Boise State ditching Big East, staying in MWC

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Cue the funeral dirge and warm up the fat lady’s pipes.  The Big East is crumbling… again.

Nearly three weeks ago, seven “basketball school” members of the Big East announced their intention to leave the beleaguered conference.  That crippling blow came in the midst of the league’s negotiations on a new television contract, and called into question whether incoming members like Boise State would get cold feet over a move that promises to fall far short financially what was initially expected.

On the last day of 2012, that question was apparently answered.

According to a report from Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Boise State has decided against becoming a football-only member of the Big East as originally planned and will instead remain a member of the Mountain West.  All of BSU’s sports will remain in the MWC as well, as the non-football programs — with the exception of wrestling — had been slated to move to the Big West.

The move — or non-move, if you will — comes as little surprise.  In mid-November, reports surfaced that Boise State was still in contact with the MWC about staying in the conference, although BSU officials “reaffirmed” their commitment to their future conference a couple of days later.

Even as Boise State never actually became an official member of the Big East, the university will still be required to pay a $10 million exit fee.  McMurphy reports that the MWC is expected to help pay that fee.

Neither the school nor either conference involved has commented on the reported development.

To say that the Big East is once again on life support would be an understatement.  Boise State’s move could also impact San Diego State, which is also scheduled to move from the MWC to the Big East in 2013.  SDSU was BSU’s “travel partner” in their move to the Big East, and there’s little doubt that school is in the process of reevaluating their impending conference relocation.

Unlike Boise State, however, McMurphy reports that SDSU will not be compelled to pay the $10 million exit fee due to BSU’s departure.

Additionally, schools like Houston and SMU, slated to leave Conference USA for the Big East in 2013, could rethink the move based on Boise bolting the listing league.

As it stands now, the Big East will have nine football-playing members in 2013: current members Cincinnati, Temple, UConn and USF as well as incoming (maybe) members Houston, Memphis, SDSU, SMU and UCF.  That number would jump to 11 in 2014 (East Carolina and Tulane) and 12 in 2015 (Navy).

Earlier this year, Louisville and Rutgers announced they were leaving the Big East, the former for the ACC and the latter for the Big Ten.  Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving for the ACC in 2013 as well.

UPDATED 3:21 p.m. ET: In a press release issued shortly after McMurphy’s report, “the Mountain West Conference and Boise State University today jointly announced, effective immediately, Boise State will remain a member of the Mountain West in all sports.”  BSU’s president intimated that the instability of the Big East compared to the relative stability of the MWC was the tipping point in the decision-making process.

“Without question, conference affiliation has been an odyssey for Boise State, with all the unexpected turns and changes that term suggests,” said BSU president Robert Kustra in a statement. “The benefits of geographic footprint, revenue, and national exposure have to be balanced against the changing circumstances of conference realignment.  I am confident that our Mountain West membership is the very best decision for Boise State University, our student-athletes and our incredible fan base.”

“We are very pleased today to announce Boise State University’s continuing membership in the Mountain West Conference,” said MWC commissioner Craig Thompson. “Maintaining the Broncos program as part of the already solid foundation we have established creates a posture of great stability for the Mountain West going forward.  It also enhances the Conference’s competitive and marketplace platforms, positioning us favorably in the evolving FBS landscape.

Finalists announced for a number of individual awards

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The final week of the regular season is upon us. Heck, some teams still have two games to play between now and bowl season. Still, it’s awards season in college football, and the petty matter of actual games won’t get in the way of the pageantry.

Let’s dive right in.

Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
Bradley Chubb, NC State
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver)
Michael Gallup, Colorado State
David Sills V, West Virginia
James Washington, Oklahoma State

Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player)
Bradley Chubb, NC State
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Josey Jewell, Iowa
Ed Oliver, Houston
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Butkus Award (best linebacker)
Devin Bush, Michigan
Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback)
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

Doak Walker Award (best running back)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
DeShon Elliott, Texas
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Josh Jackson, Iowa

John Mackey Award (best tight end)
Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
Mike Geisicki, Penn State

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)
Daniel Carlson, Auburn
Dominik Eberle, Utah State
Matt Gay, Utah

Maxwell Award (best overall player)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Outland Trophy (best interior player)
Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Ed Oliver, Houston

Ray Guy Award (best punter)
Michael Dickson, Texas
J.K. Scott, Alabama
Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah

Wuerffel Trophy (best community servant)
Blaise Taylor, Arkansas State
Courtney Love, Kentucky
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame

Winners will be announced at the Home Depot College Football Awards show in Atlanta, Thursday, Dec. 7 on ESPN.

Kentucky loses TE C.J. Conrad to foot injury

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Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad has been lost for the season to a lisfranc injury in his left foot, head coach Mark Stoops announced Monday. He will undergo surgery to correct the issue on Tuesday.

Though he caught just 16 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns on the season, Conrad was Kentucky’s leading receiver this season. The junior caught one 17-yard pass in Big Blue’s 41-38 defeat of Louisville last season.

With Conrad, a junior, out, Kentucky will turn to senior Greg Hart and/or sophomore Justin Rigg at tight end, though the Louisville Courier-Journal notes that both have battled injuries of late.

Kentucky will close the season against Louisville in Lexington on Saturday (noon ET, SEC Network) and in a to-be-determined bowl game.

Joey Jones steps down as South Alabama head coach

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There’s never a good time to lose a football game 52-0, but even by that scale it’s an especially bad thing to lose 52-0 in a game you had to win to keep your bowl hopes alive to a team so disgusted by its own season that it fired its head coach a month ago.

That’s what South Alabama did on Saturday in dropping a 52-0 decision to Georgia Southern, giving the Eagles their first win of the season.

And on Monday, South Alabama announced head coach Joey Jones will resign following the Jaguars’ Dec. 2 finale at New Mexico State.

“There comes a time in every program where there is a need for change.  For this program that I love so much, that time is now,” Jones said in a statement.  “One of the proudest days of my professional life was being the named the first head coach at South Alabama.  Today is difficult, but it is the right step for me, my family and for this football program.”

Jones is the only head coach South Alabama has ever known, hired Feb. 15, 2008. He led the Jags for three seasons as an FCS Independent before joining the Sun Belt in 2012, taking the club to bowl games in 2014 and 2016.

The loss Saturday dropped the program to 4-7 this season, ending hopes of returning to a bowl game for the first time in the program’s short history.

“Joey Jones is the father of our football program.  He, his wife Elise and his entire family put their arms around the program and committed to its establishment and growth,” said AD Dr. Joel Erdmann.  “He has placed South Alabama Football on strong footing, which is something he and his family can be very proud of and we sincerely appreciate.  His good, hard work and commitment will forever be recognized.”

As Bronco Mendenhall denies interest, Oregon State reportedly interviews two Pac-12 coordinators

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A report broke over the weekend that Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall was a person of interest in the ongoing Oregon State coaching search. An Oregon State graduate with significant experience in the region as BYU’s former head coach, Mendenhall made a lot of sense for the Beavers. Problem is, the Beavers didn’t make a lot of sense for Mendenhall, and on Monday he effectively withdrew his name from the search.

No matter, Oregon State quickly moved on to a group of qualified, logical candidates. According to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune, Oregon State interim head coach Cory Hall, Cal offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin and Washington offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith have interviewed for the post.

Eggers wrote that Hall is running significantly behind the other two, but that Oregon State AD Scott Barnes would work to influence the actual hire to retain Hall.

Baldwin has a decade of experience as a head coach in the Pacific Northwest, one 10-3 season at Central Washington and an 85-32 run with an FCS national championship in nine seasons at Eastern Washington. Baldwin left EWU to become Justin Wilcox‘s offensive coordinator in Berkeley last winter.

Smith doesn’t have Bladwin’s head coaching experience, but he does have more successful experience within the Pac-12 and at Oregon State in particular. Smith has been Chris Petersen‘s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for his entire run at Washington, and spent two years as Boise State’s quarterbacks coach before that.

Smith was also a record-setting quarterback at Oregon State and began his coaching career as a Beavers graduate assistant in 2002-03.