Updated: Big 12 hoping clarity on WVU, expansion coming soon

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UPDATED 8:20 p.m. ET:  In an interview with Lubbock radio station Double-T 104.3 FM, Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said he did not anticipate the conference expanding beyond 10 teams anytime soon.

“I don’t anticipate there’s going to be a movement off 10,” Neinas said. “It could happen down the road, but we definitely won’t be beyond 10 for 2012-2013 and there is strong feeling within the membership that 10 provides the opportunity for round-robin in football and you play everyone in basketball twice …

“That seems to be appealing to the conference members. To go beyond that will take a lot of research and hard thinking.”

I don’t think it’s any real secret that Texas and Oklahoma wish to keep the Big 12 at 10 members, but take Neinas’ comments for what they’re worth.

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Although West Virginia and the Big East have made several headlines over the past few months with their dueling lawsuits over conference realignment, very little progress seems to have been made — at least on the surface.

Both sides filed motions to dismiss the other’s lawsuit; both motions were denied. WVU’s best chance to leave the Big East and land in the Big 12 by this year remains the non-binding mediation the two have been ordered into by a Providence County Superior Court Judge.

A status conference for that mediation has been set for Feb. 9.

Meanwhile, the Big 12 is schedule-less, yet hopeful, at the hands of WVU’s ongoing legal battle. Per Chris Level of RedRaiderSports.com, the Big 12 is planning to release its football schedule on Feb. 1 because the conference’s contract with its TV partners.

That’s also National Signing Day.

Still, the Big 12 needs WVU on the schedule next year to avoid a financial penalty from some of their media rights partners. Interim commissioner Chuck Neinas has stated over and over that he has received full confidence from WVU that the Mountaineers will be a member by July 1.

Currently, rumors are beginning to swirl that perhaps — maybe — the Big East and WVU have negotiated or are negotiating an exit settlement for the Mountaineers. Keep in mind that’s far from confirmed.

But the Big 12’s future may not be done with West Virginia, either, if/when that finally works out. Brett McMurphy of CBSSports reports today that the Big 12 expansion committee has a meeting today to decide if the conference will go to 11 or 12 teams, or stay at 10.

So, in other words, yes, we’re having this discussion again. Remember, the Big 12 is still very much an unsettled conference.

McMurphy goes on to say that Louisville is the “slam dunk” choice if the Big 12 were to go to 11 — the Cardinals almost beat out West Virginia a few months ago for that 10th spot — and BYU would be back in the mix if the conference expanded to 12 members.

An interesting tidbit from yesterday’s Big East teleconference was that Navy felt football independence didn’t have a bright future. 

BYU just finished its first season as a football independent, but with conference realignment being as volatile as it is, and with conferences now beginning to pair up for non-conference matchups, perhaps Navy is right.

To be clear, though, the overall feeling is that the Big 12 is still divided on expansion.

For their sake, hopefully some clarity is coming in the next few weeks.

Nobody placed a bid on Harbaugh’s autographed khakis

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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has certainly made a name for himself over the years with his affinity for a simple pair of khakis. It is not uncommon for clothes worn by coaches to be auctioned off for a charitable reason, but any hope of bringing in big money over a pair of khakis signed by the head coach of the Wolverines came up empty in a recent auction, according to Land of 10.

The U of M Club of Detroit hoped a pair of signed khakis would be a great auction item, but the one-of-a-kind auction item had nobody biting. Perhaps it was the starting bid of $900 that kept potential bidders away. Or maybe a signed pair of pants is just not at all the kind of piece even the most devoted Michigan collector wants to add to their collection?

This is not all that unheard of given the style of the auction. Because it was a silent auction, there was never a chance to see the bidding go back-and-forth between potential suitors. HAd the pants been auctioned off in a standard auction format, the odds are the item may have been able to be sold to one lucky high bidder. The risk, however, would be not fetching the desired goal for the item. If the starting bid was lower in a regular auction, there is no guarantee it would have reached the desired $900 goal.

For now, the pants will likely stay in storage awaiting the next silent auction, so all is not lost. The khakis will just have to wait for another day to be won by one lucky Michigan fan or devoted khaki enthusiast.

TCU WR Isaiah Graham announces transfer from Horned Frogs

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Sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Graham is leaving TCU behind in search of a new opportunity. Graham announced his intention to seek a new place to call home with a statement on his Twitter account. In it, Graham thanked TCU head coach Gary Patterson and the coaching staff for bringing him into the football program in Fort Worth.

