Big 12 introduces WVU, says no future expansion on horizon

28 Comments

Representatives from the Big 12 and West Virginia held a teleconference this afternoon welcoming WVU as the 10th member of the league, and to answer questions about the decision-making process.

It’s been a hellacious week for WVU, who appeared to be on their way to the Big 12 as early as Wednesday. But reports that Louisville was making a late surge to overtake the Mountaineers caused the decision to be delayed until today. If you felt a breeze at all, it was probably the collective sigh of relief coming from the state of West Virginia, which wanted nothing more than to leave the sinking life boat that is the Big East conference.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous,” WVU AD Oliver Luck admitted.

Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas hardly made mention of Louisville this evening or indicated that there was political pressure from senator Mitch McConnell, a Louisville graduate, about the Cardinals becoming the Big 12’s 10th member. On the contrary, Neinas said the “mystery” surrounding Missouri and the possibility of an 11-game schedule caused the 72-hour hold-up.

“We were moving forward, and we came across the fact that if we were to add a new member, and if Missouri remained or delayed their departure, we would ahve to look at an 11 member conference,” Neinas explained. “As a result, the [expansion] Executive Committee shared that info with the Board of Directors.

“The athletic directors and the Board of Directors agreed to move forward with 10 members… Expansion is not on the horizon.”

Speaking of the Tigers, Neinas wouldn’t comment on Missouri’s status.

And what about the rumor that getting to Morgantown was a central problem for Big 12 teams? “Blown out of proportion,” answered Neinas.

Wherever WVU will be departing from — Neinas mentioned the airport in Bridgeport, a half hour away from Morgantown — they hope to be doing so in 2012. In fact, Luck mentioned twice that WVU looked forward to being a member of the Big 12 “beginning July 1, 2012.” That date would be contrary to the one mentioned in a press release by the Big East, which has maintained they will hold WVU to the same 27-month waiting period as Pitt and Syracuse, who are leaving for the ACC.

When asked about getting out of that waiting period, Luck said “Our team and their are in discussions about how to work that out.”

As far as finances are concerned, WVU confirmed they sent $2.5 million in a wire transfer to the Big East today as part of the $5 million buyout. They will send the rest upon leaving. One of the reasons WVU wanted to leave the Big East as soon as possible was to avoid paying any more in exit fees. Big East presidents agreed to raising exit fees to $10 million, but the amount hasn’t been enforced yet. What amounts WVU will have to pay for leaving before the 27-month waiting period — if they can get out before then — remains unclear.

When WVU does get into the Big 12, they’ll be a part of a revenue distribution model similar to TCU’s, despite previous reports to the contrary. The Big 12 needs to stay at 10 members in order to fulfill their obligation with the Big 12 Network and to stay viable with their TV partners, so getting WVU to the Big 12 ASAP is a priority.

“Our TV partners and bowl partners are elated about the addition of West Virginia,” Neinas said. “West Virginia’s going to be on any [conference’s] list.”

But, for a while, it looked like WVU might get left out in the conference realignment cold. The ACC showed no interest in WVU (they never have and never will), and West Virginia simply doesn’t have the TV market the SEC desires. It wasn’t until Pitt and Syracuse left for the ACC in September that WVU said they began evaluating their options.

“Clearly when Pitt and Syracuse chose to leave, all the remaining Big East schools had to take a step back and think about what was best for each individual school,” WVU president James Clements said.

Up until this week, WVU had remained one of the quietest programs in college football on the realignment front, and you can bet that was a premeditated approach. For having no natural TV market or recruiting grounds, and without being considered a top-notch academic institution, a ton of credit needs to be given to Luck and Clements for selling the Big 12 on the brand of WVU athletics.

Say what you will about the Stewart/Holgorsen debacle, or the beer sales at Mountaineer Field (for what it’s worth, the Big 12 doesn’t have a beer sales policy), but Luck put WVU in the best position to get out of the Big East without a plethora of selling points. The benefit of WVU is that it’s a good, self-sustaining athletic department with a value in viewership.

And the Big 12 took notice.

“We started looking at West Virginia when we thought we might lose a member,” Neinas said about the eventual departure of Texas A&M.

Jimbo Fisher vows to change culture at Texas A&M

Getty Images
8 Comments

If there was one thing that really seemed to put Kevin Sumlin on the hot seat during his time at Texas A&M, it was the Aggies seemingly annual collapse in the second half of the season and inability to finish games they had the potential to win. That explains some of the reason why the school ponied up to lure Jimbo Fisher from Florida State in a $75 million hire late last year.

While most of the outside focus on Fisher’s move to College Station has been centered on that humongous contract, there’s little question that hiring a national title-winning coach was a coup for the team. That subject was brought up again on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show Friday evening and ESPN college football analyst Booger McFarland relayed a rather interesting conversation he had with the coach earlier this year in which Fisher said something you typically don’t hear made public. You can head to the 8:18 mark (or there abouts) for the interview.

“I talked to Jimbo in Atlanta. I told Jimbo point-blank — the same thing I told you guys about Texas A&M the last several years — A&M is a soft program,” McFarland said. “Jimbo looked me in the eye and was like, ‘You know what, you’re damn right. We are soft, but I’m going to change that.’”

