Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Big 12 reportedly discussed a possible scheduling agreement with Pac-12, ACC and SEC

6 Comments

With concerns about overall strength of schedule reaching new heights, the only two conferences to be left out of the College Football Playoff in the past three years have reportedly explored the idea of injecting a little juice into the overall conference strength of schedule with a conference vs. conference concept. The Big 12 and Pac-12 reportedly discussed the possibility of working together, according to a report from Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. But don’t expect anything more to happen with those future schedules any time soon.

The discussions took place in an exploratory stage over the summer as the Big 12 was weighing future options for conference stability, including expansion. Unfortunately, that was about as far as the idea got as the Big 12 continued to follow through on its plan to add a conference championship game in 2017 and put any expansion plans on ice. For whatever reason or reasons, a deal with the Pac-12 could not gain any momentum and the talks essentially ended there. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby also said in the report the Big 12 had similar discussions with the ACC and SEC.

A few years back, before conference expansion really hit its stride, the Big Ten and Pac-12 worked out an arrangement that would see the two conferences schedule a conference vs. conference slate of games involving every member of the conference. It was a brilliant idea at the time, feeding off similar concepts employed in college basketball, but the Pac-12 ultimately backed out of the arrangement due to increasing concerns about adding this type of deal on top of a nine-game conference schedule (the Big Ten, with 12 teams at the time, had not yet committed to a nine-game conference schedule). With the Pac-12 backing out, the deal was done and there had been no talk about such a scheduling arrangement by the Big Ten or Pac-12 until now (that we are aware of).

It is a shame such a deal could not have been worked out, because it would seemingly solve a possible problem the Big 12 and Pac-12 each have compared to the stature of the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. Like the ACC, Big Ten and SEC, all Big 12 schools are required to schedule at least one game per year against another power conference opponent. Of course, having a deal in place with the Pac-12 would automatically satisfy such a requirement for Big 12 schools. The problem, albeit minor, is the conferences do not have even membership, which means there would be two Pac-12 schools left out of the fun each season.

It is good to know the Big 12 continues to explore such an idea, although knowing the Big 12 and witnessing how long it takes this conference to move on anything tells us it will be a long time before anything comes out of it. If any conference could benefit from a scheduling agreement with another conference, it might be the Big 12. The conference has missed out on the College Football Playoff twice, including this past season, in part because of the overall perception of the conference compared to its peers. One loss was enough to help keep the Big 12 co-champions TCU and Baylor from the playoff three years ago and two losses prevented even a red-hot Big 12 champion Oklahoma from surging into the playoff mix. A solid bowl season helps, but improving the strength of schedule as a conference is key to adding an extra ingredient to combat criticism of the conference. If the big 12 does work out an agreement in the future, will other conferences respond?

The ACC and Big Ten have a terrific basketball series that would also make for a fantastic football series as well if one were to be created, for example. Basically, the bottom line is the bottom line. If it makes fiscal sense for power conferences to arrange a full conference vs. conference scheduling agreement, then it will come together. It is hard to argue there would be no interest in a series from a fan standpoint, and network partners and advertisers would jump at the opportunity to get in on more attractive games.

Let’s make this happen, college football overlords.

Ole Mis AD: Hugh Freeze would’ve been fired for cause if he hadn’t resigned

Getty Images
3 Comments

In the end, regardless of how he chose to play it out, Hugh Freeze‘s time in Oxford would’ve come to an end.

Thursday night brought the stunning news that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  Freeze, to Yahoo! Sports, blamed the call on a misdial; Freeze’s now-former boss, athletic director Ross Bjork, led the same website to write that “further vetting of Freeze’s phone records disclosed a ‘pattern of conduct’ that led the school administration to confront Freeze this week.”

After meeting with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, the die had been cast for the coach.

Bjork said that if Freeze had not offered his resignation he would have been fired for cause, citing the “moral turpitude” clause in Freeze’s contract. Bjork said there was no buyout of the contract and no settlement.

“He admitted that conduct to us,” Bjork said. “None of us are perfect. Nobody in this room is perfect. I think we need to respect how he resigned and respect his privacy.

The infamous call in question — it lasted one minute, which gives at least some credence to Freeze’s claim that this one was a misdial — came to light as a result of Houston Nutt’s recently-filed lawsuit against Freeze, the university and other high-ranking school officials.  No other calls to that specific phone number were found in a review of an estimated 39,000 calls made from Freeze’s school-issued phone; “[h]owever, the school kept digging through the records and must have found additional troubling information,” the website wrote

Freeze’s admission to “that conduct” according to Bjork says as much.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze resigns after discovery of phone calls to escort service

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
10 Comments

Forget about Hugh Freeze being on the hot seat in Oxford. He won’t even be coaching a single game for the Rebels this fall.

