Update: A&M confirms Sumlin hiring

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UPDATED 6:01 p.m. ET: In a press release, Texas A&M has confirmed the hiring of Kevin Sumlin as its next head coach.

“It is with great pride that we announce Kevin Sumlin has accepted an offer to become the next head football coach at Texas A&M University,” A&M athletic director Bill Byrne said in a statement. “We began this search process a little over a week ago and spoke to many worthy and qualified candidates, but my decision, which was made in consultation with (Texas A&M) President (R. Bowen) Loftin, kept leading me to Kevin. We met this morning to finalize the offer. I believe he is the right person to lead our football program into the Southeastern Conference. First of all, Kevin is a terrific person. He is also one heck of a recruiter and he will put together a great staff.”

In his statement, Sumlin thanked the Aggies for the opportunity while also expressing how difficult it was to leave a university that gave him his first opportunity as a head coach.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to serve as the head football coach at Texas A&M University,” Sumlin said. “Having coached there before, I understand the culture and embrace the commitment by the 12th Man regarding Aggie football. Aggieland is a special place and I look forward to working with the young men in the football program and recruiting the type of players we need to be successful in the SEC.”

“With that being said. I can’t thank the University of Houston enough for giving me a chance to become a head football coach. It is tough to leave a group of players who have worked so hard and have done things the right way in taking Cougar football to greater heights.”

A press conference will be held Monday at noon ET to officially introduce Sumlin.

In this latest spinning of the coaching carousel, Sumlin becomes the fourth head coach to leave a school that’s in a non-automatic qualifying conference in the BcS for a job as the head coach at an AQ school.

UPDATED 5:08 p.m. ET: At a press conference addressing the coaching situation for his football program Saturday evening, Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades confirmed that Kevin Sumlin has accepted the head-coaching position at Texas A&M. He also introduced Tony Levine as the Cougars’ interim head coach.

Rhoades stated that he spoke to A&M athletic director Bill Byrne shortly before the start of the press conference, and that an announcement from the Aggies on Sumlin’s hiring is imminent.

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Considered the front-runner even before Mike Sherman was officially fired earlier this month, Houston’s Kevin Sumlin is apparently set to be named the new head coach at Texas A&M according to reports streaming in from College Station and surrounding areas.

AggieSports.com reports that the school has made a decision on its new head football coach, with the most likely candidate being Sumlin, although A&M is not ready to announce the hiring.  The San Antonio Express-News takes it a step further, writing that “Sumlin is the Aggies’ choice for the gig” and “a press conference announcing Sumlin’s hire could be as early as today.”

The latter paper goes on to note that “A&M made a late run at Georgia coach Mark Richt, who mulled the offer Friday and turned it down Friday night.”  UGA athletic director Greg McGarity had subsequently declared there “was no truth whatsoever” to reports linking Richt to the A&M job.

On Friday, Sumlin refused to directly address the speculation connecting him to the Aggies’ opening.

Be that as it may, A&M appears to have finally pulled the trigger on the man who has been at or near the top of its coaching to-do list since Sherman’s Dec. 1 firing.  Sumlin has spent the past four years as the Cougars head coach, but will be charged with leading the Aggies as the school makes its way from the Big 12 into the SEC next year.

Sumlin, who had also reportedly drawn interest from Arizona State, Illinois and UCLA, has compiled a 35-17 mark with the Cougars, including a pair of 10-win seasons and three bowl berths.  UH got off to a 12-0 start this year, but a loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA championship game cost the Cougars a shot at not only a perfect season but a BcS bowl berth as well.

In addition to Sumlin, it’s believed A&M interviewed Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, Southern Mississippi’s Larry Fedora — who subsequently took the job at North Carolina — and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart earlier this week in New York City.

UPDATED 12:21 p.m. ET: Richt released a statement late Saturday morning denying any contact any other school.

“I’ve said many times Georgia is the place I want to be as long as Georgia will have me. That has never changed. And it’s gratifying to know Georgia wants me. I have not talked to any other school about a job nor do I have any interest in doing so. My interest is having a great recruiting year and start building toward next season.”

UPDATED 3:26 p.m. ET: Sumlin has reportedly informed his UH players that he’s leaving for another job.  A&M has no plans to make an announcement on a hiring Saturday; however, a press conference could take place as soon as Monday.

Conference USA releases 2018 schedule

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Conference USA released its 2018 schedule on Tuesday, confirming that once again the league will play football this fall.

The league slate kicks off Sept. 8 with FIU’s visit to Old Dominion, while the first game involving a C-USA team is set for Aug. 25, when Rice hosts Prairie View A&M. Conference games are scattered throughout the month of September, with the first full Saturday slate coming on Oct. 6 with Old Dominion at Florida Atlantic, UAB at Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee at Marshall, North Texas at UTEP and UTSA at Rice.

