AAC announces divisional alignments

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As expected, the American Athletic Conference has announced its divisional alignments for 2015 and beyond.  And, just as expected, it’ll prompt those who value geographical sensibility to throw up a little bit in their collective mouths.

As was hinted at earlier this month, commissioner Mike Aresco revealed Friday the makeup of the AAC’s two divisions for the 2015 season and coinciding with the arrival of Navy, the last of a handful of new additions to replace the departed Louisville and Rutgers. The conference opted to go with East-West divisional split, which, given the far-flung nature of the current and future membership, lends itself to some head-scratching.

The biggest example of that will be Navy, with the Annapolis, Maryland, service academy being dropped into the West division.  On the other side, albeit not as geographically egregious, is the placement of Cincinnati in the East division.  Somewhere, the Big Ten with its 14 teams and the Big 12 with its 10 teams are chuckling mildly.

Regardless, here is the complete look at how the East-West divisions will be filled:

East Division
UCF
Cincinnati
UConn
East Carolina
USF
Temple

West Division
Houston
Memphis
Navy
SMU
Tulane
Tulsa

“This is an exciting step in the continued development of our conference,” said Aresco in a statement. “With our performance on the field and the exposure we received from our media partners, I couldn’t be more satisfied with our first year of American Athletic Conference football. Creating this divisional format will allow us to build upon that success. Our fans will enjoy our divisional play and the championship game that will be established in 2015.

“The East-West format we have adopted gives each division a distinct identity, provides long-term competitive balance and protects traditional rivalries while allowing each school to travel across the conference’s geographical footprint on a regular basis.”

In addition to the divisional alignment, the AAC also announced the tiebreak procedure for the 2014 season — a conference championship game will be held in 2015 as the league moves to 12 teams.  Below is that procedure:

For the 2014 season, the American Athletic Conference Football Champion will be the team that finishes the regular season with the highest winning percentage in conference games. If more than one team has the same winning percentage, the tied teams are declared co-champions. To determine the College Football Playoff/Host Bowl representative, the co-champion ranked highest by the College Football Playoff Committee will be eligible to receive the automatic bid shared with Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt conferences.

Oregon LB arrested for removing parking boot dismissed by Ducks

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In April, Fotu Leiato was arrested on a couple of charges related to the illegal removal of a parking boot from his vehicle.  A month later, we’ve learned Leiato was given the boot from his current football program for good measure.

247Sports.com was the first to report that Leiato has been dismissed by first-year Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal.  Further to the point, the linebacker’s dismissal came a day after his April arrest but the news didn’t surface until Thursday.

In the April incident, Leiato was arrested on charges of second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree theft and criminal trespassing.  That was actually his second arrest this year as he was charged with misdemeanor trespassing in January.

The combination of the two arrests led Cristobal to pull the trigger on a dismissal.

Coming to Eugene as a three-star safety, Leiato played in 37 of 38 games the past three seasons.  The Washington native earned the first start of his collegiate playing career during the 2017 season.

The senior had been in line to earn a starting job exiting spring and heading into the summer phase of the offseason.

LB Darrin Kirkland announces transfer from Tennessee

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Darren Kirkland‘s injury-plagued time on Rocky Top has come to an end.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday evening, Kirkland announced that he has decided to transfer out of first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt‘s Tennessee football program.  The linebacker gave no specific reason for his decision to move on from the Volunteers.

“Tennessee will always hold a special place in my heart,” Kirkland wrote. “These moments have been priceless and I’m a better player and man from this experience.”

As a graduate transfer, Kirkland would be eligible to play for another FBS program in 2018.  Not only that, but he will have two seasons of eligibility remaining counting this year.

A four-star 2015 signee, Kirkland started 10 games as a true freshman and then another six in a sophomore campaign marred by a high-ankle sprain that forced him to miss four games.  In summer camp last year, he suffered a knee injury severe enough to sideline him for the entire 2017 season.

The rehab from that injury kept Kirkland from being a full participant in Pruitt’s first spring practice this year.

North Texas dropping $625,000 to install new turf that naturally includes new design

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Seth Littrell has done a great job turning around the program at North Texas but fans getting a look at the 2018 edition of his team will notice something right away that’s different when they take the field for the home opener: new turf. The Denton Record Chronicle reports that UNT is ponying up $625,245 for the latest “FieldTurf CoolPlay” turf at Apogee Stadium.

“We are excited about the turf,” Littrell said recently, according to the paper. “It was much needed. That turf has been used a lot and has gotten worn down. The new field will improve safety and will be a great resource for our kids.”

The old turf had a good run at the stadium after being installed back in 2011 but obviously the summer heat and 300+ pound bodies playing football will cause a little wear and tear. The Record Chronicle says that “North Texas” and “Mean Green” will be the end zones text while the midfield school logo will include a “dark green outline of the state of Texas.”

Completion of the project is expected to be done well in time for the first game against SMU in September. The school has released some shots of Apogee Stadium without the old turf and it certainly looks kind of wild to see a stadium sans a playing field:

Kansas State AD open to scheduling Nebraska in the future

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Conference realignment ended a bunch of big rivalries, from the major (Texas-Texas A&M) to the mundane. Former Big 8 and Big 12 rivals Kansas State and Nebraska were somewhere on the middle of that scale after playing each other in football for decades. While nobody is clamoring for the two to get together quite like they are the Longhorns and Aggies, there’s plenty who would still love to see them schedule a non-conference series given how close Lincoln and the Little Apple are to each other (135 miles across the border).

Wildcats athletic director Gene Taylor has been in the job just over a year and it seems like he’s very aware of the scheduling situation between the two schools and is open to getting something done eventually. He was asked about adding the Cornhuskers to the slate in a Q&A on the school’s website and had this to say:

“That is a school that makes a lot of sense,” said Taylor. “We are pretty well-scheduled out in football with our one Power Five opponent, but we do play them in baseball and have had conversations in men’s basketball. If the opportunity were to arise, they are someone we would certainly entertain if it made sense for us.”

KSU is fully booked on the scheduling front through 2022 but have been open to adding home-and-homes with former Big 12 opponents with Missouri on tap for 2022/23 and Colorado on 2027/28. They’ve got a Power Five opponent on the docket until 2031 so it seems like the team wouldn’t be able to get something done with Nebraska until after then. That is, to say the least, a long ways away.

Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to meet in a bowl game at some point over the next few years. The Cornhuskers and Wildcats last met in 2010 in a series that is heavily weighted to Big Red. At least Taylor is leaving the door open and leaving a chance of the two programs hooking back up on the gridiron.