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Report: Big 12 expansion, TV network on hold for 2016

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Thirty-five media members are expected to descend upon suburban Dallas this week for the annual gathering of Big 12 presidents and chancellors — more than three times the average number — and not because they’re excited to see whether Baker Mayfield gets another year of eligibility. Expansion is the first word off the lips everywhere from Provo to Storrs with numerous stops in between, but a report Tuesday said all these digital trees slain in devotion to the subject will die in vain.

According to Chip Brown of Horns Digest, the issue has already been decided and the Big 12 will stand pat — both on the membership and television network fronts — for 2016.

Brown writes:

“The bottom line is there is no consensus on any non-Power Five candidates to add, and the league’s primary TV partners – ESPN and Fox – aren’t exactly knocking down doors right now to start a conference network, the sources told HD.”

If the presidents haven’t even broken their proverbial bread yet, how could the issue already be decided? With 10 schools, only three are needed to block any movement, and Texas, TCU and Texas Tech were said to be against expansion heading into the meetings.

It’s also possible this report is a trial balloon of sorts, a shot across the bow at a specific group of people in the meeting room.

The only area change could happen, according to Brown, would be to add a championship game. The conference won the right to hold a title game without expanding during the NCAA Convention in January.

A conference championship game is believed to be worth an extra $2-3 million per year per school in television money.

Ex-Ohio State lineman to continue career at Cincinnati

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 13:  Fans of the Cincinnati Bearcats cheer on their team at the start of the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Nippert Stadium on November 13, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Less than two weeks after leaving Ohio State, Grant Schmidt has a new college football home — and he won’t even have to leave the state to get there.

Citing university sources, the Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting that Schmidt will continue his collegiate playing career at Cincinnati.  The offensive lineman had indicated earlier this month that the Bearcats would be his landing spot.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Schmidt will be forced to sit out the 2016 season.  He would then have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017.

A three-star member of OSU’s 2015 recruiting class, 247Sports.com rated Schmidt as the No. 52 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 1 player at any position in the state of South Dakota.  Schmidt was the first player from that state to sign with the Buckeyes, but he failed to become the first to play in a game as he didn’t see the field during his brief stint in Columbus.

Schmidt’s mid-May move was believed to be related to a logjam along the offensive line and his failure to make a dent on the depth chart during spring practice.

Houston, Memphis, others throwing themselves in front of the Big 12

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 14:  Jarvis Cooper #25 of the Memphis Tigers rushes as Lee Hightower #18 of the Houston Cougars looks to contain on November 14, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The possibility of expansion has completely bubbled over in the Big 12 — to the point where anyone associated with the conference can’t step in front of a microphone without being asked about it, no matter how close they actually are to the decision making process — but the topic has percolated behind the scene for months.

Jake Trotter of ESPN.com uncovered documents and correspondence between leaders at Cincinnati, Memphis, Houston, Central Florida and Colorado State to the Big 12’s movers and shakers — primarily West Virginia president Gordon Gee, Oklahoma president David Boren and Baylor president Kenneth Starr, the CEOs that comprise the conference’s composition committee.

Gee flew to Houston in November to meet with U of H president Renu Khator, athletics director Hunter Yuracheck, head coach Tom Herman, three of the school’s regents, vice chancellor Eloise Stuhr and Camden Property Trust CEO Rick Campo — reportedly a key figure in securing next year’s Super Bowl for Space City. Khator even got the picture to prove it.

Memphis buttressed its pitch with dollar signs, pledging half a billion dollars in athletics and academic improvements in the next five years and support from FedEx in the form of corporate sponsorship for a renewed Big 12 football championship game. “We strongly support the university’s efforts to become a member of an expanded Big 12 athletic conference,” FedEx CEO Fred Smith wrote to Memphis president David Rudd in February. “In support of [Memphis’] Big 12 aspirations, we have researched college conference sponsorships and are prepared to become a major Big 12 sponsor of football and basketball.”

Gee corresponded with CEOs from Central Florida and Colorado State, telling UCF president John Hitt, “Be assured that the University of Central Florida is very much on our radar screen,” and Colorado State president Tony Frank, “Colorado State is making a statement and moving swiftly into the forefront of universities, not only in your region but nationally.”

The Big 12 requires eight votes to approve expansion, and a straw poll is said to be one vote short with Texas, Texas Tech and TCU voting against it. Big 12 presidents and chancellors will gather at the league’s suburban Dallas headquarters beginning May 31 with the goal of coming to a resolution on the conference’s future.

Hugh Freeze fuels Ole Miss win in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl golf outing

Hugh Freeze
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It appears Ole Miss’ off-field issues laid bare for the country to see over the weekend had little or no impact on Hugh Freeze’s focus on a golf course.

