MWC, C-USA to dissolve, form one conference

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Back in October, in the midst of Conference Apocalypse v.2.0, the Mountain West and Conference USA announced it was forming a football-only association — not a merger — that would’ve consisted of 22 schools for the 2012.

Since then, Boise State and San Diego State have announced they are leaving the Mountain West for the Big East in 2013, as did Conference USA members Houston, Memphis, UCF and SMU.

A byproduct of that attrition, in part, will reportedly be the two conferences engaging in what walks, talks and smells like a full-blown merger.

According to Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com, the MWC and C-USA will dissolve as separate entities and merge all sports into a single conference.  The merger would take effect beginning with the 2013 season.

Citing college football industry sources, McMurphy writes that “[t]he reason that the institutions are dissolving and forming their own league is for legal reasons.”  What those legal reasons are was not detailed.

In a statement released by the MWC subsequent to McMurphy’s report, UNLV president Neal Smatresk confirmed the report but did not use the word merger; rather, the press release describes it as “forming a new intercollegiate athletic association.”  Regardless of what it’s technically viewed as, it will result in one conference spread from coast-to-coast across the United States and into the Pacific.

“This is an exciting development that will stabilize the current conferences and create the first truly national conference with members in five time zones and television viewership from coast to coast.  This partnership brings together like-minded institutions to improve the integrity and stability of intercollegiate athletics,” said UNLV President Neal Smatresk. “We are moving our plans forward rapidly and expect to complete our conversations in the near future. Look for further announcements soon as we work together on this exciting new venture.”

With the losses of members from both conferences for the 2012 season, and with the MWC’s addition of three WAC schools in 2012, the yet-to-be named conference will consist of 16 football-playing members — eight from each league:

Air Force (MWC)
Colorado State (MWC)
East Carolina (C-USA)
Fresno State (MWC)
Hawaii (MWC)
Marshall (C-USA)
New Mexico (MWC)
Nevada (MWC)
Rice (C-USA)
Southern Miss (C-USA)
Tulane (C-USA)
Tulsa (C-USA)
UAB (C-USA)
UNLV (MWC)
UTEP (C-USA)
Wyoming (MWC)

That might be the lower end of the conference membership roll as it turns out; in the MWC’s press release, it’s stated that the structure of the new league will likely consist of 16 to 24 universities.  Whether all, some or none of the upwards of an additional eight members would be football-playing members was not discussed.

How many divisions and which schools will be in which divisions will be decided over the next six months.  The conference will hold a football championship game, and the release states that there will be semifinal matchups to determine the title game participants.

Duke starting safety Jeremy McDuffie out indefinitely after surgery on fractured thumb

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What we do know is that Duke will be without its starting piece of its defense.  What we don’t know is for how long.

The football program announced Wednesday that Jeremy McDuffie underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a fractured right thumb.  The junior sustained the injury during a recent Blue Devils practice.

As a result of the injury and subsequent surgery, McDuffie will be sidelined indefinitely.

McDuffie transitioned from cornerback to safety this past spring. Entering summer camp, the defensive back had been listed as a starter for the Blue Devils.  The past two seasons, McDuffie had played in 24 games.

Duke opens the 2017 season Sept. 2 against NC Central.  They will kick off ACC play three weeks later on the road against North Carolina.

Albeit with a disclaimer, Jim Mora doesn’t see Josh Rosen leaving UCLA early for NFL

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Most expect Josh Rosen to be one of the first quarterbacks selected when the next NFL draft rolls around.  Rosen’s coach, though, doesn’t see the outspoken junior being a part of the pool of available draftees.

“My firm belief is that he will not leave,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora told Yahoo SportsPete Thamel over the weekend. “I don’t think he’ll leave. …

“I want a disclaimer, I have an option to change my opinion. But as we sit here right now, I can really honestly say I don’t think he’s going to leave.”

Mora’s proclamation comes less than two weeks before the Bruins kick off the 2017 season and around five months before draft-eligible early entrants have to officially file their paperwork with the NFL.

Rosen flashed brilliance as a true freshman in 2015, passing for nearly 3,700 yards and 23 touchdowns.  His sophomore campaign was marred by a nerve issue in his throwing shoulder that sidelined him for the final six games of the season.  Rosen has resoundingly rebounded from that health issue, and will head into the 2017 season 100-percent healthy.

Whether he enters the 2018 season 100-percent Bruin remains, his head coach’s confidence notwithstanding, highly unlikely or even doubtful, especially given his recent comments that football and school don’t mix.

Report: Call to escort service coincided with a Hugh Freeze recruiting trip

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Not surprisingly, more details are surfacing in Hugh Freeze‘s unceremonious exit from Oxford.

Freeze resigned as the head football coach at Ole Miss last month in part because of Jan. 19 phone call to an escort service that was initially deemed to be a misdial.  According to the Wall Street Journal, that call came a few hours after a university plane landed in Tampa, Fla., as part of a five-day, 13-stop recruiting trip.  On that plane was Freeze as well as other members of the Rebels football staff.

The discovery of the link between the call and recruiting trip came after a review of phone records and other documents.

After Freeze’s “resignation,” Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork described an unspecified pattern of personal misconduct that led to the coach’s departure.  Bjork somewhat expounded on that pattern to the Journal.

Although school officials had previously declined to characterize the alleged misconduct, Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said in response to questions from the Journal about Freeze’s travel that the university’s investigation uncovered “calls of a similar nature” over the course of several years, often matching up with travel logs showing the coach’s use of the school plane. The school said it examined his travel logs from peak recruiting times—often November, December and January—when Freeze would travel out of state, using the school plane and other public resources.

“When we say pattern, we are describing other phone numbers that when you Google them pull up similar type websites, services, however you would describe them,” Bjork said. “We took action swiftly.

Speculation of late has there being more, potentially much more, to Freeze’s forced resignation.  Only time will tell how much more will ultimately come out — especially if another former Ole Miss head coach’s lawsuit, kicked out of federal court for lack of jurisdiction, is revived in the state of Mississippi as expected.

Reports: ankle injury likely to keep WR Michael Pittman out of USC’s opener

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In his college football preview Bible, the great Phil Steele had Michael Pittman listed as one of three starting wide receivers for USC.  With the start of a new season a little more than two weeks away, Pittman doesn’t appear set to make that magazine projection come to fruition.

According to multiple reports, Pittman suffered an ankle injury during practice Tuesday and was taken off the field via a cart after having a boot placed on his left foot.  While X-rays taken post-practice showed no break or fracture, the sophomore has been diagnosed with the dreaded high-ankle sprain.

As a result, the Los Angeles Daily News writes that “[i]t seems unlikely he would be able to play against Western Michigan.” Rivals.com tweeted that the injury “[p]robably keeps him out of season opener.”

At least for now, the football program has yet to officially rule Pittman out for the opener.

Pittman was a four-star 2016 recruit, rated as the No. 9 receiver in the country.  As a true freshman last season, he caught six passes for 82 yards.