Updated: Arkansas hires… Bret Bielema

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Wait, what?

When Arkansas officially “chose not to renew the contract” of interim coach John L. Smith, athletic director Jeff Long said he planned to have a new coach in place by early December. More specifically, within 10-14 days.

Well, it’s Day 10 and the rumors of who might fill the vacancy in Fayetteville were firing all over the Twitterverse Tuesday afternoon. First, Baylor coach Art Briles appeared to be close to being the Razorbacks’ next coach, but Joe Schad of ESPN reports that Briles is now working on a new contract  with BU.

Then, the attention shifted to Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, who like Briles, was hired and then not hired in a matter of minutes. Gundy was also connected to the Tennessee job and reportedly interviewed with the Vols.

It was all quite entertaining, really.

But the bombshell was dropped around 3 p.m. ET when Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports reported that Arkansas hired Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. The Associated Press and ESPN’s Mark Schlabach later confirmed the report and added that Bielema wants to coach his team in the Rose Bowl against Stanford. The Badgers are three days removed from a blowout win over Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game.

The school is expected to announce the hire later in the afternoon.

Last year, Bielema was quoted “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC in any way, shape or form” when referencing Ohio State and former Florida head coach Urban Meyer’s recruiting tactics.

Guess that’s changed.

Updated 7:30 p.m. ET: Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez has responded to Arkansas hiring Badgers coach Bret Bielema.

“I was very surprised when Bret told me he was taking the offer from Arkansas. He did a great job for us during his seven years as head coach, both on the field and off. I want to thank him for his work and wish him the best at Arkansas.

“I have a responsibility to our student-athletes, our football family and our fans, one that I take very seriously. It is my responsibility to ensure that the football program continues at a high level, and I have already started the process of trying to find a new head coach.

“Along with finding a new coach, my other main objective is to make sure that our student-athletes, specifically our seniors playing in their final game as Badgers, have a tremendous experience in the Rose Bowl. We will do everything within our power to make that happen.”

Syracuse no longer calling the Carrier Dome the, uh, Carrier Dome

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Stadium names change all the time in college football and we’ve seen some strange mash ups over the past few decades but there’s been an interesting twist in upstate New York.

Thanks in part to a growing spat with the company over the naming rights to the aptly named Carrier Dome, Syracuse has embarked on a bit of a rebranding for their longtime football and basketball home by shortening things to just ‘The Dome.’

As spotted by Syracuse.com, the school has removed some 64 mentions of the word Carrier in their annual football media guide and have even gone as far as to leave out any mentions of the company in their season ticket materials too.

“We will be contacting the university to discuss further,” Carrier Senior Director of Communications Ashley Barrie said in a statement to the site.

Orange officials have said they are not de-emphasizing the ‘Carrier’ part of the Carrier Dome to send any sort of message but rather reinforcing the ‘Dome’ part of the stadium’s name.

Something says that as much as that may be their public stance, this rebranding battle is something that figures to get some lawyers involved in soon enough. The football team’s home opener isn’t until Sept. 14 against defending champion Clemson so there’s certainly some time to work things out but it sure seems like a new name for the venerable venue is something we’ll all have to start getting used to.

Ex-Auburn, Miami RB Asa Martin lands at Memphis

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After going from AU to the ACC, tailback Asa Martin is now ticketed for the AAC.

Got that?

Per 247Sports, Martin has apparently enrolled at Memphis for the 2019 season. Per transfer rules he’s sitting out the year either way unless there’s some sort of NCAA waiver involved but it’s still the sophomore’s third school in nine months.

Martin was originally a four-star recruit in the class of 2018 and saw action in five games for the SEC Tigers as a true freshman, rushing for 57 yards all told while catching two passes for 36 yards. He entered the transfer portal in late December though, just after Auburn’s season had concluded.

Eventually Martin found a home at Miami and enrolled in time for spring practice. Perhaps he was not thrilled at the situation because come mid-June the tailback was back in the transfer portal looking for a new program to play with.

We’ll see if this latest move to Memphis sticks because we’ve certainly seen that Martin is no stranger to moving around.

Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens gets the nod as Mississippi State’s starting QB

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Tommy Stevens’ reunion with Joe Moorhead has proven to be a fruitful one.

The Penn State transfer was named the starting quarterback on Thursday by the Mississippi State head coach, ending a camp battle with Keytaon Thompson and others in the bid to replace Nick Fitzgerald under center for the Bulldogs.

Stevens made his way to Starkville rather surprisingly this offseason after spring practice for the Nittany Lions wrapped up. While he was expected to be the heir apparent to Trace McSorley in State College for the 2019 campaign, it seems that a competitive battle with fellow Penn State QB Sean Clifford pushed him to enter the NCAA transfer portal instead.

While some may have questioned the move initially given that Thompson has starting experience at MSU and in Moorhead’s system, things apparently worked out in the end as Stevens takes over for Fitzgerald instead.

A noted dual-threat with the ball in his hands at PSU, Stevens rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns last year while also passing for 110 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Mississippi State opens the season against Louisiana-Lafayette in New Orleans on Aug. 31 before their home opener against Southern Miss on Sept. 7.

Arkansas inks 2-for-1 series with old rival Tulsa, Golden Hurricane also add LaTech to non-conference slate

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The non-conference scheduling wheel in college continues to roll.

It has been a particularly busy month for Arkansas in terms of lining up future opponents. Hot on the heels of confirming another home-and-home series with Oklahoma State deep into the future, the Razorbacks announced on Thursday that they have agreed to a 2-for-1 series with old, old rival Tulsa over the next decade.

The Razorbacks will host the Golden Hurricane in Fayetteville on Nov. 21, 2026 and Sept. 1, 2029. The return trip to Tulsa is set for Sept. 4, 2027.

The regional rivals were old foes back in the day and have met 73 times over the years. Arkansas won 23-0 last season in their most recent meeting and will make their first trip to Northwest Oklahoma since 1952 when that 2027 date rolls around.

The Golden Hurricane also had some additional scheduling news from earlier in the week when they announced a home-and-home with ex-CUSA foe Louisiana Tech. The old conference rivals will meet in Ruston on Sept. 21, 2024 and then play a return game the following year on Sept. 27, 2025 at Tulsa’s H.A. Chapman Stadium.