BYU’s Mendenhall welcomes a Big 12 invite, if only it would be extended

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BYU is embarking on its fourth season as a football independent since leaving the Mountain West Conference behind. At the time the decision was made to abandon conference affiliation in football, there was a sense of pride and ambition for the program and the plan actually seemed to make some sense early on. What BYU may have failed to predict was the continued evolution of the college football landscape and how it would impact BYU. Now, perhaps feeling a need to secure a footing in the college football world, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall is letting it be known his program would appreciate consideration for a spot in the Big 12. Why wouldn’t he?

“We would love to be in the Big 12,” Mendenhall said in a story posted by the Austin American-Statesman. “I would love to be a member of that conference. I think that would make a lot of sense. In fact, if that was your headline, that would be great.”

It would make plenty of sense for BYU. Not only would a spot in the Big 12 cement BYU with a connection to one of the power conferences in college football, lump it in with brands like Texas and Oklahoma, but it would solve one of the biggest problems BYU faces as an independent; scheduling. The stress of having to fill out a 12-game schedule annually would be relieved with eight or nine conference games locked in every season. BYU would also cash in on Big 12 conference revenues, which could end up being more profitable than the current financial structure in place for BYU despite having power to arrange its own media rights deals without having to share a dime with any other school.

If the Pac-12 was not going to invite BYU (it opted for Utah and Colorado, remember), then the Big 12 is the most logical conference destination for BYU if it is to be a part of a power conference. The problem is, the need to add BYU is not there for the Big 12, a conference establishing a comfort level with a 10-member line-up after letting the ground settle in conference realignment madness of recent years.

Mendenhall has seen the way power conferences are viewing Notre Dame and feels BYU is deserving of that same level of respect as an independent. Notre Dame will qualify as a power conference opponent for the ACC’s non-conference scheduling requirement, but BYU will not. This does not sit well for the head coach at BYU.

From the Austin American-Statesman;

“We have a chip on our shoulder,” Mendenhall said. “I could have given you that instead of the longer answer. I’m just wondering who fights for us as an independent?

“Between myself and my basketball coaches, there’s no two featured programs that have won more games,” Mendenhall continued. “Our attendance is high enough. And our winning percentage is high enough.

“We have the entire Salt Lake City and Utah market as well as a worldwide following because of the church. There’d be a ton to offer the Big 12, because it’s a money-generated world right now. You’re talking about an amazing kind of brand.”

The Big 12 has said time and time again it is fine sitting on a membership of ten schools. For the Big 12, the lack of a conference championship game has not been a major concern, to this point at least. One of the big questions moving into the College Football Playoff era is what will the impact of a conference championship game have. If it looks as though the Big 12 is losing a step to the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 because it does not play a championship game, rumbles about expansion may kick up some dust. If that is the case, would BYU be among the potential candidates?

It appears there are four options for BYU.

1. The Big 12 answers Mendenhall’s prayers and invites the Cougars to join the conference along with some other school to get to 12 members and play a conference championship game. This is likely a long shot at best right now.

2. Work with the Big 12 to establish some sort of relationship similar in structure to the ACC’s deal with Notre Dame. Having five games with BYU on the schedule certainly is not a drain on the Big 12’s non-conference schedule and it provides BYU with some more stability with scheduling. If BYU can even sneak into the Big 12’s bowl line-up the way Notre Dame will in the ACC, that is a bonus.

3. BYU continues as a football independent, hoping to secure scheduling deals with Pac-12 schools (like UCLA) and push for national scheduling. This may urn out to be the most likely scenario, and may still be the best case scenario if the power conferences do not totally split off from the rest fo the NCAA.

4. BYU gets left behind in the power shift in college football and rejoins the Mountain West Conference, providing for schedule stability in whatever happens in the future of the college football landscape.

Are there any other options on the table for BYU? Which is the best plan?

