We have now arrived at preseason magazine season on the college football calendar. While most of us are familiar with the offerings from publications from the likes of Athlon Sports and Phil Steele, folks in the state of Texas have another annual preview to look forward to from Dave Campbell. Dave Campbell’s Texas Football is widely considered the go-to resource for all things Texas football, be it high school or college, and the summer edition is always a big draw around the lone star state. Appearing on the cover is a big deal in the state. Baylor was pleased to be featured last season, and you might have thought TCU would have a good shot to the featured school appearing on this year’s preview edition. Heck, both TCU and Baylor figure to start the season highly ranked and are both stronger conference championship and College Football Playoff contenders than either Texas or Texas A&M. So they should appear on the cover, right?
Nope.* The big story this year appearing on the cover is the call to revive the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry, with just the second illustrated cover in magazine history.
As you know, Texas and Texas A&M have not played each other since Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC in 2012. Though the coaches have spoken about reviving the series by any means necessary, the people with power from above have been reluctant to make it a reality for one reason or another. We have even has state legislatures try to get involved.
“One of our toughest jobs every year is to narrow down all the terrific football stories across the state and choose the most important cover subject for Texas Football,” said DCTF managing editor Greg Tepper said. “This story — Texas vs. Texas A&M, and how it’s inconceivably gone dormant — is the proverbial elephant in the room. For decades, Aggies vs. Longhorns shaped the face of football in Texas. As the authorities on football in the Lone Star State, our position is clear: It’s time to bring it back.”
I am sure I am not alone in saying I hope to see this rivalry played again in the future, and hopefully on a long-term basis. Realignment ripped away many great storied rivalries, including the in-state series between the Longhorns and Aggies. Fans from both sides have been vocal about having no desire to revive the series, but deep down they all would love to get another crack at their rivals if given the opportunity.
* Yes, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin appears on the cover in the secondary image at the top of the cover. Baylor’s Shawn Oakman is also featured in the secondary box.
There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.
Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach. Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.
“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”
Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season. This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.
In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach. Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.
Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.
The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.
Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.
Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.
While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.
CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylines: Jimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.
While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.
“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”
We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.
Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.
Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.
UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.
That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.
Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.
The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.