who want to hire a new head coach and would help head coaches who have to make personnel decisions about their assistants. With basketball going in January and February, it would make for more and better recruiting weekends. Make signing day the first Wednesday in March and it would be a nice lead-in for spring football practice.

3. TURN THE O-DOME PARKING LOT INTO A MULTI-USE PRACTICE FACILITY: Yes, faculty would scream, but build them a bigger parking garage on the property where the president’s house stands. Dr. Bernie Machen moved off campus and the house has been used as an entertainment facility ever since. Level the house and use the property put in a bigger and better parking garage, level the current garage and in its place put in a multi-purpose facility like the one they have at Kentucky which doubles as a football/indoor track facility. That would make sense. Word on the street is that one of the two 100-yard practice fields that more than $500,000 was spent to re-sod will give way to an indoor football practice facility. That doesn’t make sense.

4. MOVE THE START OF BASKETBALL SEASON BACK: You might be amazed at the number of coaches who would be happy if the season were turned into a one-semester sport because of academics. By delaying the start of the season until after fall semester exams, athletes could get in a full academic semester and you might see better GPA and graduation rates. Coaches like the idea that freshmen could get in a full academic semester before they play their first game. It might mean cutting the regular season back from 30-31 games to about 25, but most coaches I know wouldn’t have a problem with that.

5. MAKE Notre Dame JOIN A CONFERENCE: Yes, I know all about how games like Southern Cal and Navy might have to be eliminated from the schedule and I’ve heard all the propaganda about how Notre Dame IS college football but make the Domers play on the same playing field as everyone else. Why should Notre Dame continue to get the special favors and consideration for bowl games, etc.? A great idea would be for Notre Dame to join the Big 12, which only has 10 teams and needs two to have a conference championship game. That would make force all the teams in the power conferences to play by the same set of rules leading up to the college football playoffs.

JOE PA GETS HIS WINS BACK

Joe Paterno is once again the winningest coach in the history of college football thanks to the restoration of 111 victories vacated by the NCAA as part of its harsh sanctions against Penn State for what the organization saw as complicity in the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case. This comes three months after the NCAA allowed Penn State to go to a bowl game, which came a few months after the college sports’ ruling body removed the scholarship sanctions that will allow the school to sign its first full recruiting class since 2012 on National Signing Day in a couple of weeks.

That the NCAA is backtracking all those harsh sanctions against Penn State should come as no surprise. College sports’ governing body has been reeling for the last two years as one legal sniper after another has picked apart flimsy defenses and beaten the NCAA in court. The end to the legal battles is nowhere in sight. That the NCAA is still standing after all these losses in court is almost a mystery. That it will be able to weather all the hits and continue to govern college sports in the near future is debatable. If this were a boxing match, the referee would be standing over NCAA president Mark Emmert about to hold up the final finger of a 10-count that would deliver a TKO.

The Sandusky case is horrifying and if Paterno was complicit in any way, he deserved the firing he got on November 9, 2011. The Penn State Board of Trustees didn’t buy Paterno’s story that he didn’t know his former defensive coordinator was a sexual predator who raped and abused numerous young boys at the Penn State football facilities. Testimony from a former assistant coach claims he saw Sandusky raping a young boy in the shower at the Penn State football facility. He says he told Paterno, but Paterno refused to do anything for fear that it would cause a scandal that would tarnish his heretofore squeaky clean image. If the assistant is to be believed – and the Board of Trustees apparently did – then Paterno knew and the firing was justified.

The 111 wins that were taken away probably shouldn’t have been part of NCAA penalties. The kids who played for Paterno had no clue what was going on and their victories should have never been vacated. That they are restored doesn’t restore any honor to Paterno. They simply make him the winningest coach of all time.

The loss of the wins was actually one of the NCAA’s milder sanctions. The school was fined $60 million, a bowl ban was put in place and scholarships were cut back to the point that Penn State finished the 2014 season with fewer than 50 scholarship players.

One by one, the NCAA has had to walk back the sanctions. It turns out there are some pretty sharp lawyers in Pennsylvania and those employed by the NCAA are in the midst of a rather embarrassing losing streak in court rooms all across the USA. What’s astonishing about this that Penn State agreed to the sanctions rather than get the death penalty for its football program. What if the NCAA had taken that extraordinary step? Can you imagine the amount of money Mark Emmert and the NCAA would be responsible to pay back once Penn State started winning in court using the same defense – the NCAA way overstepped its boundaries.

While Penn State should have been hit hard for fostering the Paterno culture while a sexual predator ruined the lives of numerous kids, those are things that should have been decided in court and not by the NCAA.

The latest turnabout happens at the same time the NCAA has elected to give autonomy to the five conferences and Notre Dame that are the powers that be in college football. The power schools will immediately implement the cost of attendance scholarship which will allow them to pay a stipend to athletes that goes beyond the standard room, board, tuition, books and fees that are part of a scholarship system that has been in place for more than 50 years. At some point in the future, these schools are also going to write their own recruiting rules and redefine all of college sports as we know them. They control the football television money and those 65 schools win the bulk of the national championship events staged by the NCAA. Essentially, the NCAA is powerless to prevent them from doing anything they want to do.

Autonomy is probably just the first step in full independence from the NCAA. As the court losses begin to mount in the next two or three years, the NCAA is going to be the albatross that the power schools don’t want hanging around their necks. It seems inevitable that they will break away and that will start a massive re-organization of the entire college sports structure.

Take a good look at college sports because the landscape is about to change. The college presidents say they’re committed to keeping the NCAA intact, but the real power has shifted from the NCAA to the 65 power schools. Whether that’s a good thing or not only time will tell.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

As the power conference schools flex their autonomous muscles, do you think the NCAA will continue to survive?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

I came across Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds for the first time at the Bear Creek Music Festival and I immediately became a fan of lead singer Arleigh Kinchloe. They’re an interesting hybrid of rock and roll, soul, blues and a little bit of jazz thrown in. This is a live version of “Don’t Be Jealous,” which features some serious vocals by Kinchloe.


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