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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.

Texas Tech parts ways with offensive line coach Lee Hays

TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10:  Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts on the sidelines during the first half of the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on September 10, 2015 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Kliff Kingsbury has parted ways with one longtime member of his coaching staff and said goodbye to another recent addition at the same time.

Texas Tech announced on Saturday afternoon that Lee Hays would not be returning to the staff in 2017, having previously served as the team’s offensive line coach the past four seasons. In addition, the program confirmed the departure of DeShaun Foster as running backs coach after just one year on the job.

“We appreciate all that Coach Foster and Coach Hays have done for our football program,” Kingsbury said in a release. “We wish them nothing but the best moving forward.”

The reason for Foster’s departure was made clear earlier in the day when it was announced he was taking the same position at his alma mater UCLA.

While many expected a new look to come to Kingsbury’s staff after a disappointing 5-7 season in 2016, the fact that the first two changes occurred on the offensive side of the ball is pretty notable for a team that struggled to stop just about anybody on the defensive end. Hays notably has been around the program since 2013 when the head coach returned to Lubbock and is the more surprising name not coming back to the staff for next year.

UCLA’s Jim Mora hires two more coaches, including former Bruins RB DeShaun Foster

PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 12:  Head Coach Jim Mora of the UCLA Bruins looks on during the first half of a game against the Oregon State Beavers  at The Rose Bowl on November 12, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Mora’s offensive overhaul appears to be complete.

UCLA announced a pair of hires on Saturday to the team’s coaching staff, starting with Hank Fraley as the Bruins’ new offensive line coach and the return of former tailback DeShaun Foster as the new running backs coach.

“DeShaun is a Bruin through and through, which makes this such an exciting addition to our staff,” said Mora in a statement. “On top of being a tremendous alum, consummate professional, trusted voice and valued mentor, he is an exceptional football coach whose pedigree and knowledge of the game command respect.  We’re thrilled to welcome Deshaun back home where he belongs.”

Foster spent last season in the same position at Texas Tech but was in Westwood from 2013-2015 serving a variety of roles with the program. He is a familiar face to many in the powder blues, ranking third on the school’s all-time rushing list. He also had a lengthy stint in the NFL, most notable with the Carolina Panthers.

Fraley also has plenty of NFL experience, having spent 11 years in the league as a player before joining the coaching ranks. He recently served three seasons as the Minnesota Vikings assistant offensive line coach.

The duo replace Kennedy Polamalu and Adrian Klemm, both of whom were dismissed in the past month. They’ll join new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch at UCLA, who was recently brought on board himself.

Michigan graduate transfer QB Shane Morris announces move to Central Michigan

ANN ARBOR, MI - APRIL 04: Shane Morris #7 of the Michigan Wolverines throws a pass during the Michigan Football Spring Game on April 4, 2015 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Central Michigan has their replacement for star quarterback Cooper Rush and didn’t have to go far to get him.

Former Michigan signal-caller and recent graduate transfer Shane Morris announced Saturday on Twitter that he would be making the move up the road to play for the Chippewas in 2017.

Morris was a former four-star recruit coming out of high school in the state but never quite lived up to those expectations with the Wolverines. He did start two games for the team over the course of his career but was third on the depth chart in 2016 behind Wilton Speight and John O’Korn.

As a result, he wraps up his time in Ann Arbor by completing 47 of 92 passes for 434 yards, with no touchdowns and five interceptions. He’ll be eligible right away for Central Michigan, which is a great landing spot for an incoming quarterback with almost all of the offensive starters returning from last season’s team.

Tennessee goes in-house for new offensive coordinator

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 21: Interim Head coach Larry Scott of the Miami Hurricanes look on at the start of the game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on November 21, 2015 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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With Mike DeBord off to IndianaButch Jones is staying in-house for his next offensive coordinator.

Tennessee announced Friday it has promoted Larry Scott to be its new offensive coordinator. Scott joined the staff before last season as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. He spent the previous three seasons coaching tight ends at Miami, and racked up a 4-2 mark as the ‘Canes interim head coach after Al Golden‘s mid-season 2015 firing.

To replace DeBord in the quarterbacks room, Tennessee has hired long-time offensive coordinator Mike Canales as quarterbacks coach, and handed defensive backs coach Charlton Warren special teams coordinator duties to free Scott to focus on the offense.

Canales has previously served as offensive coordinator at Snow College, South Florida, Arizona and North Texas. He deposited two separate stints as the interim head coach at North Texas, and spent the ’16 campaign as assistant head coach, running backs and tight ends coach at Utah State.

“We spoke to a lot of very quality candidates,” Jones said in a statement. “Our goal was to gather as much information as possible in a timely manner but also go through a detailed process, which we did. We feel strongly about our offensive staff and that Larry Scott is the best fit moving forward to lead the unit.

“Larry played an important role in the success we had offensively last year and was heavily involved in all aspects of our game plan, both during the week and on game day. We felt it was vital to maintain our continuity on offense and keep building on what we have established the past four seasons.

“I’m also really excited about adding Mike Canales to our staff. Mike has recruited, coached and developed numerous quarterbacks at the collegiate level. He will be of great benefit to our players and staff with his extensive experience and knowledge of the quarterback position.”

The Vols finished the 2016 season ranked 24th nationally in both yards per play and scoring