Pull the Plug

Source tells paper ‘the Big 12’s done’

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(In an unrelated story we’re working on for later today, we’ll also be reporting that water is indeed still wet.)

Amid numerous reports that Texas officials had traveled to Norman over the weekend in an attempt to convince Oklahoma to stay true to the Big 12, another surfaced Monday that Oklahoma could apply for admission to the Pac-12 before the calendar turns to October.

The ongoing soap opera that is the Big 12 continues unabated a day later, with yet another report buttressing the notions that OU has its mind set on taking its conference affiliation westward and the plug is about to be (mercifully) pulled on the beleaguered conference — maybe.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, and prior to the Sooners-Longhorns summit, OU regents have charged president David Boren with the task of preparing a document to formally apply for admission to the Pac-12.  While the meeting between the two Big 12 superpowers was described as cordial, it appears it had little impact on OU’s desire to leave the Big 12’s instability in its rear-view mirror.

“There’s nothing Texas could have offered Oklahoma that would have changed their mind. They were set on leaving the Big 12 before Texas got there,” the American-Statesman quotes what it describes as a well-placed source at a Big 12 school.

The Big 12’s done. Oklahoma wasn’t open to creating Big 12 stability.”

Despite the source very bluntly stating that the Big 12 is done, and another saying they “think OU and OSU will seek membership to the Pac-12 in the next two weeks”, the paper goes on to report that Texas’ first two preferences for the future are, in order, save the Big 12 and save the Big 12.  If that’s not feasible?  There are three factors UT will focus on in determining its conference future.

The first is the well-being of its student-athletes. Traveling back and forth across the country and different time zones can make life extremely difficult for students trying to cram for midterms. The ACC with its Eastern time zone would present a more favorable option for game times and late-night travel than the Pac-12.

Texas’ second metric is economics. The Joneses don’t take pay cuts. Texas has a $154 million annual budget and isn’t interested in joining a conference where its brand or its profit margin takes a hit. And this includes Texas’ three-letter issue. Not SEC. But LHN. Texas has no desire to part, alter or share any aspect of The Longhorn Network, but it would not be able to retain the network as is in the Pac-12.

The Longhorns’ third goal is to make a decision that agrees with fans’ interests by maintaining traditions and some rivalries, at least the one against OU if not A&M.

Rumors have been bubbling below the surface that UT may have an eye on the ACC if the Big 12 implodes.  According to the American-Statesman, that possibility should not be dismissed out of hand; the paper writes that “[a] high-ranking Texas source said that the ACC has been in contact with Texas, but added that talks hadn’t progressed to a mature phase.”

Of course, such a move, if it is indeed to become a reality, is a few steps down the road.  First and foremost, the Texas A&M-to-SEC situation would need to be settled before any other dominoes tumbled.  Then the ball would bounce into the court of Oklahoma, and by extension Oklahoma State, forcing the school to decide once and for all if they will submit notice to the Big 12 that they will seek other conference opportunities.

If that step is taken, OU would then formally apply for admission to the Pac-12.  While that conference’s commissioner, Larry Scott, was quoted as saying that he would prefer there be no further expansion, never once has he ever even intimated that his league would not be willing to listen if a school such as OU came to him seeking membership.

If it ever gets to that point — and based on the multiple reports in the last week it likely will sooner rather than later — UT would appear to have four options: take part in the rebuild of what would then be a seven-team Big 12 by raiding other conferences; along with Texas Tech, follow the Oklahoma schools to the Pac-12 to form a 16-team “super conference”; go to the opposite end of the country and join the ACC; or go independent.

The most appealing option for the ‘Horns?  Whichever one most protects The Longhorn Network, the very entity that helped create a sizable portion of the uncertainty and instability in the Big 12 in the first place.

Vandy assistant Osia Lewis battling liver cancer

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 24: Head coach Derek Mason of the Vanderbilt Commodores speaks to an official regarding a play that was called a non-fumble on the opening kickoff against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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A serious medical event has caused a shakeup on Derek Mason‘s Vanderbilt coaching staff.

The football program revealed in an article posted to its official website Tuesday night that outside linebackers coach Osia Lewis is battling cholangiocarcinoma, a form of liver cancer.  The 54-year-old coach was diagnosed in mid-January after undergoing a battery of tests the last couple of months.

