Beebe taking A&M-to-SEC rumors ‘very seriously’

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At this point in the game — because, let’s face it, it certainly feels like one — it would seem that Texas A&M is more than slightly leaning East when it comes to sitting on the proverbial fence separating conference affiliations. Whether or not the Aggies will actually make a move to the SEC ultimately — and for the 100th time — depends on if/when they get a call from SEC commissioner Mike Slive inviting them to join the toughest conference in the country.

But A&M’s current commissioner, the Big 12’s Dan Beebe, doesn’t see this “will they or won’t they?” as anything short of serious business. He would know too. Beebe has already done as magnificent of a job as any commissioner in the country (minus OG Larry Scott) in keeping the Big 12 together after the departures of Nebraska and Colorado last summer.

Remember: Beebe kept Texas in the Big 12, which was monumental, and signed a roughly $150 million annual first and second-tier television rights deal with ESPN and FOX that guaranteed each conference member would make significantly more money. The long-term future of the conference is far from a certainty, but for the present day and time, Beebe is prepared to keep the Big 12 afloat for as long as possible.

Even if that means as a nine-member conference.

I’ll put it this way, I’m taking it very seriously,” Beebe told the Austin American Statesman of A&M’s flirtation with the SEC. “I’ve been talking to a number of people. Obviously, there are a significant number of Aggie supporters who are interested in going in that (SEC) direction.

“There’s a huge risk if an institution leaves its geographic proximity and rivalries. In the long run, it can create a lot of problems.”

But Beebe has his own problems to deal with. The root of A&M’s re-aroused displeasure with the Big 12 coincidentally coincided with the Longhorn Network’s desire to air high school and Big 12 sporting events on the network. Trying to keep Texas happy, while keeping the other nine conference members equally satisfied, or even approximately so, is proving to be an uphill battle.

But Beebe has kept his conference together before. If A&M departs, Beebe will have to work to keep a slowly deteriorating group bound together once again. When and how Beebe faces that challenge is beginning to turn into an unbearable question mark.

“I don’t know if this could go down in a month or a year or in weeks,” a source told the Statesman. “But it’s taken on a life of its own. I would just tell A&M to be careful what you wish for.”

And with exit fees remaining the same for A&M as they did for Nebraska and Colorado, the Aggies will be wishing for an expensive buyout, so to speak.

In either case, Beebe is prepared to move forward as at least a nine-team conference if A&M does decide to part ways. That is assuming, of course, that the SEC doesn’t snatch Oklahoma at the same time.

“You always have to think about all the possibilities,” he said of any possible expansion. “Twelve was always the maximum number of teams that were desired, but that’s as far as I can go publicly.”

The source told Kirk Bohls of the AAS that Houston, Louisville, Brigham Young and Air Force were all possible replacements if expansion was ever discussed in the Big 12 down the road.

If there is a Big 12 down the road — and, sorry Aggie fans, but that won’t hinge solely on your departure. Will it be crippling? Absolutely, but it’ll be Texas who makes or breaks the future of the Big 12.

Arkansas assistant Vernon Hargreaves added to Mizzou’s staff

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Vernon Hargreaves wasn’t retained by the new coaching staff in Fayetteville, but he’ll end up remaining in the SEC anyway.

Missouri confirmed Thursday that Hargreaves has been hired by Barry Odom and added to the second-year head coach’s staff.  The veteran assistant will serve as Odom’s inside linebackers coach.

“I’ve known Vernon for a number of years and have always respected the way his position plays the game,” said Odom in a statement distributed by the school. “He will be a great teacher and mentor for our student-athletes. His experience will be so valuable for our program; I’m excited about Vernon and his family joining our Mizzou family.”

Hargreaves spent the past three seasons as the linebackers coach at Arkansas.  Most notably, he served in the same capacity at Miami from 1998-2005.

