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.”

Florida State planning new facility to catch up with Clemson

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Florida State completed a major facility overhaul not even three years ago. But the thing about arms races is that when someone pulls ahead of you it means you are behind.

And Clemson officially pulled ahead earlier this year with the opening of its glistening, slide-equipped new home.

As such, Jimbo Fisher told reporters Friday that Florida State now has plans to construct its own standalone facility, going as far as meeting with an architect.

“We need room. We need meeting space, player development areas. You’ve got to have those areas and also to show off your history. That’s what Florida State is known for, being a great football program,” Fisher told ESPN. “You can never stand still. If you’re not evolving and moving, people are going to bypass you. You’ve got to keep going. The great programs never settle. We’re always looking for that edge. It’s going to help recruiting. It’s going to help player development. We get a lot of guys that are three-and-out, so we’ve got to have space for them to get them developed as quickly as we can so we can get production out of them.”

While saying that it’s a “competitive” race and not an arms race, Fisher also tried to sell that the plans for the ‘Noles’ new home were unrelated to Clemson’s new facility.

“I don’t care what they’ve got,” Fisher said. “I’m worried about what we’ve got. If I don’t think it’s going to make a difference in our program for these kids to develop as people, students and players, I won’t ask. I didn’t grow up with a lot. I was taught if you need it, do what you’ve got to do to be successful but don’t waste. I’m not going to do that. But there’s things you’ve got to have to be successful and that’s the next step, in my opinion.”

Former Michigan TE Jake Butt says college players should be able to cash in on likenesses

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For the record, Jake Butt shouldn’t “be paid” in the strictest sense of the term — to receive a paycheck for services rendered. Rather, the former Michigan tight end believes players should be able to profit from their statuses as college athletes when the NCAA, its conferences and member schools are already doing the same.

(Having an extremely marketable last name probably contributed to the forming of this opinion.)

“Something needs to change,” Butt told ESPN.com at Michigan’s pro day. “I don’t want a check from the NCAA. I don’t know if that’s something that’s likely. But the big thing is they say you can’t use your name to benefit. I can’t go into my favorite breakfast spot, Benny’s, I can’t go in there and get a free breakfast because I’m only getting that because of my name.

“That’s not to say I can’t make friends with the owner because of the person I am. I’m a good guy, a really good guy — sociable guy, made a lot of friends. I can’t accept anything free for that. They said I can’t go down the street, the example one of them gave us is you can’t go to [get] tires and negotiate your price from $600 to $500 because that’s only because of your name. But Joe Schmo can go down the street and he can negotiate his price. It’s kind of ridiculous to me.”

Butt was a victim of the cruelest twist in circumstances possible for a college athlete — a season-ending injury at the end of his final season. A senior, Butt was one of the top tight ends on the draft board before suffering a torn ACL in the Wolverines’ Orange Bowl loss to Florida State. The Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end will be drafted next month, but the damage to his bank account resulting from the injuries is significant. Being able to profit from his own name and image would have served as insurance against the loss of value he suffered due to the injury.

“I should be the example of why college athletes should be getting paid in college or why I can’t use my name to benefit off my likeness in college,” Butt said.

“Why can I see ‘I Like Jake Butt and I Cannot Lie,’ I see those shirts and I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck in college. Who knows? Heaven forbid something happens in the NFL, can I really benefit off of it when it was at the most? No, I can’t.”

Baylor strength coach apparently no longer with the program

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It seems every bit of news related to Baylor football nowadays has to do with the school’s on-going sexual assault scandal but it appears there is one bit of information coming out of the program that doesn’t have something to do with that.

A school spokesperson told ESPN on Friday that football strength coach Kaz Kazadi has been “reassigned to a role outside the athletic performance staff.” A report from the local ESPN Radio affiliate in Waco indicates that the move will eventually have the coach leaving the school altogether.

Kazadi spent nearly a decade with the Bears and played a big role in the team’s on-field turnaround under the former coaching staff. Several former players took to Twitter on Friday to express their shock over the loss of one of the cornerstones of the team in recent years.

After the hire of Matt Rhule this offseason, it isn’t too surprising to see some turnover among those staff members connected to the previous regime. Baylor’s new head coach brought most of his strength staff with him from Temple so it was probably only a matter of time before Kazadi moved on, though the timing of the quasi-announcement (the Bears started spring football last weekend) is somewhat interesting.

Either way, it appears Baylor will have a new direction in the weight room going forward.

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh has ditched his Dockers for another

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Peanut butter and jelly. Milk and cookies. Batman and Robin. Maize and blue. Jim Harbaugh and khakis.

All are iconic combinations, but it appears the latter is undergoing a few changes right now.

The Michigan head coach’s affinity for a pair of khakis has been so strong over the years that it’s become almost comical how much he likes the style of pant. Heck, he even got a commercial out of it a few years ago when he specifically started getting outfitted with Dockers brand khakis.

Despite being a paid endorser though, it appears that Harbaugh has dropped the famous Levi’s brand version of khakis to attack the day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind in another pair of pants.

Not only is the switch from Dockers to Lululemon result in a lot more comfort for the Wolverines coach, it’s probably a bit more of a hit to the ol’ wallet than dropping by Walmart for a pair of khakis off the shelf. It probably doesn’t make a huge difference for Harbaugh though given that he’s the highest paid coach in the country but it might result in a few more trips to the mall.

Either way, what it does mean is that now we demand a new commercial featuring Harbaugh and khakis. After all, if you’re upping the clothing game, you’ve got to up the ad game as well.