Report: Boise, BYU, SDSU all still in conversations with MWC

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As is usually the case, one realignment story — in this case, Maryland’s departure from the ACC to the Big Ten — tends to open up the proverbial flood gates to a handful of other reports, which opens the gates for others and soon enough you have a college football pyramid scheme.

One such report involves — surprise! — the future of the Big East conference. Per ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, Boise State, BYU and San Diego State are still having conversations with the Mountain West Conference about re-joining the league. However, it’s reported that the talks did not originate solely because of this latest round of conference realignment. Though not official yet, it’s believed that Big East member Rutgers will also announce it’s intention to apply for Big Ten membership tomorrow (Tuesday).

Rather, discussions reportedly began when it was announced last week that college football’s new playoff would have six access bowls with one spot guaranteed to go to the highest-ranked team from a conference that does not have a contractual tie-in to one of the major bowls (i.e., the Big East, C-USA, MAC, MWC and Sun Belt). In terms of access, the Mountain West would be on the same level as the Big East. Still, McMurphy reports that discussions among the three former and possibly soon-to-be former members have “greater significance” because of the latest moving and shaking between conferences.

The Big East is currently on the open market for a new TV deal after its 60-day exclusive negotiating window with ESPN passed. This is where things get messy with the likes of Boise State and San Diego State. On one hand, there’s still no definitive number (yet) that Boise and SDSU can hold as affirmation that a move to the Big East is financially worth it. On the other hand, any reports of wavering support from the two MWC programs — this is not the first time it’s been rumored that BSU and SDSU were showing trepidation — could affect the Big East’s TV negotiations.

And around and around it goes.

BYU, a former member of the MWC, is in a slightly different situation. As a football independent, the Cougars are in the middle of a TV deal with ESPN that brings in about $4 million annually. While a return to the MWC may not payout that much for BYU — it’s not even clear how the school could break such a contract at this time — it would give the program potentially greater access to an at-large spot in one of the six access bowls (and a higher payout).

The one thing to keep in mind about realignment since this is now everyone’s third rodeo in as many years is that everything was fine in the college footbal landscape as of a couple of weeks ago. Now, there’s at least some sense of panic. There may be moving parts, but not all of them will lead to change.

Updated 11:45 p.m. ET: Boise State president Bob Kustra released the following statement (H/T Idaho Statesman) about its future with the Big East:

“We are in contact with the Big East Conference office and are evaluating the information that has come forward regarding conference realignment the past few days.”

Not much going on the statement. Not overly promising, but not total doom and gloom either. Just evaluating options. Again, the lack of a TV deal really hurts the Big East going forward.

Arkansas kicker Cole Hedlund reportedly transfers to North Texas

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And you can pardon the whole of the state of Arkansas if they let out a collective “thank goodness.”

Citing multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle is reporting that Cole Hedlund is transferring to North Texas.  After redshirting as a true freshman in 2014 at Arkansas, Hedlund spent the next three seasons as a placekicker for the Razorbacks.

The Argyle, Tex., native opted to transfer from UA for his final season of eligibility.  He’s the youngest son of UNT women’s soccer coach John Hedlund.

For his career with the Razorbacks, Hedlund hit on 14 of his 24 field goal attempts.  He also connected on all 91 extra point attempts.  His best season came in 2015 when he led the team in scoring with 85 points.

The past season, however, was a rough one.  After missing both field goal attempts in a Sept. 9 loss to TCU — the misses came from 20 and 23 yards out — Hedlund never attempted another kick for the Razorbacks the rest of the season.

“It was basically a PAT, and it was a perfect protection and a perfect snap. It’s inexcusable,” then-head coach Bret Bielema said at the time.

Longtime BYU defensive assistant Steve Kaufusi steps down

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A constant on BYU’s defensive staff for nearly two decades has taken himself out of the football program’s equation.

The Cougars announced Friday that Steve Kaufusi has stepped down from his post as linebackers coach.  Per the school, Kaufusi’s departure was triggered by his desire to pursue other unspecified interests.

