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.

Virginia stays in-house to fill coaching void

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Bronco Mendenhall didn’t have to look far to find someone to fill the hole on his Virginia coaching staff.

The football program announced in a press release that Mendenhall has promoted Vic So’oto (pictured, No. 37) to defensive line coach.  Last season, his first with the Cavaliers, So’oto, who played his college football for Mendenhall at BYU from 2005-10, served as a graduate assistant.

So’oto replaces Ruffin McNeill, who left Charlottesville earlier this month for a spot on Lincoln Riley‘s staff at Oklahoma.

“Vic was Ruffin’s understudy for the last year-and-a-half,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “He was my very first commitment at BYU when I became the head coach. He was a very good player for us and someone who has experience playing in the NFL.

“He’s very passionate. He is very knowledgeable about defensive football and our system. He knows the defensive line play in our system, inside and out. He’s a great teacher and fits perfectly and seamlessly into this position because he was taught and mentored by Ruff this past year. Our defensive front won’t miss a beat.”

Kerry Coombs adds assistant DC to Ohio State coaching responsibilities

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Heading into the 2017 season, Kerry Coombs will have an additional title on his coaching résumé.

Ohio State announced Thursday that Coombs has been promoted to assistant coordinator, defense, by Urban Meyer.  Coombs will retain his titles of special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach as well.

Greg Schiano will remain in his role as defensive coordinator.

“Kerry Coombs is absolutely deserving of this promotion to assistant coordinator, defense,” the head coach said in a statement. “He is an outstanding coach, instructor and mentor to the young men in this program. He is one of the best recruiters in the nation. He is incredibly loyal, and we at Ohio State are very fortunate that he loves this school and loves being a Buckeye.”

Coombs will be entering his sixth season with the Buckeyes, one of two assistants, the other being wide receivers coach Zach Smith, who have been with Meyer all five of his seasons in Columbus.

The past two years, three of Coombs’ corners — Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley in 2017, Eli Apple in 2016 — have been selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Another, Bradley Roby, was taken in the first round of the 2014 draft.

Frank Kush, winningest coach in Arizona State history, dies at age 88

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The most famous head coach in the history of Arizona State athletics has passed.

The university confirmed Thursday that the legendary Frank Kush died earlier in the day of unknown causes.  He was 88 years old.

After finishing his collegiate playing career at Michigan State and a stint in the Army, Kush’s first job in coaching was as the line coach for the Sun Devils in 1955.  When Dan Devine left to become the head coach at Missouri in December of 1957, Kush was promoted to head coach.

Kush spent the next 21½ years as the head coach at ASU, leading the Sun Devils to a 176-54-1 mark that included seven Western Athletic Conference championships.  The wins are the most in the football program’s history; in fact, he’s the only coach in the school’s history who has accumulated more than 60 wins during his time in Tempe.

From 1969-73, Kush’s ASU squads won five straight WAC titles.  They lost just six games total in that span against 51 wins.  In 1975, they went a 12-0, capping off the second perfect season under Kush with a win over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.

In part because of Kush’s on-field success with the Sun Devils, ASU began play in the then-Pac-12 conference in 1978.

Kush’s tenure at the school ended in controversy, however, as he was fired in the middle of the 1979 season after a player accused the coach of mental and physical abuse in a September lawsuit.  The coach was ultimately fired because the university accused him of hindering the investigation into the allegations.

Suspended Oklahoma DB Will Sunderland now facing felony burglary charge

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Will Sunderland‘s legal issues just got a whole lot more serious.

Earlier this month, an arrest warrant was issued for Sunderland after he allegedly sold stolen property to an Oklahoma City business in mid-March.  At the time, it was believed that the Oklahoma defensive back did not steal the items in question, which included a Playstation 4, controllers and games.

Wednesday, however, Sunderland was charged with felony burglary.  According to both the Norman Transcript and  The Oklahoman, this most recent charge is likely related to Sunderland allegedly stealing electronics from the dorm room of a pair of OU baseball players — that he then sold, leading to the original misdemeanor charge.

The latter newspaper went on to report that there may be video evidence of the incident.

According to the affidavit submitted by OUPD, Sunderland was seen on recorded video using a OneCard Swipe to enter Headington Hall, and his identity was later confirmed by the OneCard Swipe log. Video then shows Sunderland entering the third floor and walking down the hall that also leads to his room. Then, according to the affidavit, Sunderland appears to be walking toward the elevator lobby but is not seen again on the security footage until eight minutes later when he returns to view with a large unidentified object.

Cameras show Sunderland repeating similar actions for about 36 minutes before he is seen carrying a large red bag into an elevator alone. Once outside, cameras show Sunderland placing the red bag in the trunk of a vehicle parked outside Headington Hall. He then returned to Headington Hall with an unidentified male, and 31 minutes later, they exited carrying two white trash bags.

While Sunderland has turned himself in on the misdemeanor charge, he hasn’t as of yet on the felony.

After the misdemeanor charge, Sunderland was indefinitely suspended. What the felony charge does to his status with the football program moving forward remains to be seen.

Last season as a sophomore, Sunderland played in eight games.  This season, Sunderland was expected to stake his claim to one of the starting safety jobs.