Conference USA, Mountain West combine into football-only association

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The rumors that circulated nearly a month ago that Conference USA and the Mountain West would congeal into one big ol’ football entity have come to fruition.

In a statement made by C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky and MWC commissioner Craig Thompson, the two conferences announced that they have formed a football-only association that, as of today, consists of 22 football members — 12 from C-USA and 10 from the MWC (Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada join in 2012; TCU leaves for the Big 12 the same year).

“Our presidents authorized an agreement, a memorandum of understanding, signed to consolidate our football programs,” Thompson said via teleconference tonight. “This is a concept we’ve been working on for over a year.”

In fact, it was the Mountain West who took the initiative on the move. Last summer, and as is mentioned above, the Mountain West snatched Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada from the WAC. The man who helped facilitate the process was current interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas.

So, yes, this is what Neinas was working on when he said several weeks ago that he had a prior obligation to C-USA that he had to finish.

Because of its size and structure, the yet-to-be-named league will try and hold a conference championship game in 2012. ESPN currently has the rights to air that game, and there doesn’t appear to be any indication that will change next year. Beyond that, however, the long-term goal is to have a multi division model that might include a multi-tier playoff format.

Before you ask, neither commissioner would go into details of how the scheduling or mere logistics would work.

“Conference USA will build our schedules over the next 90 days,” said Banowsky. “There will be some complications.

“We think it’s going to create fun, competitive opportunities.”

Oh, it’ll be interesting to be sure.

The two leagues will honor their current TV contracts — the two have a common distributor in CBS — which also include deals with ESPN and NBC. The superconference (yes, we can officially call it that now) is working on a new television deal, but neither commissioner would go into specifics.

There are also, obviously, various questions about membership with the BCS and within the conference. Banowsky said no conversations have been had with BCS executive director Bill Hancock and that none were in the offing. Within the confines of the new conference, there’s a good possibility the new association may not stay at 22 members. Air Force, Boise State, Central Florida, Houston and SMU have all been mentioned as serious candidates for the Big East.

Neither Banowsky or Thompson would comment on the speculation of departing members, but Banowsky did specifically say that Central Florida had been in talks with the Big East. When asked, Banowsky said he felt the school would stay.

“We’re trying to position our schools as best as possible, to provide as much security as possible,” Thompson said. “Each of these schools has made a significant investment.”

Thompson did confirm that Air Force and Boise said they were in talks with the Big East during a conference call this morning about the association (although Boise has denied any invitation). If either/both leave for the Big East, Thompson said the schools will not be allowed to participate in the MWC in other sports.

But the new conference is flexible, and not concerned about staying at a specific number. The idea, Banowsky said, is to allow more programs to come in if needed. When asked if more than 22 teams were considered, and if the new superconference looked to bring in more members, Banowsky simply said, “yes.”

“College athletics are changing so fast. If we’re not quick to adapt, we could lose some positioning.”

Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks found guilty of rape

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Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks was convicted by a jury on Friday for rape of a female Vanderbilt student. Following 15 hours of jury deliberations, the verdict of guilty on one count of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated sexual battery was in.

”He’s shocked but understands that this is only the first part of this process, there’s a lot more to do from here on,” Banks’ lawyer, Mark Scruggs, said after the verdict. ”We have some really good issues to raise.”

Part of Banks’ defense was built on succumbing to peer pressure, suggesting he feared he may be beaten up by teammates if he did not participate in the scandalous activity. The jury, having reviewed videos and photos from the incident, some of which were shot by Banks, determined that was not a viable defense.

”Making fun of another person is not right, but we know it happens,” Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore said in closing arguments, according to the Associated Press. ”But it doesn’t give you a legal defense to commit a crime, particularly not an aggravated rape, an aggravated sexual battery. I mean if that’s the case, then we’d have the ‘football team defense.”’

Banks will serve a minimum of 15 years in prison. One count of aggravated rape has a minimum sentence of 15 years.

