Big 12: Bobby Bowden

Brown changes bowl philosophy

January, 4, 2010
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- After back-to-back losses in the 1999 and 2000 seasons, Mack Brown knew he needed to make some changes in his bowl preparations.

The Longhorns were thrashed by Arkansas in the 2000 Cotton Bowl, 27-6. In the following season, Texas was shocked by a faster Oregon team that posted a 35-30 victory in the Holiday Bowl.

In order to change his thinking, Brown sent his assistants to places like Florida State and Wisconsin which had success during that period in bowl games. The Texas coaches picked the brains of Bobby Bowden, Barry Alvarez and their respective staffs to find out what had worked for them to get ready for bowl games.

"Both those teams had great runs [in bowl games]," Brown said. "We went to meet with them and asked what they were doing. We found out that they are really physical during their work here and let up a little once they got there."

The change in attitude seems to have helped. The Longhorns have won seven of their last eight bowl games, including a three-game winning streak in BCS games and a two-game winning streak at the Rose Bowl.

Brown has continued that strategy during its work in Austin as it prepared for Thursday's BCS National Championship Game against Alabama.

"You really just have to go back and work on fundamentals," Brown said. "We've had very, very physical practices. They've all been ones [first-stringers] against ones. They knocked each other around. They had fun."

And once the Longhorns arrived in California, Brown has moderated a little from how it prepared during the regular season.

"We'll do a little less conditioning out here for one thing," Brown said. "We really conditioned every day pretty hard back in Austin. We'll hit some [early in the week], but we back on the hitting as it comes closer to game time to make sure that we are fresh. One of the things we have learned is that when you have all of the bowl activities, they are out and standing and on their feet all of the time. They are excited and you work them hard. If you're not careful, you have a tired football team by Thursday."

Hitting so much before a bowl game is a calculated risk, but Brown believes his team is better prepared utilizing his current strategy.

"Another coach called and asked how we hit so much and not worry about injuries," Brown said. "I told him that you worry about injuries every day. That's what you do. But you hope you get lucky because you cannot take this much time off and not hit and then expect to be physical during this ballgame. This will be a very physical ballgame."

Big 12 left out of New Year's Day fun

January, 1, 2010
I feel a little bit out of sync today.

It can't be blamed on any imbibing I did last night.

The real reason I'm out of sorts is there are no Big 12 teams playing on the traditionally best day for college football of the year.

At least it was that way when I grew up, watching all of the games stacked one on top of another for a day-long feast of football.

Of course, those days were long before the way that Saturdays now play out during the regular season. In those prehistoric days -- at least in terms of college football -- we were lucky to get two games on a Saturday afternoon. Teams were limited to two appearances on television per season.

And that's what made New Year's Day so special.

My friends and I would pile into my den to watch games on one of two television sets my parents had commandeered for those purposes. It made it much easier in those days before remote controls were in vogue.

It makes me long for those days today as the Big 12 misses out on the tradition.

The AT&T Cotton Bowl moved its game to tomorrow afternoon to ensure wider viewership and even moved to a new stadium to make it seem even weirder.

In the history of the Big 12, the conference has failed to play on New Year's Day only twice since in came into creation in 1996. In 2004, the Big 12 was dark on Jan. 1 as the Cotton Bowl moved its game between Mississippi and Oklahoma State back by a day. And in 2006, the NFL took over Jan. 1 as it fell on a Sunday.

On six occasions in the last 14 seasons, the Big 12 had two games on Jan. 1.

But today, the conference has none.

Sure, we have Bobby Bowden's last game at Florida State, an interesting Rose Bowl contest and an intriguing Sugar Bowl to finish things off.

But no Big 12 games as the only one of the "Big Six" conferences without a game today.

And because of it, it feels a little disconcerting to me.

Leach in strong company with past success

December, 31, 2009
Here's one last note that indicates how Mike Leach had built his program at Texas Tech.

Leach directed the Red Raiders to bowl games in each of his 10 seasons coaching there before he was abruptly fired on Wednesday.

That's a feat that was matched by only four other coaches at the same FBS schools during that same period: Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, Bobby Bowden at Florida State, Mack Brown at Texas and Bob Stoops at Oklahoma.

