In anticipation of the NCAA Board of Governors potentially canceling or postponing fall sports championships, Power 5 conference leaders have begun exploring the possibility of staging their own championships in those affected sports, multiple sources have told Sports Illustrated. This could be seen as a first step toward a long-theorized breakaway from the NCAA by the 65 schools that play college sports at the highest level.
The Board of Governors, comprised primarily of university presidents and chancellors from all levels of the NCAA, has a meeting scheduled for Tuesday. At that time it is expected to make a decision on the fate of fall sports championships other than FBS football, which has a championship outside the NCAA structure. However, the board also could delay action until later in August.
In recent days, Power 5 conference officials began seeking feedback from their members about the feasibility of staging their own championships during the fall, sources told SI. When asked if such a move away from the NCAA championship structure could be seen as a precedent-setting rift between the national governing body of college sports and the Power 5, one athletic director said, “If I were (NCAA president Mark) Emmert, I’d be really worried about it. He’s got to keep the Power 5 together.”
Another Power 5 athletic director said he thinks the chances of breakaway fall championships are remote, but added, “I think this is representative of the poor relationship between the (NCAA) national office and our conferences.”
Multiple sources said part of the motivation for the Power 5 considering hosting its own fall Olympic sports seasons is to justify playing football, the revenue-driving sport for all athletic departments at that level. If all the other sports are canceled but football perseveres on its own, the optics would open up the schools to severe criticism. Thus, playing all fall sports would allow those schools to say that they are not uniquely subjecting football players to any risk.
Sources described the discussions about breakaway championships as preliminary in nature, the first steps in gauging both interest and feasibility. An Atlantic Coast Conference administrator said the concept is “hypothetical” in nature and not mature yet, but “if the NCAA does something, it could shift it from neutral to first gear.”
Given the P5 incentive to justify football, the Board of Governors’ decision—and rationale—will be critical. If it decides to cancel fall sports championships for COVID-19 health and safety reasons, it would be difficult for the Power 5 to justify going its own way without a plan that they can definitively protect their athletes. But if the board says that the cost of safely conducting championships is prohibitive, the Power 5 could have an avenue to play all its fall sports—football included.
“We’re all trying to think, hey, what can we do for our kids, so they have a season and a chance to compete for a championship,” one Power 5 athletic director said. “And, quite frankly, how can we justify playing football?”
The cost of trying to create a bubble of sorts at NCAA championship events like the volleyball tournament, with regionals and a Final Four would be significant. With rapid testing for all participants, secure lodging and transportation, sterilizing the event and practice venues, the bills would add up. Multiply that across eight sports and three different levels of NCAA participation, and this would easily be the most expensive series of fall championships the association has funded—and it comes after the NCAA just took a huge financial hit with the cancelation of the 2020 basketball tournaments.
That is where the Power 5 could step in and collectively foot the bill for its own fall championships, which would be one-third or less of the total cost outlay to the NCAA. A source within the Olympic sports community said it would be “very easy” for the P5 conferences to contract out to established event management companies to hold their own championships.
The Board of Governors could make separate rulings for Divisions II and III, where a number of leagues already have postponed or canceled fall sports. Several Division I schools from FCS conferences, such as the Ivy League and Patriot League, have postponed fall sports as well. Sources told SI they are expecting a cancellation or postponement at the DII and DIII levels, but are unsure what will happen at the DI level.
If the NCAA board again delays action, it might further inflame a membership that has an increasing urgency for certainty about the upcoming seasons. One athletic director described the limbo as “mentally unhealthy” for his fall-sports athletes. The NCAA’s non-football fall sports are men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, field hockey and men’s water polo.
For decades, the Power 5 conferences—the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pacific-12 and Southeastern—have continued to amass power and revenue at a rate that has separated them from the rest of college athletics. That separation led those leagues to gain their own autonomy at the NCAA legislative level, crafting rules that fit their specific needs.
Football has been the driving force behind that, as media-rights deals for those leagues have skyrocketed over the last decade. The FBS Group of 5 conferences—the American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt—have struggled to keep up as the revenue gap has widened.
The schools in those conferences, plus independent institutions, may want to try to join the proposed Power 5 fall championships, a source theorized. If the NCAA sees more than one-third of its 350-plus Division I members basically ignore a postponement or cancelation, the undermining of the association’s power would be immense.
Already, the NCAA’s lack of influence at the Power 5 level has never been more glaring than in 2020. Since canceling winter and spring championships last March, the NCAA has largely been on the sidelines watching the individual conferences grapple with the pandemic. It issued return-to-sport guidelines in the spring and updated them recently, but behind the scenes, college administrators have grown increasingly critical of Emmert and the entire NCAA for a perceived lack of leadership.
