Deadline set for Big East expansion? Sort of

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The Big East conference is set to renegotiate its first-tier television rights with ESPN — initially rumored to be in the $110-$130 million ballpark annually — during a 60-day period beginning in September, 2012. By that time, conference commissioner John Marinatto hopes to have a definitive number of attractive football members to help the league add value to the sports network.

That’s our goal. We need to [expand] before we go into that discussion, know what it is we are. We have to have an identity. We have to obviously have our membership squared away. And we will,” Marinatto told the Orlando Sentinel. Big East league meetings are currently taking place this week in Ponte Verda Beach, Florida.

Which programs will be part of that possible expansion, as well as exactly when they will come aboard, is still undecided — as it has been since the bold move to add TCU late last year.

“I’m not in a position to talk specifically about any schools,” Marinatto continued. “We won’t make any further comments on that until it’s appropriate… What I can tell you is that we had a more global and general discussion [Monday] both in regard to media rights moving forward as well as potential expansion.”

The speculations as to who the newest members will be — if the Big East does, in fact, move to add one or more members — have been about the only consistent portion of the possible expansion. Villanova, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, Southern Miss and East Carolina have all had their name tossed around as part of a 10-or-12-team league.

Villanova was extended a formal invitation by the Big East last September, but concerns about the program’s capability to actually house a 1-A program have caused a delay in Villanova’s vote until June.

Recently, South Florida coach Skip Holtz cast his vote for his former employer, East Carolina, although the university itself reportedly has a superiority complex when it comes to possibly adding in-state “rival” Central Florida.

UCF to be without starting LT for Peach Bowl matchup with Auburn

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UCF will have its head coach for one of the biggest games in the football program’s history, but they’ll be without their quarterback’s blindside protector.

According to Shannon Green of the Orlando Sentinel, Aaron Evans will not play in No. 12 UCF’s Peach Bowl matchup with No. 7 Auburn New Year’s Day.  The specific nature of the injury that will sideline the offensive lineman wasn’t detailed.

The past three seasons, Evans started 36 of 37 games at left tackle.  12 of those starts came during the Knights run to a perfect regular season and American Athletic Conference championship that helped propel them to a New Year’s Six bowl.

With Evans out, Jake Brown will likely get the start against the Tigers.  Brown started 11 games at left guard for the Knights this season.

Baylor reportedly losing QB Zach Smith to transfer

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Two-thirds of the way through a one-win season, Zach Smith lost his job as the starting quarterback at Baylor.  Nearly three weeks later, it appears the sophomore has decided to ply his future football wares elsewhere.

According to ESPN Radio‘s Central Texas affiliate, Smith will be transferring from the Bears football program.  An official announcement, either from the player or the team or both, is expected to go down at some point in the not-too-distant future.

As a true freshman, Smith started the last four games of the 2016 season because of an injury to starter Seth Russell.  He started six games this past season before true freshman Charlie Brewer started the last four.  Brewer is now the only scholarship quarterback the Bears have on their roster.

Smith will leave Waco having thrown for 2,997 yards and 21 touchdowns.  The highlight of his career was a 463-yard, four-touchdown performance in an eight-point loss to Oklahoma this past September.

Jalen Jelks eschews leaving early for NFL, will return to Oregon

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We haven’t yet reached the first-ever early signing period, and Oregon has already bolstered its 2018 defense.

Jalen Jelks confirmed to The Oregonian that he has decided to push off the NFL and will instead return to Oregon for another season.  The redshirt junior indicated that he needs to work on his game before he takes it to the next level.

“I’m back for sure,” the redshirt junior defensive end told the newspaper. “I talked to my parents and my family and everything and just probably the best decision for me is to make the best out of next season and make a lot more plays than I did this season.

“I missed a lot of plays, and if I can capitalize on that and translate it to next season I could contribute a lot to the draft.”

This season, Jelks led the Ducks in tackles for loss with 15; in sacks with 6.5; and in quarterback hits with four.  The tackles for loss were second in the Pac-12 to Washington State’s Hercules Mata’afa‘s 21.5.

Rashaan Salaam’s 1994 Heisman up for auction, could fetch $300K

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A little over a year after his death, one of the most noteworthy pieces of Rashaan Salaam‘s athletic career finds itself up for sale to the public yet again.

According to the Denver Post, the former Colorado star running back’s 1994 Heisman Trophy will be auctioned off next month and is expected to sell for upwards of $300,000. A portion of whatever the trophy fetches will be donated to CTE research.

Salaam, who took his own life at the age of 42 last December, was diagnosed with CTE symptoms postmortem.

After rushing for more than 2,000 yards, Salaam in 1994 became the first, and thus far only, Buffaloes football player to win the most prestigious trophy in college football.  In 2013, Salaam sold the trophy to a sports memorabilia dealer who subsequently sold it to the unnamed individual who is selling it at auction. “The trophy also includes a letter from Salaam, acknowledging the 2013 sale,” the Post wrote.

Based on what we’ve found, the largest amount a Heisman Trophy has ever brought in was the $395,000 a California businessman paid for Minnesota’s Bruce Smith‘s 1941 award in 2005.