Not only does it show Leach's success at Tech, but it also highlights the extreme competition that Leach faced in the Big 12 South Division in trying to keep up with Longhorns and Sooners.

Texas and Oklahoma have been the dominant programs in the Big 12 during this decade. The fact that Leach was able to build his program and keep it growing at the same time as the zenith of his divisional rivals might be the most underappreciated part of his time at Tech.

Those two South behemoths accounted for two national championships and four other trips to the national championship game, including the Longhorns' trip this season.

Leach did an outstanding job of making the Red Raiders nationally relevant, considering the kind of competition he faced on a regular basis.

Brown loved the Crimson Tide as a young fan

December, 21, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas coach Mack Brown, like many young college football fans in the South who grew up in the 1960s, had a love affair with Paul "Bear" Bryant's Alabama teams.

The Crimson Tide claimed national championships in 1964 and 1965 and came close in 1966, but were denied despite posting an 11-0 record. Brown was taking notice of the program from his home in Cookeville, Tenn.

Brown's grandfather, high school football coach Eddie "Jelly" Watson, helped stoke the passion in Alabama football in his young grandson.

"Alabama was my favorite program growing up," Brown said. "I watched every game."

As a high school senior, Brown was recruited by current Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, who was then an Alabama assistant coach.

"I got to sit in Coach Bryant's office as a 17-year-old," Brown said. "They were playing Missouri in the 1968 Gator Bowl and he asked me if I could visualize myself running back punts for them. That was pretty good stuff for me at the time."

Despite the sway of the Alabama tradition, Brown followed his older brother, Watson, to Vanderbilt where both played football. Brown later transferred to Florida State, where he graduated.

But his interest in Alabama has never diminished. It was one of three programs that were his grandfather's favorite teams, along with Georgia and Texas.

"Coach Bryant and [former Texas] coach Darrell Royal were the Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden of their day," Brown said. "Younger coaches looked up to them. I wanted to play there, coach there."

And that's what makes the Jan. 7 game at the Rose Bowl so special to Brown.

"This is a matchup that excited me," Brown said.

Big 12 lunch links: Burkhead excited about recent work

December, 3, 2009
We're at two days and counting for Saturday's big game between Texas and Nebraska for the Big 12 championship.

It will be the rubber game, as both schools have previously beaten the other one in earlier Big 12 title games.

Here are some lunch links to get you ready for the upcoming game, and other news from around the conference.

How powerful are Stoops and Brown among the coaches?

August, 5, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

We all know that Bob Stoops' nickname is "Big Game Bob." 

But the question is, how big do sports fans really feel Stoops is?

SportsNation is ranking 20 coaches in terms of their power at this link. Among those on the list are Stoops, Texas football coach Mack Brown and Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self.

As of 10:30 a.m. ET, Stoops is ranked ninth in the poll, Brown is 11th and Self 18th among those coaches who have been included.

Stoops is ranked sixth among the football coaches and Brown is seventh. They trail, in order: USC's Pete Carroll (second), Florida's Urban Meyer (third), Penn State's Joe Paterno (fourth), Florida State's Bobby Bowden (seventh) and Alabama's Nick Saban (eighth).

Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski ranks at the top of the poll, which has received 2,186 votes up to this time.

Mailbag: No Big 12 games at baseball fields

July, 31, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

If it's a Friday, it must be time to open some e-mails from my mailbag.

Shane Riley from Arapahoe, Neb., writes: I know the Big 12 hasn't jumped on the bandwagon yet, but what is up with college teams wanting to play games in major league baseball stadiums? Why does Army want to play at Yankee Stadium so bad and why are Illinois and Northwestern looking to play at Wrigley Field? And if the Big `12 did jump on the bandwagon what teams would want to play at a Big 12 area baseball venue?

Tim Griffin: Shane, that has been an interesting trend in recent weeks. I've heard through the grapevine that Dodger Stadium would be interested in staging some college games there. Those baseball stadiums are looking for new revenue sources and they are trying to attract college games as another way to fill seats and sell more concessions.

I'm a football traditionalist and the idea of football returning to Yankee Stadium would be cool. I've heard all of the great stories about games there in the 1940s and 1950s. The New York Giants really got their fans turned on when they started playing there.