At the 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl challenge in Greensboro, Ga., Freeze and his Ole Miss partner, former Rebel tight end Wesley Walls, pulled away from the field of 13 FBS head coaches and their partners to claim a two-shot win.  Moat impressive was how the Rebel duo pulled away as Freeze holed an 8-iron from 150 yards on the par-four 14th for an eagle, then the team proceeded to rip off four straight birdies to close out both the round and a trio of teams that finished at -11 –Georgia (Kirby Smart/David Dukes), Georgia Tech (Paul Johnson/Jon Barry), North Carolina State (Dave Doeren/Terry Harvey).

“The ball was jumping off my irons and I knew I hit it good,” Freeze said of the holed-out shot that jumpstarted the birdie binge. “Then Wesley said he thought he saw it disappear. I thought it was long but I started walking to the hole pretty fast and found out it went in. That’s when we thought we had a chance.”

Freeze’s heroics helped win his team $100,000, with that total being split evenly between endowed scholarships at the universities and foundations or charities of the coach’s choice.  Those heroics also kept the Georgia Tech team of Johnson and Barry from three-peating and winning the event for the fifth time in the last six years.

Below is how the rest of the field finished in the challenge as well as scholarship.charity money earned.

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Expansion rumblings once again swirling around Big 12

Matt Ritchey
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Expansion in major college football has been in hibernation for a couple of years now, but it appears movement on that front could be imminent.  Or it could not.  One of the two.

Over the past 24 hours or so, a handful of stories have surfaced that, once again, have the speculation swirling around the Big 12 when it comes to that conference getting back to matching its numerical name.  From analytics to potential expansion candidates to the 800-pound Longhorn in the middle of the room, the Big 12’s annual spring meetings this week figure to at least begin — or, more specifically, continue — the process of settling the expansion/conference title game/league network issues that are all inextricably intertwined.

To wit:

— Monday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby confirmed that in research performed by an analytics outfit hired by the league, a 12-team conference with an eight-game league schedule and a championship game is the best model for one of its teams qualifying for the college football playoff.  Right now, the Big 12 is the exact opposite of that model, with 10 teams, nine conference games and no title game.

According to Bowlsby, the first combination would increase a league’s chances of sending a team to the playoffs by five percent.  As Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News asked, would that slight bump be enough to get everyone onboard with expansion and a title game?

“Some would say we want every advantage we can get,” Bowlsby said. “Others may say it’s not enough to blow up a good scheduling model.”

From Carlton’s report:

Bowlsby said the Big 12 is scheduled to receive “two major reports” in Irving. In addition to information on the title game, Navigate will examine scheduling models for a 10-, 12- and 14-team conference and the variables involved.

In February, Bowlsby said he hoped to have an answer to the expansion question, one way or the other, this summer.  Just how close Bowlsby gets to that timeline will depend on how things go in Phoenix this week.

— Boise State, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis and UCF have all been mentioned as potential candidates if the Big 12 opts to expand.  According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the UofM has been lobbying the conference for inclusion in a next round of expansion if it comes.

University of Memphis president M. David Rudd sent a promotional publication – highlighting the finer points of the city and its major university – to University of Texas president Dr. Gregory Fenves in December, showcasing the U of M as a possible Big 12 expansion candidate.

Rudd said the publication, entitled “Memphis Soul of a City,” captures “the passion and proud history of Tiger athletics including a historic run by our football program.”

The Memphis publication highlights the city’s top Fortune 500 companies, its overall attributes and the U of M’s attributes, including its recent athletic accomplishments, particularly the turnaround by the football program. Tiger football has gone 19-7 the past two seasons.

— And, finally,that 800-pound Longhorn we spoke of earlier.

It’s long been believed that Texas is not in favor of expanding the conference, especially at the expense of folding its Longhorn Network into a conference-wide network, with Texas Tech and TCU, for their own reasons, following in lock-step with the state’s flagship institution.  According to a report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, the conference is one vote shy of garnering enough support to expand.

It’s believed seven of the 10 schools favor expansion. But Big 12 bylaws call for a super majority vote of 75 percent (so at least eight schools) to make a major change. Texas is believed to be influencing Texas Tech’s and Texas Christian’s decisions to also be reluctant to expansion.

Texas Tech has long fallen in line with Texas. Both are public universities that have been in the same league together since 1956, when they were in the Southwest Conference. Texas and Texas Tech were founding members of the Big 12 in 1996.

TCU is believed to be following Texas’ lead because the conference’s power broker reportedly helped the Horned Frogs get into the Big 12 four years ago.

In other words, we’re right back to where we’ve been on multiple occasions in the past: as Texas goes, so goes Big 12 expansion.  Or doesn’t go, as the case may be.

UPDATED 6:38 p.m. ET: If you want an idea as to Texas’ thought process at the moment, I think this sentence pretty much tells you everything you need to know.