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AAC releases 2016 conference schedule

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The American Athletic Conference released its 2016 conference schedule highlighted by, oddly enough, non-conference games that pit league gem Houston against Oklahoma (on opening day at Houston’s NRG Stadium) and Louisville (in Houston on Nov. 19).

Those two games, more than any others, will sink or swim the conference’s chances of not only grabbing the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six, but a spot in the College Football Playoff itself.

The 2016 conference slate kicks off with Navy meeting Connecticut on Sept. 10 and concludes with the second annual AAC title game on Dec. 3 at a to-be-determined campus site.

The AAC led the way in scheduling Power 5 opponents — highlighted by a Week 3 schedule that will see the entire East Division punching up a weight class — and includes the likes of Florida State, Maryland, N.C. State, Virginia, Syracuse, Kansas, TCU and Oklahoma (for all intents and purposes) visiting AAC campuses.

View the full AAC slate here:

 

Cincinnati announces Zac Taylor as offensive coordinator, other hires

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 1: Head coach Tommy Tuberville of the Cincinnati Bearcats looks on against the Miami Hurricanes in the first half at Nippert Stadium on October 1, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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As Cincinnati efforts to complete its 2016 recruiting class, the Bearcats have also completed their 2016 offensive coaching staff.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville announced Sunday Zac Taylor as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Jim Turner as running backs coach and J.B. Grimes as offensive line coach.

“I’m excited with our new staff members,” Tuberville said. “We were able to attract great coaches and recruiters who have a high degree of experience at all levels. Zac (Taylor) is an up and comer in our profession with a great pedigree and JB (Grimes) and Jim (Turner) are experienced coaches with a wealth of football knowledge. They believe in coaching technique which is what I was looking for.”

Taylor, a former Nebraska quarterback, spent the past four seasons as the quarterbacks coach of the Miami Dolphins, and was elevated to offensive play-caller following the firing of head coach Joe Philbin. Turner also spent the past two years with the Dolphins.

Grimes is a 30-year veteran of college football and spent the past three years tutoring the offensive line at Auburn.

Taylor and Turner, a package deal from the Dolphins, replace Darin Hinshaw and Eddie Gran, who left in their own package deal for Kentucky late last month. Grimes replaces Darren Hiller, who was set to join the staff at Arkansas State before backing out for an as-yet-unspecified job.

OU’s David Boren ‘very frustrated’ Big 12 ‘let Louisville get away’

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 10: President of the University of Oklahoma David Boren and Head Coach Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners talk before the game against the Baylor Bears November 10, 2012 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Baylor 42-34. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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The Big 12’s resident rabble-rouser is at it again.

In the immediate aftermath of the NCAA’s decision earlier this week to allow conferences with fewer than 12 teams to stage championship games, Oklahoma president David Boren called for, among other things, the addition of two teams to the Big 12. In an interview with John Hoover of Tulsa World, Boren continued hammering on his expansion agenda, telling Hoover that the conference should immediately, along with folding the Longhorn Network and other third-tier media properties into a league network and implementing a title game, expand the league to 12 teams.

School presidents and chancellors will meet early next month, and presumably Boren will call on “leadership to begin working on implementing all three immediately.” Boren also allowed that “[t]here are three or four other [Big 12] schools, in particular, that … feel as strongly as I do about,” among other things, expanding the league.

As for potential expansion additions, several have been churned out by the rumor mill over the years. BYU is one that’s been mentioned consistently — and the Mormon school would jump at the opportunity — as has UCF and its huge and ever-growing student body. Houston would seem like a likely candidate, although the Texas schools in the conference, especially the flagship university in the state, would push back against such an addition. Boise State, Cincinnati and Memphis have been bandied about as possibilities as well.

While Boren didn’t go into specifics as to who he thought the Big 12 should add this time around, he did lament the one that got away the last time the league expanded.  From Hoover’s piece (which is exceptional and should be read in its entirety HERE):

“You know, I was for adding Louisville (when the Big 12 instead added West Virginia and TCU in 2012),” he said. “I obviously did not prevail, and they have now gone into another conference and they’re not available now. But they’d have been a good fit.

“… Boy, I was very frustrated, for example, that we let Louisville get away and we let other schools get away. We had opportunities at one time several years ago before all these schools gave up their rights, their legal rights and their financial rights, we had a real opportunity, I think back then, to even snag some of the bigger-name programs in the country, and we let the opportunity pass us by — in spite of some of us expressing our frustrations.”

