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.”

Florida State AD says Urban Meyer won’t be the target if Willie Taggart gets fired

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It’s an open question right now as to whether or not Willie Taggart gets a third chance to turn Florida State’s football program around. But, in the event he doesn’t, Urban Meyer won’t be the target of the hypothetical coaching search.

And neither will Steve Spurrier, for that matter.

That’s on the authority of FSU AD David Coburn, who went on record with the Tallahassee Democrat Tuesday to dispute a FootballScoop report that Meyer would be the target of the search. (Full disclosure: I also work for FootballScoop.)

“If Coach were hit by a bus tomorrow, we would not target Coach Meyer, period,” Coburn told the paper. “I say that with all due respect to Coach Meyer, but we would not target Steve Spurrier either.”

Florida State is desperate to party like it’s 1999 again, to the point where Coburn didn’t throw out the prospect of paying Taggart’s $17-plus million buyout if Taggart doesn’t turn this season around. (The furthest Coburn would go on that point is this non-denial denial: “For the record, we have not been in contact with our Coach’s agent, period,” Coburn said.)

But they’re evidently not desperate enough to hire their former archnemesis.

Ex-assistant lands South Carolina on probation for recruiting violations

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The NCAA’s committee on infractions hit South Carolina for multiple sanctions stemming from violations by a former assistant coach, the organization announced Tuesday. The assistant was not named in the probe, but I reported at FootballScoop that former Gamecocks assistant Lance Thompson was the source of the probe.

The NCAA, South Carolina and Thompson engaged in a “negotiated resolution process,” in which the parties agreed Thompson texted a sophomore recruit following his official visit, and also sent a text notifying the recruit he would be at his high school the following day and would like to meet face-to-face.

NCAA rules prohibit coaches from texting recruits until their junior year, and from face-to-face off-campus visits until their senior year.

Thompson worked as South Carolina’s assistant head coach for defense and defensive line coach from 2016-18. He is now the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Florida Atlantic.

A veteran college assistant, Thompson has coached at Georgia Tech (in two different stints), UCF, LSU, Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn in addition to South Carolina and FAU. He has been recognized for his work as a recruiter by ESPN and Rivals.

As part of the negotiated settlement, South Carolina has been hit with the following sanctions:

  • A $10,000 fine.
  • A prohibition of off-campus football recruiting activity during the first two weeks of the spring 2019 evaluation period and the first four weeks of the fall 2019 evaluation period.
  • A reduction of football evaluation days by 12 for the 2018-19 academic year.
  • A restriction on all telephone and text communications with football prospects for two weeks beginning Sept. 1, 2019.
  • The head football coach may have only off-campus contact with 10 prospects during the fall 2019 contact period.
  • One year of probation.
  • One-on-one rules education for the head coach regarding NCAA contact and evaluation rules, completed in May 2019.
  • The university ended the recruitment of the prospect.

Additionally, the assistant has been hit with a 1-year show-cause penalty. He will be suspended one game for the 2019 season and may not engage in off-campus recruiting during the fall 2019 evaluation period.

Florida AD Scott Stricklin posts Games Wanted ad to Twitter

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For decades, Florida avoided playing major non-conference games outside of the Sunshine State, citing their ongoing rivalry with Florida State and their annual Jacksonville game against Georgia.

The Gators still play Florida State every year, and they still play Georgia in Jacksonville on the first Saturday of November. But they’ve decided to stop letting that prevent them from playing interesting non-conference games across this great land.

AD Scott Stricklin has scheduled series with Texas, Colorado and Utah (in addition to a home-and-home with Miami) and he’s looking for more. And he wants everyone to know he’s looking for more.

“Attention ADs from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 … @GatorsFB is looking to add additional Home-and-Home series against P5 opponents. Let’s connect and schedule quality games the fans want to see!” Stricklin tweeted Tuesday.

Unless Stricklin is willing to cancel on-the-books games for 2020 or ’21, the next opening Florida has on its schedule is 2026-27. The Gators will play Utah in 2022-23, Miami in 2024-25, Colorado in 2028-29 and Texas in 2030-31.

In 2032 and beyond, though, Stricklin’s schedule is wide open. And while Stricklin is throwing bottles into the proverbial ocean, let’s throw another note in there — it sure would be nice to see Florida go north, particularly to Lincoln, Madison, South Bend, Columbus, Ann Arbor or State College.

 

Big 12’s 2020 schedule sees Bedlam move to October for first time since 2004

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The Big 12 is in the midst of its 2019 season, but on Tuesday the league took a break to release its 2020 schedule.

The conference season will begin early, Sept. 12, with Kansas at Baylor. It will conclude at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with the Big 12 Championship.

It would be the ultimate fool’s errand to wade through which games will determine the conference’s 2020 champion and which ones won’t a full year in advance, but we can go ahead and safely assume Oklahoma’s October will go a long way toward determining that. The Sooners’ October slate runs straight through what appear to be their top four challengers for the throne:

Oct. 3: vs. Baylor
Oct. 10: vs. Texas (at Dallas)
Oct. 17: at Iowa State
Oct. 24: vs. Oklahoma State

That last bit is interesting, as the conference has moved Bedlam to October for the first time since 2004. In fact, the Oct. 24 kick is the earliest since the two rivals met on Oct. 24, 1998; to find the last time Bedlam was played on a date earlier than Oct. 24, you’d have to go all the way back to Oct. 6, 1990.

It is worth noting, though, Bedlam has not been played in its traditional Thanksgiving weekend and/or final regular season weekend slot since the Big 12 revived its championship game two years ago. The 2017 game, a 62-52 OU win, was played Nov. 4, and last year’s 48-47 thriller occurred on Nov. 10.

The Big 12’s thinking appears to be the desire to avoid an immediate rematch between two likely contenders for the Big 12 Championship and, if that’s the case, the Thanksgiving weekend schedule is all the more puzzling as Oklahoma State will host Texas on Nov. 28. The Nov. 28 kickoff (or Nov. 27, if the game gets moved to Black Friday) will be the earliest in 35 all-time games between the ‘Horns and Pokes.

The full schedule can be found below: