For the love of college football, stick together, Big 12

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For two summers, it’s been the same story: the Big 12 was dead before it wasn’t.

For two summers, in the eleventh hour, action was taken to keep Texas and Oklahoma from going west to the Pacific. And, for two summers, the rest of the college football world held its breath while it all transpired.

Thank goodness we were able to exhale when we did. I think I was starting to lose consciousness.

Although it’s nowhere safe to go back into the water yet — this round of conference realignment is far from over — it feels good that we can return to some sanity for a few hours. I don’t know if that was going through the minds of Pac-12 university presidents and chancellors when they unanimously decided to keep the conference as is, but I am sure it’s a pleasant calm in otherwise stormy seas.

Enjoy it while it lasts. Bask in the warmth that, for once, it wasn’t all about the money or the media footprint. If it truly was, Pac- 12 commissioner Larry Scott would have forced the Longhorn Network down the throats of his residents like Robitussin just as he would have welcomed suddenly temperamental Oklahoma.

Sometimes, we learn the most about how to improve ourselves by not getting what we want. We still don’t know for a fact that Oklahoma wanted to go to the Pac-12, although we can connect the dots, but the Sooners might be better off for getting a prompt rejection.

Maybe Texas was served right to be told their network baggage was too much to handle.

Pretty girls need to be knocked down a peg or two, ya know.

The Pac-12 showed it wasn’t all about ego. Texas and Oklahoma may have received the memo.

A Big 12 source has told the Associated Press that officials from Texas and Oklahoma plan to meet in the next few days to outline a plan that would keep the two in the Big 12 for the next five years. Considering the Longhorns and the Sooners hold the key to the Big 12’s future, such an agreement would be refreshing in a time where more has been communicated over the phone than face-to-face, eye-to-eye.

If UT and OU can agree to stay in the Big 12, the next step is for the Big 12 employ equal revenue sharing. Adjust the bylaws; gather the lawyers; do whatever it takes to make sure everyone from Texas to Iowa State gets an equal cut of the pie.

I’ve never been a huge supporter of equal revenue sharing because I don’t think schools and athletic programs are created equal. If Oklahoma goes to a BCS bowl four out of every five years, it makes zero sense to me to give Kansas an equal cut of conference payout.

But, these are difficult times that call for sobering adjustments. It’s no coincidence that the three most powerful and stable conferences in the country — the SEC, the Pac-12 and the Big Ten — share revenue equally.

It also helps they have three of the largest TV contracts.

Third, the Big 12 needs to go in a new direction once Dan Beebe’s new contract extension ends, not solely because of Oklahoma’s demands, but because everyone in the conference needs a change. Last month, I said Beebe did a good job holding the Big 12 together last summer. I may have *mumblemumblemumble* little misguided *mumblemumblemumble* sorry *mumblemumblemumble*. 

It’s tough to change old habits, and Beebe catered to Texas last summer, plain and simple. We’ve seen very clearly that’s no way to keep the Big 12 together.

But to keep college football from spiraling further into nonsense, the Big 12 needs to stick together. It may not keep some conference shifting from happening — the Big 12 might even be the one who expands — but the whole four 16-team superconference hellraiser has in no way been good for college football.

Unless, of course, someone can explain how breaking rivalries and using media markets as a benchmark for admittance are the bees knees. In that case, I’m all ears.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like that. The likes of Oklahoma and Texas have recently used their brands and successes for their own benefit; they have the chance to use it for the good of the game.

Now there’s power anyone should want.

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.