Updated: Tulane, ECU join the Big East

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The move by Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten started up another round of realignment rumors. Most, as usual, are complete malarkey. However, one that emerged Tuesday morning caught just about everyone off guard. And it’s apparently as legit as it is hilarious.

Per multiple reports including WaveReport.com, ESPN, CBS, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Tulane will join the Big East in all sports. A press conference — reportedly for a formal announcement — is set for 2 p.m. ET. The university has yet to confirm or deny any realignment reports, but the press conference would be the response.

The AP and ESPN are also reporting that East Carolina (finally, y’all!!!!!) will join as a football-only member in 2014. A press conference for ECU is set for later this afternoon.

The Big East recently lost Rutgers to the Big Ten as part of the latest round of expansion. Maryland also joined the Big Ten from the ACC. Louisville and UConn are among the programs connected to the ACC through the rumor mill.

Boise State, San Diego State, Memphis, UCF, Houston and SMU are supposed to join the Big East in 2013 with Navy joining in 2015. That means in 2014, nine of the Big East’s members will have formerly resided in Conference USA.

More coming once — if — this becomes official.

Updated 2:00 p.m. ET: As expected, Tulane has joined the Big East as a full member. The Green Wave will move from Conference USA in the 2014-15 academic year. That’s the same year Tulane is expected to complete a 30,000-seat on-campus stadium.

“I am pleased and excited to welcome Tulane University to the BIG EAST Conference,” said Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco in a statement.  “Tulane University is an outstanding academic institution and is committed to excellence in athletics.  They will be a valued member of the BIG EAST.”

“Tulane University is pleased to accept membership in the BIG EAST Conference,” said Tulane President Scott Cowen.  “The BIG EAST is a distinguished collection of institutions that will be a wonderful home for Tulane.  We look forward to our mutual association and we are delighted to welcome the BIG EAST to the Big Easy!”

For ECU…

“We are very excited to welcome East Carolina University into the BIG EAST Conference for football,” said Aresco.  “They have a strong football tradition and a consistently successful program that will help elevate our football league.  The University is an outstanding academic institution that reflects the values important to the BIG EAST Conference.”

“ECU is excited to become a football member of the BIG EAST Conference,” said ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard.  “We know we will be successful and add value to the BIG EAST.  While hundreds of dedicated Pirates have contributed to this day, I especially want to recognize the relentless energy of Terry Holland and Nick Floyd in making this day a reality.  It is a great day to be a Pirate.”

Conference USA also issued a statement this afternoon:

“We thank East Carolina and charter member Tulane for all their contributions to the league and wish them well. These are unprecedented times in higher education. Notwithstanding the changes, we are excited about our future and we remain committed to our strategic plan – a major market, two-division conference that is student-athlete friendly.

“To be clear, we have several options but no new member agreements have made at this time. We appreciate the support of our members and will immediately begin a presidentially led process to evaluate our future options.”

Ken Sparks, fifth-winningest coach at any level in college football history, dies at age 73

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College football has lost a coaching legend of the sport that you may never have heard of.

Carson-Newman announced Wednesday morning that its legendary former head football coach, Ken Sparks, passed away earlier in the day at the age of 73.  Sparks had been battling prostate cancer since being diagnosed in 2012, but doctors stopped treating him in January of this year.

According to WBIR-TV, Sparks had been in hospice care for the last several weeks.

Sparks was the head coach at Carson-Newman from 1980 through November of 2016, when he stepped down because of health concerns. During his time at the Div. II program — the first baker’s dozen years they were an NAIA school — the Eagles went 338-99-2. Sparks laid claim to five NAIA national championships and qualified for the Div. II playoffs 15 times in 24 years, although they failed to win a title at that latter level.

The 338 wins for Sparks are the fifth-most at any level of college football, behind only John Gagliardi (489), Joe Paterno (409), Eddie Robinson (408) and Bobby Bowden (377).

Alabama won’t be rushing Bo Scarbrough back this spring

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Not surprisingly, Alabama is going to err on the side of caution when it comes to one the most productive horses in its backfield stable.

On a second-down carry late in the third quarter of the national championship game loss to Clemson, Bo Scarbrough went down with an injury that turned out to be a fractured bone in his lower right leg.  The rising sophomore running back has recovered enough to be a participant in the Crimson Tide’s spring practice during some drills, albeit in non-contact mode.

Following the fourth practice of the spring Tuesday, Nick Saban made it clear made it clear that, while Scarbrough is getting some work in, the football program won’t be pushing him.

“Bo is doing more and more every day,” the head coach said according to al.com. “He did quite a bit today in practice, non-contact stuff, but he’s sort of gaining confidence. Our goal for Bo is by the end of spring, he’s fully confident that he can do everything he needs to do. Whether he ever scrimmages or is really something that we’re not that concerned about.”

It’s expected Scarbrough, barring a setback between now and then, will be fully recovered well ahead of the start of summer camp in early August.

Scarbrough’s 812 yards rushing year was second amongst Tide backs, while his 11 rushing touchdowns were second on the team.  He ran for 180 of those yards and two of the touchdowns in the College Football Playoff semifinal win over Washington, then had 93 yards and two more touchdowns before going down with the injury in the title game.

Western Kentucky hoops star to give Hilltoppers football a try

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Coming off a season in which he was the best player on Western Kentucky’s men’s basketball team, Justin Johnson is going to try his hand at another sport.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Johnson will practice with the Hilltoppers football team for the remainder of spring practice. The 6-7 forward will, not surprisingly, spend his time at tight end.

At the end of practices this spring, a WKU official told CFT, both sides will determine what if any future Johnson has in the sport.

Johnson admitted in one interview earlier this basketball season that he grew up wanting to play linebacker for Ohio State, and he did play two years of football at his Kentucky high school. Despite the fact that both Kentucky and Louisville had interest in him as a tight end, he ended up signing with WKU’s hoops team in 2014.

That decision has worked out well for both parties as Johnson has led the team in scoring and rebounding each of the past two seasons. He led Conference USA in the latter category as well as double-doubles, and was named second-team all-conference after his junior season.

Victim of alleged WKU football attack plans to file charges

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A former Western Kentucky fraternity member says he was attacked by a group of Hilltoppers football players and plans to file charges.

Jerald Armfield, an alum of WKU’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, told WBKO-TV he was caught in an ongoing feud between the fraternity and the football team:

“I went to the house in the best interest of the fraternity and Western as a whole to prevent any type of violence from occurring. We got up there and realized they were all hiding behind garbage cans, trees, and buildings.”

“I never in my wildest dreams thought they would attack me in the manner that they did. They all started surrounding me. One of them threw a rock at me. It was within a few seconds that one of them punched me in the face.”

“I fell down. I was kicked several times. The whole time they were beating me, I was begging them to stop, telling them I wasn’t here the night before, I had nothing to to do with it, like please stop, please stop, and they didn’t.”

Armfield said between nine and 10 people ultimately attacked him; it isn’t known for sure how many of that group are on the football team, though the program’s involvement in the incident is being investigated.

“We are aware of the allegations involving a few members of our football team,” the program said in the statement when word of the altercation broke three weeks ago. “We are cooperating fully with the authorities. However, at this time, we have not received a police report and cannot provide further comment.”

While the status of the investigation is currently unknown, Armfield told WBKO he would like it to end with multiple charges. “I made it very clear that night when the police arrived on the scene that I wanted charges pressed,” he said. “As far as I know a detective from Bowling Green Police Department has it. As it stands right now, I still want charges pressed. They need to be held accountable for what they did not only as citizens but as students at Western.”