Alabama is overwhelming pick to win SEC football championship


Media poll has Texas A&M fifth in SEC West.

SWAC to end championship game, send league’s best team to Celebration Bowl.

Three-time defending champion Alabama has been picked to win the Southeastern Conference championship again in a preseason media poll.

Alabama was the preseason choice of 217 of the 243 people who cast ballots at this week’s SEC media days. The only other school to receive as many as 10 votes was Auburn with 11.

The predicted order of finish in the Western Division was Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Mississippi.

Georgia was the favorite in the Eastern Division. Following Georgia, in order, were Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Missouri.

Alabama also had a record 10 first-team picks on the media’s preseason All-SEC team.

SWAC banks on Celebration Bowl

The Southwestern Athletic Conference is all in when it comes to the Celebration Bowl, banking on it to put the league on better financial footing.

The SWAC is dropping its championship game in a money-saving move. The league won’t have a title contest starting in 2018 after ending up in the red because of dwindling attendance.

“Whenever you get a million dollars and you’re not spending a million dollars on your own championship game, it helps tremendously,” SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp said Friday at the league’s media day.

If the league doesn’t receive what is believed would be its first at-large FCS playoff berth, the SWAC will pit its champion against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference winner in the Celebration Bowl at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

But it’s not just about the money. Coaches in the league — which once routinely produced NFL stars, including Jerry Rice and Walter Payton — believe the platform will have a positive impact on recruiting, enhance the prestige of the conference and make travel easier for fans.

The 2-year-old Celebration Bowl gives the leagues a showcase on network television. The 2017 game will be the first bowl of the season, airing Dec. 16 on ABC.

The league held its own championship game starting in 1999 and moved it from Birmingham, Ala., to Houston in 2013. The first three games at NRG Stadium each drew about 40,000 fans, but that number dropped to 24,917 in 2016.

State lawyers: UConn hire violates policy

Connecticut ethics lawyers say the University of Connecticut violated the state’s ban on nepotism by hiring head coach Randy Edsall’s son as an assistant coach, but they say Corey Edsall can serve out his contract.

In a draft recommendation to the State Office Of Ethics enforcement board, the lawyers recommend that no action be taken against UConn if Corey Edsall’s one-year, $95,000 contract to coach the team’s tight ends is not renewed.

The draft opinion recognizes the “potential disruption” to UConn’s program if the younger Edsall is barred from coaching this year. It also notes that “UConn and the Edsalls, based on UConn’s differing interpretation of the Code of Ethics, in good faith entered into binding contracts and therefore have contractual obligations.”

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