John Marinatto

It’s official: Memphis is the newest member of the Big East

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Following up on reports yesterday that Memphis would be the newest all-sport member of the Big East, the long-time possibility of the marriage has indeed come to fruition.

The Big East announced in a release today that the Tigers will be a full member of the conference beginning in 2013. A press conference with the two sides is scheduled shortly.

“Over the past decade, the University of Memphis has demonstrated an unwavering commitment of competing at the highest level in college sports,” said Big East commissioner John Marinatto.  “The University has positioned itself for long-term success by upgrading facilities and investing wisely in various areas of the athletic department including coaching and administration.  We are confident that the addition of this outstanding athletics program located in a top 50 media market and in the heart of the nation’s largest conference footprint will further propel the BIG EAST and the University of Memphis to even greater levels of success in the future.”

“This is a historical day for the University of Memphis,” said UM president Dr. Shirley C. Raines. “On behalf of the faculty, staff, alumni, fans, students and especially, our student-athletes, we are thrilled to accept the invitation from the BIG EAST Conference to become a member in all sports in 2013. We are grateful to President Judy Genshaft and the entire BIG EAST Conference Board for their unanimous vote for the University of Memphis and Tiger athletics.

“We are pleased to be renewing some old rivalries that our fans enjoyed in years past, and we look forward to competing against other formidable opponents from the BIG EAST.”

The move, as the Big East puts it, brings in the 12th football member; the conference did not acknowledge Pitt, Syracuse or West Virginia in the release, all of which are leaving the Big East for the ACC and Big 12, respectively.

As CBS Sports‘ Brett McMurphy reported yesterday, a 2012 departure by WVU could spark an earlier exit by Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC, perhaps in 2013, and just as the Big East adds a slew of all-sport and football-only members. In 2015, Big East football plans to look as such: Boise State, UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Navy, Rutgers, San Diego State, SMU and USF. Only then will the conference stage a championship game.

So, yes. The Big East is essentially Conference USA. With some Mountain West and Big East/Independent sprinkled in.

Speaking of which, McMurphy also reports today that C-USA has reached out to former Big East and current MAC member Temple about possible membership. According to the report, “Temple thought it would receive the Big East’s invitation and was stunned the Big East invited Memphis.”

Whether or not the Owls would fly away from their home is uncertain. As we noted last year, C-USA and the Mountain West, both getting their best teams plucked as part of conference realignment, decided to look into a football-only alliance, the results of which have yet to be announced. The benefits, we were told from C-USA commissionerBritton Banowsky and MWC commissionerCraig Thompson, would be stability and exposure.

That sounds a lot like what the Big East is promising with its new membership. Come to think of it, the similarities are striking: conferences desperate for enough inventory to stay afloat in the changing college football landscape.

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Iowa State DB Mike Johnson suspended amid domestic violence arrest

AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 19: Wide receiver Keke Coutee #20 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders blocks defensive back Mike Johnson #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones as he rushed for yards in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Iowa State has suspended defensive back Mike Johnson after he was arrested Thursday on the accusation that he choked his girlfriend.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, Johnson and his girlfriend were fighting over social media posts and music playing over each other’s phones when each tried to reach for the other’s device. That escalated to the point where Johnson allegedly had both hands around the woman’s throat, to the point where told police she “saw stars” and had trouble breathing.

She also had, according to police, bite marks on her right cheek, on her neck and behind her left ear, a swollen upper lip and had what appeared to be dried blood on her. Johnson also said he was bitten during the altercation.

“We are aware of Mike Johnson’s arrest and allegations associated with his arrest,” head coach Matt Campbell told the paper in a statement. “Our program has zero tolerance for domestic violence. Mike has been suspended from all team activities, including practice, under the student-athlete code of conduct policy as we gather more information. His long-term status with the team will be determined once we gain more facts.”

Johnson posted 44 tackles, three pass breakups and 1.5 tackles for loss in 12 games last season.

