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Notre Dame RB Greg Bryant reportedly will be suspended for September

Greg Bryant, Brian Walker

With Everett Golson in Tallahassee and Malik Zaire the Captain Jack Sparrow of the offense, Notre Dame should be expected to run the ball quite a bit this fall. Rising junior running back Greg Bryant won’t be a part of that equation in September.

The former five-star recruit will be suspended likely for the first four games of the season, according to Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson. Irish247 first reported Bryant’s suspension and the four-game ban.

If Bryant’s suspension — which has not been announced by Notre Dame — is indeed for four games, he’d miss Sept. 5 vs. Texas, Sept. 12 at Virginia, Sept. 19 vs. Georgia Tech and Sept. 26 vs. UMass. The first game in which he’d be eligible to play would be a pivotal matchup against Clemson Oct. 3 in South Carolina.

While the optics of suspending a former big-time recruit aren’t good, there’s reason to think Notre Dame can absorb his absence with the backfield combination of Zaire, Tarean Folston and C.J. Prosise. In a 31-28 Music City Bowl win over LSU, those three players handled 46 of Notre Dame’s 51 carries and totaled 244 of its 263 yards.

Prosise began cross-training at running back during spring practice and possesses the big-play ability Notre Dame’s been trying to coax out of Bryant since he arrived on campus two summers ago. Folston is a steady, reliable back who doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses to his game. And Zaire is a read option whiz with a physical, downhill running style.

It’s also worth noting Notre Dame’s entire wide receiver corps returns from last year, headlined by Will Fuller and his 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Bryant rushed 54 times for 289 yards and three touchdowns in 2014 as he largely was stuck behind Folston and Cam McDaniel on the Irish depth chart.

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Utah State dismisses top WR/returner JoJo Natson

JoJo Natson

The news when it comes to the Utah State football program isn’t limited to an automobile accident.

The Aggies announced very early Monday morning in a press release that JoJo Natson has been dismissed from the football program.  Not surprisingly, the reason for the dismissal is your garden-variety violation of unspecified team rules.

“We are extremely disappointed anytime we have to make a decision regarding the future of one of our student-athletes,” head coach Matt Wells said in a statement. “We will continue to support JoJo as he moves forward in his career.”

Natson’s forced departure will serve as blow to both the Aggies’ offense and special teams.

Last season, Natson’s 51 receptions and 504 receiving yards were second on the team. For that, he was named honorable mention All-Mountain West.

Additionally, Natson earned first-team All-MWC honors as a punt returner as he ranked first in the conference and tied for third in the nation with two punt returns for touchdowns, and first in the MWC and 10th in the nation in punt returns (11.7 ypr).

Oh, and, for good measure, Natson carried the ball 50 times for 498 yards (10.0 ypc) with three touchdowns in 2014.

And then there’s this tidbit from the school: “Natson… was the only FBS player in the nation during both the 2013 and 2014 seasons to record multiple touchdowns rushing, receiving and returning as he had three rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns and two punt return touchdowns as both a sophomore and junior.”

Suffice to say, he — and his production — will be missed.

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Two USU Aggies released from hospital following car wreck

Paul Piukala Taylor Graham

Thankfully, there’s some additional good news coming out of a potentially tragic situation.

In a press release, Utah State announced that two of its football players, senior defensive lineman John Taylor and redshirt defensive lineman Adewale Adeoye, were released from a hospital Sunday afternoon.  Adeoye and Taylor were two of five individuals injured in a car wreck late last week.

Two of the other three victims, defensive linemen Travis Seefeldt and redshirt junior Edmund Faimalo, are football players and remain hospitalized, as does former USU softball player Sara Vasquez.  The extent of the injuries sustained by anyone involved in the accident has yet to be released.

“First and foremost, thank you to everyone who has had these five Aggie student-athletes in their thoughts and prayers, including numerous representative from the Mountain West Conference and its member institutions,” said USU interim Athletics director Jana Doggett in a statement. “We also want to thank the first responders and all of the medical personnel who have worked so tirelessly to provide the best care possible to our family members. Everyone associated with Aggie Athletics, from its coaches, student-athletes, administrators, boosters and fans, are extremely thankful for the good news we have heard over the past two days on the condition of those involved in the accident. They are truly blessed.”

