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News Nuggets, 07.27.03

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Compiled from staff reports and electronic dispatches

Realignment pressures, NCAA heat spur changes at Fresno State


07.26.03: Hamrick name resurfaces in connection with UNLV... .. Liberty Bowl partner's football tickets moving briskly... .. Sun Belt football league feeling its oats... .. Gamecocks end Turman exile... .. More...
07.25.03: Repercussions from 'ancient' Big East blunder still sting... .. Heir to Ragone still subject to change... .. Blue Demons devise creative ticket sales push... .. C-USA teams set for ESPN Plus appearances... .. More...
07.24.03: Tranghese disputes Swofford apology claim... .. Banowsky articulates league's posture... .. Billikens maintain monopoly on brains... .. Books fell promising Bulls basketball player... .. More...
07.23.03: Coaches declare Frogs superior... .. Tranghese repents, Swofford doesn't... .. Bulls break out new logos... .. UNC-Chapel Hill offers gridiron school for women... .. More...
07.22.03: Greenville startup hops aboard sports radio waves... .. Houston player's career extended... .. Rattlers promoted to I-A... .. Murder charge lodged against Dotson... .. Marquette legend joins Crean staff... .. More...
07.21.03: ACC raid draws attention of Congress... .. West taps into Clemson connections for assistant coach... .. Arena football player dies on bench... .. More...
07.20.03: Meet, mingle and eat with the Pirates... .. Date dampens demand for WVU-VPI ducats... .. Non-BCS CEO's sign up in big numbers for Cowen summit... .. Monetary affairs discourage in-state rivalry... ..  49ers lose one, keep one... .. More...
07.19.03: C-USA formally shifts into football mode... .. Get up close and personal with J.T... .. Key U of L football players banished... .. Gators get head start in rejecting ACC... .. Physician admits torching dead player's medical data... .. LSU football coach survives aquatic knockout plunge... ..  More...
07.18.03:  East Carolina names new ticket operations boss... .. Dollar draws NCAA wrath... .. Athletes' rights crusader gains steam... .. Banished football program seeks new life... .. Blood clot stymies Buckeye lineman again...  More...

FRESNO, CA — Withering criticism, mounting penalties and a desire to gets its house in order in the looming specter of shifts in league alliances have prompted Fresno State to take drastic steps to clean up its act.

Embroiled in a academic scandal that has its already-restricted basketball program staring at additional sanctions, the school has instituted a new chain of command for those involved in overseeing and supporting the academic needs of its student-athletes. The Bulldogs Academic Services Unit, which previously reported to the athletic director, will in the future also answer directly to the the Office of the Provost. The provost is the chief academic official of the university, second only to the university president.

In another significant departure from past practices, Fresno State announced it will no longer sign academically non-qualifying high school students. Last year, eight non-qualifiers were admitted, the school said in a statement, and a total of 1.2 percent of all Bulldogs athletes were allowed into school as non-qualifiers.

"What we're trying to do is take away people's excuses why we can't be under consideration for things," athletic director Scott Johnson said. "I think everybody is trying to position themselves for ... (conference) realignment and to create stability in conferences. This is just another move to strengthen us."

Fresno State is currently a member of the Western Athletic Conference, which under various scenarios could add and/or lose members as leagues reshuffle their memberships in the wake of the Atlantic Coast Conference's poaching of Miami and Virginia Tech from the Big East. By undertaking the internal house-cleaning, the Bulldogs hope to improve their desirability to potential suitors such as the Mountain West Conference.

Academic non-qualifiers, commonly referred to as "Prop 48" or "props," are students who do not meet the minimum academic requirements set by the NCAA to be eligible for scholarship or competition as true freshmen. Non-qualifiers are not allowed to participate or receive athletic aid in their first year of college. After satisfactorily meeting requirements in their first year, they are eligible to receive athletic scholarships and join teams in their second year.

The new policies, announced Friday, come as the NCAA Infractions Committee is deciding whether additional penalties are warranted for the men's basketball program. Fresno State has acknowledged academic fraud, lack of institutional control and use of ineligible players and already has imposed its own penalties, including a two-year probation, the reduction of three scholarships and a postseason ban in 2003.

"I think it's important to show [the NCAA] we're taking steps,'' said Johnson. "It's part of the total campaign to improve image and perception of Fresno State athletics.''

Johnson said he consulted with a variety of faculty, coaching staff members and athletics department staff in the development of the new policy, noting that there is broad support for the changes.

Of 691 Fresno State athletes on current rosters, 22 failed to meet NCAA minimum requirements out of high school, assistant athletic director Steve Weakland said. Nine nonqualifiers are on the football team. Five more are coming in with this year's freshman class but they won't be affected by the new policy.

Football coach Pat Hill said school officials will still work with high school students who do not meet academic requirements in getting them admitted to the university. "We're not turning our backs on nonqualifiers. ... We're still going to be highly active with them," Hill said. "We'll just show them different alternatives and ways they can further their academic careers, and, hopefully, some day they'll play football for us."

Vegas Classic box office pits N.C. A&T grads against Southern alums

LAS VEGAS — Southern University and North Carolina A&T will have an added incentive for the first Las Vegas Football Classic. Jonathan Simon, director of the Sept. 13 matchup, said Thursday that the school with the most alumni at the game will be invited back for 2004. A similar game involving historically black colleges was played last year before an announced crowd of 22,537 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Grambling defeated Tennessee State 49-14 in the Silver Dollar Classic.

Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events, a game sponsor, said about half of last year's crowd was from out of state. He said he hoped the this year's game and surrounding events including a Sept. 11 concert, golf tournament, fashion show, alumni-team banquet, and a Sept. 12 battle of the bands at the Thomas & Mack Center, would stir interest. Officials plan a game-day tailgate party and vendor marketplace at Sam Boyd Stadium, and hope to draw 30,000 fans.

Southern, in Baton Rouge, La., and North Carolina A&T, in Greensboro, each went 6-6 last year. They are guaranteed $375,000 for the Las Vegas game.

Big Ten brushes off title game talk

There doesn't appear to be much interest among Big Ten coaches in holding a conference title game — even if the NCAA changes a rule to allow one. A proposal submitted by the Atlantic Coast Conference asks the NCAA to change its rules to allow leagues with 10 or more teams to hold lucrative league title games. Only conferences with 12 or more schools, such as the Southeastern Conference, the Big 12 and the Mid-American are currently allowed to play title games. Conferences which might be permitted to stage championship games if the ACC initiative passes are Conference USA and the Big Ten, both of which have 11 members, and the 10-team PAC-10.

It became clear during its annual preseason media event that the Big Ten's interest in conducting such a contest is virtually nonexistent. The tradition-steeped league knows it can already count on momentous games as each regular season draws to a climax. "I don't think that I've heard any discussion that would lead me to believe that if it were possible, we would do it," commissioner Jim Delany, commenting on a potential title clash — said at the Big Ten kickoff. "While it might clear up some things competitively, it also might undermine some things competitively."

A conference championship game could generate $10 million to $15 million for the Big Ten, but Delany said there isn't a groundswell of support for it among coaches or administrators. Delany said coaches fear a title game would diminish the importance of season-ending matchups — such as the Michigan-Ohio State game — that have existed for decades in the Big Ten.

News Nuggets are compiled periodically from staff, ECU, Conference USA and its member schools, and from Associated Press and other reports. Copyright 2003 and other publishers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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