Other former Vanderbilt players had previously been convicted for their roles in the 2013 rape. Cory Batey was found guilty of aggravated rape and sentenced to 15-25 years in prison in April 2016. Brandon Vandenbeurg was found guilty and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

California’s state-funded travel ban to discriminating states raises mild football scheduling concerns

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The state of California is banning state-funded travel to the states of Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, and South Dakota. Those states are added to the previous state-funded travel bans that included Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee due to what California lawmakers say are laws that allow for discrimination against gay and transgender people.

So what does this have to do with college football? My colleague, Bryan, notes this latest decision from the state means scheduling any potential road games for a handful of schools just got a tad trickier.

This development poses a couple of issues for some California schools to address moving forward.

San Jose State is the school affected by this latest news right off the bat. San Jose State has a road game scheduled at Texas on September 9 this season. San Jose State may have to rely on some of that guaranteed money from Texas to cover the expenses, which would put a dent in the total takeaway from playing the game in the first place.

Cal is also scheduled to play at North Carolina on September 2. Cal also plays at TCU in 2021 and at Auburn in 2024. If the ban is still in operation at those times, then Cal will have to budget ahead of time to tackle the expenses. UCLA will play at Memphis on September 19.

The state-funded travel ban to these states may not be an issue for the postseason, as bowl game expenses tend to be carried by the conference and their revenue shares.

Fresno State has a road game at Texas A&M scheduled in 2020. San Diego State has no future scheduling hassles to worry about for the time being.

When ‘physically, mentally ready,’ door wide open for Keyshawn Johnson Jr.’s return to Nebraska

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Keyshawn Johnson Jr. has yet to play a down for Nebraska, but, if it’s up to Mike Riley, he will at some point down the road.

Earlier this month, the son of former USC great Keyshawn Johnson was cited for marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.  This past week, the younger Johnson decided to take a leave of absence, with his father stating that his son needed some time to “mature” and will not play for the Cornhuskers in 2017.

Left open at the time was the question of whether Johnson Jr. would ever play for the ‘Huskers, period.  Friday, Riley left the door wide open for a return.

“We’re disappointed that he’s not here with us right now today,” the head coach said according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “I think there’s kind of a wellness factor for Keyshawn going home. We talked to him about the possibility of maybe enrolling part time and taking care of his progress toward his degree, and also getting in great shape.

“And we opened the door for return, which is just kind of left open that we’ll deal with at the time that he is physically and mentally ready to do that.”

A three-star 2017 signee who was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, the younger Johnson had been expected to be an immediate contributor for the Cornhuskers this season.

Ex-K-State WR involved in release imbroglio transfers to Appalachian State

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After public pressure helped get him out of the Little Apple, Corey Sutton is going to resume his collegiate playing career on the East Coast.

On his personal Twitter account Friday night, Sutton (pictured, No. 12) announced that he is “[b]lessed to say I will be continuing my collegiate career at Appalachian State University.” The rising sophomore will have to sit out the 2017 season because of arcane and one-sided NCAA transfer rules.

Beginning in 2018, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

The move comes three weeks or so after a very noisy exit from his first college football home.

In early June, the transferring wide receiver revealed in an interview that Kansas State had denied a release to all 35 schools he requested, including FCS and Div. II programs.  Bill Snyder both confirmed the accuracy of Sutton’s accounting of events and defended his decision, then inexplicably ratcheted up the public rhetoric by revealing Sutton had failed a pair of drug tests.

Facing a maelstrom of criticism, Snyder subsequently apologized publicly while the football program granted Sutton a “full release” from his scholarship that still restricted him from transferring to any Big 12 school or one that’s on K-State’s future schedule while he still has eligibility. It’s unclear if the Sun Belt Mountaineers were on Sutton’s original list of 35 schools that was denied by the university.

In his lone season with the Wildcats, Sutton played in 11 games, catching four passes for 54 yards. Sutton came to K-State as a three-star 2016 signee after playing his high school football in North Carolina.