SEC will ‘keep an open mind’ on Big 12 partenership

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The Big 12 and SEC have already come together on a postseason game that they hope will become their version of the Rose Bowl.  Now, the two conferences could be looking to deepen the relationship between the leagues.

While talks thus far have been exploratory at best, an SEC official confirmed to the Birmingham News that they would be open to continuing discussions on an extended partnership with the Big 12.  Per the News, that would include regular-season football and basketball scheduling as well as, the paper writes, “marketing and possibly even television partnerships.”

“That’s a situation we would keep an open mind on, but we haven’t had a lot of significant discussions at this point,” Womack said. “There’s a lot of different ways that could work. At this point, we’re continuing to move forward with scheduling the conference as we’ve planned.”

In an interview with the Austin-American Statesman late last week, commissioner Bob Bowlsby acknowledged that the Big 12 is looking into an alliance with the ACC as well as two other unspecified conferences.  The SEC is now confirmed to be one of the other two, while it’s widely believed the Pac-12 would be the other Bowlsby declined to name.

The conventional wisdom is that a partnership such as the 10-team Big 12 is discussing could help head off another round of conference expansion, although all it would take is for one league — specifically, the Big Ten — to add members to make any alliance talk moot.

In late December of 2011, the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced a scheduling agreement between the two conferences that was slated to begin in 2017.  The goal of the agreement was for each of the 12 members of the Pac-12 to face a member of the 12-school Big Ten in football, strengthening the nonconference schedules of both leagues.  In July of last year, and thanks in large part to the Pac-12’s nine-game conference schedule, the agreement was called off.

Four months later, the Big Ten announced the additions of Maryland and Rutgers, boosting the conference’s membership to the same 14-team level as the SEC and ACC — after the latter raided the Big East for Louisville, of course.

Oregon OL Tyrell Crosby to wear No. 58 for Las Vegas Bowl to honor victims of mass shooting

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Oregon’s big No. 73 is changing jersey numbers for the Las Vegas Bowl and he’s doing so for a great cause.

Vegas native and Ducks offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby announced on Friday that he would not be playing his final game with the team in his normal jersey and would instead be donning No. 58 for Saturday’s bowl against Boise State. The reason is not to simply change numbers on the way out the door however, as the senior is pointedly making the move to honor the 58 victims of the horrific mass shooting that happened in the city in early October.

“This is so much more than a game to me,” Crosby told the school’s website. “I take a lot of pride in being from Vegas — especially being a football player from Vegas.”

Several college football teams, especially UNLV and Nevada, have done tributes to honor the victims of the attack and the first responders who heroically rushed to their aid in the wake of the deadly mass shooting just off the Strip. There figures to be several more tributes during Saturday’s game at Sam Boyd Stadium between the Ducks and Broncos but kudos to Crosby, one of the team’s best players, for going the extra mile and doing something special for the game in his hometown.

Pitt starting left tackle Brian O’Neill declares for NFL draft

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One of the individuals who put the fat guy in Fat Guy Touchdown has decided to move on to the next level.

Brian O’Neill announced in a statement sent out via the Pitt sports information department that he has decided to make himself available for the 2018 NFL draft. After discussing his option with his family and coaches, O’Neill stated “I believe this is the best course of action to achieve my ultimate goal.”

The offensive lineman took a redshirt as a true freshman in 2014, which left him one more season of eligibility he could’ve used.

The last three seasons, O’Neill started 37 games in a row for the Panthers.  After starting 24 games in a row at right tackle — his first start was on the opposite side — he started all 12 games at left tackle this past season.

O’Neill’s claim to national fame, though, was his 24-yard touchdown run on a backward pass (pictured) that helped earn him the second-annual Piesman Trophy Award in 2016.  That same season, he scored a five-yard touchdown on an end-around.

Below is O’Neill’s statement, in its entirety:

After careful consideration over the last few weeks, I have decided to enter the 2018 NFL draft. I do not take this decision lightly; therefore, I took an extensive amount of time discussing the situation with my family and coaches. Ultimately, I believe this is the best course of action to achieve my ultimate goal.

“Looking back on the past four years, I consider myself one of the luckiest guys in the world. As an incoming freshman, I was welcomed with open arms into this team, school and community. I am extremely proud to have earned my degree and will always call the University of Pittsburgh home.

“I am forever grateful to a number of individuals instrumental in my development as a player and person. Coach Narduzzi and Coach Peterson’s support and guidance has been incredible. I am truly appreciative for them and all my teammates and coaches. Additionally, I maintain a special appreciation for Coach Dave Andrews, Coach Dave Bucar and Mark Diethorn. I will never be able to thank all the people who have helped me throughout the past several years, but their support does not go unnoticed.

“Moving forward, there is nothing more important to me than representing my family, teammates, coaches, and this great University in a first-class manner. The entire Pittsburgh community has been great to me – thank you!

“As always, Hail to Pitt!!!

Toledo, Jason Candle reach agreement on new deal through 2023

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Jason Candle was one of the hot commodities during the early spinning of the 2017-18 coaching carousel.  With said spinning winding down, Candle has remained put — albeit with a (surprise surprise!) revamped deal.

Toledo confirmed Friday afternoon that it has reached an agreement on a two-year contract extension with its head football coach.  Candle is now signed through the 2023 season, with his original deal running through 2021.

It’s believed that the new deal will make him the highest-paid coach in the MAC, although the financial details have not yet been released.

“We are very pleased to extend Jason Candle’s contract through the 2023 season,” said athletic director Mike O’Brien in a statement. “Jason is unquestionably one of the finest football coaches in the country. He is a tremendous leader and teacher of young men. His focus on leading us to a MAC Championship never wavered, and he has a strong determination to elevate our football program to even greater heights. We look forward to his leadership for many years to come.”

In nearly two full seasons with the Rockets, Candle has guided UT to a 20-6 record (he’s 21-6 overall at the school as he coached the team in the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl).  This season, they’ve gone 11-2, winning their first outright division title since 1998 and first conference championship since 2004.

“I’m very appreciative of the support and confidence that President (Sharon) Gaber and Mike O’Brien have shown in my staff and me,” said Candle. “The success of our program is the result of the unified effort of our players, coaches, staff and everyone in Rocket Nation who supports us. To be a MAC Champion is a tremendous accomplishment of which we can all be proud. At the same time, we are even more focused on our mission of continuing to build on our program’s tradition of success. I’m proud to be a Rocket and proud to represent this great University and great city.”

Toledo will face Sun Belt co-champion Appalachian State in the Dollar General Bowl Dec. 23.

Report: Departing Oregon State WR Seth Collins facing assault charge

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Earlier today we noted that Seth Collins would be, for a second time, leaving Oregon State. As it turns out, there’s little more going on off the field than was originally known.

According to The Oregonian, Collins was arraigned in court Thursday on one count of fourth-degree assault.  The arraignment came the same day as OSU confirmed that the wide receiver had asked for and been granted a release from his scholarship.

The alleged incident that led to the charge occurred in early October at a Corvallis apartment complex and allegedly caused physical injury to the 19-year-old alleged victim, Makaela Martinez.  From the newspapers report:

Lt. Dan Duncan of the Corvallis Police Department said Martinez reported the incident at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8. Duncan said that Martinez had a “swollen and cut” lip, according to the police report, and said that she had been struck in the face.

[Collin’s attorney Jennifer] Nash said Collins did not know Martinez. She said an altercation started at the party due to an unnamed intoxicated male who was “out of control.” Nash said Collins was not intoxicated and got involved in the altercation, for which Martinez was a bystander.

“(Collins) was trying to help someone else and this situation happened,” Nash said.

A university source, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the incident, said Collins took Martinez’s phone as she recorded the incident on video. Martinez is not enrolled at Oregon State, according to the school’s online directory.

At the time of Collins’ release, he was under suspension by the football program because of the incident, and had been for nearly a month.  Collins missed the first three games of the 2017 season because of a finger injury and returned to play the next three, then was sidelined indefinitely in early October because of what the football program described at the time as a health-related issue.

“OSU athletic department spokesman Steve Fenk said the timing of Collins’ [health-related] absence and the date of the alleged assault were coincidental,” The Oregonian wrote.

The transferring Collins has one year of collegiate eligibility, which he intends to use at another football program, although this off-field incident could cause him some damage in that endeavor. “The filing of charges against him in this manner could have a huge impact on his future,” his attorney said.