The oddsmakers think highly of Ball State.
The Cardinals are seven-point favorites at the Rubber Bowl. They should be.
Quarterback Nate Davis and his team are slowly becoming the MAC's darlings. His favorite target is Dante Love, a 5-foot-10 senior who is breaking school receiving records.
It's not just them. The Cardinals have several NFL prospects. Punter Chris Miller has been the nation's best for a couple years. Tight end Darius Hill is always there for a crucial first down. And that's not to mention some of Ball State's playmakers on defense.
Despite giving up 346 rushing yards, the Cardinals beat Navy 35-23 on national television last week.
There's a reason, however, why Ball State isn't a top-25 team. The Cardinals have struggled to stop the run. The performance against Navy didn't reassure anyone. That makes Ball State a better matchup for Akron than for other MAC teams.
Ball State coach Brady Hoke said he has noticed that Chris Jacquemain is a more polished passer this year. The ball "really comes out of his hand," the coach said.
The ABJ's Patrick McManamon talked about how Akron might use the Syracuse win as a springboard.
Jacquemain told the ABJ's Michael Beaven that the difference for him is confidence. Also, his teammates respect him. (Personally, I will hold off on calling Jacquemain a "break-out" player until he does it for a few weeks in a row.)
Mack Rhoades and associate AD Mary Lou Gribshaw showed up to my Sports Law class. Here are some interesting tidbits on how UA deals with the NCAA.
Rhoades gave some examples of creative incentives for coaching contracts. At Texas-El Paso, they gave the football coach $1 for every ticket sold that cost more than $10. It led to a $100,000 or $150,000 bonus each year. Rhoades suggested he is interested in implementing incentives like that, or ones for team GPA and Academic Progress Rates.
The standard contract length is increasing from five years to seven years, particularly in unestablished programs, where the coach believes he needs more time. On the other hand, administrators are implementing buy-out clauses for departing coaches. The universities figure it costs about $150,000 when a coach leaves. The buy-out clause lessens the sting.
Rhoades has a policy that he won't negotiate with agents. Supposedly, it's a trend around college athletics. Notre Dame has actually codified it. The administrators are strictly forbidden to negotiate with agents there.
UA recently implemented an attendance policy for athletes. Rhoades said Akron is one of only a few schools in the nation to do that.
The most expensive item on the budget is scholarships. The athletic department pays the university $6.3 million for tuition, fees, etc.
In order to cut the budget, Rhoades told each program that it will receive no money, unless it justifies each dollar.
The university gets between $80,000 and $100,000 each year from the NCAA for the revenues from the NCAA Tournament. The MAC gets $600,000 in TV money, which is split between the members.
In comparison, the Big East splits $8 million. Rhoades still talks about a Big East breakup. When that happens, Akron will be waiting. Rhoades played a role when UTEP moved from WAC to C-USA, so he knows the process.
Akron's budget is $19 million. Ohio State spends more than $100 million. Does that disparity sound familiar? How about Major League Baseball, and the discrepancy between the Yankees and Devil Rays?
Boosters are a big deal at most universities. Some coaches have it written in their contracts that they must attend so many booster events. Here, Rhoades said the boosters are a "great group," but they normally fall into two categories: One is the dedicated, hard-core Akron supporter. The other shows up to events in Ohio State gear. (Sigh.)
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