But even with the "wow factor," I would doubt if any Big 12 teams really would seriously consider any upcoming games in baseball stadiums. And the reason is because in every city with a major league franchise in the Big 12's geographic footprint, there is also a new football stadium with all of the bells and whistles that is significantly bigger than the baseball stadium in the city.

For example, I don't think that any college team would give up the chance for 25,000 extra seats by moving a game from Reliant Stadium in Houston to Minute Maid Park. I certainly don't think that will be the case in Arlington, Texas, where the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium has every accoutrement known to mankind and is much bigger than the nearby baseball stadium. And I don't see it happening in St. Louis, Denver or Kansas City, either.

The football stadiums are simply too big and it would hard to visualize any college giving up a shot for extra tickets to play in a baseball stadium that wasn't constructed to allow football in the first place.

It would be neat to see the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis lined up for a football game, but I'm not expecting it. The chance to play at the Edward Jones Dome at America's Center just provides too many more seats in a climate-controlled setting to boot.

Willis from Raleigh, N.C., writes: OK, I'm a traditionalist and love the old rivalries that college football has every year. When most conferences started to expand (SEC, Big 8 to Big 12, ACC), they kept the traditional games playing every year (Georgia-Auburn, Tennessee-Alabama, OU-Texas, Florida State-Miami, etc) and other conferences kept their "big" games (Michigan-Ohio State, USC-UCLA, etc). I mean, what is college football without Ohio State playing Michigan every year? That said, what was the Big 12 thinking when it got rid of the Nebraska-Oklahoma game every year? I grew up watching that game in the 70's, 80's, and 90's and it was one of the greatest rivalries in college football. It's a shame that they play each other every four or five years like Bonow.

Tim Griffin: I've heard that the lack of a yearly Oklahoma-Nebraska game bemoaned since the first conference schedules were generated for the Big 12.

The rivalry was a great one, although truth be told, it had slipped a lot in the 1990s in the Big Eight as Nebraska turned the conference into a cakewalk shortly before the Big 12 started.

One way around it could be making that game a designated rivalry game each season, although it would put those Nebraska and Oklahoma at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the teams in their divisions because they would be facing one of the powers of the other division every season.

I'm betting that Bo Pelini and Bob Stoops wouldn't like that idea nearly as much as some of the traditionalists.  

And actually, the gap between games isn't as bad as you wrote. With the Big 12's sliding schedule, the two old rivals meet twice every four seasons.

I know it's not like the days when Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne were roaming the sidelines, but it's the best we can do for now.

Jim Perry from Albuquerque, N.M., writes: About Bill Callahan, I liked a lot of things about his offense. It was one of the few that sent Michigan wondering what happened. Callahan had a lot of answers but still needed a hard-nosed defense. I liked that he had class when it came to dealing with unruly players. I still think Callahan could still do it at the collegiate level and I wish him the best.

Tim Griffin: I also wonder about some of the contentiousness that some hard-core Nebraska fans hold for the Callahan era. Sure, he tried to dismantle a lot of the tradition on which that storied program is steeped. But at the same time, he helped the Cornhuskers win a Big 12 North title as recently as 2006.

If Callahan had played more to the Nebraska tradition, it definitely would have helped him out -- along with maybe a choice of a different defensive coordinator than Kevin Cosgrove. If Callahan had embraced the image of Nebraska and played to it like Mack Brown did at Texas or Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, it might have helped him weather some of the storms that he eventually faced. Not all of them, but it might have bought him an extra season or two.

I think the majority of Cornhusker fans are more excited about the future now than they've been since early in the Frank Solich era. And it should only get brighter as Pelini starts getting better players.

Charles Seibert of Albuquerque, N.M. writes: A couple of weeks ago you had an e-mail in the mailbag basically saying "Mack Brown only has one conference championship? What do Longhorns fans see in him?" Your answer focused on Stoops' domination in that department. Here's the rest of the answer.

The Longhorn fans would love to have more Big 12 crowns, but we judge UT's football program on many criteria. The 'Horns under Mack have a national championship, a stellar win-loss record (having passed Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre Dame among others on the all-time lists), regular finishes in the top five and top 10 (and ahead of the hated Sooners), near-automatic bowl wins (including 3-0 in BCS bowls) and solid records against their traditional rivals. With all of that, who wouldn't be proud to have Mack Brown coaching their team?