Something says that Fisher and the Aggies strength coaches are going to use the comments as a bit of a challenge in the weight room and during spring practice over the coming months as they lay the groundwork for the 2018 season. Even the most ardent maroon and white supporters would probably agree with the sentiment that the team went a little soft toward the end of Sumlin’s tenure but it’s not everyday you see a coach call out his new program quite like that.

Maybe it’s something in the water down there in College Station though, judging by some other comments by the school’s athletic director, but one thing is for certain — things are going to be very different at Texas A&M going forward.

Scott Frost wants Nebraska football roster to grow to 150 players or more in 2018

Getty Images
2 Comments

In the days before you were limited to 85 scholarship players, it was not totally uncommon to see teams stock their rosters full of players and wind up in the triple-digits with close to 200 players on a team. Even after the NCAA mandated a limit of 85 scholarships, roster sizes were still not that much smaller when you factored in walk-ons and others on a squad.

It appears Scott Frost wants to get back to those sort of days in Lincoln and is apparently pushing the school to help him expand the Cornhuskers roster right into the 150 range.

“I’d like to accommodate (Frost’s) desire” to expand the roster, athletic director Bill Moos said this week in an interview with Rivals’ HuskerOnline. “But we do have that issue with Title IX” along with locker room facilities challenges, organized practice schedules, and other daily management nuts and bolts to sort through.

“Nebraska has been known for having a lot of players on the team…a lot of walk-ons. I’d like to get back to that,” Frost had said on Signing Day earlier in the month. “The best thing Coach (Tom) Osborne did was have everybody practice… and part of that is what led to the development of players and helped walk-ons and young players get better faster and get on the field and help the team. I think that’s an asset that Nebraska can have if we’re willing to expand the roster.”

HuskerOnline details some of the compliance and budgetary challenges that going to 150 would entail but it certainly sounds like the school is making the effort to beef the numbers up. The Cornhuskers are well known in college football history for their walk-on program and roughly 10-15 walk-ons per class would apparently help them land right around Frost’s ideal roster size after factoring in the 85 full-scholarship players he would recruit.

Interestingly, going to 150 would allow the program to pass Michigan for the Big Ten’s biggest roster. The Wolverines under Jim Harbaugh are reportedly sitting at around 135 players after the 2017 season while most of the other conference’s schools are mostly around the 120 mark with a few exceptions. Title IX is not surprisingly the biggest obstacle for teams but it seems like some can manage things with no issue.

Frost was hired this offseason to help take Nebraska back to their perch atop college football and it seems like he is certainly attempting to do that in more ways than one when it comes to Big Red.

Purdue hires Utah State’s Mark Tommerdahl as special teams and tight ends coach

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jeff Brohm is bringing in longtime coaching veteran Mark Tommerdahl to fill out his staff and serve as Purdue’s special teams and tight ends coach.

The Boilermakers announced the move on Saturday afternoon as Tommerdahl heads to West Lafayette after spending just a season at Utah State where he also coached running backs and ran the Aggies’ special teams. While his stay in Logan was brief, Tommerdahl has been all over the country in 34 years as a coach and is highly regarded for his work in the kicking game.

Tommerdahl has plenty of prior Power Five coaching experience and spent four seasons with Sonny Dykes at Cal where he coached three different position groups and served as assistant head coach. Prior to that he also had stops at Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M, Alabama, TCU and several other schools.

The move to bring in Tommerdahl fills the spot on the Boilermakers’ staff that was left when former Houston coach Tony Levine left after one season with the school to pursue opportunities outside of the coaching profession. Brohm’s 10th assistant Kevin Wolthausen was also given special teams responsibilities when he was elevated to a full-time role so it’s possible the team is really beefing up their emphasis on the third phases of the game with the two new coaches splitting duties when it comes to special teams.

Either way, after a surprising 2017 season that ended with a bowl game victory it’s pretty clear that Brohm is not just sitting back when it comes to his coaching staff and is bringing in some veteran names to help the team take the next step in 2018.

Iowa State OC Tom Manning reportedly leaving Ames for Indianapolis Colts staff

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After one of the most successful seasons in recent memory at Iowa State, it appears head coach Matt Campbell will not be able to keep the band together for another run.

Campbell confirmed to The Des Moines Register on Saturday morning that offensive coordinator Tom Manning was leaving Ames and will be taking a job in the NFL. The paper later was able to confirm that the team in question will be the Indianapolis Colts for a spot on Frank Reich’s new staff. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg says Manning will be the team’s tight ends coach.

“I’m really happy and proud of him,” Campbell told the Register.

Manning has been with Campbell for years and the two actually played (and coached) together at famed D-III power Mount Union in the early 2000’s. Both were on the same staff at Toledo and Manning served as offensive line coach both there and at Iowa State. As offensive coordinator in 2017 he guided the Cyclones to a bit of an offensive renaissance despite relying on backup quarterback Kyle Kempt for most of the season, helping the team produce the third most points per game in school history while ranking in the top five in both total yards and passing.

ISU memorably upset Oklahoma in Norman and capped off an eight-win campaign in the Liberty Bowl with a victory over a ranked Memphis team.

The move leaves two openings on Campbell’s staff for 2018 but the Register notes that graduate assistant Jeff Myers is a possibility for the offensive line job and special teams analyst Joe Houston could be the team’s potential 10th assistant coach.