Big 12 Football Media Days

Oklahoma to return to Houston after 14 years, in 2016

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Oklahoma will open the 2016 season in one NFL stadium, and if all goes well it could end in another. The Sooners and Houston have agreed to open the 2016 season in NRG Stadium in Houston, home to the NFL’s Houston Texans as well as the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff. The 2016 season will conclude with the College Football Playoff championship game in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Houston Chronicle was the first to report the possibility of a 2016 opener between the Sooners and Cougars, and Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com later confirmed the report to be a done deal via Twitter. The Texas Kickoff is one of the newest neutral site game sin college football, joining Atlanta’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff and the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas. The first game in the series was played last season between Oklahoma State and Mississippi State and continues this season with LSU and Wisconsin. Texas A&M and Arizona are scheduled to appear in the game in 2015.

This season’s game between LSU and Wisconsin is expected to top last year’s attendance of 35,874 fans, and next year’s game with Texas A&M involved should see a nice turnout as well at the gate. Oklahoma and Houston should make for a good crowd at the game as well, especially if Houston can continue to build its program between now and then and emerge as a top power from the “Group of Five” (I really hate that term) conferences.

Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Houston, 2-0. The most recent of those two meeting came in 2004, with the Sooners winning by a blowout score of 63-14. As noted by The Dallas Morning News, Oklahoma’s last trip to the city of Houston went well. The last time the Sooners were in town they left with the Big 12 championship after topping Colorado in the 2002 Big 12 Championship Game in the same stadium.

North Texas regents approve new five-year deal for Seth Littrell

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Head coaches Jim McElwain of the Florida Gators and Seth Littrell of the North Texas Mean Green shake hands after the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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In the year prior to Seth Littrell‘s arrival in Denton, North Texas went through an abysmal one-win season.  Twelve months later, they participated in the postseason.  A couple of months after that, the football program’s head coach has been rewarded for the immediate turnaround.

In a press release Friday afternoon, UNT announced that the university and Littrell have reached an agreement on a new five-year deal.  The school’s Board of regents has already signed off on the contract.

With the new deal, the 38-year-old Littrell is now signed through the 20121 season.

There’s no official word yet as to what financial enhancements were included as part of the new pact.  Last season, his first as a head coach, Littrell was paid $815,000.  That number was third among Conference USA coaches in 2016 according to USA Today‘s salary database.

“We are excited to announce this new agreement with coach Littrell,” said athletic director Wren Baker in a statement. “Under one of the brightest young coaches in the country, our football program had the second-best turnaround in the nation last season and his performance was recognized by his colleagues and media members around the nation. This new contract represents an aggressive move to keep coach Littrell, his staff, and their positive momentum intact. This is validation of the successful efforts that Seth has led in the early stages of the turnaround of North Texas football.”

While the Mean Green finished the 2016 regular season 5-7, they were one of the five-win teams to qualify for a bowl game.  It was the program’s first bowl appearance since 2013 and just the second in the last dozen years.

The four-win turnaround from the previous season was the second-best at the FBS level.

Mean Green DC Mike Ekeler formally announced as Tar Heels’ LBs coach

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 30:  Linebackers Coach Mike Ekeler of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers looks on from the sideline during the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl against University of Arizona Wildcats on December 30, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Cornhuskers defeated the Wildcats 33-0. (Photo By Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
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North Carolina’s reported poaching of North Texas’ coaching staff is officially official.

UNC acknowledged in a press release Friday that Mike Ekeler has been hired as the Tar Heels’ new linebackers coach.  Ekeler will take over the job previously held by John Papuchis, who was promoted to defensive coordinator after Gene Chizik abruptly stepped down to spend more time with his family.

“We’re thrilled to add Mike to our coaching staff,” said head coach Larry Fedora in a statement. “He’s a well-respected, energetic coach who has worked with other members of our defensive staff in the past, which will make the transition to Carolina that much easier. He’s an outstanding coach and recruiter who will be a great fit for our program. We look forward to having Mike and his wife and kids join the UNC family.”

Ekeler spent the 2016 season as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Mean Green. Prior to joining UNT, he spent two seasons as inside linebackers coach at Georgia.

He’s also worked on coaching staffs at USC (2013), Indiana (2011-12), Nebraska (2008-10), LSU (2005-07) and Oklahoma (2003-04).  At the latter two stops, Ekeler served as a graduate assistant.

Top Syracuse DB Antwan Cordy gets medical redshirt for 2016 season

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 31:  Wide receiver Travis Rudolph #15 of the Florida State Seminoles looks to maneuver by safety Antwan Cordy #8 of the Syracuse Orange on October 31, 2015 at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL.  (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, Syracuse’s top returning defensive back will get to spend a little additional time with the Orange.

On social media Thursday, Antwan Cordy announced that the NCAA has granted him a medical hardship waiver for his 2016 season. Because of the medical redshirt, the safety will have two seasons of eligibility at his disposal instead of just the one prior to the decision.

Should he choose, Cordy could play for the Orange in 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Cordy started the first two games last year, but sustained what turned out to be a season-ending arm injury in a Week 2 loss to Louisville.

In 2015, Cordy started all 12 games for the Orange, with the 5-8, 175-pounder’s 12 tackles for loss leading the team and setting a school record for defensive backs. That total was also second in the ACC amongst secondary players (Duke’s Jeremy Cash, 18).

Former Wisconsin offensive coach returning… as defensive assistant

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 15:  Helmets are raised by the Wisconsin Badgers before the start of the game between the Utah State Aggies and the Wisconsin Badgers September 15, 2012 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images)
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Paul Chryst is certainly taking a unique approach in reconstituting his Wisconsin coaching staff.

Earlier this month, Chryst hired Jim Leonhard as his new defensive coordinator despite the latter having just one year of experience as a coach at any level. Now, reports have surfaced that Chryst is bringing Bob Bostad back to Madison to fill a vacancy on the staff.

While Bostad was an offensive assistant during his first tour of duty with the Badgers, he’ll be a defensive coach in this latest stint. Specifically, he’ll serve as UW’s inside linebackers coach.

Bostad would technically replace Justin Wilcox, the coordinator Leonhard replaced after Wilcox took the head-coaching job at Cal last month.

From 2006-11, Bostad was an assistant for the Badgers — the first two seasons as tight ends coach, the last four as offensive line coach. After spending four seasons as the line coach for two NFL franchises — Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012-13), Tennessee Titans (2014-15) — Bostad spent the 2016 season as tight ends coach at Northern Illinois.

In a coaching career that spans 27 seasons, this would be Bostad’s first job on the defensive side of the ball.

UPDATED 12:59 p.m. ET: Wisconsin has confirmed the hiring of Bostad.