Tim Griffin: Charles, I agree with you. Mack Brown has the Texas program going as well as any in the country. And like you listed, he has many accomplishments and has his program pointed to claim a few more before he hangs up his whistle.

But with all of those facts in place, Stoops still has claimed six Big 12 titles and Brown has one. I hear from Texas fans all the time about their three victories in the last four seasons over the Sooners, but they also privately grumble they are disappointed that the Longhorns still have made only one trip to the Big 12 title game during that span compared to three for the Sooners. 

That shows the strength of the South Division and the struggles that winning a division championship provides in each season. And for all of the accomplishments you listed, I still bet Mack Brown wishes he had more than one Big 12 title to show for it.

Steve Rodriguez of Sisson, Texas, writes: Tim, in reading your blog on a daily basis, I love your numbers and charts you come up with. I know of no other place I can find to get that kind of information with your spin on it. I wish you would share a weekly stat or tidbit in your mailbag or perhaps as a regular post that delv
es deeply into the numbers in the conference.

Tim Griffin: Steve, sounds like a great idea. And here's my tidbit for today. Or maybe I can "borrow" a term from the Tim Horton doughnut shops in Canada - thanks to my old CFL coverage I know about them - and provide a weekly "Timbit."

How about this one? During the course of the 13-season history of the Big 12 Conference, Bob Stoops has claimed six championship game victories. The most amazing fact is that no other coach has claimed more than one Big 12 title during that span. 

Here's a list of coaches and their titles

Bob Stoops -- 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008
John Mackovic -- 1996
Tom Osborne -- 1997
R.C. Slocum -- 1998
Frank Solich -- 1999
Gary Barnett -- 2001
Bill Snyder -- 2003
Mack Brown -- 2005

That list speaks about as well to Stoops' domination of the Big 12 as any I could find.

Wally Gonzales of San Antonio writes: Hey Tim, I was wondering if you had any information on the new linebacker group at KU. I am interested in Justin Springer, who is from my hometown of Los Fresnos, Texas. Also when Kansas plays UTEP, it will be the first time that Springer will play against his twin brother, Jeremy. It also gets even more interesting when Justin goes up against his best friend Eloy Atkinson who is also from Los Fresnos and is the center for UTEP. I'd love to hear some inside information about this game.

Tim Griffin: Wally, Justin Springer has a chance to step up at linebacker, which appears to be the biggest weakness for the Jayhawks coming into the season. But Springer was hobbled by a knee injury that he sustained last season against Kansas State that caused him to miss the Jayhawks' final four games last season.

Springer has prototypical size for football of the 1990s when you consider he's 6-foot-4 and 242 pounds. But Coach Mark Mangino has placed a premium on speed with his defense and will want his linebackers to move well in space. That has to be a concern for Springer, considering he's coming off knee surgery.

Mangino also has hinted he plans to go to a 4-2-5 defense this season as his base. And he mentioned earlier this week that Arist Wright and Angus Quigley have really looked good so far in spring practices.

Springer wasn't able to practice during the spring, but Mangino has said he expects him to be ready for preseason camp. His recovery will be one of the interesting stories to follow next month for the Jayhawks.

And I think the UTEP game might be more difficult for the Jayhawks then some might expect. If they can't get much pass rush against underrated UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe, it might be a long evening in the Sun Bowl for the Jayhawks. Along with the potential matchup between the Springer brothers from Los Fresnos.

Chris Leonard from Minneapolis, Minn., writes: Tim, I read your summary of the Sporting News' all-time top coaches list. I was glad to see Tom Osborne on there, but 34th? And ninth among the college football coaches mentioned? I couldn't believe it.

Some writers have said that he didn't belong among the top 10 college head coaches and others have written that he wasn't a sexy enough coach to put on a top-10 list because of his perceived lack of flamboyance and personality.

What's with all the disrespect for the guy with the second-highest winning percentage in the modern era of college football? No one's ever reached 250 wins faster!

Tim Griffin: I agree with you that Tom Osborne was one of the greatest coaches in football history. He might not have been as verbose as Bobby Bowden or have the longevity of Joe Paterno, but his teams were always ready and he did a great job at making Nebraska a consistent national power.