“It’s almost like they’re frozen,” one athletic director said.
One veteran college administrator described the NCAA and Power 5 as having long been embroiled in an “existential crisis,” and wondered whether this fall sports gambit could be “the crack in the armor” that leads to an eventual split.
“Is this the final break?” The source asked. “You could have two championships: one from the (Power 5) and potentially some Group of 5s joining them, and a second one for everybody else in the spring. … It’s going to be real strange.”
There will be splashier new-model debuts this year, but there will be none bigger, or more important. The 2021 Ford F-150 has just rolled under the klieg lights at a special event with emcee Denis Leary on Thursday, and it’s time to take a closer look. When America’s newest full-size pickup rolls into dealers this fall, it will inherit not only the title of America’s best-selling truck for 43 straight years, it will also also assume the mantle of being one of this country’s chief economic drivers, automotive or otherwise.
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2021 Ford F-150 is a closet revolutionary
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One look at the 2021 F-150 might reasonably have you wondering what, exactly, is new. Certainly, in the move from today’s model to this new 14th-generation truck, Ford’s designers have delivered one of the more conservative visual overhauls we’ve seen out of the F-Series lineup in decades. However, a closer look at the truck reveals that’s not for lack of ambition: This pickup packs more electrification and connectivity-minded tech than we’ve seen in any light-duty production truck in the business.
Peel back this broad-shouldered rig’s aluminum skin, and you’ll find an available hybrid powertrain — the first full hybrid to hit the US pickup truck market. You’ll also find a raft of other novel features and tech designed to improve both productivity and comfort. Among them? Pro Power Onboard, a burly in-bed power source designed to replace generators at work sites and campouts, as well as huge new screens running next-gen Sync 4 infotainment. So whether you’re a professional contractor or someone who likes to play hard on weekends, Ford is hoping you’ll find something new here that you like. In fact, even if you’re not a typical truck fan, you might be interested to learn about how this new pickup sets the technological table for Ford’s coming Tesla Cybertruck competitor, the all-electric F-150, due sometime in 2022.
2021 Ford F-150 looks familiar, but only on the surface
Let’s start with the basics: Most of the F-150’s ladder-frame chassis carries over unchanged, and along with it, the lion’s share of the F-150’s dimensions and overall footprint, as well as cabin and bed specifications. The new truck has a slightly wider track and bigger available wheels (up to 22 inches!) for a more planted stance, but the shadow it casts will be very similar to today’s truck. All cabin and box configurations return, as do all major trim levels — XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited (a new Raptor will come later).
Despite your likely initial impressions, every single sheet metal panel is new. This is a handsome truck, and Ford didn’t need to reinvent the outgoing model’s look from whole cloth (especially in view of the truck market’s often-conservative buyers). Up front, there’s a bolder grille bookended by headlamps outlined by oversized C-clamp-shaped daytime running lamps that extend into the bumper, a design theme echoed in the taillights as well. The new truck figures to be slipperier as well, incorporating not only active grille shutters that close at speed, but also an automatically deployed front air dam that lowers at 40 mph to improve aerodynamics (the latter retracts out of the way at low speeds to negotiate off-road trails and rogue parking barriers).
Out back, you’ll find matching C-clamp-shaped taillamps and a trick new multifunction tailgate. While the latter lacks the fancy multi-directional hinging found on some competing GM and Ram trucks, this new tailgate has a lot of baked-in cleverness, including a new flat work surface that integrates a tablet holder, ruler, clamp mounts and new tie-down rings that double as bottle openers. If nothing else, this more straightforward approach is undoubtedly less complex, heavy and costly than the Chevy Silverado 1500‘s MultiPro unit and the Ram 1500‘s 60/40-split solution.
2021 Ford F-150 vs. 2020 Ford F-150
2021 Ford F-150
2020 Ford F-150
2.7-liter twin-turbo V6
2.7-liter twin-turbo V6
3.0-liter turbo-diesel V6
3.0-liter turbo-diesel V6
3.5-liter twin-turbo V6
3.5-liter twin-turbo V6
3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 hybrid
Length (Crew Cab, 2WD)
Width (Crew Cab, 2WD)
Height (Crew Cab, 2WD)
Wheelbase (Crew Cab, 2WD)
EcoBoost and PowerBoost hybrid drivetrains, oh my!
