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Big 12 reportedly prefers expansion to be settled before start of season

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Unlike most goings-on in the conference, it doesn’t appear the Big 12 is going to drag its feet on the biggest issue it’s currently facing.

The Big 12 announced earlier this month that the conference will expand, whether by two teams or four.  Regardless of the final number, CBSSports.com‘s Dennis Dodd, citing three individuals with knowledge of the ongoing process, reported Thursday, the conference “would prefer to wrap up the expansion process before the start of the 2016 football season.” The reasoning for an expedited timeline is simple: the powers-that-be in the league do not want expansion talk and speculation to overshadow actual football.

Such a timeline would also be beneficial for any incoming teams.

If the expansion teams are indeed announced before the season, that conceivably would give the new schools a chance to begin playing in the conference in 2017. For now, the league is in the process of contemplating how it will decide participants for its championship game that has been reinstated for 2017.

“I have not made any comment on time frame and do not plan any such statement,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Dodd in a statement.

It’s believed that any new members for the Big 12 will come from a group that includes teams from both the AAC (Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, UCF, USF) and Mountain West (Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State) as well as football-independent BYU.  More specifically, BYU, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn are considered by some/most observers as the front-runners, with some throwing Cincinnati in as well.

The AAC kicks off its Media Days Monday, and expansion will no doubt dominate the conversation during the two-day event.

Justin Timberlake, Larry the Cable Guy stump for Big 12 candidacies of Memphis, UCF

SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 07:  Actor/singer Justin Timberlake watches the game between the Memphis Tigers and the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2008 NCAA Men's National Championship game at the Alamodome on April 7, 2008 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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As you no doubt know by now, the Big 12 announced earlier this month that the conference will expand.  Wednesday night, a pair of entertainment heavyweights threw their celebrity behind two of the potential candidates.

A handful of teams have been mentioned as possibilities, from Houston to UConn to USF to BYU to Tulane to East Carolina to Cincinnati to Colorado State to Boise State.  Additionally, Memphis and UCF have been heavily speculated on for months, and they’re the two programs that have seen Memphis native Justin Timberlake and Nebraska fan Larry the Cable Guy, respectively, stumping for them within a couple of hours of each other.

It’s highly, highly doubtful that the celebrities throwing their support behind their favorites will have any impact whatsoever on the process or the Big 12’s ultimate decision. Still, it certainly can’t hurt in the court of public opinion.

Memphis grants RB Jamarius Henderson ‘a release in order to be closer to his son’

Jamarius Henderson
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A family situation in Alabama is having an impact on an FBS program in Tennessee.

Memphis announced via a press release that Jamarius Henderson has been granted a release from his scholarship. Per the school, the running back “will be granted a release in order to be closer to his son.”

“We wish him all the best in his future,” first-year head coach Mike Norvell added.

As a true freshman last season, Henderson, a Midland, Ala., native, was fourth on the team in rushing yards (320) and rushing touchdowns (four) in 10 games. His 5.3 yards per carry were tops among all Tigers ballcarriers with at least 20 carries.

The 5-11, 210-pound back also caught a pair of touchdown passes among his seven receptions.

A compendium of statements from presidents and ADs angling to join the Big 12

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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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.”

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.”