I think the most significant facts about Osborne are that he won a share of the national championship three times in his final four seasons of coaching and nearly had another one in the previous season. And he finished the final five seasons of his career with a 60-3 record. Those are flashy numbers, in anybody's book.

Thanks for all of the good questions and I'll be checking in again next week.

Have a good weekend.

Wilkinson, Osborne picked for Sporting News' top coaches list

July, 30, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The Sporting News came up with an interesting list of its top 50 selections of the greatest coaches of all time.

Not surprisingly, legendary UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden earned the top slot.

There were 11 college football coaches on the list, including two that represented Big 12 schools during their coaching careers. It was selected by a panel of 118 Hall of Famers, championship coaches and other experts.

Bud Wilkinson of Oklahoma was picked as 29th on the list and Tom Osborne of Nebraska was 34th.

Two active coaches were picked and there's really no surprise that either of them made the list. Penn State's Joe Paterno was listed as 13th and Florida State's Bobby Bowden checked in at No. 24.

And several coaches in college basketball, the NBA and the NFL with Big 12 connections also made the list.

Among them included:

  • Dean Smith, college basketball, No.  8: Graduated from Kansas.
  • Bob Knight, college basketball, No. 16: Retired from coaching after finishing his career at Texas Tech.
  • Tom Landry, NFL, No. 18: Played college football at Texas.
  • Adolph Rupp, college basketball, No. 21: Played college basketball at Kansas.
  • Bill Parcells, NFL, No. 33: Worked as an assistant football coach at Texas Tech.
  • Hank Iba, college basketball, No. 47: Coached at Oklahoma State.
  • Gregg Popovich, NBA, No. 49: Worked as volunteer assistant at Kansas.  

It's a well-researched list and Big 12 schools certainly are well represented.

Rhoads credits McCarney for helping him hire Burnham

February, 19, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

New Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads turned to a familiar friend for counsel when he was hiring his first defensive coordinator.

Rhoads said that his former boss, ex-Iowa State coach and current Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney, helped convince him that Wally Burnham was the best choice for the vacancy on his staff.

McCarney worked under Burnham during one season on Burnham's staff at South Florida. And Rhoads was very familiar with Burnham's defensive philosophies when he coached at Pittsburgh, a Big East Conference foe of the Bulls.

"We had both been competitors and with me and him both being in the Big East, that was our background," Rhoads said. "And knowing how hard his kids played and the things he did schematically and then Dan giving me some insight into what kind of coach and recruiter that Wally is."

Burnham, 67, is a very well-respected coordinator. USF has been ranked in the top 30 in total defense in six of the past seven seasons -- including a No. 10 ranking in 2008 -- with Burnham in charge.

Rhoads is especially excited to tap into Burnham's 40 years of coaching experience, which also includes a nine-season stint on Bobby Bowden's staff at Florida State, including the 1993 national championship season.

"I think his experience is invaluable," Rhoads said. "The veteran leadership and command that he immediately brings to the program -- I don't think you can measure what that is worth.

"The knowledge he has in not only coaching players, but also coaching coaches is also very important. And he may be as respected as anybody in the state of Florida when it comes to recruiting. I think it's invaluable to us as we start our program when you look at all he brings to the table."   

Meyer, Stoops aiming to be first with two BCS national titles

January, 7, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- History will be made Thursday night at Dolphin Stadium no matter who ends up holding the crystal ball at the end of the game.

No coach has ever claimed two Bowl Championship Series national championships. Both Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer are among 11 coaches who have claimed one national championship since the BCS era began at the 1999 Fiesta Bowl.

Stoops will make history Thursday as the first coach with four BCS title game appearances. His Sooners won the 2001 Orange Bowl over Florida State and then lost the 2004 Sugar Bowl to LSU and the 2005 Orange Bowl to USC.

Urban Meyer is 1-0 in previous BCS title games after beating Ohio State in the 2007 Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.

Coming back to the game again is a big accomplishment for Stoops and his program. But he joked that the historical achievement would mean little if his team didn't win Thursday's game.

"I'm just proud of our program and what we've been able to do the last 10 years when you compare it to what was happening in the 10 years prior to what we've been able to do," Stoops said. "It isn't just me; it's a great administration, it's a bunch of great assistant coaches that we've had here and good character of players that have helped us build and get the program back in a strong position."

