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.

Division II, Division III and NAIA title games set while FCS heads into semifinals

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Outside of a thrilling Army-Navy game and the Heisman ceremony, it was an empty Saturday at the highest level of college football.

But no so at the lower levels.

The divisional playoffs are cranked into high gear. Let’s take a brief look at where everything stands in each division.

FCS

Top-seeded and defending champion James Madison needed a last-second field goal to survive visiting Weber State, 31-28, on Friday night, while No. 5 seed South Dakota State routed New Hampshire, 55-14.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed and winner of five of the last six national titles North Dakota State walloped Wofford, 42-10 in Fargo. No. 6 seed Sam Houston State outlasted upstart Kennesaw State, 34-27, to send the Bearkats into their fifth semifinal game in the last seven years.

Semifinals: No. 5 South Dakota State at No. 1 James Madison — 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPNU; No. 6 Sam Houston State at No. 2 North Dakota State — 8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2.

Division II

No. 4 seed West Florida traveled north and upset top-seeded Indiana (Pa.), 27-17 on Saturday, to send the Argonauts into their first championship game. No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Commerce fended off the option attack of No. 3 Harding (Ark.), 31-17, putting the Lions in their first title game as well.

National championship: No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. No. 4 West Florida — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Division III

In a similar dynamic to FCS, the defending champion is on a collision course with the traditional champion. In the first semifinal, defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) blanked Brockport (N.Y.), 24-0. The Crusaders will make their third trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, looking to win their second title.

In the other semifinal, Mount Union (Ohio) overcame a 21-10 deficit to beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 43-40. The Purple Raiders will play in their 20th Stagg Bowl — all of them coming since 1993, and 19 of them since ’96 — with a shot at their 13th national championship. However, Mount Union has won just — “just” — two national championships since 2009.

National championship: Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) vs. Mount Union (Ohio) — 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN at Salem Stadium in Salem Va.

NAIA

The NAIA was off this weekend, taking a break in between last week’s semifinals and Saturday’s national championship. Defending champion Saint Francis (Ind.) out-gunned previously-undefeated Morningside (Iowa) 43-36 in the first semifinal, while Reinhardt (Ga.) held off undefeated Southern Oregon, 37-34 in double overtime.

National championship: Saint Francis (Ind.) vs. Reinhardt (Ga.) — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3 at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Minnesota lands commitment from 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle

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P.J. Fleck is going to need a bigger boat.

Minnesota has landed a commitment from the largest recruit on record, as 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle Daniel Faalele has committed to the Gophers. Faalele made the announcement on his Twitter page on Saturday night.

A 3-star recruit, Faalele is rated as the No. 29 offensive tackle in the country, according to 247Sports. He listed 20 offers, including from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and LSU.

As the story goes, Faalele did not find football; football found him. He was discovered by a recruiter from Hawaii working out at a gym in his native Melbourne, Australia. He attended a Michigan satellite camp in Australia and played this season — his first season in pads — at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

In making the trip from the Land Down Under to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Faalele will be joined by a pair of IMG Academy teammates in offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap, Jr., and quarterback Zack Annexstad, who also committed to Minnesota on Saturday.

Those pledges now give Minnesota the 26th best recruiting class in the country and the sixth best in the Big Ten — but the No. 1 class in the Big Ten West — in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Minnesota’s class may not be the best in the country, but it’s among the biggest — both in size (the Gophers have 25 pledges thus far) and stature.

Texas A&M suspends DT Zaycoven Henderson amid felony gun charges

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Texas A&M defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson was suspended amid multiple felony charges on Saturday.

As detailed by Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News, witnesses say Henderson pointed a rifle at one person outside College Station’s Campus Village Apartments and threatened to kill two others and allegedly threw the gun out of a fleeing car as police arrived on the scene. The car was later tracked down by College Station officers, who discovered marijuana in the car.

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, tampering with evidence and marijuana possession. The first charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in a prison. The second is a third-degree felony and the third is a misdemeanor.

He was booked into the Brazos County (Texas) jail at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Texas A&M has suspended Henderson indefinitely, which really only lasts one game as the senior from Longview, Texas, was set to close his Aggies career in the Belk Bowl against Wake Forest on Dec. 29 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Henderson made 35 tackles with five TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 12 starts this season. He was honored as a member of Texas A&M’s senior class at the annual team banquet earlier this weekend.

UCLA reportedly hires Paul Rhoads as defensive backs coach

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Chip Kelly has reportedly hired one of the most respected men in the business to his staff. According to a report from Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman, Paul Rhoads is on his way to Westwood to coach UCLA’s defensive backs.

Rhoads spent the past two seasons at Arkansas, the first as defensive backs coach and the second as defensive coordinator in addition to his duties with the secondary. He’s best known, of course, for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, where he took the Cyclones to three bowl games and created this viral moment before any of us knew what “going viral” went.

In addition to Arkansas, Rhoads also owns defensive experience at Auburn, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, Pacific, Ohio State and Utah State.

UCLA finished last season ranked 74th in pass efficiency defense, yielding a 57.1 percent completion rate for 7.3 yards per attempt with seven interceptions against 18 touchdowns.