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.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.