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.”

Pair of Alabama defenders undergo surgery after Tide’s spring game

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Alabama’s spring game wrapped up on Saturday and with it, the last of the Crimson Tide’s spring practices. While that means the coaching staff is free to fly across the country to visit recruits during the evaluation period, it also results in several players going under the knife to correct injuries in order to be back by fall camp.

Two of those players are starting cornerback Anthony Averett and (likely starting) linebacker Christian Miller, both of whom underwent sports hernia surgery this week according to AL.com.

The report states that Averett played with the hernia most of last season while the Tide marched their way to the national title game. Miller was one of the stars of the show on Saturday during Alabama’s spring game, recording two sacks while dealing with the injury.

Both are expected to be fully healthy for camp in August as Nick Saban and company vie for yet another conference title and berth in the College Football Playoff.

SEC commissioner hints at review of rules regarding alcohol sales in football stadiums

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The prohibition of alcohol at football stadiums has undergone one interesting about-face in college athletics the past 15 years or so. While various suite levels at stadiums across the country have generally had access to a few adult beverages, there’s been some very large programs that have opened up the taps in the general seating areas the last few years.

From West Virginia to Texas to Ohio State, more and more programs are selling beer and/or liquor across the board and raking in hundreds of thousands (if not millions) in added revenue while doing so. One conference that isn’t jumping in on that trend however has been the SEC, which has numerous restrictions on where those types of beverages can be sold. That may be about to change in the near future however according to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.

“At some point, I’m relatively certain, there will be further review of the prohibition,” said Sankey on Monday, per The Tuscaloosa News. “That doesn’t predict any outcome.”

While you may think that the league is close to opening the floodgates on alcohol being served at stadiums across the conference, you probably shouldn’t jump to any conclusions on the matter as Sankey seemed to hold his ground and stand firm on keeping things as is right now.

“The conference has a policy that says that we’re not selling alcohol in the general seating area,” he added. “Now, you can agree or disagree with that policy, but that’s the policy. The basis for changing that or maintaining it is one that’s developed in the conversation.

“I think we were at like 98 percent ticket sales in football… So is that one-percent margin a trade that we’re going to make?”

It’s no secret that of-age fans can easily find a few beverages at SEC tailgates prior to games nowadays but it seems momentum is slowing building in the conference to allow fans to buy some during a game. It might not happen anytime in the very near future but the conversation is certainly going to keep popping up each year with many more schools across the country jumping in on this trend.

QB Malik Zaire reportedly sets timetable for transfer decision while adding Harvard to the mix

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While we don’t yet know where former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire is transferring to, we might have an idea of when he plans on making a move this offseason.

Per Orangebloods.com’s Anwar Richardson, the signal-caller has zeroed in on the end of May for an announcement on his new school in a timetable that coincides with the Irish’s graduation ceremonies. Perhaps just as interesting is the fact that there may also be a new school in the mix and it’s known for being a powerhouse of a different kind away from the gridiron.

“In addition, I was told a new school is in the mix. Zaire is still considering Texas, Wisconsin and Florida, and the grad transfer quarterback has added Harvard to his short list. It remains unclear how serious Zaire is about playing Ivy League football. If he does go that route, Harvard would be his landing spot.”

The Ivy League power is an interesting new destination for Zaire and could be a pretty good backup option given what’s going on at his other finalists.

While Texas and Wisconsin are both on his shortlist, both the Longhorns and Badgers return their starting quarterbacks from last season in Shane Buechele and Alex Hornibrook. Richardson reports that Zaire wants to start in 2017 and not hold a clipboard but he is still keeping his options opens when it comes to the thin depth charts at the position in both Austin and Madison.

Complicating things is Florida, which should be a prime landing spot for Zaire were it not for an SEC rule passed last year that is preventing him from transferring him there this offseason. The league is set to talk about changes to that rule at their spring meetings in Destin, Fla. but it remains unclear if the QB will wait and see before making a decision (and it’s entirely possible the SEC keeps things as they are).

Either way, the former Irish starter does not appear to be lacking options when it comes to the graduate transfer market.

Tennessee hires College Football Playoff CFO for administrative role

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Tennessee might not be a favorite to make the College Football Playoff in 2017 but the school is doing their best to bring a little bit of the sport’s postseason to Knoxville.

Athletic director John Currie announced on Tuesday that the Vols would be hiring the College Football Playoff’s Chief Financial Officer Reid Sigmon as Tennessee’s new Executive Associate Athletics Director and Chief Operating Officer. The hire isn’t too surprising considering the two worked together for several years at Kansas State in very similar roles.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I welcome Reid Sigmon to the Tennessee Athletics family,” Currie said in a statement. “He has earned national credibility as part of a visionary leadership group creating the College Football Playoff organization for the last four years, and his tremendous integrity and understanding of college athletics make him a perfect addition to our Tennessee leadership team.”

Sigmon served in a variety of roles in college athletics as well as the NFL before eventually landing with the College Football Playoff. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that he starts at Tennessee on May 15 with a salary of $285,000 per year.