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.

Jim McElwain hints at playing three quarterbacks vs. Michigan

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Considering his opponent won’t so much as release a simple roster, there’s no reason whatsoever for Florida head coach Jim McElwain to say anything of consequence.

Still, it sounds as if No. 17 Florida may play all three of its quarterbacks next Saturday against No. 11 Michigan (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

“You’re going to see a bunch of them in there playing. The three guys have done a really good job. Not naming a starter right now,” McElwain said. “I think that there’s some things that they all bring to the table that are really good. Now the key to us is putting them in those positions that play to their strengths.

“Will all of them play? I don’t know yet. Will a couple of them play? I don’t know yet. I know we will have somebody at the position. This is not — don’t read into this that we’re not happy where they’re at. It’s really more so the competition has really brought out some good things. It’s going to be … ultimately the guy the team moves with the best, the guys that create positive plays on third down and get the ball in the end zone [that we go with].”

The three of them, by the way, are graduate transfer Malik Zaire, junior Luke Del Rio and redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks. In a world governed by the truism of “If you have two quarterbacks you don’t have any,” it’s not exactly a good sign that none of Zaire, Del Rio or Franks have separated themselves from the others.

Zaire showed flashes but was eventually benched at Notre Dame and just arrived on campus this summer. Del Rio, a 2-time transfer before arriving at Florida, was the Gators’ starter coming out of training camp last season but fought through injuries throughout the season. And Franks is a 6-foot-5 former 5-star recruit that many thought would have grabbed the job by the horns by now.

While every team turns over from one season to the next, Florida finished 105th nationally in yards per play last season while Michigan’s defense placed second. With top playmaker Antonio Callaway serving a suspension, Florida will look to put the ball in the hands of whomever can move it, even if three of them happen to play quarterback.

Tracy Claeys discusses protests that led to his firing from Minnesota

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Chances are you haven’t heard Tracy Claeys‘s name mentioned in a while. The former Minnesota interim-turned-full time head coach was let go in January and has not been picked up by a new staff in the months since.

But Minnesota released an outside report last week that defended the school’s decision to suspend 10 players amid a sexual assault investigation and pinned the subsequent team-wide threatened boycott of the Holiday Bowl on “weak leadership” of the coaching staff. The Gophers played and won that Holiday Bowl, but it wasn’t enough to save Claeys’s job.

On Wednesday, Claeys penned an essay in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that both defended his tenure as the Golden Gophers’ head coach and admitted mistakes in a saga that would have swallowed many a head coach’s career.

Last September, I suspended five players for a reported sexual assault. When law enforcement authorities the following month declined to file any charges, the university reinstated those players. At the time, I was congratulated by our athletic director for my handling of this issue and promised that I would remain the head football coach in 2017.

But university officials soon conducted their own inquiry and in December resuspended the five players and suspended five more — again, even though prosecutors had determined there was no basis for formal charges.

Members of our Football Leadership Group and others on the team felt strongly that administration officials had overstepped their authority and that the accused players were treated unfairly and denied protection under due process. To amplify their argument and shine light on what players felt was a flawed and unjust process by the university, the team voted to boycott the Holiday Bowl.

It was a decision that moved us directly into the national spotlight. Unfortunately, some misunderstood or misinterpreted the players’ decision to boycott the Holiday Bowl. They felt that our team and coaches were condoning or downplaying sexual misconduct or assault. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In light of this new report, are there things I would have done differently? Certainly. First and foremost, I would have remained on campus with my team and coaches rather than attend a Holiday Bowl news conference in San Diego. I’m confident that my presence would have better directed the conversation with our players and that I could have steered them toward something other than a decision to boycott the game.

 I also would have refrained from using social media to state my support of the team’s decision. This was too complex and important an issue to address in a 140-character message. It generated more questions than it answered and likely created more problems than it solved.
Claeys was 11-8 in his one and a half seasons as Minnesota’s head coach, his first head coaching job. Assuming he does not get hired in the next week and a half, the 2017 season will be Claeys’s first out of the game since launching his career as a student trainer at Kansas in the early ’90’s.

Kirk Ferentz and wife donate $1 million to Iowa children’s hospital

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Kirk Ferentz may be the but of a bunch of contract-related jokes, but no one jokes about the man’s character.

And for good reason.

The University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital announced Wednesday that Kirk and his wife Mary have donated $1 million to create the Savvy Ferentz Program in Neonatal Research, which will aim to improve the survival rate for premature babies. The Ferentzes made the donation in honor of their granddaughter Savvy, who was born in 2014 at 22 weeks gestation.

“We knew Savvy was born too early,” Mary said in a statement. “We also knew they do extraordinary things at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital that would give her a fighting chance. We were thankful we had that.”

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital claims higher survival rates for infants born at 24- and 25-weeks than the average U.S. hospital, and the Ferentzes hope their donation will further increase those rates.

“The University of Iowa has long been a leader in neonatal research and in providing high-level patient care, particularly to this most vulnerable population,” Iowa pediatrics professor Dr. Jeffrey L. Segar said. “This gift from the Ferentzes will help us capitalize on our strengths, advance our research, and, most important, make an impact on the lives of many Iowa children and their families, now and far into the future. We are deeply grateful for their support.”

Kirk Ferentz will begin his 19th season as Iowa’s head coach next Saturday against Wyoming (noon ET, BTN).

Texas TE Andrew Beck now out for entire 2017 season

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As it turns out, it’s much worse than originally thought for one playing member of the Texas football program.

Nearly a week ago, Andrew Beck went down during practice with what was later diagnosed to be a broken foot.  At the time, it was thought that the tight end would miss anywhere from 6-8 weeks, which would’ve put him back, at the latest, early October.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, however, and the Longhorns announced that Beck will be sidelined for the entire 2017 season because of the injury.  The senior will undergo surgery at some point this week to repair the damage.  He’s already undergone two previous foot surgeries and sat out the spring because of issues in that area.

The good news is that Beck has yet to use his redshirt season, which means he could return in 2018 as a fifth-year senior.

Beck started 13 games the past two seasons, including three in 2016.  Last season, he caught four passes for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Entering summer camp, he had been expected to be the Longhorns’ starter.

With Beck out, that onus will likely fall on Kendall Moore, a graduate transfer from Syracuse.