Texas Tech president: Pac-12 invite likely not coming

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It feels bizarre to think that somehow Texas A&M could be a catalyst for a shift in the college football landscape, but here we are, anxiously awaiting word from College Station about their affiliation intentions — one way or the other.

If the Aggies left for the SEC, one of the fallout questions would be the future of the Big 12. Would it disband? Or, would it expand? The official word from Big 12 officials from over the weekend was that the nine other members valued A&M’s presence, but would stick together if the Aggies departed.

Replacing A&M in such a situation would be difficult, but commissioner Dan Beebe has already outlined preliminary discussions if a need for a replacement came to fruition.

Shedding some light on the situation was Texas Tech president Guy Bailey, who appeared on KJTV 950 AM in Lubbock.

“If A&M leaves, we’re going to use this opportunity to build one of the strongest conferences in the United States,” Bailey said. “What we’ll do, we’re going to be very aggressive in recruiting schools and I don’t know how many we’re eventually going to recruit, we’ll need to work with FOX and our other media partners in doing this.

“In the past we’ve sort of been reactive, I think the nine remaining members of the Big 12 have decided that the reactive behavior – it’s time to get rid of that. It’s time to be proactive and I think you’ll see a very proactive approach… I think you ought to think of conference realignment with the Big 12 being one of the cornerstones.”

As far as finding a replacement for the Aggies — and Bailey really makes it sound like he expects A&M to leave — Houston, BYU, Air Force and Louisville have all been mentioned as potential candidates, with BYU gaining the most momentum as of late.

Notre Dame has also been thrown around the rumor mill. For what it’s worth, Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick and Texas AD DeLoss Dodds are very close.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has stated previously that a 10-member Big 12 is the ideal situation moving forward, but the terms “aggressive” and “proactive” would certainly indicate that more options are possibly on the table. At this point, though — and we’ve stated it before — there just aren’t a lot of great candidates from which to choose.

Apparently, the same could be said for Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.

Bailey insists that another invite from Scott doesn’t appear on the horizon, largely due to a package deal that would feature Texas, and the Longhorn Network, as cornerstones. Scott already denied Texas a chance at their own network once, and most other Big 12 members are attached to the Longhorns by the hip.

Or, since it’s Texas, big ol’ belt buckle.

“Here’s the deal, what the Pac-12 offered last year, and I think they would be open to this year, is a package deal,” Bailey said. “You’d have to have four schools and Texas is the cornerstone to that. Remember, the issue last year came down to the Longhorn Network. The University of Texas wanted its own network for tertiary rights and the Pac-12 doesn’t allow that. We can cut that out right there. I don’t foresee that happening.”

(Big thanks to the Dallas Morning News for the quotes)

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 set to give DC Todd Orlando new contract with raise to $1.7 million a 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: “There are resource issues in the ACC versus the 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.