Louisville, of course, landed in the ACC after some very powerful and influential individuals in Boren’s conference snubbed their noses at the “basketball” school. Getting the U of L now is seemingly next to impossible, what with the grant-of-rights in place in the ACC that makes it, in theory, economically unfeasible for a school to leave. The same grant-of-rights holds true for the Big Ten and Pac-12, making any member of those conferences off-limits. And the SEC, well, nobody’s leaving that ATM of their own volition.

That would leave the Big 12 picking from the Group of Five, a field that while it’s more than 60 in actual number it is in reality less than 10 in potentially qualified candidates.

If the Big 12 either decides against expansion or can’t find two suitable partners, what would the future hold for Oklahoma and its sports programs? Boren, who on his watch has seen OU pursued by the Big Ten and Pac-12, did not rule out leaving for another conference.

“I think if — if — we can get the Big 12 on the right track, if this comprehensive plan could be adopted, then I would rather stay in the Big 12,” Boren told Hoover during the interview. “I think that would be to our advantage. But it’s something that we really need to have happen. But we just need to wait and see what develops. Certainly, my first choice, if we can get the right things done in the Big 12, the right steps taken, especially these three, then I think we ought to stay in the Big 12. If it just doesn’t happen, then I try to think long-term.”

One thing is certain: If there remains strident opposition to expansion and folding the LHN into a conference network… if the Big 12 remains at 12 teams… if, grant-of-rights be damned, Oklahoma follows through with an implied threat to leave… if all of that were to happen, the age of four 16-team super-conferences would be upon us — and the Big 12 would be no more.  While that may be a ways down the road, Boren is pushing for something, anything to happen in the here and now so that he can begin thinking long-term for his sports programs in general and his football team specifically.  One way or another, this Big 12 “thing” is coming to a head — sooner, so to speak, than many may have expected.

Despite title game approval, OU president David Boren still in favor of expansion

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 16:  President David Boren of the University of Oklahoma greets people on the sidelines before the game against the Iowa State Cyclones November 16, 2013 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Iowa State 48-10. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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The Big 12 received its long-awaited approval to hold a championship game as a 10-team league on Wednesday. Despite that, Oklahoma president David Boren came out Wednesday evening in favor of expanding the league even with the knowledge it is no longer a required for a so-called 13th data point.

“The Big 12 is disadvantaged when compared to the other conferences in three ways. We do not have at least twelve members, we do not have a conference network, and we do not have a championship game,” Boren said in a statement to the Oklahoma Daily. “I think that all three of these disadvantages need to be addressed at the same time. Addressing only one without addressing all three will not be adequate to improve the strength of the conference.”

Boren is a rabble rouser that has effected change within the league before. It was his comments during the fall of 2011 that finally gave Missouri its courage to jump to the SEC. And it was Boren’s blame of then-commissioner Dan Beebe that pushed him out of the conference.

“I appreciate that what was acted upon today takes into account our unique 10-team, full round-robin scheduling model. However, this vote does not automatically mean the Big 12 will implement a football championship game,” Boren added.

Big 12 executives are set to meet Feb. 4. We already know which way Oklahoma’s CEO leans. If Cincinnati, Memphis, BYU, Houston or the like find an invitation in the inbox in the near future, they’ll know where to send the thank-you card.

Kentucky adds pair of Cincinnati assistants to offensive staff

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Nearly two weeks after shaking up his offensive coaching staff, Mark Stoops has filled in the blanks with what he hopes a vast improvement on that side of the ball.

Following up on rumors that have circulating for more than a week, Kentucky announced that Stoops has hired Eddie Gran to be his “head coach of offense/offensive coordinator.”  Gran will also coach the Wildcats’ running backs.

Gran, who replaces Shannon Dawson, has spent the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati.  Gran and Stoops worked together for three seasons (2010-12) at Florida State prior to that.

“Having worked with Eddie at Florida State, he is an outstanding coach with great experience, including a lot of years in the SEC,” a statement from Stoops began. “He is a great leader with tremendous passion for the game.”

Gran’s other stints in the SEC include stops at Ole Miss (1995-98), Auburn (1999-2008) and Tennessee (2009).

In addition to Gran, UK announced the hiring of Darin Hinshaw as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Hinshaw served as quarterbacks coach at Cincinnati as well as passing-game coordinator the previous three seasons.

“Darin has a great offensive mind and his experience includes time in the Southeastern Conference,” Stoops said. “I’ve been impressed with how well they’ve produced at Cincinnati and how prolific they have been in throwing the football.”

Gran and Hinshaw will be charged with overhauling an offense that finished tied for 95th nationally in scoring at 24.7 points per game.