Once you get past assessing the F-150’s new look, if you’re a typical truck buyer, you’re going to want to know what’s under the hood. Ford says most output specs like horsepower, torque and fuel efficiency will come later, along with payload and tow ratings. For now, we do know the engine lineup. There’s a lot of carryover here, too, including naturally aspirated 3.3-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8 options, along with the company’s well-received 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6s. The 3.0-liter V6 PowerStroke returns for diesel buyers, as well. All F-150 models receive 10-speed automatic transmissions.
The big news, of course, is the F-150’s new PowerBoost hybrid powertrain. Piggybacking off of Ford’s existing 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, this is the industry’s first full hybrid pickup (Ram’s eTorque is a less-powerful mild hybrid). The system integrates a single 35-kilowatt (47-horsepower) electric motor into the transmission housing backed by a liquid-cooled, 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. This isn’t a plug-in hybrid system, it’s a self-contained, self-charging deal that incorporates a belt-driven starter. PowerBoost will be available in all trims, in both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive configurations.
Ford has outlined some significant PowerBoost performance targets, including upwards of 12,000 pounds of max towing capacity, best-in-class horsepower and torque figures, and a leg-crossing range of 700 miles per tank.
Interestingly, today’s 2020 F-150 can tow up to 13,200 pounds with its 375-hp, 470-lb-ft, 3.5-liter EcoBoost powertrain, so it’s unclear if the new PowerBoost hybrid will outperform its gas-only counterpart in hauling metrics the way it likely will in the miles-per-gallon column.
Whether you’re into trucks or not, it’s worth noting that even if PowerBoost sales only make up a relatively small percentage of the F-150’s annual sales volume, it’s possible that this tech could have a bigger impact on America’s total fuel consumption than any other new vehicle, including electrics. That’s in part because full-size trucks are so thirsty by nature, and partially because Ford sells so many — the automaker shifted nearly 900,000 units last year.
F-150 replaces need for generator with Pro Power Onboard
PowerBoost also allows for a high-power version of Pro Power Onboard, an optional new power inverter that could replace owners’ need to lug loud, heavy and dirty generators to job sites and campgrounds. Heck, it might even be useful as a backup generator for your house when the power goes out. Pro Power Onboard is an integrated generator that provides up to 7.2 kilowatts of power from a series of outlets mounted both in the cab and in the bed. In the case of the hybrid truck, those ports take the form of four bedside-mounted 120-volt, 20-amp outlets, with a single 240-volt, 30-amp outlet for big equipment.
With the 7.2-kW system, Ford says you can power a 12-inch miter saw, a circular saw, a hammer drill, a half-horsepower air compressor, flood lights and a gang battery charger, all at the same time. If you’re not much for construction but you like to play hard on weekends, Ford says PPO can charge a full bed-load of electric motorcycles. You can even juice up the batteries of your tools, computers and toys while on the move. While we anticipate that a lot of traditional pickup shoppers — especially fleet buyers — may hesitate at the thought of buying a hybrid vehicle, unique, useful features like Pro Power Onboard could help convert hesitant buyers.
And for those who really don’t want hybrid power, you can still option a lower-power PPO system with 2.0 kW of power. That’s enough juice to simultaneously power an electric heater, a TV, a mini fridge, a blender and portable speakers for tailgate parties. It’s available on both the gas-only EcoBoost and naturally aspirated engine models.
Regardless of which PPO system is fitted to your truck, you can control it via the FordPass app, along with a bunch of other functions including vehicle locator, remote locking, HVAC controls and a new multizone lighting system.
2021 Ford F-150 has a reconfigurable interior
While arguably not as far off the pace as the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, today’s 2020 F-150 has clearly fallen behind Ram’s 1500 in the cabin-niceness sweepstakes. As such, the new 2021 truck has some catching up to do. Ford appears to have done the trick, with interior highlights that include an all-new dashboard with more-premium materials, new storage areas, significant upgrades in tech and a couple of party tricks.
The new F-150’s most unexpected new feature is undoubtedly its available stowable gearshift lever. This center-console-based electronic shifter actually folds down and into a well out of the way to allow for the center armrest to expand into a large, flat work surface that can hold a 15-inch laptop. Naturally, this can only be done when the vehicle is parked, a lockout will keep you from doing this while driving.
Other available creature comforts include special Max Recline seats that fold nearly flat (180 degrees) for sneaking quick lunchtime naps, a massive panoramic moonroof, an 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen Unleashed audio system with SiriusXM 360L, plus a clever full-width lockable storage box that lives underneath the rear seat and can fold flat when not in use.