Utah evaluating potential upgrades to Rice-Eccles Stadium

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It may be hard to believe, but Utah has just completed its sixth year in the Pac-12. Now, after benefitting from an increased conference revenue compared to their days in the Mountain West Conference, Utah appears to be ready to dig in and explore the possibility of expanding Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The University of Utah announced today the school is putting together a feasibility study to expand the south end zone of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Among the details to figure out include how much it may cost, who it will be funded and whether or not there is a market for such an expansion in the first place. Given the move to the Pac-12 a little more than half a decade ago and the success of making the transition with a more attractive regular season schedule, it stands to reason there is potential for a stadium expansion to take advantage of.

“Understanding the market, costs and feasibility will help us better prepare for the future of the stadium,” said President David W. Pershing in a released statement. “There’s still much work to be done before taking steps toward renovation. We have to know if the market will support this kind of expansion.”

Rice-Eccles Stadium opened its doors in 1998 after a complete rebuild of the original stadium structure that was Rice Stadium. One of the only portions of the stadium that was left largely untouched between the transition of the stadium was the south end zone. This is where Utah wants to explore renovation plans for the most part. If the hypothetical project goes through, Utah will rebuild the locker rooms, equipment storage and media rooms as well as medical treatment areas. Of course, the school will also evaluate possibilities for luxury seating for fans and donors and concession area upgrades. Among those fan amenities under consideration is connecting the east and west concourses.

Rice-Eccles Stadium currently has a listed seating capacity of 45,807. It has a sellout streak of 38 games, with 35 going above the official maximum capacity, according to Utah Athletics.

Former LSU QB Brandon Harris announces commitment to UNC

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Former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris has found himself a new home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Harris announced via Facebook and Twitter he has chosen to commit to North Carolina.

“Obviously, it has been an important time for me, looking for a great situation and another opportunity to grow as a young man and as a student as well as a football player,” Harris said in his statement. “After my [official] visit this weekend to the University of North Carolina, I’m going to get that opportunity. With that being said, I’m fully committed to UNC this upcoming year and I look forward to the opportunity to play for coach [Larry Fedora] and UNC.”

Harris will be eligible to play for UNC immediately this fall after graduating from LSU this summer, and the timing may not be better for Harris. UNC is losing its starting quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) to the NFL and has a wide open spot to fill in the starting lineup as a result. But the job will not automatically go to Harris upon his arrival at UNC after missing out on spring practices at North Carolina.

Harris played in just four games last season, in which he passed for 139 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Since the season-opener against Wisconsin, Harris was reduced to backup duty and did not play in any of LSU’s seven final games of the 2016 season, including the bowl game against Louisville. Harris announced his decision to transfer in February, which was pretty much expected given how last season played out amid a coaching change.

Report: Foot injury puts Georgia WR Riley Ridley on sideline for spring

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Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley has not been practicing this spring, but it has nothing to do with his offseason misdemeanor from a couple of weeks ago. Instead, a foot injury appears to have sidelined Ridley for the spring.

According to a report from Gridiron Now, Ridley has been out due to the foot injury. When the foot injury occurred is not reported. Even if his foot was not injured, it remains unknown if Ridley would be participating int he spring, at least at this point. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has said Ridley will be internally disciplined for his misdemeanor pot possession from earlier this month.

“He’ll receive discipline,” Smart said. “We are very disappointed in his decision. We do not condone that behavior. I think Riley is going to learn a valuable lesson from this mistake.”

When Ridley may be available again remains unknown, as does what exactly the punishment to him will be from Smart. A one-game suspension is the expected result for Ridley according to the university’s student-athlete handbook.

USF DB Hassan Childs in stable condition after overnight shooting incident

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USF defensive back Hassan Childs was injured in a shooting incident overnight. Fortunately, Childs is currently said to be in stable condition, according to USF.

“We are deeply concerned that an incident occurred overnight in which one of our guys, Hassan Childs, was injured in a shooting,” a statement from USF head coach Charlie Strong said. “Thankfully, Hassan is in stable condition and being well cared for, and no one else was injured. There is an ongoing investigation of the incident and we are in the process of gathering further information.”

The shooting took place off campus, but details about the incident have not been reported.

Childs played in eight games for the Bulls last year. He recorded 16 tackles and returned two punts for three yards in a backup role.