College Football Digest: Opening kick

I’ve put the World Cup Digest to bed, so it’s time to start on another kind of football. We’re just a couple of weeks away from some college football kickoff luncheons around here, as well as media days for the major conferences.

So let’s get to some news.

— Breaking news first today from the University of Louisville, where the C-J’s C.L. Brown reports that DeAntre Rhodes, a talented defensive line recruit, has failed to qualify academically. His coach says that Rhodes will head instead to a junior college in Mississippi.

It’s an unfortunate story. Rhodes signed with Virginia Tech in 2008, but didn’t qualify and went instead to Hargrave Prep. But financial issues forced him out of there after one semester and he just couldn’t get the coursework done with sufficient grades to make himself eligible.

It leaves the Cards thin on the defensive front, but they were going to be thin no matter what. “Thin” will be an operative word all preseason. Still, he’d have been a big addition.

— ESPN was the biggest newsmaker today, with word that it will expand its signature college football show, College GameDay, to three hours on Saturday morning. But even bigger than that was news that Erin Andrews, as part of her new deal with the network, will be the host for the opening hour, which will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Andrews, fresh off her Dancing With the Stars stint this summer, also has landed some recurring studio spots with Good Morning America. Good for her. She has paid her dues as a sideline reporter, and now gets to show what she can do in an expanded role.

In exchange for those, she’s shedding her role as a sideline reporter for ESPN’s Thursday night broadcasts. And there are other changes. Chris Fowler is giving up his Thursday night play-by-play duties and Rece Davis is taking that spot.

Is three hours on Saturday morning overkill? Not if you love college football. Hopefully, this will allow ESPN to spread some love more evenly across the national landscape, including to games NOT being broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. We’ll have to wait and see on that one, though.

Don’t miss Brett Dawson’s feature on UK wide receiver Chris Matthews, who talks about his life growing up in South Central Loss Angeles and what it has been like to make the adjustment to Kentucky. “Kentucky’s a great place to be, especially if you’re trying to focus on one part of your life,” Matthews told Dawson. “It’s a lot slower than Los Angeles.” Well, yes, everywhere but the freeways. Read the story here.

If Florida recruiting had a Facebook status, it likely would be, “It’s complicated.” Among the nuggets Orlando Sentinel beat writer Jeremy Fowler turned up in a recent foray into the school’s recruiting (open) records was a secondary violation for posting messages on a prospect’s Facebook page. Read about it here.

Secondary violations are the parking tickets of NCAA sports. Florida said it stopped recruiting activities with those players for two weeks as punishments. Also, its coaches are forbidden from “poking” or clicking the “like” button on any of their wall posts. All right that last part is made up, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

— A quick pro football note on a former college QB here: Things are good these days for U of L graduate Hunter Cantwell, who is at No. 2 on the depth chart and battling for a starting job with the Carolina Panthers, according to this report from The Charlotte Observer. Cantwell was married last month in Louisville (even had the rehearsal dinner in the press box lounge at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium). He’s one of the good guys, and deserves any success he earns. Like this quote from Charlotte QB coach Rip Scherer, who praised Cantwell’s arm strength, saying he “could throw a strawberry through a locomotive.”

I was paging back through the old archives today when I noticed that it was around this time a year ago that I was writing a column criticizing Steve Kragthorpe for missing the Kentucky Football Coaches Association Clinic after committing to speak at it, then not getting the word to organizers. Kragthorpe later threw an “administrative assistant” under the increasingly out-of-control bus that became his U of L tenure.

Cardinal fans might be interested to know that the new coach did not miss that particular KFCA event this year. And not only did Strong show up, but he showed up with every member of his coaching staff.

Times are changing, and the college football winds are blowing. Keep checking back for more football talk in this space.

But it’s not just about me rambling on. Your input is welcome. Have an experience you want to share, or just a thought about what you love about college football (or hate?) Bring it on. The more voices the better.

All input is welcome at ecrawford@courier-journal.com.

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