Houston Cougars

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 28 : A general view of a Big XII pylon during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners November 28, 2015 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State 58-23.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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A compendium of statements from presidents and ADs angling to join the Big 12

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The Big 12 Expansion Derby is officially on. As USA Today‘s Dan Wolken described it Wednesday, Big 12 expansion could turn into the most cutthroat thing in the history of college athletics. Considering the stakes, he may be right: grab one of the final remaining Power 5 life jackets and make $20-plus million a year, or watch the rescue boat leave you behind.

With that in mind, consider the statements offered by the various presidents and athletics directors angling for one of those life vests. There’s a lot of political speak in here, but also a lot of “forget about them, take us” hidden in between the lines.

Houston president Renu Khator“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to showcase the University of Houston. Our commitment to building a nationally competitive athletic program along with our academics and research is unwavering.  UH is a proud member of Phi Beta Kappa and over the last decade has achieved designation as a Carnegie Tier One research institution. Our student population has grown to more than 43,000, third largest in Texas, and our vibrant residential population is among the highest. I could not be more proud that our university represents the fourth largest city in the nation and that our standard for excellence is second to none.”

Houston AD Hunter Yuracheck“The concept of change is always exciting and the evolving landscape of collegiate athletics invokes great passion in the nation’s fourth-largest city. At the University of Houston we are certainly honored to be mentioned as a progressive institution that places a competitive emphasis on both academics and athletics. As a Tier One research institution and Phi Beta Kappa member, Houston has seen a reinvigorated spirit in Athletics. We have returned our proud University to the national spotlight and we aim to compete on the highest levels as we build Champions for Life. Our mission will not change.”

Memphis AD Tom Bowen: “We work each day to build a championship-caliber athletic department where our student-athletes succeed in the classroom, on the field of play and in the community. The University is prepared to take action when opportunities to increase the level of positive attention and exposure for our city, campus and Athletic Department are presented. The University of Memphis continues to gain national recognition for its advancements in research, teaching and student accomplishments, and the Athletic Department is one part of that winning combination.”

Colorado State AD Joe Parker: “We are very aware of the news from (Tuesday), though it does not change where we are at this moment. We are still focused on the things we’ve always talked about and that’s being the best version of Colorado State that we can be and striving to be the preeminent program in the Mountain West…. I’m energized by everything about CSU Athletics. We have a spectacular new on-campus stadium opening in a year, teams performing at a high level, student-athletes who are excelling in the classroom and coaches who are providing outstanding direction to our programs. We are extremely proud of the academic and research acumen of Colorado State University and feel very confident that Athletics can strongly complement CSU’s ability to project the overall positive message for the institution.”

Tualane AD Troy Dannen: “When I was introduced as athletic director last December, my goal was to ensure Tulane University was in a position, athletically, to take advantage of opportunities which may come our way. If an opportunity for candidacy in the Big 12 Conference presents itself, that is an opportunity we will certainly explore.Tulane’s greatest assets in this regard include our academic reputation, our standing among the nation’s top research institutions as a member of the AAU and our location in the one of the premier cities in the country, New Orleans.We have made over $120 million in capital investments to our athletics facilities over the last several years, and we have a veteran group of coaches on staff who have experienced competitive success at all levels. We are prepared to compete with, and against the top institutions in the nation.”

UNLV AD Tina Kunzer-Murphy: “The football stadium is a key for all of it. You know it. I know it. Everybody else who loves college football and the Rebels knows it. We’ve got at a lot of things where we’ve got to get better. I don’t think anybody can say they have it all together. UNLV brings a lot of benefits to a conference, and we have been good partners to the Mountain West, and in time we will have those conversations.”

UCF president John Hitt: “We ought to be considered very seriously. There ought to be a home for us in the Big 12. Whether there will be or not, we’ll see. But we’re going to do everything we can to be sure people make whatever decision they make based on good information.”

BYU AD Tom Holmoe: “We are obviously excited the leadership of the Big 12 has advised Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to review potential expansion candidates. BYU is known for its academic excellence and I believe we have an exceptional athletic program. As I’ve stated before, I would like to see our student-athletes compete at the highest level.”

Texas governor, lieutenant governor, UT president tweet support for Houston in Big 12 expansion

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 4: Republican candidate for governor, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott speaks to the press after voting in the Texas primary at Western Hills Church of Christ on March 4, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Abbott is planning to make stops in Houston and Dallas for get out-the-vote rallies ahead of the elections. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
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Legend has it, Baylor would not be in the Big 12 had it not been for former Texas governor Ann Richards.

As the story goes, the old Big 8 was set to add Texas and Texas A&M and become The Big 10 But Not That Big Ten. The name needed some work. But realignment drama reached the Texas capitol, and Richards, a Baylor graduate, and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, a Texas Tech graduate, forced their schools’ way in as well.

History, as we know, has a way of repeating itself, as current Texas governor Greg Abbott is now throwing his political weight behind Houston’s inclusion into the Big 12.

Abbott is a Texas graduate but lived and worked in Houston previously. And it’s, of course, the public university of the largest city in the state he governs.

How much Abbott’s support for the Coogs matters in the end remains to be seen, but his support marries that of Big 12 coaches’ in favor of Houston. For starters, the climate is different in Texas now than it was in the mid-90’s. Texas A&M already left for the SEC, and two of the four Lone Star squads in the Big 12 are privates.

Of course, there’s a chance Abbott’s support could be a massive jinx for Houston. Someone in the governor’s office famously tweeted congratulations to the Houston Astros for defeating the Kansas City Royals in last year’s American League Division Series only to see the Royals rally to defeat the Astros and win the World Series.

Update: Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick and University of Texas president Greg Fenves have also posted statements of support for Houston today.

