Oklahoma State Cowboys

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57 centers named to Rimington Award spring watch list

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  The first watch list of the offseason has arrived.

The first for that honor this year is the Rimington Award, which on Tuesday released its spring watch list that is 57 players strong.  The Rimington Award, named in honor of former Nebraska standout Dave Rimington, is presented annually to the top center in the nation and is determined by the consensus All-American center pick from three existing All-America teams — Walter Camp. Sporting News and FWAA.

None of the finalists for the 2015 award, won by Alabama’s Ryan Kelly, are included on this year’s initial watch list as all three have since moved on with expired eligibility.

The ACC and SEC pace all conferences with eight watch listers apiece, followed by the AAC and Big 12 with seven each.  The Big Ten placed six, while the Pac-12’s three was the least of all of the Power Five programs.

All 10 of the FBS leagues, plus one independent (Notre Dame), are represented on the spring watch list, the full roster of which appears below.

AAC
Deyshawn Bond, Cincinnati, senior
Ryan Crozier, UConn, redshirt sophomore
Will Noble, Houston, sophomore
Drew Kyser, Memphis, sophomore
Evan Brown, SMU, junior
Brendan McGowan, Temple, redshirt senior
Chandler Miller, Tulsa, sophomore

ACC
Jay Guillermo, Clemson, senior
Alec Eberle, Florida State, redshirt sophomore
Freddie Burden, Georgia Tech, redshirt senior
Nicholas Linder, Miami, junior
Lucas Crowley, North Carolina, senior
Alex Officer, Pittsburgh, redshirt junior
Jason Emerich, Syracuse, redshirt senior
Jackson Matteo, Virginia, senior

BIG TEN
Joe Spencer, Illinois, senior
Sean Welsh, Iowa, junior
Brendan Moore, Maryland, sophomore
Mason Cole, Michigan, junior
Dylan Utter, Nebraska, senior
Michael Dieter, Wisconsin, sophomore

BIG 12
Kyle Fuller, Baylor, senior
Dalton Risner, Kansas State, sophomore
Jonathan Alvarez, Oklahoma, junior
Brad Lundblade, Oklahoma State, junior
Austin Schlottman, TCU, junior
Tony Morales, Texas Tech, senior
Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia, redshirt senior

CONFERENCE USA
Michael Montero, FIU, senior
Dillon DeBoer, FAU, redshirt senior
Daniel Stephens, Middle Tennessee State, senior
Nick Clarke, Old Dominion, sophomore
Cameron Tom, Southern Miss, senior
Max Halpin, Western Kentucky, redshirt senior

MAC
Tim McAuliffe, Bowling Green redshirt junior
James O’Hagan, Buffalo, sophomore

MOUNTAIN WEST
Jake Bennett, Colorado State, junior
Asotui Eli, Hawaii, redshirt sophomore
Nathan Goltry, Nevada, senior
Arthur Flores, San Diego State, senior
Austin Stephens, Utah State, senior

PAC-12
Toa, Lobendahn, USC, junior
Coleman Shelton, Washington, junior
Riley Sorenson, Washington State, senior

SEC
Frank Ragnow, Arkansas, junior
Brandon Kublanow, Georgia, senior
Jon Toth, Kentucky, senior
Ethan Pocic, LSU, senior
Jamaal Clayborn, Mississippi State, senior
Robert Conyers, Ole Miss, senior
Alan Knott, South Carolina, redshirt junior
Coleman Thomas, Tennessee, junior

SUN BELT
Devin Mondie, Arkansas State, senior
Andy Kwon, Georgia Southern, senior
Gabe Mobley, Georgia State, sophomore
Steve Matlock, Idaho, senior

INDEPENDENTS
Sam Mustipher, Notre Dame, junior

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.

Expansion rumblings once again swirling around Big 12

Matt Ritchey
Associated Press
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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.

Veteran NFL assistant reportedly to fill Alabama’s coaching vacancy

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On the same day some details emerged on an Alabama assistant’s “resignation,” that assistant’s potential replacement has been identified.

Citing unnamed sources, al.com is reporting that Karl Dunbar is expected to be hired as the Tide’s new defensive line coach.  Dunbar would replace Bo Davis, who “resigned” Friday amidst allegations of potential NCAA violations.

Dunbar served as Nick Saban‘s strength & conditioning coach at LSU from 2001-02, and then returned to Baton Rouge as Les Miles‘ line coach in 2005 after spending two years (2003-04) in the same position at Oklahoma State.

Most of Dunbar’s coaching career, though, especially recently, has come at the NFL level.

From 2006-11, Dunbar was the line coach for the Minnesota Vikings, and then held the same job with the New York Jets from 2012-2014.  Hired by Rex Ryan to coach the Buffalo Bills’ line in 2015, Dunbar was fired in March of this year.

Dunbar is a former NFL defensive lineman who played for Arizona in 1994-95, when Ryan was one of his Cardinals assistant.

Big 12 spring attendance by the numbers

Oklahoma State football team take the field for a spring NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, April 16, 2016. Black team defeated orange 20-7. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
AP Photo/Brody Schmidt
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By now we know the spring attendance numbers in the SEC and Big Ten will always be higher than the other power conferences (having 14 teams helps, of course). The Big 12 will never compete in this pretty useless stat, especially when so many schools fail to record any figure at all. Five Big 12 programs reported no spring attendance number this spring, which left us with just five schools to count when putting together the Big 12’s attendance figure. As things stand right now, the Big 12 looks to be locked into a fourth-place finish this spring, with the Pac-12 the only power conference lagging behind the Big 12 in the spring attendance standings.

Big 12 Spring Attendance By School

Here is how the Big 12 schools compared to each other in spring game attendance.

  1. Oklahoma – 42,436
  2. Oklahoma State – 17,500
  3. Iowa State – 15,089
  4. Kansas State – 14,643
  5. West Virginia – 6,000

Note: Baylor, Kansas, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech did not report any spring attendance figures.

Biggest Increase, Biggest Drop

Some of the Big 12 practices were washed away by bad weather, so we saw more schools not report any official or estimated attendance this year as a result. Baylor, for example, reported a crowd of 5,610 for its spring game in 2015 (which was also hampered by weather), but they opted not to take a crack at a number at all this time. Texas Tech also got washed out this spring. A couple of others either did not report an attendance figure or did not respond when asked for any input. Texas is one of the schools that does not record an attendance figure. So, given the schools that did have data on record for 2015 and 2016, who had the biggest increase and biggest drop?

The biggest jump in spring attendance this year was seen at Iowa State, where the Cyclones doubled their attendance from 7,500 fans in 2015 to 15,089 this spring. Is there a Matt Campbell effect going on here? There was not much difference in attendance figures for Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Kansas State, but Kansas State had the biggest drop in attendance with 17,080 fans in 2015 and 14,642 fans this spring. It is worth noting Kansas State played their spring game at Sporting Park last year, making the spring game more of a unique event in an MLS stadium. West Virginia also had a drop in attendance by 2,115 fans. It is important to also remember the West Virginia game was not played in their home stadium but an alternate venue with limited capacity, which some schools do.

Quick Hits

  • With five schools not on record for spring attendance this year, the Big 12’s final count stands at 95,668. Ohio State eclipsed that mark by themselves each of the past two seasons, and Georgia had 93,000 fans this spring.

You can view my database of spring game attendance in this Google doc. It is updated periodically as information becomes available or confirmed.