First domino? A&M tells Beebe they will ‘explore conference options’

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When officials from the SEC met nearly two weeks ago to discuss conference expansion, a decision was made — publicly, at least — that the conference would not pursue Texas A&M as a possible 13th member, and for the time being, would stay as a 12-member conference.

Of course, that was nothing more than a PR move to save commissioner Mike Slive from the wrong end of a possible tortious interference lawsuit, not to mention a 14th member (or a 15th and 16th) may not have been decided upon.

The point was the SEC couldn’t “formally” reach out to A&M — not as long as they were part of the Big 12 anyway; the Aggies had to go to the SEC first and get their legal details straightened out before a move could occur.

Consider those details straightened.

Multiple media outlets have reported, to which A&M has subsequently confirmed, that the Aggies have given Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe a formal notice that they wish to “explore conference options“.

That means A&M has, in all likelihood and certainty, taken the first step to try and exit the conference, and could ask the Big 12 to outline the exit procedures “if” they were to leave.

How the Big 12 would respond is yet to be seen.

Here’s a portion of the release from A&M’s website from the perspective of A&M president R. Bowen Loftin:

“As I have indicated previously, we are working very deliberately to act in the best long-term interests of both Texas A&M and the State of Texas. This truly is a 100-year decision,” said Loftin. “While we understand the desire of all parties to quickly reach a resolution, these are extremely complex issues that we are addressing methodically.

“Ultimately, we are seeking to generate greater visibility nationwide for Texas A&M and our championship-caliber student-athletes, as well as secure the necessary and stable financial resources to support our athletic and academic programs,” Loftin added. “As a public university, Texas A&M owes it to the state’s taxpayers to maximize our assets and generate additional revenues both now and well into the future.”

From the letter courtesy of Sports Illustrated:

“Dear Commissioner Beebe:

As you know, the Texas A&M Board of Regents has authorized me to take action relating to Texas A&M University’s (“Texas A&M”) conference alignment. While this letter is not a notice of Texas A&M’s withdrawal from the Big 12 Conference (the “Conference”), we are exploring our options. There has been a great deal of speculation and comment in the media about Texas A&M leaving the Conference, including discussions of other institutions joining the Conference.

If Texas A&M withdraws from the Conference, we want to do so in a way that complies with the Bylaws and is supportive of your efforts to seek a new member of the Conference. We would appreciate your conferring with the other member institutions and outlining for us the process to be followed by Texas A&M should it withdraw from the Conference.

We look forward to hearing from you.”

It should be stated and understood that if A&M decides to leave the Big 12 — this is not a withdrawal letter — they would exit with over 100 percent certainty that a formal invitation from the SEC would follow. In other words, an informal invite from the SEC has likely already been extended.

When such an announcement would come is still uncertain, but for what it’s worth, the Longhorn Network officially launches tomorrow.

We’re not sayin’. We’re just sayin’.

Florida’s statement on Jim McElwain’s death-threat claim is interesting, to say the least

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Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something.  Regardless, it’s something that bears watching.

Losers of two in a row and off to a 3-3 start to the season,  Florida has underperformed and underwhelmed to say the least.  So much so, in fact, that head coach Jim McElwain indicated Monday that he, his family, his coaching staff and players have been subjected to death threats by unknown individuals.

The head coach went into no detail publicly regarding the nature of the threats.  Apparently, it was the same privately when discussing the situation with his employer.

OK then.

Again, it could be in the same neighborhood as naked shark humping — nothing. Bears watching, though, as one very outspoken member of the Florida media is very much already doing publicly about a situation that was apparently reported to the media before it was reported to the police or even the university.

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.