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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.

CFP announces future playoff games (mostly) moved off New Year’s Eve

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 17:  College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy presented by Dr Pepper is seen at Tiger Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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In the face of intense pressure, the College Football Playoff has officially — and finally — blinked.

By most accounts, including the most important metric, television ratings, the New Year’s Eve slot for the College Football Playoff semifinal games was an abject failure.  Despite the ratings bath and the calls from most corners to move the semifinals off New Year’s Eve, the powers that be had (stubbornly) remained steadfast in creating a new “holiday tradition.”

In March, however, the CFP at least somewhat acknowledged an issue, announcing that the start times for the 2016 playoff semifinals, on New Year’s Eve yet again, would be pushed back an hour from the year before.  The thaw continued in April, with executive director Bill Hancock stating that the CFP “will continue to review this matter.”  A couple of weeks ago, Hancock heavily intimated that it would be when, not if the semifinals would be moved off the last day of the year.

Thursday, that (mostly) came to fruition as the CFP announced that all future playoff games through the 2025 season (last year of the current 12-year contract) will be played either on a Saturday or a holiday.  That doesn’t mean that New Year’s Eve is completely off the table, though.

One, the two semifinal games scheduled for New Year’s Eve following the 2016 season will go off as planned as it’s too late in the process to move them off that date; plus, Dec. 31 falls on a Saturday this year and would’ve been played on New Year’s Eve anyway under this new way of doing playoff business.  Secondly, the semifinal games for the 2021 and 2022 seasons will still be played on Dec. 31.  The games for the 2022 season will be played on a Saturday, on a Friday in 2021.

There are significant changes to the rotation, however, as the semifinal games that had been scheduled to be played on New Year’s Eve following the 2018, 2019, 2024 and 2025 seasons will now be played on Saturday, Dec. 29; Saturday, Dec. 28; Saturday, December 28; and Saturday, Dec. 27, respectively.

In the end, it was the right call for the sport and, more importantly, the fans.

“We had healthy discussions with a lot of people who love college football and we concluded that making these changes would be the right thing to do for our fans.” said Hancock in a statement.

“We tried to do something special with New Year’s Eve, even when it fell on a weekday. But after studying this to see if it worked, we think we can do better. These adjustments will allow more people to experience the games they enjoy so much. For these four years, our previous call is reversed.”

Below is how the revamped College Football Playoff rotation will look moving forward:

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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.

BYU says it would be open to football-only Big 12 membership

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 1:  BYU  Athletic Director Tom Holmoe announces that BYU football will become independent in football in 2011 separating from the Mountain West Conference, September 1, 2010 in Provo, Utah. The remaining BYU sports will become affiliated with the West Coast Conference in 2011. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
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While not preferred, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has said his conference would be open to football-only membership as it pursues expansion.

That would work for BYU, too.

“We’re obviously open to listening to what they want to do. We’re going to go through this process with an open mind to listen to what they have to say,” BYU AD Tom Holmoe told ESPN.

A football-only addition of the Cougars would solve a number of problems for the Big 12:

1) The conference is starting a championship game in 2017 and, as an independent, BYU would be available immediately. Holding a title game with 10 teams is a clunky option the conference would prefer to avoid if possible, so the Cougars’ immediate availability helps both sides.

2) Adding only BYU’s football program eliminates the question of what to do with the Cougars’ no-Sundays policy.

3) Stretching a conference from Morgantown to Provo is, obviously, geographically challenging. Sending your football team across two time zones is one thing, asking your women’s basketball team to do the same on a Wednesday and turn around and play again on Saturday is something else entirely. It may serve both parties well to keep the Cougars’ Olympic sports in the West Coast Conference.

However, if the Big 12 is interested in bringing BYU aboard as an all-sports member, Holmoe is confident the two sides can make it work. After all, they’ve done it in the WAC, the Mountain West and now the WCC.

“I believe that’s something that can be worked out,” he said. “We’ve been in a lot of leagues through the years, and we’ve been able to work it out.

“There would be a difference in the Big 12 because that would be a Power 5 conference. They’re going to ask questions. We’ll have our solutions, creative ideas of what we can do. We’re going to do everything we can.”

VIDEO: Notre Dame unveils Shamrock Series uniforms

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 21: Jeff Smith #5 of the Boston College Eagles carries the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the third quarter at Fenway Park on November 21, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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For the seventh year in a row, and third with Under Armour, Notre Dame will don special uniforms for its Shamrock Series game.

For this year’s game — Nov. 12 against Army in San Antonio — the Irish will stick with green jerseys and gold helmets, this time sprinkling in a military theme and the “God. Country. Notre Dame.” slogan.

Not my favorite looks, but certainly not a crime against humanity, either.

Notre Dame has said there won’t be a Shamrock Series game in 2017, so this will be the last special edition Irish kits we should see for a while.

Notre Dame is 7-0 all-time in Shamrock Series games. The Irish defeated Boston College 19-16 in last season’s game at Fenway Park. This year’s edition represents the first time Notre Dame has repeated opponents (Army) and venues (San Antonio’s Alamodome) for Shamrock Series games.