Conference USA officially adds five

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Welcome to Part 2 of realignmentpalooza.

Seven schools held press conferences on the same day to announce their move to new homes. John got you up to speed on San Jose State and Utah State moving from the WAC to the Mountain West, but here are some tidbits from five schools — FIU, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, UNC-Charlotte and UT-San Antonio — that will be moving on to Conference USA  beginning in 2013.

“We are excited about adding these new members as part of our bold strategy that focuses on growing institutions in large media markets,” C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said in a statement. “There is a tremendous upside here. This is an opportunity for us to add a mixture of established and emerging programs. We also remain committed to divisional scheduling models that are student-athlete and fan-friendly. The more we analyzed it, the more it made sense.”

From UTSA:

“Today is another outstanding day to be a Roadrunner,” said president President Dr. Ricardo Romo. “We are very excited about our new partnership with Conference USA. It is a great fit for us, and it is a significant step forward for the University and the entire city of San Antonio.”

“This is yet another historic day for UTSA,” Athletics Director Lynn Hickey said. “Today’s invitation is a realization of a lot of hard work by so many different people, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of the city and its community leaders. This truly was a collaborative effort. It’s another great moment for the city of San Antonio, our University and the athletics department. Everyone truly is excited to be moving to Conference USA.”

From North Texas:

”“This is validation that the progress we have made in our athletic programs in conjunction with our university’s academic reputation has made us a suitable fit for the high standards of Conference USA,” Director of Athletics Rick Villarreal said.  “Conference USA provides a great partnership with several schools in our geographic proximity and will help all of us create outstanding regional rivalries.  It is a tremendous opportunity for North Texas athletics.” 

From UNC-Charlotte:

“The invitation to join Conference USA is momentous in what it can do for our university,” Chancellor Dr. Philip Dubois said.  “As stewards of this university, it is incumbent upon us to provide the best leadership for today and the best promise for tomorrow.   We have yet to take a snap on McColl-Richardson field, yet to play our first game, yet to have even our first practice – but because of who we are, because of what we’ve done, and because of the great community we live in – we have the unique opportunity to become one of the first programs in history to go from no football to FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) football in the minimum time allowed by NCAA regulations.”

From Louisiana Tech:

“This is the dawn of a new era for Louisiana Tech University and a goal we have worked very hard over the past several years to achieve,” President Dan Reneau said. “I want to publically acknowledge the efforts of Bruce Van De Velde and his team as well as dedicated alums such as Terry Bradshaw and the Davison family, who were instrumental in helping tell our story and promote our vision for the future of Louisiana Tech Athletics. 

“Above all, I want to thank the Tech Nation for their loyal support and commitment to the athletics program. You are the spirit of Louisiana Tech and an inspiration to our coaches and student-athletes.”

From FIU:

“This move to Conference USA is about providing greater opportunity for our student-athletes and our fans,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg.  “A successful, visible athletics program is an integral part of building tradition and affinity in a young university such as ours. This is part of that journey. I want to thank Dr. Scott Cowen and the rest of the Conference USA CEOs for extending the invitation. I would also like to thank Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson, former commissioner Wright Waters and the rest of the Sun Belt Conference for being terrific partners the past 14 years.”

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

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While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.