Five previous coaches have failed in their attempt to claim a second national championship after winning their first.

"It's just very humbling when you start thinking of all the great head coaches out there and great coaching staffs," Meyer said. "Other than that, I just worry about third-and-6 and make sure our punting team is ready to go."

The career records of all coaches in BCS title games
CoachWinsLossesPercentagePrevious BCS title games
Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee101.0001999 (W)
Nick Saban, LSU101.0002004 (W)
Mack Brown, Texas101.0002006 (W)
Urban Meyer, Florida101.0002007 (W)
Les Miles, LSU101.0002008 (W)
Larry Coker, Miami11.5002002 (W), 2003 (L)
Pete Carroll, USC11.5002005 (W), 2006 (L)
Bobby Bowden, Florida State12.3331999 (L), 2000 (W), 2001 (L)
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma12.3332001 (W), 2004 (L), 2005 (L)
Jim Tressel, Ohio State12.3332003 (W),
2007 (L), 2008 (L)
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech01.0002000 (L)
Frank Solich, Nebraska01.0002002 (L)

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The potential that the Big 12's South Division representative will be picked by the Bowl Championship Series standings is bad enough.

The idea that the coaches' final vote that makes up that final regular-season poll won't be released is even worse.

John Rohde of the Oklahoman makes a compelling case why these votes must be released in a column today that reminds us of some of the more notable BCS votes by coaches last season.

For a point, look at the voting after last season's Big 12 championship, a day after the Sooners had dismantled Missouri and were on their way to the Bowl Championship Series. But we had these notable votes last season, according to Rohde.

  • Florida State's Bobby Bowden: Missouri at No. 6, Kansas at No. 7 and Oklahoma at No. 10.
  • Clemson's Tommy Bowden: Missouri at No. 5, Kansas at No. 6 and Oklahoma at No. 7.
  • Florida Atlantic's Howard Schnellenberger: Kansas at No. 2, Missouri at No. 4 and Oklahoma at No. 7.
  • Oregon's Mike Bellotti: Missouri at No. 5, Kansas at No. 6 and Oklahoma at No. 8.
  • Louisville's Steve Kragthorpe: Kansas at No. 5, Oklahoma at No. 8 and Missouri at No. 9.
  • Texas Tech's Mike Leach: Kansas at No. 3, Oklahoma at No. 4, Missouri at No 6.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops saw the fallacy of that vote and decided to drop out. But now, he doesn't have a vote and Leach and Texas coach Mack Brown do.

The worries are generated by a potential three-way tie for the South Division lead, which is a likely scenario if Oklahoma finishes the season with victories over Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, Texas Tech finishes by beating Baylor at home and Texas defeats Texas A&M in its season finale.

And do we really think that coaches, when bonuses are generated by Big 12 title game appearances and potential championships, aren't going to vote for their pocketbook? Particularly when the votes might be shielded from public scrutiny?

I don't know, but it doesn't seem to me to be a good situation.

As I self-righteously fulminate for a change in the Big 12's tiebreaking rules -- as I think most other clear thinkers would do, too -- let's take a look at some of today's Big 12 links.

  • Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News does a nice job in a story about Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill, an underrated element in the Red Raiders' recent transformation into a national power.
  • Josh Freeman said he's waiting until he finds out who will be Kansas State's new coach until he decides on declaring for the NFL Draft, the Topeka Capital-Journal's Austin Meek reports.
  • Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World Herald explains why a 7-5 Notre Dame team is more likely to end up in the Gator Bowl than an 8-4 Nebraska team, even with the Cornhuskers finishing stronger with a better record.
  • In the wake of president-elect Barack Obama's call for a college football playoff, Texas coach Mack Brown threw his support behind an eight-team playoff model, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Big 12 columnist Jimmy Burch writes.
  • Even struggling through a disappointing 4-7 season, Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman appeared for the Houston Touchdown Club's annual Texas-Texas A&M luncheon, the Houston Chronicle's David Barron reports. And the Chronicle's Jerome Solomon writes that Aggie fans are upset and Sherman knows it.
  • Sean Keeler of the Des Moines Register muses about Texas' proposed all-sports network, the possible return of Bill Snyder to the sidelines at Kansas State and reveals his Heisman Trophy ballot packed with Big 12 quarterbacks.

