Covered Wagon

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

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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.

Baylor signee Kam Martin commits to Auburn over TCU

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 06:  Fans of the Auburn Tigers cheer play against the Chattanooga Mocs November 6, 2010 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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Another former Baylor Bear has found himself a landing spot, although this time it’s not rival Texas that’s the beneficiary.

On Twitter overnight, Kam Martin announced that he has committed to play his college football for the Auburn Tigers. The running back’s decision came shortly after the Texas native took a visit to The Plains.

Martin opted for Auburn over TCU.

“The main reason I committed to Auburn was because it’s family, man,” Martin told SEC Country in an interview after announcing his decision. “Those guys did everything that I wanted to hear and everything speaks for itself. It’s the SEC, one of the biggest fan bases in the nation and I just want to be a part of something big and special.”

Martin was one of five 2016 Baylor signees who were granted releases by the university from their National Letters of Intent last week.  A four-star 2016 signee according to 247Sports.com, the 5-10, 178-pound Johnson was rated as the No. 7 all-purpose back in the country; the No. 39 player at any position in the state of Texas; and the No. 268 player overall on that recruiting website’s composite board.

As is the case with other 2016 Bears signees who have fled Waco, Johnson will be eligible to play immediately in 2016.

Penn State, Auburn agree to home-and-home series in 2021, 2022

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 1:  Quarterback Zack Mills #7 of the Pennsylvania State University Lions runs with the ball while defended by defensive tackle Spencer Johnson #53 of the Auburn University Tigers during the Capital One Bowl at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on January 1, 2003 in Orlando, Florida.  Auburn defeated Penn State 13-9.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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In Auburn’s 113-year history, it’s never played a Big Ten opponent in a regular season game. That’ll change in five years.

Penn State and Auburn announced Monday morning a home-and-home series to take place in 2021 and 2022. The first game will be played in State College on Sept. 18, 2021 and the return will take place at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Sept. 17, 2022.

“This is another great opportunity for our players and fans to be part of something special,” Auburn Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs said. “Bringing together elite programs rich in tradition is what college football is all about. We look forward to this home-and-home series with Penn State.”

Making matters betters is the home-and-home nature of this series, instead of playing it as a neutral site one-off to begin a season. Those games are fun (and, far more importantly, generate a ton of revenue) but having Penn State travel to Alabama and Tigers fans going to State College is a far better experience for traveling fanbases.

Auburn and Penn State have met twice before in bowl games, with the most recent meeting a 13-9 Tigers win in the 2003 Capital One Bowl.

Penn State also added a 2021 home game against Ball State on Monday, per ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.

Notre Dame WR Torii Hunter will still play football after signing with Los Angeles Angels

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 31: Torii Hunter Jr. #16 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass and is tackled by Avery Williams #2 of the Temple Owls on October 31, 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Temple Owls 24-20. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame rising redshirt junior wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr.‘s status with Brian Kelly’s football team won’t change after he signed with the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend.

Hunter is Notre Dame’s leading returning receiver after catching 28 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns last year. But even though he now has a professional baseball contract, his focus will remain on football and the beginning of preseason camp in August.

Hunter, the son of former Minnesota Twins, Angels and Detroit Tigers All-Star/Gold Glover Torii Hunter Sr., was a 23rd-round pick in this year’s MLB Draft.

Thankful that they were there to experience this with me yesterday! I’m officially an Angel!✊🏾👼🏾

A photo posted by Torii Hunter Jr. (@thunterjr_) on Jun 26, 2016 at 4:27pm PDT

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Hunter, an outfielder, was primarily used as a pinch runner and defensive replacement for Mik Aoki’s Irish baseball team this spring. He worked a crazy schedule (“what is sleep?” he asked) to split time between baseball, spring football and classwork in March and April and hit .182/.308/.182 in 11 at-bats.

Hunter’s baseball highlight came at Florida State, though, a few days after he made a spectacular catch reeling in a Malik Zaire deep ball in Notre Dame’s Blue and Gold Game.

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Justin Thomas-Thornton tweets decision to transfer from Auburn

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 22: Auburn Tigers mascot Aubie greets fans during Auburn's Tiger Walk prior to their game against the Samford Bulldogs on November 22, 2014 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Auburn could be the beneficiary of an offensive transfer in the not-too-distant future, but the football program has apparently sustained a loss on the other side of the ball.

In a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account Sunday, Justin Thomas-Thornton revealed that he will be “pursuing my collegiate football and academic endeavors elsewhere.”  The defensive lineman gave no reason for his decision to leave The Plains.

Thomas-Thornton, a four-star 2014 signee, played in the 2015 opener against Louisville, but didn’t see any other action the remainder of the year.

If Thomas-Thornton opts for another FBS program, he will be forced to sit out the 2016 season. He’d then be left with two seasons of eligibility that he’d be able to use beginning in 2017.