Dan Beebe

With a half-dozen media members in tow, Big 12 opens expansion-free spring meetings

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Exactly one year ago today, as the Big 12 opened their annual spring meetings, commissioner Dan Beebe was asked what were the odds that not a single member school would up and leave the conference.

Very high,” the commissioner boldly stated.

Fast-forward 365 days, and with Nebraska set to officially join the Big Ten and Colorado the Pac-12 one month from today, the Big 12 opened this year’s version of their annual spring meetings to “slightly less” drama.  And even fewer people, both membership-wise and media-wise.

In perhaps the most stunning development, at least from our perspective, of the first day of the meetings, a grand total of six media members were in attendance.  Our guess as to the makeup?  Five of ’em were from Texas and the other from Nebraska, and that’s only because he/she forgot about the whole Big Ten thing.

Needless to say, the “subdued” media presence didn’t escape the notice of officials in attendance.

“We couldn’t get through that hallway out there last year,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

With expansion (thankfully) off the docket this year, much of the talk on the first day of the meetings — and much like it was at the SEC’s spring meeting opener Tuesday — centered on Jim Tressel‘s resignation and the repercussions it may have for college football as a whole.  Even as some view The Vest’s inglorious tumble as one of the signs of some kind of collegiate football apocalypse, Beebe took a decidedly different tack when discussing the state of sports at the NCAA level.

Such matters, commissioner Dan Beebe said, represent “a big teaching moment for all of us” to re-examine compliance and standards on conference campuses.

Still, Beebe doesn’t believe the issues associated with OSU, football national champion Auburn, men’s basketball champion Connecticut and other prominent programs are an indication of corruption corroding college athletics.

“I think it’s a confluence of unfortunate events,” said Beebe, a former NCAA investigator. “There are some situations that are occurring that are body blows to what we’re doing … (but) I think you have to put it in context (with) where we are now.

“Maybe I’m being Pollyanish about this, but I don’t think it’s anywhere like where we’ve been in previous eras.”

Without naming the old Southwest Conference or Southern Methodist, which Beebe probed leading up to its death penalty, he recalled a “whole area” of the country in which there was “outright buying of players” and “academic fraud.”

On that point, Beebe is likely absolutely correct; the people from that era and that area of the country are quite likely quietly scoffing at the Tressel’s and Cam Newton’s of today’s game.

The commissioner is also correct on the level of scrutiny in this day and age of the Internet and social media, which shines a brighter — and longer and nearly instant — spotlight on situations such as what is currently going down in Columbus.

“It used to be I’d gumshoe around for quite awhile” before the media knew about allegations of impropriety, he said. “Now the media is out there first.”

And that’s part of the problem: the media has almost become an unpaid extension of the NCAA’s investigative arm.  It’s high time that the NCAA — and, specifically, the conferences who are pulling in unprecedented money from historic television deals — put additional investigators on the streets and get out ahead of the issues that exist.  Simply put, the 30-some individuals who make up the Association’s overwhelmed enforcement division are simply not enough given how massive, far-reaching and powerful the game has become.

Florida QB Luke del Rio to miss spring practices following surgery

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 5:  Luke Del Rio #14 of the Florida Gators throws a pass during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio will be out of action this spring in Gainesville, the school announced on Thursday. Del Rio will instead be taking time to recover from shoulder surgery.

Del Rio underwent surgery on his non-throwing surgery on Wednesday. The surgery was on his non-throwing shoulder, but it will still take some time to rehab following the procedure.

While Del Rio is expected to be available for the fall, his absence in the spring could open the door for Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask to make a potential run for the starting job. Both were expected to be ready to compete for the starting job for the Gators this season anyway, and now each will be able to get a few more reps in the spring to work on their case to win the starting job for the 2017 season.