Reaction on Prince's dismissal from around the conference

November, 8, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The prime topic of conversation this morning across the Big 12 was the abrupt dismissal of Kansas State coach Ron Prince after a coaching tenure of less than three seasons.  

Jeffrey Martin of the Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle broke the story Wednesday afternoon. The Wildcats' 52-21 loss to Kansas last week, he writes, played a significant role in his ouster.

Another factor was Prince's inability to be a factor in a North Division that is perceived to be at its weakest level ever. Two different North teams -- Nebraska and Missouri -- represented the division in the championship game in Prince's tenure. Cross-state rival Kansas is tied for the lead with Missouri heading into the this week's games.

"The reality is, if you coach in this business long enough, you understand this is a business where you're hired to win championships and to graduate your players," Prince said. "We had moments where we were very good and showed promise.

"We just were unable to win the North. That's ultimately what the expectations are for us and our ambition was coming here, and we were unable to achieve that."

And juicy rumors about the potential return of Bill Snyder after three seasons away from football held for the most speculation.

Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star writes that the return of Snyder to the sidelines of Bill Snyder Family Stadium makes sense. He says that Snyder, 69, is rejuvenated after his three-season sabbatical. He's 13 years younger that Joe Paterno and 10 years younger than Bobby Bowden and could be itching for a return to the spotlight, Whitlock wrote.

Veteran Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Lutz wrote that the strange timing of the dismissal by Kansas State athletic director Bob Krause made him dubious about the move, even if it was the right one. 

"Bob Krause has a plan. My immediate reaction, upon hearing that news, was to hide and cover myself with pillows and blankets," Lutz wrote.

Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman told Martin earlier this week that he would like to play all four seasons for the Wildcats and not turn pro early. That dismissal, Martin wrote, could change Freeman's mind about returning.  

The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff breaks down the likely list of replacements for Prince, whose two-plus year tenure is second-shortest in Big 12 history behind only Dave Roberts of Baylor.

Kerkhoff mentions potential replacements like Tommy Bowden, Phil Fulmer, Dennis Franchione, Tom Amstutz and Tyrone Willingham as potential hires, considering Krause's stated intention of hiring a head coach with experience to the job before the end of the season.

Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital Journal writes that Prince's legacy will include higher graduation rates, a bowl trip in his first season and two victories over top-10 Texas teams in his first two seasons.

"We're proud of going to a bowl game in our first season, which only four coaches have done in Big 12 history, inheriting a team with a losing record," said Prince, who is 16-18 at K-State. "That 7-5 record occurred despite being predicted preseason last place in the North.

"And finally, we understand how our 34-game record fits into the greater K-State history and how it matches up among our closest Big 12 peers in their early years."

But Meek also wrote about how pressure from fans and Kansas State boosters have complicated fund-raising efforts for the school's $70 million facilities expansion.

Omaha World-Herald Big 12 beat writer Lee Barfknecht wrote of how Prince's arrogance turned off many high-school and junior-college coaches in the area. He also said that Prince struggled with in-game transitions as evidenced by his 0-17 record in games when his team was trailing at the half.

Prince brought lofty expectations to the program and keeps them in place even as he's leaving the Kansas State program.

"Our objective is to go out, with the few days remaining, continue our preparation toward Missouri, go 6-6 and become bowl eligible," Prince said.

Whether the Wildcats would take that bowl trip and whether Prince would be coaching the team remains to be seen. But he's still focused on that goal as he finishes his tenure with the school.

Stoops-Brown rivalry one for the ages

October, 10, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

DALLAS -- Tomorrow amongst the ferris wheels and corn dogs, we'll celebrate the kind of coaching rivalry that used to mark college football.

In the Big Ten, the legendary "Ten-Year War" involved Woody Hayes vs. Bo Schembechler. Barry Switzer vs. Tom Osborne was almost as big as the Big Eight Conference itself. The SEC had Bear Bryant against Shug Jordan. And the Southwest Conference celebrated the annual grudge game between good friends Darrell Royal and Frank Broyles.

But after surveying the landscape of college football today, those matchups look about as quaint as dollar-a-gallon gasoline. We likely won't see many like those again.

That's what makes tomorrow's game at the Cotton Bowl so special and intriguing.

