Musings From The Plains—College Football Free Agency Edition
NCAA Commissioner Mark Emmert (photo: USA TODAY Sports)
The NCAA inched a step closer to free agency this past week when the ACC joined the Big Ten Conference in support of allowing athletes to transfer to another school without losing a year of eligibility. Currently, football and basketball players must sit out a year before becoming eligible. The proposed change would do away with that rule.
Of course the NCAA Board of Governors would have to approve the change; this seems likely since the governing body instituted a change last season allowing football players who have played in less than four games to enter the transfer portal. Implementing what two of the Power 5 Conferences are advocating could solidify free agency in college athletics and change college sports forever. Many see that as a good thing. Count me as not in that group.
Head baseball coach Bruce Thompson is looking for some answers today following Auburn’s being swept by UCF over the weekend. As far as this writer can tell, Auburn has never been swept at home by a nonconference opponent. And, what makes it so perplexing is the Tigers lost it both at the plate and on the mound.
Auburn (5–3) came into the contest having scored the most runs (61) since 1951 through its first five games, and Tiger pitchers had struck out the most batters (62) since the 2000 season.
“I just think it was a rhythm and momentum of one single series against one opponent,” said Thompson. “The realization in getting out of this one feeling and getting back to the overall perspective is what I’d like to see our guys get to in the next 24 or 48 hours.” We would, too, coach, we would too.
Speaking of embarrassing losses, the softball team had a weekend it would like to have back. The Tigers went 1–4 in the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, CA. They lost two close games by 2 runs but were run-ruled twice, losing to No. 1 UCLA 11–1 and being shut out by No. 16 Arizona State 13–0. No doubt the competition was tough. But when’s the last time you can remember Auburn softball being run-ruled twice in a tournament? I certainly don’t recollect that happening before.
Auburn coach Mickey Dean said, “You can’t be fair-weather fans with this team, but they are playing hard and they are going to get better.” Maybe the learning experience will help them win the Tiger Invitational, which starts Friday at Jane B. Moore Field.
Auburn basketball was sailing along at 21–2 before its best player, Isaac Okoro, suffered an injury against Bama on February 12. Since that game, Auburn has struggled in losses to Mizzou and Georgia. And on Saturday, the Tigers found themselves down by 17 points at halftime to the Tennessee Volunteers.
Yet, they came back to notch their fifth come-from-behind game of the year. But this time Okoro was not the difference—Bruce Pearl was. Trailing the Vols by 17, Pearl had a “come to Jesus meeting” with his team behind closed doors. Players would not divulge what the coach said but acknowledge it lit a fire under them as the Tigers came back for their 23rd victory, beating the Vols 73–66.
With the basketball season drawing to a close, the No. 15 Tigers are tied for second place and are playing to get a double bye in the up coming SEC Tournament. Ole Miss comes to town Tuesday before Auburn has a tough game at Kentucky on Saturday. If (and that’s a big if) the Tigers win those two, they will be just one game away from first place.
Although I’m looking forward to March Madness, it won’t be long before football returns to the Plains. Auburn A-Day is just 47 days away. It would be nice if the newly commissioned statues of Cliff Hare, Shug Jordan, and Pat Dye could be ready by then, but I know that’s an impossibility. However, just thinking about being back in Jordan-Hare is enough to get this football fan dreaming about what a new season can bring.
Until next time …