There remains no word on what impact the incident will have on the availability for the upcoming season of any of the players involved.

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Continuing Penn State series ‘a priority’ for new Pitt AD

Scott Barnes, Patrick Gallagher

While most, if not all, of the Pittsburgh fan base — and college football as a whole, really — would like to see the resumption of the Backyard Brawl, it’s an in-state rivalry that tops the to-do list of the new head of Pittsburgh’s athletic department.

Back in May, the head coaches at Pitt and Penn State, Pat Narduzzi and James Franklin, respectively, called for extending the Panther-Nittany Lion rivalry beyond the four-game series, which begins in 2016 and was announced back in 2011. The former’s boss agrees with that sentiment.

In wide-ranging interviews with both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Scott Barnes, who started as Pitt’s new athletic director earlier this month, stated that the first phone call he made in his new post was to his counterpart at Penn State, Sandy Barbour. The discussion? Ensuring that she knows he considers the football series between the two programs a priority.

“Penn State, for us, we want to play that game as long as we can, home-and-home,” Barnes said. “We’re working hard to try to move that forward.”

While resuming the rivalry with West Virginia “is an important factor,” Barnes said, “Penn State’s a priority.”

Pitt and Penn State have a pair of home-and series scheduled for 2016-2019. The series, first played in 1893, has been on hiatus since 2000, a 12-0 win for Pitt at Three Rivers Stadium. Penn State, however, leads the all-time series 50-42-4.

Pitt and WVU, meanwhile, have squared off 104 times on the gridiron, with the first coming 1895. That series went on hiatus after the 2011 season when WVU moved from the Big East to the Big 12 and, a year later, Pitt from the same conference to the ACC.

There has been talk of resuming that rivalry, although nothing yet has come to fruition on that front.

“We’ve talked to Pitt, but they’ve got a lot going on, because they’re trying to get Penn State back on their schedule…they’re trying to figure out when they can squeeze us in,” then-WVU AD Oliver Luck said in the summer of 2013. “Their AD and I just talked last week, so we’re trying to get that set up. It’s all about dates. I think it will get done, but it’s all a matter of when.”

Oddly enough, it was announced two months after Luck made that statement that WVU had reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series (2023-24) with… Penn State, of course.

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Jim Harbaugh to throw out first pitch at Detroit Tigers game

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Oakland Athletics

Hey, if it’s good enough for Penn State’s James Franklin (twice, actually) and Urban Meyer of bitter rival Ohio State (in the Big Apple after an appendectomy) this offseason, it’s good enough for the newest and most visible Michigan Man.

Sunday afternoon, mlive.com is reporting, the Detroit Tigers confirmed that Jim Harbaugh will throw out the first pitch prior to Tuesday’s game at Comerica Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The online newspaper writes that “[t]he first-year Michigan coach is an admitted fan, and has shown an interest in the game in his short tenure in Ann Arbor.”

That fandom of the sport of baseball was on full display back in March as Harbaugh served as the first-base coach of the Oakland A’s during a spring training game.  The interest in the stick-and-ball game shouldn’t be all that surprising.

In addition to his current sport, Harbaugh played baseball at Palo Alto High School before signing with the football Wolverines. “Harbaugh said he was [a] .400 hitter until he started following [the] teachings of Charlie Lau,” the San Francisco Chronicle‘s John Shea tweeted. “He stopped hitting, turned to football.”

And, on a completely unrelated note, the 2015 FBS season officially kicks off in exactly 67 days…

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J.T. Barrett’s dad thinks Braxton should be starter heading to camp

J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller AP

When it comes to Ohio State’s much-discussed and dissected three-headed quarterback competition, some in the media and most non-OSU fans view Braxton Miller almost as an afterthought.

Most of the attention as to who will guide the defending College Football Playoff champions has been centered on J.T. Barrett, who got the Buckeyes to the cusp of a Big Ten title and playoff berth, and Cardale Jones, who won all three of his postseason starts to help give his team the national championship, with the former being the betting favorite of one Vegas wagering insider.  That very same player’s dad, though, has a different view of who the starter should be, at least entering summer camp.

