OU president’s comments cast further doubt on Big 12’s future

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Earlier Friday, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel fired a shot across the bow of both Texas and the Big 12, saying that “[w]ithout question there’s some issues that other leagues don’t have… [and] we all know where it starts.”

A short time later, another, more influential conference official drove a tanker truck full of fuel onto the scene and started hosing down the fire currently roaring around the Big 12.

Speaking at the groundbreaking for a new student housing center, Oklahoma president David Boren said his university’s conference affiliation would likely be determined at some point between Monday and sometime around the middle of September.  What he left open, and what further illustrates the uncertainty swirling around the Big 12, is exactly which conference the Sooners will be in when his personal “deadline” comes and goes.

“My experience is that, in these kinds of things, it might be a matter of 72 hours, it might be a matter of two weeks,”  Boren said by way of Travis Haney of the Daily Oklahoman. “I don’t really think this is something that’s going to linger on beyond two or three weeks. …

It’s too early yet to know exactly what the outcome will be. Our main responsibility will be protecting the interest of the University of Oklahoma, do what’s in the best long-term interest of the university and our athletics department and the fans. …

“At this point in time, I’ll be very honest with you in saying I do not know with certainty, or perhaps even can’t hazard a totally intelligent guess as to what our final decision will be. But we are carefully looking over all the options.”

Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman reported earlier this week that, presumably based on conversations with his sources, he’s fully expecting OU to seek an invitation to the Pac-12 “within days, if not hours.”  While Boren did not specifically confirm Bohls’ report, the president did confirm that his university has drawn “interest from other conferences and other universities.”  It’s interesting that Boren chose the plural of the word conference; thus far, OU has only been mentioned in connection to the Pac-12.

Boren added he’s disappointed that Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M have left or are on the verge of leaving the Big 12 in the past 15 months, and “disappointed… that we face the challenge that we do today.”

The events of the past few weeks, and the last couple of days in particular, leads one to believe there are just two certainties when it comes to the Big 12 in general and OU specifically.  One, OU, even without an definitive declaration from Boren, is looking at/sending out feelers to other conferences, most certainly the Pac-12 and quite possibly even the Big Ten if some of the rumors we’re hearing have any validity to them.  Secondly, the Big 12 can survive the loss of Colorado easily, or even the difficult losses of Nebraska and Texas A&M.  What the Big 12 can’t survive, and as Ben hinted at earlier today, is losing either Texas or Oklahoma — or both if OU’s departure would lead to either independence or UT following their Red River rivals west.

Either way, and based on Boren’s comments this evening, we should know at some point this month whether the Big 12 will remain a viable conference with OU as a member, or if the league will implode from within less than two decades after it was formed.

Iowa LB Aaron Mends to miss extended time with injury

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Talk about a hard-luck story.

After never starting a game at Iowa, Aaron Mends (pictured, blocking punt) had earned a starting job at outside linebacker during practice this spring.  With football being the cruel mistress that it can be at times, the Hawkeyes announced Friday night that Mends “will miss an extended period of time due to injury.” The program offered no details as to the specific nature of the injury, although it’s believed to involve the knee.

According to the school’s release, the fifth-year senior suffered the injury during the final week of Iowa’s spring drills.

Mends was a three-star member of the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class.  He was the highest-rated linebacker in Iowa’s class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Mends has played in 38 games the past three seasons.  A baker’s dozen of those appearances came during the 2017 season.

Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, James Franklin and Clay Helton among 15 CFB coaches attending NFL Draft

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We’re less than a week away from former college players officially finding out their new homes with the start of the 2018 NFL Draft and the excitement is palpable no matter if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan or somebody who dons the cardinal and gold of USC.

Naturally this is a big deal for the players’ former programs as well and their recent head coaches will be taking full advantage of the marketing opportunity to future recruits by stopping by the draft itself at AT&T Stadium for the festivities. The NFL released a list of 14 college football coaches and one recent one on Friday as being confirmed to attend the event and there are a few notable names beyond the big ones we’re used to seeing every year:

In addition, Stanford head coach David Shaw will serve as a draft analyst on NFL Network for a seventh year in a row and even ESPN’s College GameDay is getting involved with a pregame show outside the stadium they are quite familiar with from big games over the years.

Georgia DB Mark Webb tears meniscus in practice but expected back before fall camp

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Georgia’s injury luck this spring isn’t getting much better as the defending SEC champions move toward their annual G-Day spring game over the weekend.

Head coach Kirby Smart confirmed with reporters after Thursday’s practice that sophomore defensive back Mark Webb suffered a knee injury earlier in the week and tore his meniscus. He already had the knee scoped and is expected back before fall camp after the rather minor procedure.

Webb originally landed in Athens as a wideout but made the move to the secondary just as the season was getting going. He appeared in 13 games in 2017, mostly on special teams, but was expected to challenge for one of the starting spots at cornerback heading into the upcoming campaign.

The absence of Webb in the lineup for the final week of spring adds to a growing list of injuries for the team during practice as they do a little bit of roster building toward the future. Receiver Michael Chigbu’s career may be over due to lingering injuries and defensive back Divaad Wilson tore his ACL not long after enrolling this semester.

Safe to say that G-Day on Saturday might not be as physical as Smart and the coaching staff would otherwise like as a result of trying to keep the team healthy as they prepare to head into a big offseason.

Old Dominion announces remodel, expansion plans for S.B. Ballard Stadium

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Old Dominion is making sure the first word in the school’s name is not the first thing you think of when you are playing against the Monarchs, joining a long list of their FBS peers with some significant upgrades for their home venue over the coming years. In plans approved this week by the university, ODU released renderings and an updated timeline on a $65 million remodel of S.B. Ballard Stadium that is set to begin as soon as this summer.

“We are excited to begin Phase 1 reconstruction,” said Greg DuBois, the school’s vice president for administration and finance. “Fan comfort and high-quality amenities are the primary focus of this phase. The project will help us create the type of game-day experience fans want and will set us up for future expansions.”

The stadium, some 81-years-old, will undergo a nearly complete teardown over the next two years in order to transform the place most know as Foreman Field. Both the east and west stands will be demolished and rebuilt, complete with new seating and a new press box. There will naturally be more restrooms and concession stands as part of the plan that includes plenty more bells and whistles for the Conference USA program. Seating is expected to grow beyond 21,000 or so capacity the current venue seats.

While construction will get started in the coming months, the bulk of activity will take place after the 2018 campaign is wrapped up at home and before kickoff of the opener in 2019. The Virginian-Pilot reports that funding will not utilize state funds but that the school is requesting that the legislature approve an added $10 million to the cost structure as a result of rising prices beyond the original $55 million forecasted.

2018 will be just the 10th season for the Monarchs (and fifth in FBS) since the football program was reinstated and it goes without saying that the new digs will be some of the nicest in CUSA when all is said and done. Few programs have been able to successfully navigate the transition as well as ODU has and it seems an updated stadium in the near future is the reward for head coach Bobby Wilder and others in Norfolk.