Report: Former Pitt RB James Conner given clean bill of health

James Conner
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James Conner will head to next week’s Combine with a clean bill of health, according to a report Thursday from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“Pitt RB James Conner, who missed most of 2015 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, received a clean scan today, a week prior to combine, per source,” Schefter tweeted.

Conner led the ACC in rushing in 2014, rushing for 1,765 yards and 5.92 yards per carry with 26 touchdowns in 2014, before a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis caused him to miss all but one game of the 2015 campaign. (And in that one game, Conner still rushed for nearly 10 yards per carry and two touchdowns.)

He battled back to return to the field in 2016, again leading the Panthers with 216 carries for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns while finishing third on the club with 21 grabs for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

Conner will compete at the Combine for draft positioning with fellow running backs Leonard FournetteDalvin Cook and D'Onta Foreman, among others.

Willie Taggart no longer speaking with Oregon beat reporter

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head Coach Willie Taggart walks the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on September 28, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Oregon strength coach Irele Oderinde is now back at work after serving a 1-month, unpaid suspension resulting from three players being hospitalized after Oderinde’s first supervised workout with the Ducks, but the story is not over in Eugene.

According to Oregon’s student paper The Daily Emerald, Taggart is no longer speaking with the reporter who broke the story, The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

“When you’re not fair and honest, then to me that’s personal,” Taggart told the paper. “When you do something that’s negative and it’s going to be personal, then I won’t have shit to do with you.”

Greif, for his part, stands by the story and says the paper will not issue a retraction, as Taggart requested:

“Though the description of the workouts is understandably subjective, ultimately what has never been in doubt is that three UO players were hospitalized after the first week of offseason workouts and received treatment for several days,” Greif said in an email to the Emerald.

Complicating matters for Taggart is that the university commissioned faculty athletics rep Tim Gleason, a journalism professor, to review the report. In speaking with players, coaches, trainers and AD Rob Mullens, Gleason found the report not to be inaccurate.

“It’s not an unfair characterization; it’s just that the way it gets interpreted is regrettable,” Gleason said. “In the shorthand of journalism, it resulted in an impression that may not have been completely accurate.”

Also contradicting Taggart are members of his own staff, who said off-the-record that the workouts were “military-style.” Greif quoted them anonymously when inserting that phrase into the piece:

Players this week were required to finish the same workouts, which were described by multiple sources as akin to military basic training, with one said to include up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up-downs.

It’s not clear where the story goes from here, except that Taggart made clear twice in his interview with the Emerald he has no plans to answer questions from Greif in the future.

Report: Ole Miss reportedly tried to bring Mississippi State down with it in NCAA probe

STARKVILLE, MS - NOVEMBER 28:  Damore'ea Stringfellow #3 of the Mississippi Rebels is pursued by Mark McLaurin #41 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second quarter of a game at Davis Wade Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Starkville, Mississippi.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Ah, rivalries. The sibling-like struggle across the sport is what makes the college football world spin, and we got a great example of that in a report detailing Ole Miss’s response to its impending charges.

As we know, a key charge against Ole Miss was the Rebels’ attempted payment of a sum between $13,000 and $15,000 to a recruit that ultimately signed with Mississippi State, and the Rebels’ response was to turn around and bring their Egg Bowl rivals down with them.

According to Neal McCready’s inside-the-program accounting of the process for Rebel Grove, Ole Miss has a recording of Leo Lewis‘s mother asking other programs for money:

Ole Miss, per multiple sources, possesses a recording, and has given the SEC a copy, of Lewis’ mother asking Ole Miss for money and detailing incentives she received from other programs, including Mississippi State.

Considering the sourcing on this one, the phrase “including Mississippi State” is anything but an accident. It’s the college football version defense of the “Yes, Mom, I may have taken the booze from the cabinet, but Little Brother drank some of it, too!” defense.

To which the NCAA will likely respond: “But I haven’t spent four years investigating him.”

While the “they cheated too” last gasp of a defense likely won’t extend Ole Miss a stay of execution, you have to at least respect the Rebels for trying it.