Hargreaves also spent time on staffs at Houston (2013-14), South Florida (2010-12), East Carolina (2007-09), Florida International (2006) and UConn (1985-97).  He was also the special teams coordinator at USF and ECU in addition to being a position coach.

Telly Lockette takes job at Florida State as TEs coach

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As Willie Taggart constructs his first coaching staff at Florida State, he’s added yet another familiar face.

Taggart, FSU announced earlier Thursday, has hired Telly Lockette as the Seminoles’ tight ends coach.  Lockette had spent the past three seasons as the running backs coach at Oregon State.

Prior to that, Lockette was a member of Taggart’s coaching staff at USF as running backs coach for two seasons and maintains deep ties to the fertile recruiting soil of South Florida.

“I’ve known Coach Lockette for a long time and am excited he is joining our staff at Florida State,” Taggart said. “He was an important part of my first staff at South Florida and has gained Power 5 experience with his last three seasons in the Pac-12. Coach Lockette is a tremendous recruiter and coach who does a phenomenal job developing student-athletes on and off the field. While we were at South Florida he was the primary recruiter for the Miami area and helped us sign a number of impact players, including Quinton Flowers, Khalid McGee and Deatrick Nichols. His expertise will benefit our current and future Seminoles.”

The job with Taggart at USF was Lockette’s first at any level of college football.  The first 10 years of his coaching career were spent at the high school level, including a five-year stint at Miami Central from 2008-12.

Amidst Arizona State chatter, Texas Tech DC David Gibbs signs contract extension

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Almost without fail, it pays to have your name circulating through the annual churning of the coaching rumor mill.

The latest example is David Gibbs, with the Texas Tech defensive coordinator being rumored as a target for the same job with Herm Edwards at Arizona State over the past few days.  Fast-forward to Thursday night, and Tech announced that it has finalized a new two-year contract extension with Gibbs.  The coordinator is now signed through the 2019 season.

According to the school, Gibbs’ pay will be bumped from $550,000 per year to $650,000.  That number puts Gibbs right in the middle of Big 12 DC pay.

“We are fortunate to have one of the top defensive coordinators in the country in Coach Gibbs,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said in a release. “Since the conclusion of the regular season, finalizing this new contract to keep Coach Gibbs at Texas Tech has been a priority for myself and [athletic director] Kirby [Hocutt]. We look forward to continuing to build one of the nation’s top defenses in the years to come under Coach Gibbs.”

Long a punchline, the Red Raiders’ defense has steadily improved in the three years under Gibbs.  This season, their 27 takeaways led the Big 12 and are the most in a season for the football program since 2008.  They’re also currently seventh in the country with four defensive touchdowns.

With Gibbs back, he’ll have 10 returning starters with which to work next season.

“There isn’t a better person to work for than Kliff Kingsbury, and I’m looking forward to continue building this program with him,” Gibbs said. “There is still plenty of work that needs to be done, but I’m excited about the future of our team.”

RB Justin Crawford to skip West Virginia’s bowl game, begin preparing for NFL draft

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Sometimes the personnel gods giveth, and sometimes the personnel gods taketh away.

Thursday evening, West Virginia announced that quarterback Will Grier will return to Morgantown for the 2018 season.  Not long after, the same football program confirmed that Justin Crawford has decided to eschew playing in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Instead of preparing for Utah in the postseason, the senior running back will instead begin preparations for the 2018 NFL draft.

“Justin has logged a lot of miles and been a key contributor for us the past two seasons,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He made a decision to not play in the bowl game based on what is best for him and his family. He came to West Virginia to further his education and be a featured back in the Big 12 and he accomplished his goals. As he starts his preparation for the NFL Draft, we wish him nothing but the best.”

Crawford has led the Mountaineers in rushing each of the past two seasons.  He’s the first WVU player to post back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Noel Devine in 2008-09.

After finishing third in the Big 12 this season with 1,061 yards on the ground, he was named second-team all-conference for the second straight season.  Following the 2016 season, he earned the league’s Newcomer of the Year honor.