Sync 4 with wireless CarPlay, Android Auto and OTA
Also on the tech front, Ford’s next-generation Sync 4 infotainment is present. Even low-end models receive an 8-inch center screen, a big update from today’s 4.2-inch unit. Along with improved processing power and improved natural voice recognition, it features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The latter integrations are even wireless on the premium 12-inch-screen setup that comes standard on higher-trim XLT models and above. The latter also comes with a matching reconfigurable 12-inch digital gauge cluster with some impressive-looking animations.
Along with the rest of the truck’s electronics, Sync 4 also allows for over-the-air updates. That means customers will be able to not only get the latest navigation maps, but also download new features, bug patches, powertrain updates, and so on. In fact, Ford is already telegraphing one major update that it will make available in the third quarter of 2021: Active Drive Assist.
F-150 will gain Active Drive Assist hands-free driving
Active Drive Assist is a Level 2 hands-free driving system that’s geofenced to be used on divided highways that have been HD mapped. Ford says there are over 100,000 miles of these roadways available in the US and Canada. This eyes-on, hands-off system features a driver-facing camera that tracks eye and head movement to ensure they’re still paying attention. This is not autonomous drive tech, it’s a partially automated drive assistant for easing commutes, especially bumper-to-bumper traffic. Ford has yet to release further details about the system, including its maximum usable speed and how the system handles an inattentive driver, but more information will likely be revealed as this system’s availability draws near.
Buyers interested in Active Drive Assist on their F-150 will have to pay for a prep kit up front — the latter bundles hardware that enables another new safety feature, Intersection Assist, which helps drivers avoid errantly pulling into oncoming traffic when making a left turn. Once the tech becomes available, an over-the-air update or a dealer-performed software reflash will enable the new capability.
As far as we know, Active Drive Assist will be the most advanced partially automated drive assist in the truck market when becomes available. Elon Musk and the Tesla Cybertruck may actually have something to say about this when it hits the market in late 2021, of course, but today’s Autopilot remains a hands-on system, although it is not geofenced to operate in specific areas.
F-150 comes with a suite of advanced driver assist systems
The new F-150 includes Ford’s CoPilot 360 2.0 suite of advanced driver assist systems. Even low-end XL models get pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, as well as headlamps with auto on/off and automatic high beams. XLT models get lane-keep assist, along with reverse sensors and new safeguards like reverse brake-assist and a post-impact braking feature. A comprehensive self-park system is also available.
In trailering-minded safety news, Ford has also ported over a number of features introduced on the latest F-Series Super Duty trucks. That includes a bunch of new rear camera angles for easier hauling, as well as Trailer Theft Alert and Trailer Light Check, the latter two being accessible through the FordPass phone app.
Ford F-150 is all-in for the future
It’s tempting to conclude that the 2021 Ford F-150 boils down to more evolution than revolution. That notion makes sense considering the last-generation truck’s radical leap into aluminum construction and engine downsizing. Plus, Ford’s F-Series models have often had major step changes followed up by generations that simply refine a theme. This alternating innovate/iterate cycle has been key to F-150’s reliability, familiarity and profitability.
The truth with this new generation lies somewhere in the middle, however.
While the 2021 Ford F-150’s appearance at first looks like it could be midcycle facelift instead of a generational change, major infusions of new tech, including the PowerBoost hybrid hardware, Pro Power OnBoard, OTA and Active Drive Assist are not only bold new features for the class, they help set the technological table for Ford’s upcoming all-electric F-150 which is due in 2022.
Images from leaked developer documentation have just given us our best look yet at Android 11’s new power button menu. The menu can include a series of new smart home shortcuts called “Quick Controls,” which can control everything from smart lights to locks and thermostats, alongside payment options and the standard “Power off” and “Restart” buttons. The images were tweeted out by Mishaal Rahman from XDA-Developers, who credits Twitter user @deletescape as the source of the leaked documents containing the images.
We’ve known about these shortcuts since at least March when XDA-Developers reported on their existence, but these latest screenshots give us a better idea of how the overall menu will look. The existing “Power off,” “Restart,” “Screenshot,” and “Emergency” buttons have been relocated to the top of the screen above a shortcut to Google Pay, similar to the one that was added to the Google Pixel back in March.
Another image shows that live camera feeds can be shown here, though I bet it will only refresh very very slowly (or on demand whenever the Controls populates.)
The bulk of the screen, however, is taken up with these smart home controls. Android Police reports that tapping each of them will reportedly toggle the corresponding smart home gadget on or off, and long presses will either give you more options or take you directly to the relevant smart home app. As Rahman notes, one of the images shows that a smart home camera feed could even be embedded directly into this menu.
Google was due to officially unveil Android 11 on June 3rd, but it decided to delay the announcement over the weekend. It’s currently unclear when the event will be rescheduled.