Big 12 introduces WVU, says no future expansion on horizon

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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.

Ken Sparks, fifth-winningest coach at any level in college football history, dies at age 73

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College football has lost a coaching legend of the sport that you may never have heard of.

Carson-Newman announced Wednesday morning that its legendary former head football coach, Ken Sparks, passed away earlier in the day at the age of 73.  Sparks had been battling prostate cancer since being diagnosed in 2012, but doctors stopped treating him in January of this year.

According to WBIR-TV, Sparks had been in hospice care for the last several weeks.

Sparks was the head coach at Carson-Newman from 1980 through November of 2016, when he stepped down because of health concerns. During his time at the Div. II program — the first baker’s dozen years they were an NAIA school — the Eagles went 338-99-2. Sparks laid claim to five NAIA national championships and qualified for the Div. II playoffs 15 times in 24 years, although they failed to win a title at that latter level.

The 338 wins for Sparks are the fifth-most at any level of college football, behind only John Gagliardi (489), Joe Paterno (409), Eddie Robinson (408) and Bobby Bowden (377).

Alabama won’t be rushing Bo Scarbrough back this spring

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Not surprisingly, Alabama is going to err on the side of caution when it comes to one the most productive horses in its backfield stable.

On a second-down carry late in the third quarter of the national championship game loss to Clemson, Bo Scarbrough went down with an injury that turned out to be a fractured bone in his lower right leg.  The rising sophomore running back has recovered enough to be a participant in the Crimson Tide’s spring practice during some drills, albeit in non-contact mode.

Following the fourth practice of the spring Tuesday, Nick Saban made it clear made it clear that, while Scarbrough is getting some work in, the football program won’t be pushing him.

“Bo is doing more and more every day,” the head coach said according to al.com. “He did quite a bit today in practice, non-contact stuff, but he’s sort of gaining confidence. Our goal for Bo is by the end of spring, he’s fully confident that he can do everything he needs to do. Whether he ever scrimmages or is really something that we’re not that concerned about.”

It’s expected Scarbrough, barring a setback between now and then, will be fully recovered well ahead of the start of summer camp in early August.

Scarbrough’s 812 yards rushing year was second amongst Tide backs, while his 11 rushing touchdowns were second on the team.  He ran for 180 of those yards and two of the touchdowns in the College Football Playoff semifinal win over Washington, then had 93 yards and two more touchdowns before going down with the injury in the title game.

Western Kentucky hoops star to give Hilltoppers football a try

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Coming off a season in which he was the best player on Western Kentucky’s men’s basketball team, Justin Johnson is going to try his hand at another sport.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Johnson will practice with the Hilltoppers football team for the remainder of spring practice. The 6-7 forward will, not surprisingly, spend his time at tight end.

At the end of practices this spring, a WKU official told CFT, both sides will determine what if any future Johnson has in the sport.

Johnson admitted in one interview earlier this basketball season that he grew up wanting to play linebacker for Ohio State, and he did play two years of football at his Kentucky high school. Despite the fact that both Kentucky and Louisville had interest in him as a tight end, he ended up signing with WKU’s hoops team in 2014.

That decision has worked out well for both parties as Johnson has led the team in scoring and rebounding each of the past two seasons. He led Conference USA in the latter category as well as double-doubles, and was named second-team all-conference after his junior season.

Victim of alleged WKU football attack plans to file charges

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A former Western Kentucky fraternity member says he was attacked by a group of Hilltoppers football players and plans to file charges.

Jerald Armfield, an alum of WKU’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, told WBKO-TV he was caught in an ongoing feud between the fraternity and the football team:

“I went to the house in the best interest of the fraternity and Western as a whole to prevent any type of violence from occurring. We got up there and realized they were all hiding behind garbage cans, trees, and buildings.”

“I never in my wildest dreams thought they would attack me in the manner that they did. They all started surrounding me. One of them threw a rock at me. It was within a few seconds that one of them punched me in the face.”

“I fell down. I was kicked several times. The whole time they were beating me, I was begging them to stop, telling them I wasn’t here the night before, I had nothing to to do with it, like please stop, please stop, and they didn’t.”

Armfield said between nine and 10 people ultimately attacked him; it isn’t known for sure how many of that group are on the football team, though the program’s involvement in the incident is being investigated.

“We are aware of the allegations involving a few members of our football team,” the program said in the statement when word of the altercation broke three weeks ago. “We are cooperating fully with the authorities. However, at this time, we have not received a police report and cannot provide further comment.”

While the status of the investigation is currently unknown, Armfield told WBKO he would like it to end with multiple charges. “I made it very clear that night when the police arrived on the scene that I wanted charges pressed,” he said. “As far as I know a detective from Bowling Green Police Department has it. As it stands right now, I still want charges pressed. They need to be held accountable for what they did not only as citizens but as students at Western.”