“Of course I would love to see my kid start, but for me it always goes back to who was first,” Joe Barrett, J.T’s father, told Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch. “If Braxton hadn’t gotten hurt, I would still be waiting for my baby to get the chance to play. I was thankful J.T. got that chance … and we were all blessed that he was ready to compete, but like I have told everybody, I don’t want to see my kid take a position because of the misfortune of someone else.

“In other words, Braxton should get that position back, then everybody else should go try to take it from him.”

Or put another way, Joe Barrett doesn’t believe anyone should be Wally Pipp’d, even if it would be advantageous for his son. The thing is, all three have the type of résumés that screams “starter!”

Miller was named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons before reinjuring his throwing shoulder during summer camp last August and sidelining him for all of the 2014 season. Barrett, who took over the Buckeyes’ offense in Miller’s absence, accumulated a Big Ten-record 45 total touchdowns — 34 passing, 11 rushing — before a leg injury in the regular-season finale against Michigan prematurely ended his redshirt freshman season.  That opened the door for Jones, the redshirt sophomore with the NFL-ready rocket launcher for an arm who stunned the college football world by leading the Buckeyes to wins over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game; Alabama in the CFP semifinal; and Oregon in the CFP championship game.

Jones, though, was the only one healthy enough to fully participate in spring practice, the first sessions since offensive coordinator Tom Herman took the head-coaching job at Houston.  Both Barrett and Miller are expected to be 100-percent healthy for the start of fall camp.

Head coach Urban Meyer has declined to list a pecking order at the position heading into that camp, although the hope is that a starter will be named at some point in mid-August and allows the winner three weeks or so to fully prepare for the Labor Day night rematch with Virginia Tech.  Whether Barrett gets the opportunity to avenge OSU’s lone 2014 loss — and redeem himself for the 9-of-29 passing and three interceptions in the loss — remains to be seen, although it seems, at least right now, that player’s father feels he should have to earn the job back.  And that’s exactly how it should be as whoever goes under center for the Buckeyes in the opener against the Hokies should have to earn that right, not be handed the job because of past performances.

Here’s to guessing that’s exactly how Meyer and his coaching staff will allow the situation to play out.

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USU Aggies injured in car wreck upgraded to stable condition

Colorado State vs Utah State

A potentially tragic situation appears to have taken a turn for the better.

Saturday night, Utah State announced via a press release that four of its football players “are improving” and are currently listed in stable condition at a local hospital following a two-vehicle wreck. According to reports, the unnamed driver of the SUV in which the seatbelt-less football players were riding pulled out in front of a semi at an intersection and was broadsided by the tanker truck, which was hauling 52,000 pounds of milk at the time of the accident.

The five occupants of the SUV, which included a former female USU student-athlete as well as the football players, had initially been reported as being critically injured.

“The fact that they didn’t have seatbelts on, getting T-boned by a semi truck, they’re just lucky they’re alive,” a Utah Highway Patrol official told Salt Lake City’s FOX affiliate.

The injured football players were senior defensive lineman Travis Seefeldt (pictured, right), senior defensive lineman John Taylor, redshirt junior defensive lineman Edmund Faimalo and redshirt defensive lineman Adewale Adeoye. The fifth occupant was former USU softball player Sara Vasquez, whose eligibility expired this past spring.

“I’ve seen all four of our guys today and gotten reports back from Sarah that (she’s improving), but all of those guys are stable and trying to rest and recover,” head coach Matt Wells told the Logan Herald Journal. “Bottom line is they’re in a lot of pain and discomfort, but they’re very fortunate and we all are fortunate that they’re alive and they’re going to be OK eventually.

The school’s release states that none of those injured have been released from the hospital. There’s no word on what if any impact the injuries sustained in the wreck will have on the players’ availability for the 2015 season.

Seefeldt and Taylor exited spring practice as projected starters for the Aggies.

