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.

Michael Oher: Hugh Freeze is ‘man of God, man full of integrity’

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Hugh Freeze may have been blindsided by his unceremonious exit from Ole Miss, but at least one of his former players has his back.

Homeless for stretches of his teenage life, Michael Oher was taken in by the Freeze family — a 2014 Bleacher Report article notes that “Oher spent one to two nights a week at their house” — while Freeze was the head coach at Briarcrest Christian High School in Memphis.  Oher went on to play football for Freeze in high school, with his compelling life story forming the basis for the Academy Award-winning film “The Blind Side.”

The player and the coach have formed a deep bond that stretches back more than a decade, a bond that hasn’t been broken despite the latter’s resignation as Ole Miss head coach under a cloud of controversy.

“He is a man of God and a man full of integrity,’’ Oher told USA Today Sports of his former coach. “I don’t know the full story but I’m willing to bet that everyone in the world had made a mistake that they have wanted someone to forgive them for.”

The offensive lineman added that without Freeze, “there is no Michael Oher and no “The Blind Side.'”

The news dropped last Thursday night that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  While Freeze blamed the call on a misdial, the administration found a “pattern of misconduct” during a deep dive into his phone records, leading the school to confront the coach about the situation.

After meetings with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, it became apparent that, if he didn’t resign, the school was going to fire him.  Because of a moral turpitude clause in his contract, there was neither a buyout nor a settlement.

“God is good, even in difficult times,’’ Freeze said earlier this week in his first public comments since his departure. “Wonderful wife and family, and that’s my priority.”

“I got some good friends,” he added.

On the same day Freeze resigned, coincidentally, Oher was cut by the Carolina Panthers.  Earlier this offseason, Oher was arrested after an altercation with an Uber driver in which the player allegedly bit the driver on the back.

LSU still can’t say Arden Key will be available for opener vs. BYU

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The Magical Mystery Tour that has been Arden Key‘s offseason continues.

In mid-February, LSU announced that Key had “decided to take some time away from football… for personal reasons.” Four months later, the football program announced the defensive end had rejoined the team; at the same time, it was announced that Key had recently undergone shoulder surgery.

Thursday, first-year head coach Ed Orgeron indicated that Key will not be available for the start of summer camp because of the ongoing rehab — and couldn’t commit to the player being available for the opener as well.

“We don’t know when he’s going to be ready, but obviously we expect him to play this year and have a great year. We won’t know (his playing status) until the end of camp,” Orgeron said according to the Baton Rouge Advocate. “I’m going to listen to the doctors. Some days he’s able to get into uniform and practice, he’s going to do that, but I don’t see that happening in the next couple of weeks.”

When it comes to playing against BYU Sept. 2 in Houston? “There is a chance,” Orgeron allowed.

A four-star 2015 signee, Key was a consensus Freshman All-American his first season with the Tigers after starting nine games.  Last season as a true sophomore, he led the team with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks.  The latter total set a school record.

Following that breakout campaign, he was named second-team All-SEC.

Clemson transfer Scott Pagano progressing from foot surgery, but might miss Oregon’s opener

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There was good news and potentially not-so-good news on the Scott Pagano front Thursday for Oregon.

A transfer from Clemson this offseason, Pagano suffered a broken bone in his foot in the Tigers’ mid-November win over Pitt that forced him to miss the remainder of the regular season.  After moving on to the Ducks as a graduate transfer in mid-April, UO’s medical staff decided he needed to undergo surgery to repair the damage in his foot.

First-year head coach Willie Taggart Thursday declared the defensive lineman ahead of schedule in his recovery from the medical procedure, but didn’t guarantee he’d be on the field for the 2017 opener.

“Something he had that he needed to be corrected,” Taggart said of the surgery according to oregonlive.com. “He’s ahead of schedule right now. I don’t like putting certain weeks on guys because everybody heals differently.

“He’s one of those kids that has been rehabbing his tail off and is itching to get back out there. He’s ahead of schedule right now. Hopefully he’s there for the Southern Utah game.”

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. He started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.

Before opting for UO, Pagano had taken an official visit to Oklahoma as he had whittled his to-do list down to those two. Arkansas, Notre Dame and Texas were also among the lineman’s five allotted official visits in his second round of collegiate recruiting.

CB Ryan Mayes no longer part of Miami football team

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There’s been a slight tweak to Miami’s defensive secondary ahead of the start of summer camp.

In a press release that consisted all of two sentences, the Hurricanes announced that Ryan Mayes is no longer a member of Mark Richt’s football program.  No reason was given for the separation, nor is it known whether the move was voluntary or involuntary.

A three-star member of The U’s 2014 recruiting class, Mayes was rated as the No. 48 cornerback in the country and the No. 92 player at any position in the state of Florida.  He held offers from, among others, Boston College and Syracuse.

As a true freshman, Mayes played in three games, then saw action in just one game the following season as he took a redshirt.  In 2016, the defensive back played in 11 games, mainly on special teams.

Prior to his departure, the redshirt junior was expected to fill a reserve role in the Hurricanes’ secondary.