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Big East expansion continues to be a mess

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Big East football on Saturday was largely unbearable (again) with games like a 16-10 victory by UConn over South Florida and yet another second-half collapse by Pitt in a 26-14 loss to a very average Utah team; a 21-20 come-from-behind win by Rutgers over Navy was the league’s only redeeming game.

The Big East’s conference expansion woes have been equally, if not more, frustrating than the on-the-field performances. The conference reportedly voted Friday to extend formal invites to Boise State, Air Force, Navy and UCF in either a football-only capacity or as a full-time member, and Temple, SMU and Houston were all in consideration for the final two spots.

Since then, it’s been a complete mess.

Big East presidents have yet to vote on raising exit fees to at least $10 million, a priority that was supposed to have been taken care of Friday and was seen as a trigger for acceptance from the likes of Boise State and Navy. Both programs reportedly had reservations about joining the Big East unless exit fees were raised beyond their current $5 million.

An ESPN report later stated that Navy was very skeptical about joining the conference and that the Big East’s increased exit fees were conditioned on acceptance from Houston, SMU, Boise State and Air Force.

Navy says that’s simply not true.

We’re still in the running, there’s no question,” said Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk Saturday to the Baltimore Sun. “All the media speculation, there’s no credibility to it… We’re not skeptical about joining.”

One candidate that is on edge teetering on the outside looking in is Temple. The Owls are reportedly being blocked by Villanova and other basketball members as a member of the Big East. Temple was kicked out of the Big East after the 2004 season and was thought to be a potential addition for the league’s new 12-team expansion plans.

So, just to be clear: Villanova, a basketball-only member with no means to move up to 1-A football has, with the help of other basketball-only members with no means to to move up to 1-A football, has successfully blocked Temple. The Philadelphia Inquirer states, though, that Big East basketball members were more open to the idea of bringing in the Philly school as a football-only member.

Speaking of which, what about Boise State? Mountain West athletic director Chris Thompson confirmed on a Friday night conference call over the MWC new “alliance” with Conference USA that Boise State had been in talks with the Big East about joining the conference. Whether they will remains to be seen.

At any rate, Boise and Navy still appear to be on the Big East’s radar. Pete Thamel of the New York Times reports the Big East’s expansion plans include “Air Force, Navy and Boise State as football-only members, as well as Central Florida, Southern Methodist and Houston as full members.”

On the same Friday conference call, Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said UCF was in talks with the Big East as well, but added he was unaware of any talks among Houston, SMU and the Big East.

Invites for new members, whomever they may be, may not come until Monday, the same day as when the conference is expected (again) to vote on exit fees. Big East bylaws state no invitations can be sent until after a 72-hour period from when member presidents are informed of plans to expand and/or restructure.

This delay could be for myriad reasons, but it’s still very possible that Louisville and West Virginia, especially the latter, are holding out as long as possible for an invite from another conference. The Big 12 is currently debating as to whether they would stay at 10 members or expand again to 12. BYU, thought to be off the Big 12’s radar, still remains the biggest obstacle for either of those Big East teams hoping to gain membership into the Big 12.

The official number of Big East football teams could be decided this week. However, the possibility remains very much alive that it will not stay at that number for even the immediate future, even with heightened exit fees.

Report: NCAA finds 13 violations against Ole Miss football, nine under Hugh Freeze

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 25:  Head coach Hugh Freeze of the Mississippi Rebels reacts to a call during the game against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on October 25, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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When word first broke of NCAA violations against Ole Miss, word from the Rebels’ football program was one of caution, for it was uncertain how many were targeted against football versus women’s basketball and track and field.

It appears we now know.

On Tuesday evening, the Associated Press reported the NCAA levied 13 allegations out of a possible 28 against the Ole Miss football team, nine of which occurred under the watch of head coach Hugh Freeze. However, it appears the most serious violations were either already know or took place during the Houston Nutt regime.

Included in the allegations are Laremy Tunsil‘s improper benefits, for which the left tackle already sat seven games. Also included are accusations former Nutt assistant David Saunders participated in a scheme to produce fraudulent test scores for recruits — the same allegations currently levied against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The remaining allegations, as detailed by the AP, include run-of-the-mill violations such as having the wrong people provide transportation on recruiting visits or assistant coaches making improper contact with recruits, many of which Ole Miss has already self-reported.

Half of all FBS signees lived between Texas and North Carolina

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 29: Johnny Jefferson #5 of the Baylor Bears carries while defended by Dominquie Green #26 and Des Lawrence #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the first half of the Russell Athletic Bowl game at Orlando Citrus Bowl on December 29, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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ESPN recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton provided a massive public service through his Twitter account on Tuesday, releasing a data dump of fascinating information about the signing class of 2016.

In short, Texas was the most popular breeding ground for FBS prospects, but half of all signees came from a clean sweep from Texas, across the Gulf of Mexico to Florida and up to North Carolina.

The Lone Star State produced 359 players, with nearly half of those heading to Power 5 institutions. In fact, Hamilton reports, 72 of 128 FBS programs and 38 of 64 Power 5’s signed at least one player from Texas.

Florida trailed with 327 players, followed by California with 248 players and Georgia with 225. For what it’s worth, Ohio was not included in the study.

Data dump, begin!

AAC releases 2016 conference schedule

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The American Athletic Conference released its 2016 conference schedule highlighted by, oddly enough, non-conference games that pit league gem Houston against Oklahoma (on opening day at Houston’s NRG Stadium) and Louisville (in Houston on Nov. 19).

Those two games, more than any others, will sink or swim the conference’s chances of not only grabbing the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six, but a spot in the College Football Playoff itself.

The 2016 conference slate kicks off with Navy meeting Connecticut on Sept. 10 and concludes with the second annual AAC title game on Dec. 3 at a to-be-determined campus site.

The AAC led the way in scheduling Power 5 opponents — highlighted by a Week 3 schedule that will see the entire East Division punching up a weight class — and includes the likes of Florida State, Maryland, N.C. State, Virginia, Syracuse, Kansas, TCU and Oklahoma (for all intents and purposes) visiting AAC campuses.

View the full AAC slate here:

 

Former Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees hired as Chargers offensive assistant

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 02: Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish passes against the Navy Midshipmen at Notre Dame Stadium on November 2, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Just like we all thought when watching him play at Notre Dame, Tommy Rees will be in the NFL in 2016. Just not as a quarterback.

The San Diego Chargers announced his hiring as an obnoxiously vague offensive assistant, assisting with the club’s offense in some form that they aren’t inclined to elaborate on.

After completing a career in which he threw for 7,670 yards with 61 touchdowns against 37 interceptions from 2010-13, Rees was cut by the Washington Redskins in 2014, then spent the 2014-15 seasons as a graduate assistant at Northwestern.