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Ex-Wake Forest QB Tyler Cameron on his way to FAU

Tyler Cameron, Julian Whigham

The Wake Forest quarterback pool is rather shallow in depth. Tyler Cameron, who was second on the Demon Deacons in passing last season, has left the program and is joining the Florida Atlantic Owls. He does so as a graduate transfer, which seems to be a rather trendy option this offseason. That will make him eligible to play at FAU this season.

“Tyler is intelligent and made use of his athletic ability to earn a degree from Wake Forest in just three years,” FAU coach Charlie Partridge said in a released statement (via Palm Beach Post). “It is that same drive that affords him the opportunity to return home and work toward a post-graduate degree. He will certainly add experience and depth in the quarterback meeting room.”

Cameron actually has two years of eligibility remaining at FAU, thanks to graduating from Wake Forest in just three years. FAU is returning three-year starter Jaquez Johnson, but Cameron will fill out some depth at the position and have time to get adjusted to his new surroundings.

The loss of Cameron also leaves Wake Forest pretty thin at quarterback. At this moment, the official team roster available on the team’s website lists just three quarterbacks; John WolfordKyle Driscoll, and Kendall Hinton. Wolford was Wake Forest’s leading passer last season, as a freshman. Wolford passed for 2,037 yards and 12 touchdowns, but was intercepted 14 times. He is the quarterback Dave Clawson will continue to mold his program around in 2015.

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Injured Utah State football players were not wearing seatbelts in auto accident

Colorado State vs Utah State

Yesterday, four Utah State football players –nose guard Travis Seefeldt, defensive ends John Taylor and Edmund Faimalo, and linebacker Adewale Adeoye — and a softball player (Sarah Vasquez) were injured in an automobile accident when a semi truck slammed into an SUV with all five inside. The impact alone would have been enough to cause some serious injuries, but the lack of seat belts being worn has not helped the situation. Early indications from Utah Highway Patrol are none of the five student-athletes were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the accident.

Seefeldt has been reported to be the driver of the SUV. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital for treatment and was reported to be in critical condition. The Associated Press is reporting Vasquez was in the front passenger seat and was the other victim airlifted for medical treatment and in critical condition. Faimalo, Adeoye and Taylor were each taken for treatment by ambulance.

When you go on the road, please remember to buckle up.

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Ole Miss OL Laremy Tunsil charged for domestic violence after defending his mother

Mississippi v Texas

This one is weird. At first you want to shake your head at the headline involving a college football player being arrested for punching someone, but when you learn more of the details surrounding the incident, you begin to understand where he was coming from.

Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil was arrested Friday and charged for domestic violence. Tunsil allegedly stepped into the middle of an incident involving his mother and stepfather Thursday, which led to Tunsil landing a punch on his stepfather.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze confirmed Tunsil has been charged, and Tunsil and his mother have pressed charges against his stepfather.

“We can confirm that Laremy Tunsil turned himself in and was arrested for a misdemeanor, domestic violence-simple assault,” a statement from Freeze said. “The incident occurred Thursday night and involves Laremy defending his mother against his stepfather. Laremy realizes he could have handled it differently, but I am proud of him for standing up for his mother and protecting his family.

“Laremy and his mother have also pressed charges against his stepfather,” Freeze’s statement continued. “As we gather more facts, we will act and make decisions accordingly.”

A coach never wants to see the words “domestic violence” next to one of his players’ names, but this could be one exception to that rule.

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For Mike Gundy, winning Big 12 is stepping stone to playoff

Mike Gundy

Baylor and TCU shared the Big 12 championship last season with two combined losses between them, including Baylor’s victory over TCU. Despite similar 11-1 records, both Baylor and TCU were passed over by the College Football Playoff selection committee in favor of Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State. A one-loss Big 12 champion is not likely to be left out of the College Football Playoff on a regular basis, and Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy seems aware of that. He also knows you likely do not have a shot at playing in the playoff without a conference championship on your résumé.

“I don’t know how you can not win our league and still get in and win a national championship,” Gundy said in an interview with ESPN.com. “It would be extremely difficult. If we win a Big 12 championship, we get a great opportunity to get our foot in the door and win a national championship. That is our ultimate goal.”