While the MAC has opted for a full embrace of midweek football, Conference USA has gone in the exact opposite direction. Not one C-USA game is scheduled as of today for a weeknight — Thursday or Friday included — and only one game will be played on a day other than Saturday, a Friday, Aug. 31 visit to Wisconsin by Western Kentucky.

The most-anticipated non-conference games involving C-USA teams are Florida Atlantic’s opener at Oklahoma and on Sept. 1 and the Owls’ Sept. 22 visit to reigning American and Peach Bowl champion UCF. North Texas also has two shots to win nationwide respect for the league in its opener against SMU on Sept. 1 in Denton and a Sept. 15 visit to retooling Arkansas.

The highlight of the league schedule comes on Nov. 17 with a rematch of the 2017 title game when Florida Atlantic visits North Texas. The Owls won both meetings last season by a combined score of 110-48.

The 14th C-USA Championship will be held on Dec. 1 at the home of the division winner with the best conference record. FAU will look to become the second straight back-to-back C-USA champion, joining Western Kentucky in 2015-16.

Former LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada reportedly lands at Maryland

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It’s good to be Matt Canada.

He parachuted into Baton Rouge for a year, got paid a bunch of money, then got paid even more money to leave. And now he’s set to get paid from another school.

According to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Canada is set to join the Maryland staff as offensive coordinator. Rittenberg notes that Canada signed a multi-year agreement with the Terps, though salary terms were not revealed. Walt Bell, who left to become the offensive coordinator at Florida State, made $500,000 in 2017, according to USA Today.

Maryland will be Canada’s seventh school to call plays for in this decade alone. He spent 2010 (and three years before that) at Indiana, then moved to Northern Illinois in 2011. He parlayed that into one season at Wisconsin, three at NC State, and then one season stints at Pittsburgh, LSU and now Maryland.

Report: Oklahoma State signs 27-year-old Australian punter

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Australian punters are the hot new commodity in college football, and word has made it back to the Land Down Under: punt the ball far and high enough and you, too, can receive a full scholarship to an American university.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express — which you now is legit, because its header as of press time already reads Wednesday, January 24 — 27-year-old Australian punter Tom Hutton has signed with Oklahoma State. Hutton hails from Newborough, Australia, about a two hour ride from Melbourne, and in December attended a training session at Prokick Australia.

“I was told about [American football] a few years ago so I thought ‘I’ll probably be too old for it now’, thinking that it was like Aussie Rules and that if you were over 21 then you had no chance,” Hutton told the paper. “But then I saw a few older blokes getting scholarships so I thought I may as well give it a go.”

Prokick Australia claims the last five Ray Guy Award winners as alums, including 2017 victor Michael Dickson of Texas. Oklahoma State saw his ability up close, as Dickson punted 11 times for a 50.9-yard average in October, nearly booting his way to victory in a 13-10 Cowboys overtime victory. “Their punter is — did he win the Ray Guy Award last year?” Mike Gundy said after that game. “He should have won it. He changed the field on us. I don’t know what the yardage is, I just know that every time we go a little bit of field position, he changed the field … he was fantastic for them.”

The story of how Hutton was approved for an Oklahoma State offer doesn’t go into details, but Hutton’s recollection of how Hutton, who works overnights at a paper mill in addition to playing Aussie rules football in the Mid Gippsland Football League, received the offer is perfect.

“I woke up after night shift on two hours sleep and this person said ‘we know where you’re going, you’re going to Oklahoma State and we’ve got the coach on the phone,'” he said. “I thought ‘Jesus Christ, can you give me half an hour? I need to have a shower and actually wake up and make sure this is not a dream.'”

According to the Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing, Hutton will arrive in Stillwater in July and have four years of eligibility.

Arkansas adds TCU signee who signed with New York Yankees

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Austin Aune‘s circuitous sports journey, one which Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden would approve, has taken its next stop in Fayetteville.

According to 247Sports.com, Aune has joined the Arkansas football program and is enrolled in classes at the university.  At least initially, the quarterback will be a part of the Razorbacks as a walk-on; it’s expected he’ll take the field with the rest of his new teammates when spring practice kicks off month after next.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aune had also considered TCU and North Texas before the SEC’s mystique proved to be too much.

“The allure of the SEC and the SEC West and Chad [Morris] and Coach [Joe] Craddock, and everybody being on the same page up there as far as the opportunity goes,” the player’s father, Greg Aune, told the Democrat-Gazette. “He likes their system. It’s a fast-paced system, wide-open system. That’s what he played in high school. It’s a pass-oriented offense. He’s a read-run oriented guy, so that’s a lot of what those guys do.”

The fact that Aune considered TCU as a potential landing spot before settling on Morris and UA shouldn’t come as a surprise as he actually signed with the Horned Frogs back in 2012.  However, he was drafted by the New York Yankees that same year and, after signing a contract that included a $1 million signing bonus, embarked on what turned out to be a six-year career in the minor leagues.  Despite that financial commitment, Aune never made it past Single-A ball.