Covered Wagon

OU to jump to Pac-12 Sooner rather than later?


Welcome to Game Day 2011 y’all!

On the same day a new season is officially upon us, and just a day after Texas A&M made its biggest jump yet in the latest game of conference leapfrog, the demise of the Big 12-ish is — again — reportedly upon us.

In a piece he penned for the Austin American-Statesman titled “One more move and Big 12 is over”, venerable columnist Kirk Bohls puts the onus for the survival of the conferences squarely on the shoulders of the Oklahoma Sooners. And presumably, based on those he’s spoken to, the Norman school is ready to put its current conference out of its misery and head west.

Should Oklahoma act upon its earnest desires and seek an invitation to join the Pacific-12 Conference — something I’m fully expecting to happen within days, if not hours — that decision could well be the killing blow to the Big 12 while also providing Texas the political cover to follow suit and ask for admission as well.

“Oklahoma owns all the cards,” a Big 12 source added.

But wait.  There’s more says television infomercial guy.  Bohls continues painting a landscape-shifting picture of Texas privately hoping that their Red River rivals make the first in a series of moves — thus ensuring that “the Longhorns’ hands would be politically clean” — in what would result in, “probably before the calendar turns to October… [y]our new Pac-16 members: Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.”

That’s right.  On the first official day of the 2011 season, one of the most respected writers in Big 12 country if not all of college football is not only very publicly seeing the end of the conference — presumably from a source or sources he’s developed from within the conference itself — he’s also saying that all of this will unfold in less than a month’s time.

As if to add a tanker full of fuel to the fire of speculation, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott issued a statement to Suzanne Halliburton of the American-Statesman that does not dismiss Bohls’ scenario.  At all.

“While I cannot predict if and when this (Pac-12 expansion) might make sense for us, we will listen to and evaluate any scenario that would benefit our member institutions, our student-athletes and our fans,” Scott trolled told the paper.

And what of The Longhorn Network, the television elephant in the room that prevented the Pac-16 from being formed last year and played a prominent role in the Aggies departing this year? “The Longhorn Network gets folded into the Pac-16 as a downsized regional network, joining the six regional networks that already exist within the conference,” Bohls writes.

Of course, if Bohls’ apocalyptic scenario were to come to fruition — and obviously that’s a very, very big if right now — it would be a monumental shift for both the future of the game and for the 2011 itself.  Instead of both eyes being focused squarely on the playing field for the foreseeable future, at least one would be trained squarely on the offices of the SEC and the Big Ten.  Make no mistake; if the Pac-12 makes the first real leap into the super-conference stratosphere, the two power conferences will respond in kind — very forcefully, very emphatically.

So, again, welcome to Game Day 2011 y’all!

Or, as Bohls’ put it…

“In the end, these Big 12 schools should have gone their separate ways last summer and avoided all this unnecessary drama and hand-wringing.”

Amen, brutha.  Amen.

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.

Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

Penn State football practice, Sept 9, 2015

Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.

Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.

Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

Markell Jones
AP Photo

It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

Associated Press

Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.