Gundy is spot on. With only four spots up for grabs, the chances of cracking the top four in college football when it matters most could be very slim at best for any contender without a conference championship to brag about. The exception in this case would obviously be Notre Dame, with the Irish not in a power conference. Last season may have been a bit of a strange year that left the Big 12 out in the cold, because how often will all of the power conferences have one-loss or undefeated champions, and how often will one-loss champions (or co-champions) be left out of a four-team playoff?

The College Football Playoff has allowed for a slightly wider margin for error for title contenders, but last season proved the margin can still be pretty thin without much else to your profile. Baylor’s strength of schedule was damaging to the Bears in the end, and TCU’s was marginally better, but the Big 12 as a whole stumbled in some key opportunities for some quality wins as well, and overall conference pedigree can be a key influence on how a team is perceived.

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Fresno State shows off game-changing stadium upgrade plans

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 1.26.37 PM

Iowa State is not the only program in the country getting closer to unveiling some new stadium upgrades this fall. Fresno State is updating Bulldog Stadium a bit as well with a brand new high definition LED video scoreboard and ribbon boards around the stadium.

Fresno State’s new scoreboard may not come close to challenging Auburn’s gargantuan scoreboard, but it is a nice upgrade nonetheless. The new video boards will be installed and ready to go for the start of the 2015 season. But there is much more in the works for the Bulldogs football program. Fresno State has unveiled a master plan — rather an Athletics Master Plan — that will involve adding private suites and club boxes, lowering and replacing the turf with an updated artificial playing surface, improving the accessibility in and around the stadium and much more.

“When this is complete I anticipate this will be the best facility in the Mountain West and with our support from the Red Wave, it will help us solidify our reputation going into the future that Bulldog Stadium is the toughest place to play in the conference,” Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter said.

You can see some of the artist renderings of the soon-to-be-updated Bulldog Stadium in this video below, shared by Fresno State…

One quick reaction I had; I get a kick out of stadium renderings showing off club suites in which fans are cheering the action on the TV when in reality that action would have happened a few seconds earlier right outside their window that is not more than 10 steps away.

Fresno State was once, not so long ago, considered one of the top programs from outside the traditional power conferences. That time has since passed and others have stepped up to take on the role of BCS Buster (which Fresno State never managed) and now New Years Six contender. It may not be long before Fresno State returns to the same level of programs like Boise State and UCF, and this is a sign the university is committed to improving the state of the football program. Facility upgrades are huge recruiting tools, and Fresno State can be right on par with the Group of Five contenders, if not in front of most of them.

Bulldog Stadium was opened in 1980 and most recently expanded in 1991.

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Iowa State’s stadium expansion (to 61,000) nearly complete

150627_IowaStateStadiumExpansion Getty Images

Iowa State is putting the finishing touches on upgrades to Jack Trice Stadium, with the seating capacity jumping to over 60,000 in the end. The Cyclones opened up the stadium to the media on Friday to give a first look at some of the new features of the place Iowa State has called home since 1975. The expansion of the stadium will make Iowa State home to the third largest stadium in the Big 12 (behind only Texas and Oklahoma).

“This was really in the conceptual phase less than a year ago,” Iowa State Associate AD Chris Jorgensen said Friday. “Now we’re sitting here less than 100 days away from the first game and the fact that we’re going to be able to get this opened up on time is going to be great. It’s kind of been 25 years in the making so the fact that this one’s come to reality in less than a year is pretty cool.”

Iowa State will open the doors to the newly renovated Jack Trice Stadium on September 5 when the Cyclones host in-state FCS foe Northern Iowa. The Panthers are coming off a 9-5 season, with the first two losses coming in close fashion against FBS opponents. Last season Northern Iowa nearly managed to leave Iowa City with a win over Iowa, but instead they were defeated 31-23. Two weeks later Northern Iowa gave Hawaii a scare. The week after hosting Northern Iowa the Cyclones host in-state Big Ten rival Iowa, which will be given a national television audience (4:30 p.m. ET, FOX).

Iowa State will also host TCU, Texas and Oklahoma State this season. Somewhere along the way Iowa State should be able to break the school’s single-game attendance record of 56,800 (first set Oct. 13, 2012 vs. Kansas State; matched three times since).