With Big 12 expansion oncoming, AAC commish Mike Aresco bracing for the inevitable

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 15: Mike Aresco, Commisioner of the AAC poses with Russ Smith #2 of the Louisville Cardinals and the tournament MVP trophy after defeating  the Connecticut Huskies during the Championship of the American Athletic Conference Tournament at FedExForum on March 15, 2014 in Memphis, Tennessee. Louisville defeated Connecticut 71-61. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
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The Big 12 is (probably) expanding. Perhaps you’ve heard.

While it’s too early to tell exactly which schools and how many of them will leave their respective homes to join the Big 12, it’s a safe bet to assume the American Athletic Conference will feel the effects of the Big 12’s manifest destiny. In fact, it’d be downright surprising if it didn’t.

In that light, American Athletic Conference Mike Aresco is bracing for his league to be hit by the swirling wave of dollar bills coming his conference’s way.

“We’re going about our business,” Aresco told CBSSports.com. “We have initiatives we’re working on. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I’m working hard for this conference, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished with this conference. You just tune out the distractions. We’ve got members here who are relying on the conference to support them. That’s our focus.”

And, really, what else can he say?

The Big 12 pays its members upwards of $20 million a year. The American doesn’t. There’s nothing he can do to change that. Despite the fact that some combination of Houston, Memphis, Cincinnati, the Florida outposts and perhaps even Connecticut may leave the league before next season, Aresco will continue to ask his conference to march to the beat he set this spring.

“I keep telling our membership, if we continue to be relevant and get fans interested in what we’re doing and we’re a really scrappy underdog that becomes a competitor, the networks will have an interest in us,” he said earlier this year. “It’s that simple.”

It’s a go: Big 12 to pursue expansion

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 25:  The Big XII logo on a pylon at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 25, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Presidents of American Athletic Conference and Mountain West schools, grab your phones. You’ve got some calls to make.

After a seemingly endless string of “will they or won’t they?” stories, brought on by the league itself, the Big 12 announced following a Board of Directors meeting Tuesday afternoon it has authorized commissioner Bob Bowlsby to pursue expansion candidates.

Not a lot of details are ironed out as of yet — this wouldn’t be the Big 12 if they were — but the concept is a go.

Oklahoma president and board chair David Boren said the Big 12 could become 12 again or balloon all the way up to 14.

While no one’s coming out and saying it now, the top candidates for expansion figure to be Cincinnati, Memphis, Connecticut, Houston, South and/or Central Florida, BYU and Colorado State in some order.

One thing that differentiates the Big 12 from others: Bowlsby has used the term “negotiate” when discussing the expansion process. With more interested parties than spots to give, the Big 12 can afford to be selective.

While no one attached firm dates to anything, the implication Tuesday was that this would be taken care of sooner rather than later.

One thing is certain: this is the Big 12 we’re talking about. No amount of craziness is off the table here.

 

Hornung Award watch list headlined by 2015 winner Christian McCaffrey

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Running back Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal stiff arms cornerback Iman Marshall #8 of the USC Trojans on a kick return during the first quarter of the Pac-12 Championship game at Levi's Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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And then there were none.

The avalanche of watch lists (I believe) (I hope) has come to a merciful end for another year, with the Hornung Award becoming the final college football honor to be released.  This year’s Hornung Award consists of 43 players, including 2015 winner Christian McCaffrey of Stanford.

Additionally, two other 2015 finalists have returned as watch listers — Adoree’ Jackson of USC and Jabrill Peppers of Michigan.

First given out in 2010, the Hornung Award, named in honor of Notre Dame legend Paul Hornung, honors the nation’s most versatile player.

“I’m ecstatic that the Paul Hornung Award has gained national prominence in such a short time,” Hornung said in a statement. “During the past six years the quality of our winners, finalists and weekly honorees has been impressive, and I’m pleased that we are able to acknowledge outstanding players who contribute any way possible to help their teams win the way I did.

“I enjoy following the players on our Watch List and watching many of our winners and finalists from the first six years as they make their marks in the NFL.”

From the award’s release:

The 2016 Watch List is composed of 21 seniors, 13 juniors and nine sophomores who start at a total of seven different positions, and represent 42 universities and all 10 conferences that are part of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The Pac-12 leads the conferences with eight players followed by the ACC and SEC with seven players and the Big Ten with six players.

Below is the complete 2016 Paul Hornung Award preseason watch list:

Ishmael Adams, UCLA
Victor Bolden Jr., Oregon State
Antonio Callaway, Florida
Seth Collins, Oregon State
Jared Cornelius, Arkansas
Tim Crawley, San Jose State
DeVon Edwards, Duke
Brisly Estime, Syracuse
Johnathan Ford, Auburn
Janarion Grant, Rutgers
Nyheim Hines, NC State
Brandon Holloway, Mississippi State
Adoree’ Jackson, USC
D’Ernest Johnson, South Florida
Quay Johnson, East Carolina
Xavier Johnson, South Alabama
Corey Jones, Toledo
Desmond King, Iowa
Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Donovan Lee, Colorado
William Likely, Maryland
Jalen McCleskey, Oklahoma State
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Elijah McGuire, Louisiana Lafayette
Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia
Charles Nelson, Oregon
Zach Pascal, Old Dominion
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
Darius Phillips, Western Michigan
Trevor Ryen, Iowa State
Artavis Scott, Clemson
R.J. Shelton, Michigan State
Cameron Sutton, Tennessee
Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
Jahad Thomas, Temple
Aregeros Turner, Northern Illinois
KaVontae Turpin, TCU
Tim White, Arizona State
Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh
Brandon Wilson, Houston
Dontre Wilson, Ohio State
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia