Cincinnati still batting its eyes at ACC

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Even as the Big East is on the verge of inking a new television deal, one of its members is still very publicly hiking up its skirt and showing some leg to another conference.

Back in late November, a report surfaced that Cincinnati had attempted to enlist the help of former Bearcat defensive back and current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer in UC’s efforts to garner an invitation from the ACC.  While Meyer declined, those efforts continued into the next month.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, and subsequently followed up on by CBSSports.com, the university “sent a video description of the $70 million project to all of the Atlantic Coast Conference presidents, the latest sign that it’s still campaigning for a spot in that league.”  The $70 million project refers to improvements to Nippert Stadium, the football home of the Bearcats.

The paper further writes that “[a]s part of the process of selling UC to ACC member schools, [president Santa] Ono also sent holiday cards to each of the ACC presidents.”  Based on the latest reports, a greeting card is the least a Big East school could/should do as part of its wooing efforts; membership in the ACC could be worth at least eight times as much in annual television revenue — $17 million versus a rumored $2 million — when compared to the future financial prospects of current Big East members.

As far as the Nippert renovations go, the proposed project would add about 1,200 box seats, 44 loge boxes and 28 private suites, and would be completed late in the summer of 2015.

After the ACC lost Maryland to the Big Ten, Cincinnati and fellow Big East members Louisville and UConn were mentioned as potential replacements, In late November, it was announced that Louisville had been added as an ACC member, continuing an 18-month-long mass exodus from the Big East. Unfortunately for all involved, that may not be the last defection.

Rumors continue to persist that the Big Ten could be looking to perform another raid on the ACC.  In fact, just this afternoon the 247Sports.com website dedicated to Maryland sports tweeted that Virginia is “being mentioned as likely to join” the B1G, while Georgia Tech — another source of speculation as it relates to the Midwest conference — is still in the mix.  The website went so far as to write that North Carolina, “the big domino, has an offer” from the Big Ten.  The website goes on to refer to the Tar Heels as “the apocalyptic domino.”

Such a development involving any of those current ACC schools would certainly be good news for the likes of Cincinnati and UConn, but yet another round of bad news for the Big East.

It should be noted that, back in early December, reports that Georgia Tech and Virginia were in the midst of negotiations with the Big Ten were almost immediately shot down and debunked by all involved.

One thing appears to be certain in the latest round of speculation, though: anyone hoping for a quiet offseason on the expansion front (raises hand vigorously) will likely be sorely disappointed.

Telly Lockette takes job at Florida State as TEs coach

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As Willie Taggart constructs his first coaching staff at Florida State, he’s added yet another familiar face.

Taggart, FSU announced earlier Thursday, has hired Telly Lockette as the Seminoles’ tight ends coach.  Lockette had spent the past three seasons as the running backs coach at Oregon State.

Prior to that, Lockette was a member of Taggart’s coaching staff at USF as running backs coach for two seasons and maintains deep ties to the fertile recruiting soil of South Florida.

“I’ve known Coach Lockette for a long time and am excited he is joining our staff at Florida State,” Taggart said. “He was an important part of my first staff at South Florida and has gained Power 5 experience with his last three seasons in the Pac-12. Coach Lockette is a tremendous recruiter and coach who does a phenomenal job developing student-athletes on and off the field. While we were at South Florida he was the primary recruiter for the Miami area and helped us sign a number of impact players, including Quinton Flowers, Khalid McGee and Deatrick Nichols. His expertise will benefit our current and future Seminoles.”

The job with Taggart at USF was Lockette’s first at any level of college football.  The first 10 years of his coaching career were spent at the high school level, including a five-year stint at Miami Central from 2008-12.

Amidst Arizona State chatter, Texas Tech DC David Gibbs signs contract extension

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Almost without fail, it pays to have your name circulating through the annual churning of the coaching rumor mill.

The latest example is David Gibbs, with the Texas Tech defensive coordinator being rumored as a target for the same job with Herm Edwards at Arizona State over the past few days.  Fast-forward to Thursday night, and Tech announced that it has finalized a new two-year contract extension with Gibbs.  The coordinator is now signed through the 2019 season.

According to the school, Gibbs’ pay will be bumped from $550,000 per year to $650,000.  That number puts Gibbs right in the middle of Big 12 DC pay.

“We are fortunate to have one of the top defensive coordinators in the country in Coach Gibbs,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said in a release. “Since the conclusion of the regular season, finalizing this new contract to keep Coach Gibbs at Texas Tech has been a priority for myself and [athletic director] Kirby [Hocutt]. We look forward to continuing to build one of the nation’s top defenses in the years to come under Coach Gibbs.”

Long a punchline, the Red Raiders’ defense has steadily improved in the three years under Gibbs.  This season, their 27 takeaways led the Big 12 and are the most in a season for the football program since 2008.  They’re also currently seventh in the country with four defensive touchdowns.

With Gibbs back, he’ll have 10 returning starters with which to work next season.

“There isn’t a better person to work for than Kliff Kingsbury, and I’m looking forward to continue building this program with him,” Gibbs said. “There is still plenty of work that needs to be done, but I’m excited about the future of our team.”

RB Justin Crawford to skip West Virginia’s bowl game, begin preparing for NFL draft

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Sometimes the personnel gods giveth, and sometimes the personnel gods taketh away.

Thursday evening, West Virginia announced that quarterback Will Grier will return to Morgantown for the 2018 season.  Not long after, the same football program confirmed that Justin Crawford has decided to eschew playing in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Instead of preparing for Utah in the postseason, the senior running back will instead begin preparations for the 2018 NFL draft.

“Justin has logged a lot of miles and been a key contributor for us the past two seasons,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He made a decision to not play in the bowl game based on what is best for him and his family. He came to West Virginia to further his education and be a featured back in the Big 12 and he accomplished his goals. As he starts his preparation for the NFL Draft, we wish him nothing but the best.”

Crawford has led the Mountaineers in rushing each of the past two seasons.  He’s the first WVU player to post back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Noel Devine in 2008-09.

After finishing third in the Big 12 this season with 1,061 yards on the ground, he was named second-team all-conference for the second straight season.  Following the 2016 season, he earned the league’s Newcomer of the Year honor.

SMU graduate assistant GJ Kinne to call plays in Frisco Bowl

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New SMU head coach Sonny Dykes has been busy assembling his staff as he prepares to jump right in the saddle to coach the Mustangs in the Frisco Bowl next week, but he will have one holdover from the previous staff to help call the shots on offense. Graduate assistant GJ Kinne will call the offensive plays for the bowl game, according to Adam Grosbard of The Dallas Morning News.

This would seem to be the most logical choice for Dykes to make in this scenario. Kinne has been working in the SMU system all season long under former head coach Chad Morris, who has moved to Arkansas with a handful of assistants. Having the most experience with the current roster and a better comfort level makes sense to have Kinne take on this responsibility so close to the bowl game. This will be a major promotion for Kinne, the former Tulsa quarterback, even if just for one game.

I certainly trust G.J. It’s going to be fun to give him an opportunity to be highly involved and it’ll be one of those things he remembers for the rest of his life,” Dykes said of the decision to have Kinne calling the offense from above. “When you’re a GA and you get to call a bowl game, it’s a pretty awesome opportunity.”

Just how smoothly this all goes is anyone’s guess. Fortunately, if things go awry, Kinne and Dykes can always just resort to going back to a chuck-it-deep mentality and see what happens.

SMU faces Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 20.