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Big East back on life support, on verge of collapse


As the conference expansion roulette wheel spun over the past couple of years, the Big East was declared all but dead only to bounce back from the brink.

This time around, though, there doesn’t appear any bounce left in the conference. is reporting that, barring an unexpected change of plans, the seven non-football members of the Big East will break away from that conference, while reports that it would be an upset if those schools — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — remained as part of the Big East.  An official announcement on the future of the league is expected in the next 24-48 hours.

The seven basketball schools have the power and the votes to dissolve the conference, although it’s unclear at this point if that’s the tack the group will take.

New Big East commissioner Mike Aresco has been in involved in the discussions and is attempting to hold his conference together.  Aresco met with the presidents of those seven schools Sunday, and took part in a teleconference earlier today.

What happens to the Big East if the seven schools break away or even dissolve the conference is the great unknown, throwing the football futures of several programs into chaos and uncertainty.  Boise State, Houston, Memphis, SMU, San Diego State and UCF are slated to join the Big East in 2013, followed by Tulane and East Carolina in 2014, and Navy in 2015.  UConn — the only founding member of the conference that would be left in 2013 — Cincinnati, Temple and USF are the only current members with plans to remain in the Big East if it survives some way, shape or form.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced last year that they will be moving to the ACC in 2013, while Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) announced earlier this year that they will be leaving the conference.

The biggest blow to the Big East is that the tumult and turmoil comes in the midst of negotiations on a new television contract.  From

If the seven basketball schools leave the Big East, it will be a crippling blow to the league’s media-rights negotiations. Last week projected the value of the Big East’s media-rights revenue between $60 million and $80 million.

An industry source thought the figure would be closer to $50 million, he told ESPN on Tuesday. The estimates reported by and ESPN both included the basketball schools as part of the package.

If the Big East loses the seven Catholic basketball schools, it would decrease the value of the league’s media rights by “15 to 20 percent,” an industry source said.

Such a development could prompt several new members, particularly Boise State and San Diego State, to reconsider their move.  Uncertainty on the part of the two schools and their move surfaced a couple months ago, with the Idaho Statesman confirming again today that the Mountain West would welcome them back with open arms.

Regardless of which direction the situation takes, there appears to be just one certainty — courts, and not the basketball kind.

“Lawyers are going to have to sort it all out,” a source told “I don’t think anybody knows exactly how this is going to happen. They just know it’s time to separate.”

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.