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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Texas HS coaches reportedly favored Major Applewhite over Lane Kiffin at Houston

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Offensive Cooridator Major Applewhite of the Houston Cougars looks on during warm ups before the game against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles on September 5, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Texas high school coaches are a powerful lot. Tom Herman has one on his staff, Charlie Strong had one on his, and new Baylor head coach Matt Rhule‘s first hire in Waco was the president of the Texas high school coaches’ association.

Lone Star high school coaches’ power stretches even beyond simply getting on college staffs, however. They have the power to scuttle prospective coaching tenures before they happen.

That’s according to Houston board chairman/Cougars booster Tilman Fertitta. Speaking to KILT-AM in Houston on Friday night, Fertitta said high school coaches’ push for Major Applewhite is what put the Coogs’ offensive coordinator over the top of Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

“The Texas high school football coaches bombarded our athletic director (Hunter Yurachek) and said: We want our kids to play for Major Applewhite,” Fertitta said, via ESPN. “Here’s a guy that’s been on the big stage, he was the quarterback at the University of Texas, he has a great relationship with the coaches and high school football in Texas. Lane does not. That was an ‘X’ against Lane compared to Major.

“Continuity in the program, the kids, the recruits today playing wanted Major Applewhite. They let it be known. It was just one thing after another that had steamrolled to Major.”

Judging by Applewhite’s Twitter feed, it was hard to argue against that logic. The new Houston head coach tweeted support from two key Cougars recruits and a current Houston player who, incidentally, were rumored targets of Herman at Texas.

“I’ll be 100 percent honest with you. When this started, I thought that we needed to go out and get a name-brand coach, because, to me, it’s all about brands,” Fertitta said. “Nobody understands that better than me. And I wanted the University of Houston to stay relevant, OK? I think Les Miles is a fine coach and he’s going to be a great coach for somebody, and I think the same thing of Lane Kiffin. I was very impressed. But when I looked at the whole picture and totality, I truly think in my heart — and so did everybody else on the committee think — that Major Applewhite was the right fit.”

Pitt RB James Conner declares for NFL Draft

STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 17 : Running back James Conner #24 of the Pittsburgh Panthers is pursued by linebacker Devante Averette #40 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys September 17, 2016 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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James Conner is taking his inspirational story and frightening running back skills to the NFL.

The Pittsburgh running back made the announcement Saturday afternoon through his Twitter account.

The Panthers immediately released a statement blessing the move.

Conner burst on the scene as a freshman, leading the Panthers with 799 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. He exploded as a sophomore for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns before missing his junior season due to Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He returned to the field this fall with a body free of cancer and promptly returned to form, carrying a team-leading 208 times for 1,060 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Conner was named the winner of the Disney Spirit Award on Thursday night.

The Pitt running back will join a growing list of running back early entrants, including D'Onta ForemanLeonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey.

Cincinnati formally announces Luke Fickell as new head coach

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 15:  Head coach Luke Fickell of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches as his team takes on the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 17-7.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The worst-kept secret in college football is no longer a secret. Luke Fickell is Cincinnati’s new head coach.

The school made the announcement Saturday afternoon after word had begun trickling in the Buckeye State since last night.

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Fickell is a true son of Ohio State. Born in Columbus, he graduated from high school there, attended and met his wife at Ohio State, began his coaching career there and spent all but two seasons as a Buckeye — and those two seasons were at Akron.

Now he’ll move down state to a program that has placed Mark Dantonio at Michigan State, Brian Kelly at Notre Dame and Butch Jones at Tennessee.

The current occupier of the job Fickell surely wants announced his blessing of the move shortly after it went official.

As Tom Herman and Kirby Smart did before him, Fickell will remain with the Buckeyes through their College Football Playoff run.

“It’s with much pride and humility that I accept the awesome honor of becoming the head coach at the University of Cincinnati,” Fickell said in a statement. This city, this school and my family are all Ohio. It’s a tough blue-collar state with hard-working, blue-collar people that respect an honest and complete effort. That’s what they will get from me personally and what they should expect from this football program. This team belongs to this city and we will make you proud.”

Reports: Lane Kiffin to FAU hits stumbling block

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11:  Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin of the Alabama Crimson Tide walks on the field before the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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As of last night, there was a deal in place for Lane Kiffin to become the next head coach at Florida Atlantic.

As of Saturday morning, it appears the deal is off.

FootballScoop, who broke the news of the two sides’ talking, reported Saturday morning that the talks hit a “stumbling block.” (Full disclosure: I also write for FootballScoop.)

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit corroborated that report on SportsCenter.

Herbstreit went as far as saying Kiffin, back in Tuscaloosa, was back on the market pursuing offensive coordinator jobs. That would be good news for LSU, who has placed him as their top target to serve as Ed Orgeron‘s offensive coordinator.