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Suspended Georgia Tech LB Harrell transferring to Florida

Virginia v Georgia Tech

On Friday night Georgia Tech announced senior linebacker Anthony Harrell had been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Not long after that, Harrell had an announcement of his own. He’s transferring out of Georgia Tech.

As is typically the case, there are two sides of the story. On the one side, Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson says Harrell was suspended for a violation of team rules. On the other, Harrell says he was not suspended and his decision to transfer to Florida was on his own terms.

“These past four years at Georgia Tech have been amazing. It is with a sad heart that I announce that I am leaving Georgia Tech and my Yellow Jacket football team,” Harrell said on his Twitter account. “I have been accepted to the University of Florida’s Masters Degree Program. My family and I have decided that it would be better for my future and where I want to fo in life and that I will be attending and playing my 5th year of football at the University of Florida.”

As a graduate transfer, Harrell will be eligible to play right away this fall in Gainesville. Last season saw Harrell appear in 13 games for Georgia Tech, in which he accumulated 19 tackles (14 solo tackles). Harrell never saw a major role in Georgia Tech’s defense, but he might have a chance to compete for a starting job alongside last year’s leading tackler Antonio Morrison. The Gators lost two senior linebackers from last season and have some depth to fill.

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Oklahoma president calls Big 12 “psychologically disadvantaged”

David Boren

Well this should whet your expansion and realignment craving. Oklahoma president David Boren says the Big 12 should be extremely careful about expansion if the Big 12 is to explore the possibility, but he also suggested the Big 12 is playing with a bad deck of cards if it continues forward with a 10-school membership compared to the 12-team Pac-12 and 14-team ACC, Big Ten and SEC.

Just earlier this week Boren commented on the possibility of expanding as a conference, suggesting there is a Longhorn-sized obstacle down south of Oklahoma, but his more recent comments to The Oklahoma Daily, Oklahoma’s student-run newspaper, add some more fuel to the Big 12 expansion fire. And the quotes will surely grab the attention of fans of BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and any other school thinking there is a chance to crash the Power Five party.

Here is the statement Boren issued to The Oklahoma Daily;

“Commissioner Bowlsby said publicly yesterday, as reported in The Daily Oklahoman that our television contracts are written to expand proportionally if we add additional schools. In other words, the pie gets proportionally larger if it is cut 12 ways instead of 10. There could be some slight loss of revenue from bowl games and other sources, but if the conference carefully selects additional members, based upon their media markets and fan base support, the amount should increase rather than decrease. We should; however, be very selective. I do not favor adding two more members unless they meet very high criteria. When we look at football playoffs and our conference is bumping up against conferences with 12 or 14 members, I believe that we are psychologically disadvantaged because we are a smaller conference.”

The Big 12 company line may be the conference is perfectly fine with moving forward with 10 members, and it probably is if it chooses to stay there, but the comments made this week by Boren would strongly suggest there is at least one school intrigued by the possibility of expanding the conference membership if the right pieces are added.

The question that must be answered is whether or not the right fits are out there for the Big 12 to make expansion worth it. Expanding just to get to 12 members is not an ideal situation, unless the cash payout in the end adds some more green to the schools. And isn’t that what it always comes down to? Take a look at Boren’s comments above one more time, and you will notice he mentioned media markets before fan base or any other potential qualification.

Is the Big 12 stabl;e with 10 members? It very well could be, but it would seem there is not quite the same level of peace within the Big 12 family we may have been initially led to believe following the last major shifts in realignment. The Big 1 lost Nebraska to the Big Ten, Colorado t the Pac-10 (later renamed the Pac-12 with the addition of Colorado and Utah), and Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC. It brought in West Virginia and TCU to stay afloat, and media rights agreements were made to benefit the membership and keep everybody calm and prevent a total implosion the way the WAC and Big East experienced. Texas may still be the big fish in the Big 12 pond, but Oklahoma is right behind them.

We are still a good way away from really setting the expansion rumor mill ablaze, but if nothing else there appears to be a spark.

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