With two new schools in tow, MWC not tipping hand as to BYU's status

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Shortly after Fresno State and Nevada held dual press conferences officially announcing their acceptance of invitations to the Mountain West Conference, commissioner Craig Thompson took center stage and held court during a 45-minute teleconference.

While there were questions regarding the latest additions to his conference littered throughout, Thompson was, for the most part, peppered with questions regarding the status of a current member that’s rumored to be on the verge of becoming an ex-member.

BYU, as they’ve been for most of the past 24 hours, was the central focus of Thompson’s media session and, if the commissioner does indeed know the school’s intentions for the future, he was not showing his cards.  Regardless of how the press framed their questions regarding BYU’s status in the conference and the possibility that they could make a go of it as a football independent, Thompson was deflecting at every turn.

On several occasions when the subject of BYU was broached, Thompson nimbly averted a real answer by stating that those questions would be best directed to the school.  Numerous times, Thompson pleaded ignorance regarding BYU’s intentions or gently chided a reporter for drifting into the hypothetical.

Thompson did allow that BYU is still a member of the Mountain West — reiterated that numerous times, in fact — and the school participated in several conference calls both Tuesday and Wednesday regarding the potential additions of Fresno State and Nevada.

Thompson also, and apparently with a straight face, said the invites to the two new MWC schools were not due to rumors of BYU leaving, that there was no correlation between the two situations.  Both schools were first contacted by the conference Tuesday morning to gauge their interest, after the first rumors of a BYU departure began making the rounds.

Outside of that?  Thompson’s teleconference did nothing to clear the smoke surrounding BYU’s conference future.  If anything, the smoke has been joined by a soupy, dense fog, making it next to impossible to determine exactly what turn this situation will take next.

And, in this game of conference chicken Thompson & Company seem to be engaged in with BYU officials, maybe that’s exactly what the former wants.

Illinois announces two-year extension for interim head coach Bill Cubit

Bill Cubit
Associated Press
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Illinois has extended year-long interim head coach Bill Cubit for another two seasons, the program announced Saturday afternoon. Does that make him a short-term full-time head coach or a long-term interim coach? Or a combination of the two?

Either way, Cubit is in Champaign to stay through the 2017 season.

A mitigating factor here, undoubtedly, is the absence of a full-time chancellor and a full-time athletics director.

“Bill has stepped in during an extremely difficult period and done an outstanding job in leading our football program since August,” interim athletics director Paul Kowalczyk said in a statement. “Our student-athletes have responded in a positive manner and we feel he is the best person at this time to be the head coach. We wanted to allow Bill to make decisions regarding the program as the head coach without the interim title, and lead the Fighting Illini into Saturday’s game without speculation.”

Cubit’s extended contract will pay him $1.2 million annually. Former Illini head coach Tim Beckman made a reported $1.8 million.

“During the past three months, Coach Cubit has led this team with a steady and experienced hand,” interim chancellor Barbara Wilson said. “He has earned respect and appreciation from all of us. This move will allow the permanent Athletics Director to evaluate the program at his or her own schedule and make decisions based on those evaluations once that search is completed.”

Illinois is 5-6 this season, playing to extend its season at home against No. 16 Northwestern (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

Tulane announces Curtis Johnson officially out as head coach

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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Confirming what was reported earlier this week, Tulane announced Saturday morning it had relieved head coach Curtis Johnson of duties.

Johnson closed his four-year tenure with a 45-34 loss to Tulsa Friday night, a game where the Green Wave led midway though the fourth quarter but were undone by two pick-sixes. He closes his run with a 15-34 record, peaking with a 7-6 mark and a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning only eight games in his other three seasons.

“I want to thank CJ for his hard work and his dedication to rebuilding the Green Wave football program,” Tulane AD Rick Dickson said in a statement. “His efforts were rewarded in 2013 when Tulane reached its first bowl in 11 years. Since then, however, the program has not progressed to the level that we aspire to.”

Similar to Illinois, Central Florida and possibly Rutgers, Tulane says it will find a replacement for Dickson (who originally said he’d step down mid-2016) before finding a new head coach.

Report: Rutgers AD Juile Hermann could be on the chopping block this weekend

Julie Hermann
Associated Press

Many assume Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood won’t survive this disappointing and scandal-ridden fourth season of his. But it could be his boss, the highly controversial Julie Hermann, that receives the ax first.

According to a report from Keith Sargeant of NJ.com, Hermann could see her 30-month tenure end as soon as this weekend.

“Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann is expected to meet with university President Robert Barchi before the end of the weekend, three people familiar with the situation told NJ Advance Media on Friday,” Sargeant wrote. “The meeting, presumably called by Barchi, is the first evidence the university’s administration is preparing to act.”

Sargeant writes that Hermann has been kept in the dark while the university conducts a top-to-bottom investigation into the football program’s compliance efforts. Flood was suspended three games and fined $50,000 earlier this season for overriding the church-state relationship between football and academics.

The results of that investigation could find Rutgers joining the ranks of Illinois and Central Florida among schools looking to hire an AD and head football coach at the same time.

“The futures of Flood and Hermann could hang on a report being compiled by the university’s office of enterprise risk management, ethics and compliance,” wrote Sargeant. “The report is expected to detail allegations of failed drug tests and other issues that could result in NCAA infractions and possible sanctions, multiple people familiar with the situation have told NJ Advance Media.”

In addition to a losing season on the field, Rutgers football has dealt with drug suspensions and player arrests off the field this fall.


AD says San Jose State coach Ron Caragher safe for 2016 despite missing bowl game

Ron Caragher
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A 40-23 loss to Boise State Friday condemned San Jose State to a third straight bowl-less season, but Spartans AD Gene Bleymaier said afterwards the setback would not result in a change in job status for head coach Ron Caragher.

“There’s no question about his status,” Bleymaier told the Contra Costa Times. “Ron’s our coach, and he’ll be our coach going forward.”

Hired away from San Diego to replace the departed Mike MacIntyre, Caragher is just 14-22 in three seasons leading the Spartans.

San Jose State did go 6-6 in his debut season of 2013 but did not garner a bowl invite.