Bernard Pierce, Deon Miller

Updated: Temple officially joins Big East


They’re baaack.

Seven years after being shown the door for poor performance and attendance, and after getting passed over on more than one occasion during the last few months, the Big East has welcomed back Temple with arms opened wide by the force of desperation.

The MAC confirmed this afternoon that Temple would be leaving the conference immediately, but didn’t offer any more details as to where the Owls were going.

It didn’t matter. The Big East announced the move at a press conference this afternoon inside Madison Square Garden for the Big East tournament. The Owls will join the Big East in football this year, with non-football sports joining in 2013.

“On behalf of all of Temple’s 39,000 students, its more than 550 student-athletes, their coaches and the entire Temple family, I would especially like to thank BIG EAST Commissioner John Marinatto and all the presidents and chancellors of the member schools for welcoming us into their midst. Temple is very excited to become a member of the BIG EAST,” said Lewis Katz, the chair of the Athletics Committee of Temple’s Board of Trustees. .

The Temple-to-Big East rumors gained momentum over the past couple of weeks once it became official that West Virginia would be departing for the Big 12 this year, leaving the Big East with just seven football members and as many months to fill another hole in the schedule.

A decision on Temple was reportedly supposed to have been made at the end of last month, but exit terms among the school and its two conferences, the Atlantic 10 and the MAC, appeared to be anything but settled. It wasn’t until University of Houston president Renu Khator tweeted a hint Wednesday morning that the move went from speculatively imminent to actually imminent.

But with the move official, it appears the Big East is done expanding… for now. Commissioner John Marinatto said the league would “pause” on further expansion. It should be noted, however, that the Big East said it would continue to provide Villanova with financial assistance as the school ponders a move to the FBS.

So, yeah. That’s still on the table.

So are discussions with Pitt and Syracuse about the two schools possibly leaving before 2014. When WVU left for the Big 12, it also opened the door to the Panthers and Orange leaving before the 27 month waiting period would allow. It’s believed the two could bolt for the ACC in 2013.

Getting back to Temple, the MAC confirmed in the release today that the school will pay $6 million for immediate departure; it was previously reported that the exit terms would be at least $3.5 million. Also, Temple will reportedly pay $1 million to get out of the Atlantic 10 in 2013. In all, it’s expected that the Big East will pay the $7 million to bring the Owls in as an all-sports member, according to Brett McMurphy of CBSSports. The Temple release says the exit fees will be paid “from added athletics revenues that the school will receive from its new conference.”

As for the MAC, the divisions will align as follows:

East Division:  Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, UMass, Miami, Ohio
West Division:  Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.