Air Force AD: ‘interest high in Big East’ after turning down Big 12

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There has been more than just a little talk of late that Air Force would take its football program out of its current conference home in the Mountain West and move it to the Big East.  Based on the words of the service academy’s athletic director, that “little talk” is more than just idle chatter and could come to fruition by the end of this month.

And, in what’s one of the more remarkable twists in this latest round of expansion apocalypse, the same school also snubbed the advances of another BcS conference.  Before touching on that, however, let’s get the meat of the subject matter out of the way first.

In a conversation with the Denver Post following the Falcons’ loss to Notre Dame yesterday, AD Hans Mueh openly admitted a very keen interest in moving his football program to the Big East — the academy’s other sports would move to the Missouri Valley Conference in such a scenario — and that the athletic department’s future should be decided by the end of October.

Our interest is high in the Big East. That’s fair to say,” Mueh told the Post.  “This stuff is moving fast.”

Mueh also said he would like for the other service academies to join Air Force in the Big East.

“In my perfect world, with the Big East on the radar, I would love Air Force, Navy and Army to be in that conference together,” the AD said.

Navy has been connected to the Big East for several weeks, as has Army, although the latter seems to be uncertain about making the move both because of the level of competition — memo to the Black Knights: it’s the Big East, you’ll be just fine — and because they enjoy what independence means for scheduling.

What the loss of Air Force would do to the Mountain West’s future plans remains to be seen.  The conference has already lost BYU (independence) and Utah (Pac-12) this year, and will lose TCU (Big East Big 12) next year.  Those losses have been or will be offset by the additions of Boise State, Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii.

When all of the dust settles, and if Air Force leaves as expected, the MWC would be left with nine members.  Such a scenario could be the trigger for the long-rumored merger/affiliation with Conference USA.

As noted by the website Mountain West Connection — thanks for the heads up, Jeremy — though, perhaps the biggest news to come out of the Post’s piece had absolutely nothing to do with the Big East.  According to Mueh, his school was rebuffed overtures from the Big 12 that could have meant millions of dollars for his athletic department’s coffers.

“We were approached by the Big 12, and I told them we’re not a good fit for that conference. In the Big 12, geography makes sense, the economics make sense, but recruiting makes no sense for us. I can’t recruit against Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State,” Mueh told the paper.

“That’s why I turned down the Big 12. I can’t do that to my kids, because they’ll get beat up. I’d love the extra $12 million or whatever it would be per year from the TV money. And I know how I’d spend the money. I’d build a new soccer stadium, and I’d build a new baseball facility, all in one year. But I can’t do that.”

What a novel concept, doing what’s best for your student-athletes instead of chasing every last dollar.

Conference USA releases 2018 schedule

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Conference USA released its 2018 schedule on Tuesday, confirming that once again the league will play football this fall.

The league slate kicks off Sept. 8 with FIU’s visit to Old Dominion, while the first game involving a C-USA team is set for Aug. 25, when Rice hosts Prairie View A&M. Conference games are scattered throughout the month of September, with the first full Saturday slate coming on Oct. 6 with Old Dominion at Florida Atlantic, UAB at Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee at Marshall, North Texas at UTEP and UTSA at Rice.

While the MAC has opted for a full embrace of midweek football, Conference USA has gone in the exact opposite direction. Not one C-USA game is scheduled as of today for a weeknight — Thursday or Friday included — and only one game will be played on a day other than Saturday, a Friday, Aug. 31 visit to Wisconsin by Western Kentucky.

The most-anticipated non-conference games involving C-USA teams are Florida Atlantic’s opener at Oklahoma and on Sept. 1 and the Owls’ Sept. 22 visit to reigning American and Peach Bowl champion UCF. North Texas also has two shots to win nationwide respect for the league in its opener against SMU on Sept. 1 in Denton and a Sept. 15 visit to retooling Arkansas.

The highlight of the league schedule comes on Nov. 17 with a rematch of the 2017 title game when Florida Atlantic visits North Texas. The Owls won both meetings last season by a combined score of 110-48.

