Feb 28, 2019

Junior college football's cloudy future

The Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton played JUCO football. Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Troubling financials, negative press and NCAA rules have put the future of junior college football (or JUCO) on shaky ground. Several programs have shut down in recent years, and the fear is that this trend will continue.

Why it matters: Junior college football has long been a lifeline for players who might have otherwise fallen through the cracks, while also serving as a farm system for Division I's top programs.

  • Four junior college players have gone on to win the Heisman (Cam Newton, O.J. Simpson, Roger Staubach, Mike Rozier), and eight participated in Super Bowl LIII. Aaron Rodgers played JUCO ball. So did Alvin Kamara.
  • An estimated 800 JUCO players join FBS programs each year, with about one-fifth of them joining Power 5 schools. Perennial powerhouse Oklahoma, for instance, has signed 18 JUCO players over the last five years.

What's happening: Junior colleges face significant hurdles just to stay afloat, and those hurdles have gotten higher in recent years.

  • Dwindling financial support is putting cash-strapped schools even deeper in the red. Itawamba Community College in Mississippi spent $666,806 on football in 2016-17 but only made $17,346 in ticket sales — the program's only revenue source.
  • New FBS transfer rules mean that players who would have previously transferred to JUCO are transferring to other D-I schools, instead. 
  • A negative perception of JUCO culture has been made infinitely worse by Netflix's Last Chance U. The Hard Knocks-esque show focuses on the drama and, thus, doesn't tell the full story. It has also been mired in controversy.

What's next: A class action lawsuit is being filed that could lead to the reinstatement of one of the recently shuttered programs, and plenty of administrators and coaches across the country are working to fix the system.

The bottom line: Junior college football is devouring itself. Fewer programs mean more travel. More travel means less money. And less money means less football.

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Judge rules against Trump policy limiting public comment on energy leasing

Photo: Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday overturned a 2018 Trump administration directive that sought to speed up energy leases on public land by limiting the amount of time the public could comment.

Why it matters: U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush's decision voids almost a million acres of leases in the West, according to The Washington Post. It's a victory for environmentalists, who tried to block the change as part of an effort to protect the habitat of the at-risk greater sage grouse.

  • The ruling invalidated five oil and gas leases in Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, and affected 104,688 square miles of greater sage-grouse habitat, per The Associated Press.
  • Leases in greater sage-grouse habitat will return to allowing 30 days of public comment and administrative protest.

The big picture: From Axios' Amy Harder, this is the latest in a long and convoluted list of regulatory rollbacks the Trump administration is pursuing on environmental rules that courts are, more often than not, rebutting. With Congress gridlocked on these matters, expect the courts to be the default way Trump's agenda faces checks (unless, of course, a Democrat wins the White House this November).

Your best defense against coronavirus

Photo: Adrian Greeman/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

Washing your hands is the best way to protect against the novel coronavirus, according to doctors and health officials, as the virus continues to spread around the globe.

Why it matters: Frequent hand washing can stop germs from spreading in a community, a known preventative for COVID-19 and influenza.

Major League Soccer embarks on its 25th season

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Major League Soccer begins its 25th season, the league is financially stable and surging in popularity, and its 26 teams have gorgeous facilities and rapidly increasing valuations.

  • It also continues to expand, with David Beckham's Inter Miami and Nashville SC set to debut this season as the 25th and 26th teams. Plans are in place to reach 30 franchises by 2022 — triple the number from 2004.
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