As a freshman, Graham played in nine games, in which he caught six passes for 68 yards. This season, Graham appeared in 10 games and caught two passes for 16 yards. The sophomore was buried on the depth chart and his chances to get on the field had largely been in nothing more than a reserve role the past two seasons. With that outlook not looking to drastically change in 2018, Graham will look for a place where he might have the chance to play more of a contributing role in an offense.

Graham will have to sit out the 2018 season if the former three-star recruit (according to Rivals) lands at another FBS program. He will have two years of eligibility after sitting out the 2018 season. He has yet to use a redshirt season.The Louisiana native chose TCU over offers from a number of programs including Arkansas, Louisiana Tech, Miami, Mississippi State, Nebraska, SMU, Tennessee, and more. Whether any of those programs remain in play for Graham now remains unknown.

Nebraska loads up on FCS cupcakes in future scheduling

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The future of Nebraska football is beginning to look a bit more optimistic with the recent hiring of Scott Frost. Time will tell just how many wins Nebraska will start racking up in Big Ten play under Frost, but Nebraska has made some moves to secure some likely wins in future seasons.

In a scheduling announcement on Wednesday, Nebraska has announced future games against two FCS opponents — South Dakota State and North Dakota — and Georgia Southern of the Sun Belt Conference. Nebraska will host South Dakota State in 2020, 2024, and 2028. North Dakota (NOT North Dakota State) will head to Lincoln in 2022 and 2026. Georgia Southern will occupy a spot on the non-conference schedule in 2022. Per Nebraska;

  • South Dakota State—Sept 12, 2020; Aug. 31, 2024; Sept. 9, 2028
  • North Dakota—Sept. 3, 2022; Sept. 19, 2026
  • Georgia Southern—Sept. 10, 2022

It is important to note Nebraska’s addition of South Dakota State and North Dakota no longer violates the Big Ten’s scheduling initiative to ban FCS opponents. That policy was revised to allow for the addition of these teams in years Big Ten teams only have four conference games scheduled at home (and five road games in conference play). Big Ten teams are still required to schedule a game against another power conference opponent or an approved opponent to satisfy the requirement, however. Nebraska is currently scheduled to play old Big 12 (and Big 8) rivals Oklahoma in 2021 and 2022 and Colorado in 2023 and 2024.Nebraska has also met the power conference scheduling requirement for 2026 (Tennessee) and 2028 (Arizona). Both games are part of home-and-home arrangements.

The 2022 season is an exception for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are scheduled to host South Dakota State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati. The Big Ten has ruled Cincinnati to be an exception to the power conference scheduling for Nebraska. Nebraska originally scheduled a series with Cincinnati in 2013, prior to the Big Ten adopting its scheduling philosophy to increase the overall quality of strength of schedule across the conference.

Heisman winner Baker Mayfield among 14 to earn unanimous All-American honors

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In order to be considered a unanimous All-American by the NCAA, a college football player needs to earn first-team needs from all five of the following organizations: the Associated Press, the American Football Coaches Association, the Football Writers Association of America, the Sporting News, and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.  With the release of the AFCA team Wednesday, a total of 14 players have been accorded unanimous All-American honors for the 2017 season.

Heading that pack, unsurprisingly, is Oklahoma quarterback and 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.  Since those five organizations were established as the criteria in 2002, Mayfield becomes the sixth quarterback to earn that honor, joining Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (2016), Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (2014), Texas’ Colt McCoy (2009), Ohio State’s Troy Smith (2006) and Oklahoma’s Jason White (2003).   Prior to White, the last quarterback named a unanimous All-American was Charlie Ward of Florida State in 1993.

Of the 14 unanimous All-Americans this season — there were the same number in 2016 — exactly half came from Oklahoma (three), Iowa (two) and Texas (two).

Below are the remaining baker’s dozen (no pun intended) unanimous All-Americans:

  • Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews
  • Oklahoma offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr.
  • North Carolina State defensive lineman Bradley Chubb
  • Texas punter Michael Dickson
  • Texas defensive back DeShon Elliott
  • Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick
  • Iowa defensive back Josh Jackson
  • Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell
  • Stanford running back Bryce Love
  • Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson
  • Ohio State offensive lineman Billy Price
  • Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith
  • Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington