Report: Big 12 has West Virginia lined up to replace Mizzou


The Big 12 has yet to officially lose Mizzouri to the SEC, but the conference has already reportedly lined up a replacement should the expected move happen.

Take it with whatever size grain of salt you deem necessary, but the New York Post is reporting that the Big 12’s plans for expansion/holding steady entail keeping Missouri for the 2012 season and then adding West Virginia the following year.  How the Big 12 plans to bypass the Big East 27-month requirement for schools leaving the conference is unknown; earlier this month, commissioner John Marinatto made it clear that the Big East will hold Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which have announced their plans to leave for the ACC, to the timeline contained in the league’s bylaws.

It’s assumed the Mountaineers, if the report is accurate and they decide to move on from the Big East, would be held to the same 27-month wait, which would mean the 2015-2016 school year before an exit could occur.  Of course, money always talks in these types of situations, so all three schools will likely end up paying significant financial penalties in order to get out earlier.

As noted by an unnamed source to the Post, WVU’s departure would be a crippling blow to a conference that’s already lost three members — TCU reneged on a commitment to the Big East in favor of a Big 12 invite — in less than two months, leaving the beleaguered league with just six football-playing members.

“Of all the schools the league has lost, from a football standpoint losing West Virginia would be the most damaging,” a source told The Post. “Despite what anyone says, that’s the program the league has hung its hat on.”

It has previously been reported that the Big East will invite Boise State, Air Force and Navy as football-playing members and UCF, SMU and Houston as members in all sports.  It’s unclear how the uncertainty over the Mountaineers’ longterm viability in the Big East would affect those schools’ mindset in signing on to such an unstable environment, especially Boise State, whose concerns about the conference about the conference losing its automatic qualifier status in the BcS have been duly noted.

If Boise State decides to remain in the Mountain West… if West Virginia leaves… if the Big 12 decides to expand to 16 members and adds Louisville and Cincinnati as the Post reports is a possibility in such a scenario, the Big East as a football conference, let alone as an automatic qualifying conference, will cease to exist.

Of course, this is all predicated on Missouri and if/when they decide to make a decision on their future conference affiliation.  Based on how that school’s chancellor parsed his words Monday, it now appears to be only a matter of when not if they announce a move to the SEC.

“[The Big 12 is] making some of the right moves, now, that are necessary for the Big 12 to do, and I wish them the best and all of that. So we’ll see where that goes,” Brady Deaton said following a meeting of the Big 12 Board of Directors Monday night.

UPDATED 12:39 p.m. ET: Both the New York Times and CBS are confirming the Post‘s report, that West Virginia is the Big 12’s target should Mizzou do the expected and leave.  The former writes that WVU has “applied and are accepted” into the Big 12; the latter reports that an official invitation will be extended to WVU within 24-48 hours after Mizzou notifies the conference of its intent to withdraw.

As for when Mizzou will spit or get off the expansion pot, Deaton said today that a public decision will be forthcoming in “days or possibly a week or two“, although again his words point to the SEC being in his school’s future.

“We’ve reached firmness in where we are headed,” Deaton said, “where we want to analyze and focus our attention.”

North Carolina formally announces hiring of ex-Tennessee RBs coach Robert Gillespie

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The latest addition to Larry Fedora‘s North Carolina coaching staff has been confirmed.

Following up on reports that surfaced earlier this month. UNC announced Wednesday that Fedora has hired Robert Gillespie. While not confirmed by the football program in the release, it’s expected Gillespie will serve as the Tar Heels running backs coach, a position he’s held for most of his coaching career.

“We are excited to welcome Robert and his family to Chapel Hill,” Fedora said in a statement. “He has a well-earned reputation as a great offensive coach and recruiter, and he has a wealth of experience working with running backs at a very high level. We are happy to have him join our staff as we get into the bulk of spring practice.”

Gillespie fills the hole created by the departure of Gunter Brewer, who left as the Tar Heels’ wide receivers coach for a job with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this month. It’s expected that Luke Paschall, currently the running backs coach, will assume Brewer’s role with receivers.

Gillespie, a former Florida running back, spent the past five seasons as the running backs coach at Tennessee. He was originally retained by new UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt before parting ways with the football program shortly after National Signing Day.

In addition to UT, Gillespie has spent time on coaching staffs at South Carolina (2006-08), Oklahoma State (2009-10) and West Virginia (2011-12). He was the running backs coach at each of those stops.

Report: Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa’s thumb injury ‘just a sprain’

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It appears Alabama can breathe a sigh of relief on the injury front.

Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his LEFT (throwing) hand.  It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.

While there’s been nothing official yet from the football program or head coach,, citing unnamed sources, writes that the injury “is believed to just be a sprain and he should be able to return to practice in at least a limited capacity at some point soon.”

Until then, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.

The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are engaged in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp.  That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.

John Calipari takes page out of Nick Saban’s playbook by warning of (rat) poison

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One’s a dot, two’s a line and three’s a trend as the old adage go and it appears rat poison for college players is now a burgeoning trend.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday ahead of Kentucky’s NCAA tournament game against Kansas State, Wildcats coach John Calipari took a page straight out of Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin’s playbook by warning his team of drinking the media “poison” the past few days.

“My challenge is making sure these kids don’t drink that poison. That poison being we have an easy road. There are no easy roads in this tournament,” said Calipari. “If they drink that poison, we’ll be done Thursday. If they don’t drink the poison, it’ll be a dog fight Thursday — let’s see what happens. Sometimes you wonder why they’re (the media) trying to paint that picture with my team — probably because they’re young and they know they don’t know better.”

Ok then.

At least the term Calipari is using isn’t out of thin air given that Saban infamously ranted on his team buying into the media’s discussion of being a good team as “rat poison” last season. For the record though, the rant by the basketball coach was prompted by a question that didn’t at all involve Kentucky having an easy path to the Final Four but was rather about team and individual goals.

It’s not often you think of Saban as a trendsetter but it seems he was certainly ahead of the curve when it came to labeling media talk as poison.

Harbaugh hits primetime again as Michigan announces spring game under the lights

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Jim Harbaugh is already getting a series on Amazon Prime but now the Michigan head coach is also getting the primetime treatment.

The Wolverines announced on Tuesday that the annual spring game would take place under the lights at Michigan Stadium this year and would be televised live in primetime on the Big Ten Network.

Gates will open to the game two hours prior to kickoff and the maize and blue faithful may try to do their best to get to Ann Arbor early because the school is going to screen an episode of the Amazon series  “All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines” prior to the game. This will be the second time in three years that the school will go under the lights to play their spring game at night but obviously the first time there’s a documentary series that will be screened prior to the Wolverines taking the field.

The game may be worth tuning in for to see Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson in action with his new team after arriving in the offseason. The NCAA still has not ruled on whether he will be immediately eligible in 2018 but he is expected to go through spring drills with the team either way, starting this week when practices begin on Friday.