Report: SEC to hold special expansion meeting

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As the A&M train barreling its way from College Station toward the SEC’s Birmingham offices shows no signs of slowing down, the first indications coming from the southern side of the college football landscape that the Aggies may indeed be on the move have surfaced.

According to MrSEC.com, as rock-solid a source for football news in that conference you’ll find anywhere, the SEC has called for a special meeting Sunday to discuss the expansion issues that the conference is reportedly facing.  All 12 of the conference’s chancellors/presidents will be involved in the meeting, although at least one may not be physically present and would participate instead via a conference call.

The website notes that it’s unclear if this meeting is simply a fact-finding mission of sorts or if a vote will be involved.  Based on the smoke coming out of one part of Texas, the latter may be the case by the time the weekend rolls around.

This move to a special meeting by the SEC, if it does go down as reported, would continue what has been a whirlwind last 24 hours generally, and the last 12 or so in particular.  Just today, the Higher Education Committee of the Texas House of Representatives announced a previously unscheduled meeting for Aug. 16 to discuss matters “pertaining to higher education, including collegiate athletics.”  A short time ago, and in what was obviously a preemptive move by the school, Texas A&M posted a notice of a special meeting that will take place one day earlier; one of the items on the agenda? “Authorization for the President to Take All Actions Relating to Texas A&M University’s Athletic Conference Alignment”.

It’s believed the A&M Board of Regents at that meeting will vote unanimously to give permission to President R. Bowen Loftin to accept/pursue an invitation to the SEC.  To show just how far down the fast track this has come in less than a day, that it’s to the point where Loftin will in short order likely be handed the keys to move his athletic department to a new conference, the agenda of the regents meeting that will be held Monday was originally scheduled for Aug. 22.

The SEC speculation, however, has not been limited to A&M.

Today, both Florida State and Virginia Tech have surfaced as rumored possibilities for an expanded SEC.  While officials from both schools have denied those reports, Chris Level of RedRaiderSports.com is reporting via Twitter this afternoon that “[a] high ranking Texas Tech official confirms to me that the SEC is in talks with Texas A&M and an ACC school.”  The specific name of the ACC school involved was not named by Level, but it wouldn’t take too great of a leap in logic and deduction to suggest that either the Seminoles or the Hokies are somehow involved.

While some have dismissed the talk of either school moving to another conference, the smoke is sufficient enough that the ACC’s commissioner felt compelled to release a statement addressing the speculation.

“As I’ve said previously, we’ll continue to be mindful of the collegiate landscape and what’s best for the ACC and its member institutions,” John Swofford said in the statement. “With that said, I’ve received no indication from any of our 12 Presidents that they have any intention of being affiliated with any conference other than the ACC.”

Slowly but surely, the timeline for an expanded SEC by way of an A&M defection has become compressed, going from 2012 to Aug. 22 of this year to now where we’re at the point where we could very well know something definitive in the next 72 hours or so.  Simply put, it’s to the point where the only pertinent question regarding the Aggies is whether they will be the only domino, or merely the first.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.