Kaufusi, whose wife Michelle is the mayor of Provo and has two sons who will play for the Cougars this season, had spent the past 16 seasons with BYU.  From 2002-16, he coached the defensive line; he took over linebackers in 2017 and spent one season overseeing that position.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to coach at BYU for the past 16 seasons,” Kaufusi said. “I’m honored to have had the opportunity to represent the University and everything it stands for. I will always be a Cougar and look forward to watching my sons play at BYU.”

“Anyone who knows Steve knows he is an exceptional coach and mentor to young men, which you can see in the players he has coached over the years and also in his own family,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I wish Steve nothing but the best for his future.”

In tandem with the Kaufusi announcement, the program also confirmed that Preston Hadley has been hired.  Hadley, who played defensive back for the Cougars and coached at Weber State the past two seasons, will coach safeties in his return.

Ed Lamb, who was responsible for safeties, will take over Kaufusi’s linebackers.  All other coaches on the defensive side of the ball will maintain their current positions.

Michigan State promotes Mike Tressel to DC, adds ex-Kent State HC as DBs coach

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Mark Dantonio looked inside and out of his football program to fill some holes in his Michigan State staff.

Nearly two weeks ago, Harlon Barnett left as MSU’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach to take a job at Florida State.  That left Dantonio with two openings, one of which the head coach closed Friday by promoting Mike Tressel to defensive coordinator.

Tressel and Barnett had served as co-coordinators the past three seasons; the nephew of former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel will now serve as the Spartans’ solo coordinator moving forward.

“Mike has done a tremendous job working with the defense,” said Dantonio in a statement. “He’s been deeply involved with everything with the defense since we first arrived here, and has helped coach some championship defenses that have been ranked consistently among the best in the nation, year in and year out. He did a great job as co-coordinator the past three years. He’s certainly earned this opportunity and I think he’ll do an outstanding job.”

To replace Barnett as defensive backs coach, Dantonio turned to Paul Haynes.  The past five years, Haynes was the head coach at Kent State before being dismissed at the end of the 2017 regular season.

This serves as a homecoming of sorts for Haynes as well.  From 2003-04, he was the defensive backs coach for the Spartans under John Smith.

The 48-year-old Haynes has also been a secondary coach at Arkansas (2012), Ohio State (2005-10), Louisville (2002) and Kent State (1999).

“We’re very, very excited about Paul,” said Dantonio. “He’s coached here before so he’s got a Spartan background. He was secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, so he’s coached on the highest level with the secondary. He was a defensive coordinator at Arkansas as well. He’s been a head coach at Kent State, so I think that gives him a big picture feel. I think he’s an excellent recruiter. He’s a dynamic person as well, so we’re excited to have him on campus.”

Willie Taggart finalizes first Florida State coaching staff

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Exactly 45 days after being announced as Florida State’s new head coach, Willie Taggart has put the finishing touches on his first Seminoles staff.

Friday night, FSU confirmed that Taggart has completed his 10-man staff with the additions of five new assistants.  It was reported this week that Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell would be taking the same job at FSU; the school confirmed as much today, with Bell also taking over as quarterbacks coach.

The other four hires consisted of Greg Frey (offensive line/running-game coordinator), David Kelly (wide receivers/recruiting coordinator), Mark Snyder (defensive ends) and Alonzo Hampton (special teams coordinator).

That fivesome joins the other five assistants previously announced:

  • Harlon Barnett, defensive coordinator and defensive back
  • Odell Haggins, associate head coach and defensive tackles
  • Raymond Woodie, linebackers
  • Telly Lockette, tight ends
  • Donte’ Pimpleton, running backs

Haggins is the lone holdover from Jimbo Fisher‘s last staff.

“From the beginning of this process, my goal was to bring in the best coaches for our program and I believe we have done that,” Taggart said. “This group will do a great job of recruiting, developing, coaching and mentoring our student-athletes to reach their highest potential. I’m excited for the next few weeks as we are finalizing our 2018 signing class and then working with our team as we prepare for spring practice.”