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Big 12 introduces WVU, says no future expansion on horizon


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.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press
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Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.