Lewis, who is married with two children, has already started chemotherapy, although the school writes that, “[f]or now, the tumor is inoperable due to its location, but doctors are hopeful treatment will make an impact.”

As Lewis continues to battle, he will move from his on-field role to what the program describes as the chief consultant to the head coach and senior defensive assistant. “But as soon as I’m ready to go, I’ll be back,” the coach said.

“Osia is family,” Mason said. “Some people run from these things, but we’ve chosen to run to it. I believe Osia and Darlene, with what they’ve poured into this program, their journey is a testament to what it means to be family. They’ve given everything they have to this program, moving from San Diego to Nashville because I asked them to. I truly believe it’s important for us to take the journey with them.

“That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

WRs coach Zach Azzanni leaving Vols for job with Chicago Bears

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 15:  A general view of the play during the game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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An NFL team has once again cost a Power Five program an assistant coach.

Tennessee announced in a press release Wednesday that Zach Azzanni has stepped down from his job with the Volunteers in order to take the job as wide receivers coach with the Chicago Bears.  Azzanni had spent the past four seasons as UT’s receivers coach.

He also carried the title of passing-game coordinator the last two years.

“We are really excited for Zach and his family,” said head coach Butch Jones in a statement. “I have known Zach for a long time and this is a path he has wanted to pursue for some time. We can’t thank him enough for his loyalty, dedication and hard work over the past four years to our football program.

“We will begin the process of filling this position immediately. It’s a position we want to fill as quickly as we can, but we also want to go through the detailed process, which we will.”

This will mark Azzanni’s first job in the NFL as his previous 18 years in the profession have come at the collegiate level.

Clemson transfer Scott Pagano sets his five official visits

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 01: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals looks to pass under pressure from Scott Pagano #56 of the Clemson Tigers during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Not long after Scott Pagano decided to transfer from Clemson, three dozen or so teams expressed interest in the defensive tackle.  A short time later, that list had been whittled down to seven by the lineman.

Just a couple of days later, Pagano has a list of teams he will officially visit.  From Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.com:

Pagano… said he will officially visit Notre Dame March 24, Oklahoma March 31 and Arkansas April 7.

Pagano has completed his official visit plan by lining up a trip to Texas for April 14 and Oregon April 21.

The graduate transfer also listed Cal and Nebraska as two of his seven finalists.  He could still “unofficially” visit those programs, or any others for that matter, even as they are not part of his current official visits schedule.

Pagano is expected to make a final decision that would allow him to enroll in his new school in May.

Coming out of high school in Hawaii as a four-star 2013 recruit, Pagano was rated as the No. 24 tackle in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state. Pagano started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.

Jim Harbaugh confirms TE Devin Asiasi will transfer from Michigan

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 29: Devin Asiasi #2 of the Michigan Wolverines tries to outrun the tackles of Riley Bullough #30 and Ed Davis #43 of the Michigan State Spartans during a first quarter run at Spartan Stadium on October 29, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The reports of a couple of weeks ago have indeed come to fruition.

Earlier this month, speculation had Devin Asiasi considering a transfer from Michigan back closer to his home on the West Coast. Tuesday night, the tight end’s head coach confirmed the transfer part of the equation.

“Yeah, he’s moving on, transferring,” Jim Harbaugh said according to mlive.com. “He leaves in great status. He was doing great in school, doing great in football, really popular and well-liked by his teammates.

“We wish him well.”

USC and UCLA are currently rumored to be among Asiasi’s potential landing spots. One of Asiasi’s former high school teammates, Boss Tagaloa, plays defensive tackle for the Bruins and the two players had talked of going to the same school when they were recruits. The Trojans were a finalist before Asiasi opted for the Wolverines as well.

As a 6-3, 287-pound true freshman last season, Asiasi played in all 13 games. He caught two passes for 18 yards and a touchdown.

A four-star recruit in last year’s class coming out of high school at Concord De La Salle High School, Asiasi was rated as the No. 3 tight end in the country and the No. 12 player at any position in the state of California. In addition to UM, USC and UCLA, Asiasi held offers from, among others, Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Miami, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington.