Boren praises Neinas for keeping the Big 12 together

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It’s like Oklahoma and Kansas got together with the eight other Big 12 institutions and decided to spin the loss of the conference’s fourth member in just over a year (Missouri) into an addition by subtraction cliche or something.

At a Barry Switzer statue dedication on Saturday, interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas was introduced by Oklahoma president David Boren with the following laud that would only be fit for Michael Scott from “The Office”:

“I want to tell you the Big 12 today is here, it is stronger, it is stable. There is no doubt the Big 12 is going to be here next year and the year after and for many, many years to come. Because the heartland of this country deserves a great football conference, and the heartland is going to be a great football conference.

“A lot of people played a role in turning this thing around and reestablishing trust and reestablishing harmony and reestablishing stability. I simply want to tell you, and I’ll tell you one story in particular…

“There were several reforms we wanted to put in place in terms of grant of rights, handcuffs, to keep members of the conference together. Long-term commitment. Sharing of revenue. Not letting anyone that shall not be named today use their own network to play high school highlights of possible recruits.

“I may not know much. I know those athletic experts always smile when I speak at these events. But I do know how to count votes. And I will tell you when it came time to count the votes about those high school highlights, it was 9-0 with one abstention. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to which one abstained.

“But this man brought us together. One of the most unusual things that’s ever happened, these basic reforms that we’ve been working on for 10 years to stabilize the conference… In two weeks he came and joined us as our commissioner, and in two weeks he hammered out an agreement that resulted in a joint motion, a joint motion, of the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma, to enact all of these reforms to provide long-term stability for our conference.

I’ll preface the following display of cynicism with this: of course Boren and every other Big 12 official is going to paint the current foundation as structurally sound. That’s their job — to be Chip Diller of “Animal House” and exclaim that all is well.

But enough with the TV and movie references.

While some may continue to scoff at Missouri’s departure to the SEC as nothing more than a geographical gerrymandering for TV markets, the fact is that Mizzou left the Big 12 for a reason.  “When people start talking about limits, that doesn’t indicate something that’s really strong,” Mizzou athletic director Mike Alden said about the Big 12’s six-year grant of rights for equal revenue distribution.

But in today’s college football landscape? Maybe six years is the new definition of long-term. Coaches come and go from jobs at alarming rates; heck, TCU switched conferences twice without ever having played a game in one. I’m not sure the possibility doesn’t exist of Mizzou leaving the SEC for the Big Ten if that phone call ever came.

“Long-term” is now a saturated phrase with interpretive meaning. It could indicate six years and not a moment more for Texas and Oklahoma, who despite what the Sooners say, were ready to leave their conference on the side of the highway (again) as they headed west.

Think about it: West Virginia is willing to sue the Big East to get into a conference next year that apparently (at least it was felt on WVU’s end) was all good to include them, then spent the couple of days tapping the brakes, before officially extending the invite.

As my father told me once in his advice about relationships: “If it’s not yes, it’s no.”

Boren can spin this how he wants, although his remarks and shots at Texas don’t induce a ton of confidence, but the questions that remain about the long-term security of the Big 12 don’t give us a solid “yes.”

SEC leads NFL Draft for 11th straight year as Alabama and Michigan set school records

Brandon Wade/AP Images for NFLPA
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The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again it is the SEC claiming another NFL Draft national championship. A grand total of 53 players from the SEC were drafted by NFL teams. It is the 11th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted by NFL teams.

The ACC ended the draft with 42 players drafted, followed by the Pac-12 (36) and Big Ten (35). The Big 12 ended the draft with just 14 players drafted.

Helping to contribute to the SEC’s NFL Draft total was Alabama setting a school record with 10 players drafted.

Alabama’s nine players drafted in the first 80 picks was also a new Alabama record.

Michigan ended up having more players drafted than any other Big Ten team, slipping past Ohio State by the time the draft closed up shop this year. For the Wolverines, 11 players ended up being drafted. The previous school record for draft picks was 10, set in 1972 and tied in 1974. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will get plenty of the praise for developing that many players getting a chance to be drafted, but Brady Hoke should be recognized for recruiting those players as well (and blamed for not developing the talent he brought in).

 

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo
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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

Rawleigh Williams carted off at Arkansas scrimmage

AP Photo/Chris Brashers
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Any time a player that has previously undergone neck surgery goes down on the field and needs to be carted off is quite the scary moment. On Saturday, the Arkansas football program had that exact scare when Rawleigh Williams went down on the field in pain and ended up having to be carted off the practice field during the Arkansas scrimmage.

Williams was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the facility on a cart to receive medical attention. His legs and arms were moving on the ground, a slight sigh of relief given the hit and his injury history. In 2015, Williams was carted off and had to undergo surgery on his neck. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the injury concern on Saturday was apparently not related to the previous neck injury, which was expected to have a full recovery.

It is an unfortunate ending to the spring for Williams, because all indications seemed to be he was certainly improving running the football. Bielema said earlier in the week Williams was running with more patience, which is always a key for a running back.

Arkansas moved its final scrimmage of the spring indoors due to bad weather rolling through the area.

Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.