Mark Richt tackles ‘winning at all costs’ issue in college football

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And, given the slew of NCAA run-ins at multiple big (and not-so-big) programs over the past year, there’s certainly a lot of it in the sport.

At fan Q&A last week, Georgia coach Mark Richt addressed the controversial issues of grayshirting and oversigning — two very common practices in the SEC that have been a part of the “win at all costs” mentality in college football.

Then again, last time I checked, the SEC has won the past five BCS National Championships.

While oversigning has become a frustrating, hot-button issue for certain college presidents (and NBC bloggers alike), several coaches within the SEC have practiced it ritualistically.

Richt, when asked about oversigning, said he feels he’s an anomaly.

“If you bring them [recruits] in in the summer, and you work them and you let your strength staff work with them, and you kind of decide which ones you like the best, and you tell five of them, ‘Hey we know we signed you, and we expected you to be able to come in, we don’t have space for you, we’re really sorry about that but we don’t have space for you – you’re gonna have to leave and come back in January.’

“I think that’s an awful thing to do, I think that’s the wrong thing to do. And it’s nothing that we’ve done since I’ve been at Georgia.”

The NCAA limit per signing class is 25, but that does not include early enrollees. For the record, Georgia has signed more than the allotted 25 players three times over the past decade (Rivals.com).

But while Richt insists he’s never ousted a kid in Athens simply because there wasn’t enough space, he did mention he’s endorsed another common, and certainly polarizing, practice: grayshirting.

“Not that we haven’t grayshirted, or talked to guys about grayshirting,” Richt said. “If you tell five of those guys ‘Hey we’ve got 20 spaces. I can sign 25. There’s a good chance that by school starts there’ll be room for you, because of the attrition that happens every year everywhere you go. If there’s space for you, you come in with your class. If there’s not space for you, are you willing to come in in January?’

“If you tell them on the front end and they know that, everyone understands that, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. And that’s how we go about it if we’re going to talk to a guy about grayshirting.”

Richt is one of the classiest guys in college football, no doubt. His team has struggled recently on the field and his players have had their fair share of the off-the-field issues, but there’s still something to be said for trying to go about things the right way.

And barring some Tressel-like scandal, it appears Richt, whether he has a job after next year or not, is content to at least try and win without the cost of throwing a select group of his kids under the proverbial bus.

“There’s been a bit too much of the winning at all costs in college football,” Richt said. “And I hope the tide turns in the other direction.”

Admirable, to be sure.

But, unfortunately, as long as billions of dollars in television deals, booster donations and coaching (and player?) salaries are poured into the sport, it won’t.

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”