Del Rio was 5-1 as Florida’s starting quarterback last season before going down with a knee injury. Austin Appleby took over as Florida’s starting quarterback and led the team to a blowout victory over Iowa in the Outback Bowl at the end of the season. Del Rio passed for 1,358 yards and eight touchdowns with eight interceptions.

San Diego State extends Rocky Long’s contract through 2021

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 05: Head coach Rocky Long of the San Diego State Aztecs hoists the champion's trophy after winning the Mountain West Championship game against the Air Force Falcons at Qualcomm Stadium on December 5, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)
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Coming off a second straight 11-3 season, San Diego State has rewarded head football coach Rocky Long with a contract extension. The school announced a new contract that tacks on five additional seasons to the existing contract. Long is now under contract through the end of the 2021 season.

Long was under contract through the end of the upcoming 2017 season, so the contract extension provides a little more job security for Long and enables to him to show some stability for the future of the program.

Long replaced former San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke as the head coach of the Aztecs at the end of the 2010 season after Hoke was hired by Michigan. Under Long, San Diego State has gone 54-26 with six straight winning seasons. During that run, San Diego State has won back-to-back Mountain West Conference championships the past two seasons and gone 3-3 in bowl games. Long also coached San Diego State to a conference crown in his first season on the job, in 2011. San Diego State has ended each of the past two seasons with bowl victories against a team from the American Athletic Conference (Cincinnati in the 2015 Hawaii Bowl and Houston in the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl).

Former Illini rushing leader announces intent to transfer from Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 3: Ke'Shawn Vaughn #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs the ball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Champaign, Illinois.  Illinois defeated Nebraska 14-13. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Illinois running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn is moving on from the Illini. The sophomore announced, via Twitter, he will transfer to a new school in 2017.

Vaughn rushed for a team-high 723 yards as a freshman in 2015 with a team-leading six rushing touchdowns. This past season saw Vaughn slip to third in rushing yards with 301 yards and three touchdowns behind Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin under new head coach Lovie Smith. Vaughn was slowed by some injury concerns in the 2016 season with a leg injury causing him to be taken out against Minnesota and limiting him to two rushing attempts for three yards in his final two games before not getting a rushing attempt against Iowa and not playing at all against Northwestern in the season finale.

With two years under his belt, Vaughn still has two years of eligibility to play and a redshirt season still available to use to preserve his eligibility. Should he transfer to another FBS program, NCAA transfer rules will prohibit him from playing this fall. He will be eligible to play immediately if he lands at a lower division school.

Pitt and UCF add home-and-home series for 2018 and 2019

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 19:  James Conner #24 of the Pittsburgh Panthers celebrates his third quarter touchdown with teammates against the Duke Blue Devils at Heinz Field on November 19, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. James Conner became the ACC's all-time leader for total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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The Pitt Panthers have filled out their non-conference slate for the 2018 and 2019 seasons with the addition of a home-and-home series with UCF.

The scheduling deal, announced Thursday morning, confirm UCF will host Pitt on September 19, 2018. The Knights will make the trip to Pittsburgh the following season on September 21, 2019. The two schools have faced each other just once before, with the Panthers taking a blowout 52-7 victory in Orlando on October 13, 2006.

As a member of the ACC, Pitt is required to play one power conference opponent each season in its non-conference schedule. As much as the American Athletic Conference would like us to all believe the AAC is indeed a power conference, the addition of UCF does not satisfy Pitt’s ACC scheduling requirement. However, Pitt’s ACC scheduling requirement is met in 2018 with a home game against Penn State and a road game at Notre Dame (as part of the ACC’s rotating Notre Dame schedule) and with a road game at Penn State in 2019. The Panthers and Nittany Lions will play each other in 2017 as well in State College.

For UCF, the addition of Pitt to the future schedule continues to tack on power conference opponents in future seasons. UCF will play Georgia Tech and Maryland this coming season and will play at UNC in 2018 in addition to the newly added home game against Pitt. UCF also has Stanford and Texas on future schedules in addition to more games against UNC and Georgia Tech.