Hugh Freeze resigned from his position as head coach at Ole Miss suddenly on Thursday evening, just a week after SEC Media Days. The resignation is effective immediately, and the school has announced co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Luke will take over the head coaching responsibilities for the upcoming season as the interim head coach. It should be expected Ole Miss will conduct a search for a new full-time head coach as soon as possible, but an official hire being made before the start of the season remains in question.

The resignation comes after the school discovered a phone call to an escort service coming from his school-issued cell phone. And it apparently was not an accidental wrong number either.

According to a report from Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, Ole Miss reviewed phone records tied to Freeze as far back as 2012. Earlier in the day, USA Today reporter Dan Wolken reported Freeze had made a phone call to the number associated with a female escort service. The phone call in the report occurred in January of 2016. How many phone calls were discovered by Ole Miss is at this time unknown. Once confronted with the phone numbers by Bjork, Freeze is said to have offered his resignation. Whether he voluntarily offered to resign or if he was pushed to resign by the school may never be known for sure, but given the heat on Freeze already following recent headlines it may be pretty easy to see how this all played out behind closed doors.

It has been a troublesome summer for Freeze. Just last week, he was targetted in a lawsuit filed by former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, and Freeze has had to deny any members of his staff knowingly violated any NCAA rules following an investigation into the program. Freeze was previously targeted in a lawsuit filed by the stepdad of former Ole Miss player Laremy Tunsil just months after the NCAA discovered 13 violations against the Ole Miss program under the leadership of Freeze last year.

In five seasons at Ole Miss, Freeze was 39-25 and coached Ole Miss to a 2-1 record in postseason bowl games. Along the way, he recruited some of the best classes in school history, although how he and his staff managed to do so has been the subject of plenty of scrutinies and the findings continue to come together to suggest foul play was used. Calls to escort services will not help that look at all. Before being hired at Ole Miss, Freeze coached Arkansas State to a 19-3 record in 2011.

Luke, an Ole Miss alum from the Class of 2000, joined the Ole Miss coaching staff in 2012 with Freeze.

Todd Graham subtly names Manny Wilkins starting QB at ASU, says Barnett will have to win the job

Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
1 Comment

Arizona State picked up a nice addition to the depth chart with the addition of quarterback Blake Barnett this past winter. Barnett was given the chance to be immediately eligible to play for Arizona State this season rather than have to sit out a season, but he will have to get to work in order to win the starting job with the Sun Devils if Todd Graham‘s latest comments are accurate.

Speaking to media today at a facilities tour, Graham was asked about the quarterback competition. Graham not-so-subtly named Manny Wilkins the team’s starter for the 2017 season, barring any other changes between now and the start of the season.

“I didn’t make an announcement, I just didn’t want our opponent know who was going to play but I thought our opponent knew, I think everybody knew,” Graham said, referring to a season-opening game against New Mexico State. “We have a returning starter and he’s the starting quarterback until someone beats him out.”

Perhaps most notably, one of the quarterbacks who will look to knock Wilkins off the top of the depth chart will be Barnett, the transfer from Alabama who was a major recruit for the Crimson Tide not so long ago. Barnett started the  2016 season as Alabama’s official starter but lost the full-time job to Jalen Hurts right out of the gate with a shaky performance in the season opener while Hurts put on a show (and led Alabama to the national championship game). Barnett then opted to leave the program in search of a new opportunity to compete for the starting job.

“Right now, we have a starting quarterback and Blake knows he has to beat him out,” Graham said. “I’m looking forward to see that competition and a very physical, Sun Devil tough training camp.”

Report: Alabama RB B.J. Emmons, CB Aaron Robinson leaving program

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
1 Comment

The Alabama Crimson Tide may not be hurting on the depth chart as a result, but two players are leaving the program in search of other opportunities. Running back B.J. Emmons and cornerback Aaron Robinson are both leaving Tuscaloosa, according to a report from AL.com.

As the news was breaking, multiple reports say Emmons has enrolled at Hutchinson Community College. Emmons missed some games last season due to a foot injury, but he is expected to be back to 100 percent health this fall. Of course, at Alabama, the running back position is stacked and difficult to get much playing time to begin with. Robinson was also expected to be a backup for Alabama this fall after working with the second team unit in the spring.

Emmons was Alabama’s fifth-leading rusher in 2016 with 173 yards and a touchdown in seven games. Robinson appeared in 13 games and recorded five total tackles as a freshman.

Both Emmons and Robinson will be eligible to play for another FBS program starting in 2018 after sitting out the 2017 season, due to NCAA transfer rules. They are eligible to play at a lower division school this fall, whether it is an FCS or lower program or a junior college. The junior college route appears to be the path Emmons is taking by enrolling at a community college.