The 14th C-USA Championship will be held on Dec. 1 at the home of the division winner with the best conference record. FAU will look to become the second straight back-to-back C-USA champion, joining Western Kentucky in 2015-16.

Former LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada reportedly lands at Maryland

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It’s good to be Matt Canada.

He parachuted into Baton Rouge for a year, got paid a bunch of money, then got paid even more money to leave. And now he’s set to get paid from another school.

According to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Canada is set to join the Maryland staff as offensive coordinator. Rittenberg notes that Canada signed a multi-year agreement with the Terps, though salary terms were not revealed. Walt Bell, who left to become the offensive coordinator at Florida State, made $500,000 in 2017, according to USA Today.

Maryland will be Canada’s seventh school to call plays for in this decade alone. He spent 2010 (and three years before that) at Indiana, then moved to Northern Illinois in 2011. He parlayed that into one season at Wisconsin, three at NC State, and then one season stints at Pittsburgh, LSU and now Maryland.

Report: Oklahoma State signs 27-year-old Australian punter

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Australian punters are the hot new commodity in college football, and word has made it back to the Land Down Under: punt the ball far and high enough and you, too, can receive a full scholarship to an American university.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express — which you now is legit, because its header as of press time already reads Wednesday, January 24 — 27-year-old Australian punter Tom Hutton has signed with Oklahoma State. Hutton hails from Newborough, Australia, about a two hour ride from Melbourne, and in December attended a training session at Prokick Australia.

“I was told about [American football] a few years ago so I thought ‘I’ll probably be too old for it now’, thinking that it was like Aussie Rules and that if you were over 21 then you had no chance,” Hutton told the paper. “But then I saw a few older blokes getting scholarships so I thought I may as well give it a go.”

Prokick Australia claims the last five Ray Guy Award winners as alums, including 2017 victor Michael Dickson of Texas. Oklahoma State saw his ability up close, as Dickson punted 11 times for a 50.9-yard average in October, nearly booting his way to victory in a 13-10 Cowboys overtime victory. “Their punter is — did he win the Ray Guy Award last year?” Mike Gundy said after that game. “He should have won it. He changed the field on us. I don’t know what the yardage is, I just know that every time we go a little bit of field position, he changed the field … he was fantastic for them.”

The story of how Hutton was approved for an Oklahoma State offer doesn’t go into details, but Hutton’s recollection of how Hutton, who works overnights at a paper mill in addition to playing Aussie rules football in the Mid Gippsland Football League, received the offer is perfect.

“I woke up after night shift on two hours sleep and this person said ‘we know where you’re going, you’re going to Oklahoma State and we’ve got the coach on the phone,'” he said. “I thought ‘Jesus Christ, can you give me half an hour? I need to have a shower and actually wake up and make sure this is not a dream.'”

According to the Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing, Hutton will arrive in Stillwater in July and have four years of eligibility.

Arkansas adds TCU signee who signed with New York Yankees

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Austin Aune‘s circuitous sports journey, one which Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden would approve, has taken its next stop in Fayetteville.

According to 247Sports.com, Aune has joined the Arkansas football program and is enrolled in classes at the university.  At least initially, the quarterback will be a part of the Razorbacks as a walk-on; it’s expected he’ll take the field with the rest of his new teammates when spring practice kicks off month after next.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aune had also considered TCU and North Texas before the SEC’s mystique proved to be too much.

“The allure of the SEC and the SEC West and Chad [Morris] and Coach [Joe] Craddock, and everybody being on the same page up there as far as the opportunity goes,” the player’s father, Greg Aune, told the Democrat-Gazette. “He likes their system. It’s a fast-paced system, wide-open system. That’s what he played in high school. It’s a pass-oriented offense. He’s a read-run oriented guy, so that’s a lot of what those guys do.”

The fact that Aune considered TCU as a potential landing spot before settling on Morris and UA shouldn’t come as a surprise as he actually signed with the Horned Frogs back in 2012.  However, he was drafted by the New York Yankees that same year and, after signing a contract that included a $1 million signing bonus, embarked on what turned out to be a six-year career in the minor leagues.  Despite that financial commitment, Aune never made it past Single-A ball.