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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.

Report: Auburn offensive coordinator search getting thorny

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 08:  Head coach Gus Malzahn of the Auburn Tigers reacts during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 8, 2014 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Auburn does not have an offensive coordinator yet, which is odd. The Tigers have an explosive offense with a lot of returning parts. They have Jarrett Stidham coming in to play quarterback. They have a boatload of money. And they have a boatload of money.

According to a report from James Crepea of AL.com, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and “people with influence over the program” can’t agree on who should replace Rhett Lashlee.

Malzahn is said to prefer Florida Atlantic offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and NC State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz. Lindsey and Drinkwitz worked for Malzahn previously, and Malzahn has built a working relationship with the Briles family — Stidham and running back Kam Martin transferred from Waco to Auburn, and Art Briles visited a Tigers practice this season.

But Auburn donors, Crepea writes, have nixed those choices, saying Briles is too inexperienced and Lindsey and Drinkwitz are too close to Malzahn.

Instead, donors preferred Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone (who has already been crossed off the list) or Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich (ditto). Mark Helfrich does not seem like a viable option at this time.

With less than two weeks until National Signing Day, the urgency to bring someone to the South Plains only grows stronger.

Forza Blu? Michigan reportedly planning spring practice in Italy

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines directs a drill during warm ups prior to playing the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on October 29, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Undeterred by recent NCAA legislation, Jim Harbaugh is reportedly going international.

As noted by the Detroit Free Press, a post on Rivals affiliate TheWolverine.com reports that Michigan is planning to spend the final week of football spring practice in Rome, Italy. The team would not only practice several times on Italian soil, but would allow the team to visit the sights in the area and even leave players in Europe to study abroad for a semester.

The move would no doubt ruffle even more feathers in the football and NCAA communities after Harbaugh famously took the Wolverines to the IMG Academy down in Florida for spring practice last March. That prompted recent legislation that was passed at the NCAA convention in Nashville this week — a Harbaugh Rule if you will — that prohibited off-campus practice during a vacation period outside of a playing season.

While it would seem that would rule out trips away from Ann Arbor for spring football practices, it appears the Michigan athletic department is going to push forward by exploiting a slight loophole in the language of the rule. While vacation periods may be off limits like spring break, it appears the Wolverines would be looking to leave town at the end of April, which would be after the semester ends  and does not fall into any scheduled vacation time.

We’ll see if anything becomes of this report and if Michigan indeed announces such an unprecedented trip. While foreign tours are common in sports like basketball at the NCAA levels, it really hasn’t happened in football aside from occasional games overseas so it will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend, or is just another case of Harbaugh being Harbaugh.

Wisconsin extends head coach Paul Chryst’s contract through 2022

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 2: Corey Clement #6 of the Wisconsin Badgers points toward head coach Paul Chryst  as the two celebrate following the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. Wisconsin defeated Western Michigan 24-16. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
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Winning a New Year’s Six bowl and outperforming nearly every preseason expectation typically results in a nice boost to a head coach’s bank account and that is the case at Wisconsin this year.

The Badgers announced on Friday that the school’s athletic board had extended head football coach Paul Chryst another year, running through January 31, 2022. Additional contract terms such as a potential raise or incentives were not announced, meaning this was likely just tacking another year onto the former Wisconsin quarterback’s original deal in Madison.

The move isn’t new for the program, which pulled the same extension almost to the day a year ago after Chryst led the Badgers to a 10-3 year in 2015 that was capped off with a Holiday Bowl victory over USC. The coach one-upped that performance in 2016, winning the Big Ten West title and getting selected for the Cotton Bowl, which the team won over previously undefeated Western Michigan.

Chryst’s original contract he signed two years ago was for a term of five seasons through 2020. He originally made around $2.3 million a year but should be hitting the $2.5 million mark heading into 2017 with various increases incorporated.

Vol legend Peyton Manning reportedly advising alma mater Tennessee on AD search

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 08:  Former Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Peyton Manning walks across the field prior to the start of their game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on October 8, 2016 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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New College Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning is staying busy with various ventures now that he’s retired from the NFL and apparently the Vol legend doesn’t mind returning to Tennessee to add another thing to his plate.

According to a report from the Knoxville News Sentinel, Manning will be part of a search committee for the school’s chancellor as she attempts to find a new athletic director following the retirement of Dave Hart at the end of June. Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is also expected to be part of the six-person strong committee, which will assist recently hired search firm Turnkey Sports and Entertainment in finding the right candidate to lead the department.

Hart’s retirement has known for some time and the fact that Alabama surprisingly hired Greg Byrne away from Arizona without as much as a sniff from the Vols have made many in the fan base a little anxious about the state of the on-going  (and lengthy) search. Manning’s former head coach Phillip Fulmer has reportedly been mentioned as a candidate for the gig but the hire of a search firm and advisory committee suggests that a hire may be a few weeks or months away.

There are few folks connected to Tennessee football more fondly remembered around Knoxville than Manning and you can’t help but wonder if Vols fans longing for some stability and a big name in the AD chair wouldn’t mind pushing the quarterback’s name for the position. If so, perhaps joining the search committee is the first step toward that path and a move that would certainly make a lot more sense than bringing somebody like Fulmer back into the fold.