Mizzou board grants Deaton autonomy in deciding conference future

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Inevitable and imminent indeed.  Probably.

Following a path blazed by Texas A&M in September, and after what some perceived as the institution dragging its feet on a decision, Missouri is on the verge of joining their conference brethren in leaving the Big 12 for the SEC.

A couple of month’s worth of speculation continued to trudge toward a conclusion Friday as Mizzou’s Board of Curators gave president Brady Deaton sole power to determine the school’s future conference affiliation, which is academia code for “send an application to the SEC”.  The latest announcement comes after two days of curator meetings and one back-door exit.

The decision was unanimous among the board members to empower Deaton to make a unilateral decision — pending legal approval by the school’s attorneys — on whether to move to another conference or remain in the Big 12.  In other words, if Deaton decides to move to another conference, which is expected, he would not have to go back to the board for approval.  This move comes exactly 17 days after the curators gave their president limited power to look into moving into another conference.

In addition to the board giving Deaton autonomy on deciding the school’s future conference, the curators passed another resolution that involved keeping an MU sports presence in Kansas City, specifically future football games — i.e. continuing the Kansas rivalry — as well as hosting an invitational basketball tournament.  It’s believed boosters of the school are concerned about those issues if Mizzou were to leave the Big 12, particularly as it involves the Big 12’s hoops tourney.

Once Deaton officially decides on the school’s conference course he will chart, the next two step for Mizzou would be to inform the Big 12 of its decision to withdraw from the conference and officially apply for membership to another conference, which, barring an unexpected development, will be the SEC.  It’s highly unlikely Mizzou would have taken this latest step, or any of the other steps they’ve taken since last month for that matter, unless they had received back-channel assurances from the SEC that they have enough votes for membership approval.  SEC bylaws state that nine of the current 12 members — the Aggies will not have a vote as they won’t officially become a member until July 1, 2012 — must vote in the affirmative for a new school to officially enter the conference.

Perhaps the biggest unknown is when exactly Mizzou would join the SEC, if that’s indeed the culmination of this process.  Schedule-wise, the SEC would like nothing more than to add Mizzou for the 2012 season, giving the conference 14 members and a balanced slate of football games.  During the press conference this afternoon, Deaton indicated that any actions he takes would result in Mizzou playing in that conference in 2012.

Another unknown?  The division in which the Tigers would reside.  Some assume that would be the West — with Auburn moving to the East — although at least one current member favors sending Mizzou to the East.

As for the Big 12, it’s operating under the assumption that Mizzou will be in the conference in 2012 regardless of their future SEC intentions and that the league will have 10 members next year.  Irrespective of Mizzou’s timeline for a departure — again, we’re operating under the assumption that there will be a departure — the Big 12 will look to add a replacement for MU.  Or, as the case may be, replacements if the conference decides to get back to 12 members.

It appears that a school from the Big East would be the Big 12’s top target for a new 10th member, with some reports suggesting West Virginia is that school while most others point to Louisville as the likely candidate.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, C Zach Shackelford in concussion protocol

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Texas has lost two straight upset bids in strikingly similar fashion: true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger leads a potential-game winning drive, scrambles, hits his head on the turf and ends the possession in a puzzling throw.

The first came in last week’s loss to No. 10 Oklahoma. Trailing 29-24 late in the fourth quarter, scrambled for two yards to the Texas-48 yard line but hit his head on the Cotton Bowl turf and was forced to leave the game for five plays. Shane Buechele pushed the Longhorns to the Oklahoma 31, but he was replaced after a sack and Ehlinger ended up throwing the ball away on 4th-and-13 from the OU 34 with two minutes to play. That, as they say, was that.

Fast forward to Saturday and Texas was trailing No. 11 Oklahoma State 13-10 in overtime when Ehlinger opened the possession with a scramble that again saw the back of his head bang against the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium turf. He stayed in the game this time, but ended the game on a puzzling (to say the least) interception to absolutely no one on 3rd-and-4 from the OSU 6.

While Ehlinger was not evaluated for a concussion during the game, he did not practice Sunday and head coach Tom Herman said Monday that Ehlinger and center Zach Shackelford are in concussion protocol.

Complicating matters for Texas is that sophomore back-up Shane Buechele is playing on a gimpy ankle that kept him out against San Jose State and Kansas State that Herman said will not improve as the season goes on.

No matter, Texas will face a hungry Baylor team on Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU) that nearly completed a comeback against No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday night.

Tennessee OG Jack Jones retires due to neck injury

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The playing career of Tennessee offensive guard Jack Jones has come to an unfortunate end. On Monday, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones announced Jones was stepping away from football as injury concerns with his neck continue to interfere with playing.

Jones played in the season opener against Georgia Tech in Atlanta but has essentially been out of action for the entire season after that. After consulting with doctors, Jones came to the decision to step away from football as it became clear playing football would only put his long-term health in jeopardy.

The loss of Jones leaves Tennessee’s offensive line depth thin down the stretch. It could be quite a bumpy finish to what has already been a turbulent season in Knoxville.

Urban Meyer may have successfully talked his way out of a night trap at Iowa

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Sitting from his office in Columbus, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has been able to see just how dangerous a night game at Iowa can be. Last season, Iowa upset Michigan with the first loss suffered by the Wolverines setting off a wild finale to the Big Ten season. Earlier this season, a night game at Iowa nearly caught Penn State before the Nittany Lions managed to get out of Kinnick Stadium with a last-second victory. Knowing the history of Kinnick Stadium at night, Meyer may have managed to successfully lobby himself from having to play a night game at Iowa.

Big Ten kickoff times for Week 10 have started to come together on Monday, with Minnesota announcing it will host Michigan in primetime on FOX. The decision to have the Gophers and Wolverines in primetime was a tad puzzling considering two of the other game son the Big Ten schedule that day. Penn State is playing at Michigan State and Ohio State is playing — you guessed it — at Iowa.

The Buckeyes will be playing at either noon or 3:30 p.m. eastern on November 4, with the Nittany Lions and Spartans likely to be slotted in the other timeslot. The speculation is the 3:30 p.m. ET slot will be reserved for the winner of this week’s Ohio State-Penn State matchup, as the game will likely begin to take more weight in the College Football Playoff picture on top of the Big Ten championship hunt.

Meyer addressed concerns about playing so many road games at night this season, and perhaps the conference is responding to his concerns. Ohio State has already played four primetime games, including three on the road (Indiana, Rutgers, Nebraska). If not for the World Series coverage this weekend, odds are good the home game against Penn State would have been a lock for primetime as well. Ohio State also played a primetime game earlier this year against Oklahoma. But Meyer’s chief concern was playing so many night games on the road, as it becomes quite tiresome for players.

Was Meyer looking forward all along to prevent Ohio State from having to play a night game at Iowa? Regardless of the motive, the Buckeyes will not have to test the fates under the lights at Kinnick Stadium in two weeks.

Michigan’s Lavert Hill apologizes for one-finger salute to Penn State crowd

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Over the weekend, Tennessee’s Rashaan Gaulden flipped a double-bird to fans at Alabama after the Vols scored a touchdown. It has quickly become one of the top images from the weekend, and Gauldin has apologized for his obscene gesture to the Alabama faithful. On Monday, another player on the road who decided to flip off the home fans has now apologized for his actions.

Michigan’s Lavert Hill was seen offering a one-finger salute to fans at Penn State after Michigan had suffered a 42-13 loss at Beaver Stadium. The image of Hill gesturing to the fans made the rounds, and now Hill has offered his own apology in a brief statement.

“I sincerely regret my inappropriate gesture at the end of Saturday’s football game. I let my emotions get the best of me and learned a valuable lesson,” Hill said in his statement. “I am truly sorry for this offensive gesture and vow that it will not happen again.”

Hill had committed to Penn State during the recruiting process before flipping to stay in state with the Wolverines. It was a rough night for former Penn State commits playing in a Michigan uniform on Saturday. Kicker Quinn Nordin, who committed to Penn State with an airplane music video but flipped to Michigan after Jim Harbaugh slept over has been rock solid with his kicking this season, but he missed his first kick Saturday night for an extra point.