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The Nine Biggest College Football Stories Since Signing Day

Jim Harbaugh

Spring football is underway on most campuses across college football, so we thought we'd mark the occasion by chronicling the biggest stories in the game since National Signing Day.

9. Arkansas hires Paul Rhoads as defensive backs coach. Paul Rhoads interviewed for the Mississippi State defensive coordinator job that ultimately went to Peter Sirmon, and SEC West bunk mate Bret Bielema swooped in to hire one of the most successful and highly overqualified free agent coaches on the market.

8. Charlie Strong survives a scare. Louisville regent Jonathan Blue tossed a Molotov cocktail into Strong's already pressurized off-season when he named Strong a witness in his divorce case, asking for correspondence and gifts received from his Blue's wife, Tracy. The case ultimately settled, and Strong dodged an unneeded headache.

7. GoRout continues to blaze a path through college football. Go Rout and FootballScoop partnered for this year's spring tour, and programs in the SEC, ACC, Big 12, American & Conference USA have scheduled their install dates with GoRout. Big Ten tour coming in April...stay tuned.

6. NCAA bans subtweets. For half a decade now, coaches have made a tradition of mentioning recruits without mentioning them through the art of the subtweet. The NCAA in late February clarified a rule that coaches could still allude to recruiting events on Twitter, but not single out a specific player. It seems the rule is still catching on, as evidenced by this Mark Dantonio tweet after tight end Jack Camper committed to Michigan State.

6. NCAA doubles down on targeting rule. The targeting rule was written in stone the moment of its conception, and it's never leaving the rulebook. In this day and age, a rule written to protect players from head shots is never going to be deleted, whether or not it actually does anything to make the game safer. So it should come as no surprise when the NCAA's Football Oversight Committee forwarded a proposal to give the replay official permission to stop games and identify his own targeting fouls.

5. California hires Jake Spavital as offensive coordinator. After Tony Franklin abruptly left Berkeley for Middle Tennessee, Sonny Dykes plucked a branch off the Stoops-Leach coaching tree that sprouted his own career in hiring former Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.

4. Sun Belt gives Idaho and New Mexico State the boot. One glance at a map immediately showed Idaho and New Mexico State's football-only membership in the Sun Belt was a marriage of convenience. The Vandals and Aggies needed the Sun Belt, and the Sun Belt needed them. Until they didn't.

With the addition of Coastal Carolina pushing the conference further eastward and a new NCAA rule deregulating conference title games, the Sun Belt did what no conference had in a dozen years and voted to remove Idaho and New Mexico State from its membership after the 2017 season. The two nomads, already struggling on the field, now must decide whether to drop to FCS, pray for a lifeline from another FBS conference or wander the wilderness as independents.

3. The Big 12 continues to Big 12. Should the Big 12 expand? Should it add a conference championship game? The same questions the conference has asked of itself for four years now continue to follow the conference around like a shadow. Big 12 presidents and ADs met at league headquarters and February and announced... they would continue to study the issue.

The one resolution that was met -- allowing commissioner Bob Bowlsby to serve as the league's lone spokesman -- was broken by Oklahoma president David Boren almost immediately.

“We're in a fact-finding mode, we're in a data-gathering mode,” Boren said in February. “In other words, what will it mean to the stability of the conference? What will it mean financially to the conference."

“We've sort of said to ourselves, come this summer, we're going to have to finally make a decision about what we do. We cannot indefinitely postpone decisions. That's what I had gotten frustrated about. I thought we were spinning our wheels.”

2. Illinois re-commits to football. Perhaps we should have seen it coming. After Illinois announced former Illini tight end Josh Whitman as its new athletics director on Feb. 17, he immediately and clandestinely went to work fixing his football program. He boldly cold called Lovie Smith to gauge his interest in coaching a downtrodden program to which he had no connection, and then reeled him in. With one of the deepest salary pools in the Big Ten, a successful former NFL head coach running the program and a former player overseeing the department, Illinois football is finally doing something.

“This was an opportunity that I didn’t have to do but that I wanted to do,” Smith said earlier this month. “I think we do things that we want to do, not things that we have to do. I didn’t have to come back and start coaching college football right now, but I wanted that experience. I wanted this opportunity. It’s kind of as simple as that.”

1. Jim Harbaugh stares down Greg Sankey, and wins. Michigan's spring break trip to IMG Academy has come and gone, and the Earth continues to spin on its axis. That Michigan went to Florida and back isn't as important as the war of words the trip inspired -- and the fact that Harbaugh emerged the clear winner. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey lead the opposition to Michigan's snowbird excursion on grounds that it unfairly infringed upon players' free time... but somehow baseball players playing deep into June, basketball players making semi-annual summer trips abroad and, lest we forget, football players spending their Christmases in Shreveport and Detroit are just part of the collegiate experience.

“I thought it was fake outrage. I thought it wasn’t really real,” Harbaugh told ESPN's Mike & Mike last week. “The moral high ground of the sanctity of spring break, that’s what people chose to use as their moral stance? I thought it was fake. I thought it was fake outrage.”

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