Where will UMass head in football in 2016? Not the AAC. Not yet, at least.
AAC commissioner Mike Aresco commented about the stability of the conference moving forward and said further expansion is not necessarily on the radar at this time. The AAC will lose Louisville to the ACC and Rutgers to the Big Ten later this year, but will add East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane. Navy is set to join as a football-playing member in 2015, which will allow the conference to hold a conference championship game with 12 members.
“That’s the configuration we expect the conference to have going forward,” Aresco said according to Daily Hampshire Gazette. “Now you never rule out anything. We would always be, alert, in terms of expansion down the road. But I don’t know there’s going to be much realignment the next few years,” Aresco said.
UMass is presumed to be hoping the conference has a change of heart soon though, because it is the conference that seems to make the most sense for a future conference home. Earlier this week UMass announced they have agreed with the MAC to leave the conference as a football-only member after the 2015 season.
“We have a lot of respect for UMass. It’s a flagship university, a high quality northeast presence. UMass has a lot of things going for it,” Aresco said. “We don’t have any plans to expand.”
It would help if UMass could be viewed as an attractive option for the conference, but the transition from FCS to the FBS has gone poorly in the early going for the Minutemen. The good news is the program has two seasons to reshape that image. Will that be enough? Even if UMass does show signs of improving and growth to be a competitive program, the AAC is already at 12 members. Adding just for numbers is no longer a need for the conference since it will meet the NCAA requirement to hold a conference championship game. This is why partnering up with Army in some sort of unified sales pitch may be required by UMass if the AAC is to be convinced expanding would be a benefit.
“We think we’ll be a cohesive stable group of 12,” Aresco said. “That doesn’t rule out us thinking about expanding down the road if the right institution made sense, if there was good, academic, athletic and cultural fit. That’s not our goal right now. Our goal is to build the league and build value in football and basketball like we have in our first year.”
As the 2017 offseason kicks into high gear, so have the annual and ever-present off-field issues.
According to multiple media outlets, TCU running back Kyle Hicks was arrested over the weekend on a misdemeanor charge of public intoxication. The 22-year-old Hicks and two former Horned Frog football players, Bryson Henderson and George Baltimore, were charged after police responded to reports of a fight at a Whataburger near campus very early Saturday morning.
No further details of what led to the police being called have been released.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes that “[t]he TCU athletics department said in a statement Monday night that officials are aware of the incident and looking into it.”
As a junior this past season, Hicks led TCU with 1,042 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. He also led the team in receptions with 47, becoming the first Horned Frog player to lead the team in both rushing and receiving since Basil Mitchell in 1996.
Hicks is expected to again be the focal point of TCU’s offense in 2017.
Not surprisingly, P.J. Fleck will have a familiar offensive face on which to lean as his oars hit the Power Five waters for the first time.
Coming off a couple of weeks worth of reports, Minnesota officially confirmed Monday that Fleck has named Kirk Ciarrocca as his new offensive coordinator. Ciarrocca had spent the past four seasons in the same position at Western Michigan, coinciding with Fleck’s tenure at the MAC school.
The school’s release stated that Ciarrocca “was instrumental in the development of Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco during his six seasons (2002-07) at the University of Delaware,” which presumably gave him a front-row seat in the “is he or isn’t he elite” argument.
With Fleck and the Gophers, and like his boss, Ciarrocca will be embarking on his first job with a Power Five program.
After leaving a Power Five program, Frank Iheanacho has decided that a lower rung on the college football ladder is more his speed at this point in time.
Stephen F. Austin announced Monday that Iheanacho has been added to the football program’s roster and will continue his playing career with the Lumberjacks. Iheanacho had opted to transfer from Texas A&M shortly after the end of the 2016 season.
As SFA plays at the FCS level, the wide receiver will be eligible to play immediately in 2017.
“We’re excited to be able to add Frank to the Lumberjack family and get him going with our football program,” Lumberjacks head coach Clint Conque said in a statement. “Frank obviously brings some big game experience, playing in an SEC program and competing against some of the nation’s best teams. He brings height and speed and will add some key depth at the wide receiver position.”
Iheanacho was a four-star 2014 signee, rated as the No. 13 receiver in the country and the No. 13 player at any position in the state of Texas. Only four players in the Aggies’ class that year, including potential No. 1 NFL overall draft pick Myles Garrett, Speedy Noil and Kyle Allen, were rated higher than Iheanacho.
In 18 games the past two seasons, Iheanacho caught eight passes for 71 yards.
Craig Bohl has an opening on his Wyoming coaching staff, although the reason for the attrition is certainly understandable.
Monday, Indiana State officially announced that Curt Mallory has been hired as the Sycamores head football coach. As ISU plays at the FCS level, Mallory will be eligible to coach immediately in 2017.
“We want to congratulate Curt and his wife Lori as they open a new chapter in their lives and in Curt’s coaching career as he becomes the head coach at Indiana State,” said the Cowboys head coach in a statement. “Curt’s efforts in his two years at Wyoming were greatly appreciated and had a significant impact on our program as we benefitted both from his coaching and his recruiting abilities.
“Curt is a well-experienced coach, who has a great understanding of players from the Midwest. He’ll be a great fit at Indiana State, and he will make them competitive in the Missouri Valley Conference.”
Mallory, the son of former Indiana head coach Bill Mallory, spent the past two seasons as the Cowboys’ defensive pass-game coordinator and secondary coach. A former Michigan linebacker, Mallory came to Laramie after spending four seasons in Ann Arbor as the Wolverines’ secondary coach.