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.

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

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While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.