Mack Brown and Bob Stoops are that rare breed today of rock stars with coaching whistles, arguably bigger than their respective programs. Both have won national championships and are headed towards induction one day in the College Football Hall of Fame.

And their yearly battles in the Red River Rivalry will one day be remembered as one of the greatest coaching rivalries in college football history.

Saturday's game will be the 10th time that Stoops and Brown have hooked up. Stoops holds a 6-3 edge, including a five-game winning streak from 2000-04. But Brown has claimed two of the last three games between the two South Division rivals.

When each arrived at their respective schools, both programs were perceived to be downtrodden dinosaurs that had seen better days. Just look back to the coaching tenures of John Blake and John Mackovic and remember how far both schools have risen since their swoons a decade ago.

After their arrivals, Brown and Stoops elevated the stature of both programs, turning them into two of a handful of national powers who are national championship threats almost every season in the new millennium.

Since Stoops arrived in 1999, either Oklahoma or Texas has won the Big 12 South Division championship every year. The Sooners have accounted for five Big 12 titles and the Longhorns one during the nine-year period. During that same period, every Big 12 North team has claimed at least a share of the title.

Brown realizes how the Big 12 has changed the dynamics of their rivalry.

"I remember when we got here, everybody said the luster was gone," Brown said. "This game wasn't important anymore and nobody really cared about it and it wasn't even a national TV game and it was so sad that the Texas-OU game was unimportant.

"It was important to the players, it was important to the coaches, but it's back now to where it has national implications, and that's been fun."

The Stoops-Brown rivalry might not be as bitter as some of those other coaching matchups. But that doesn't mean that either coach doesn't want to beat the pants off his coaching rival tomorrow afternoon.

Stoops said he might run into Brown three or four times a year -- including their 3 -hour yearly shindig at the Cotton Bowl.

Brown has always spoken reverently about his respect for Stoops.

"What I've gotten is a great respect for Bob and what he's done over the last 10 years," he said. "He'll be remembered like Barry Switzer and (former Oklahoma coach Bud) Wilkinson. He's done exactly for them what they've asked him to do.

(Read full post)

Big 12 links: Collins was footnote in Crouch's key play

September, 24, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

I remember first meeting Thunder Collins shortly after his arrival to Nebraska. He had the most descriptive name for a college running back I had ever heard -- before or since.

Today, Collins is in the Omaha City Jail after being arrested on charges of first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and two felony weapons charges. He and another man were arrested by Omaha police Wednesday in connection with the alleged slaying Tuesday of a Los Angeles man and the wounding of another in a home in Omaha.

Collins was involved in one of the most memorable plays in Nebraska history in 2001. He originally took a handoff from quarterback Eric Crouch that ended up in wide receiver Mike Stuntz's hands. Stuntz then hit Crouch with a 63-yard touchdown pass, sealing a 20-10 victory for Nebraska over Oklahoma.

That big play likely did more for earning Crouch his Heisman Trophy than any single play. It also helped catapult the Cornhuskers into the national championship game, where they lost to Miami, 37-14.

Collins remained with the Cornhuskers through the 2002 season. His best season was in 2001, when he rushed for 647 yards, but never received much playing time after that.

His life after football had been marked with legal problems. And he's facing his biggest one today.

Here are some other stories from across the Big 12 this afternoon.

Bowden's staying power still impresses Hawkins

September, 24, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The longevity of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden amazes Colorado coach Dan Hawkins, who has marveled at Bowden's longevity over the years.

Bowden will be directing his 500th game as a college coach Saturday against the Buffaloes at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.

"I think if you added up every basketball, baseball, softball, rec. league, every game I have ever been in, I think it would probably add up to about 300. It's an amazing feat," Hawkins said. "I'm one of those guys who never says never, but I think as the years go on, you're going to see that become very hard to do anymore, I really do."

The changing nature of college football is the major reason why Hawkins doesn't think many coaches will duplicate the extended careers of Bowden and Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

"Eventually, people get tired of your offense, they get tired of your recruiting, they get tired of your press conferences," Hawkins said. "That's just the nature of our society. It's not enough anymore.

"I've joked how [Broadway presentation] 'Cats' got canceled, they took 'M*A*S*H*' off the air. Things get old in a hurry and people aren't comfortable with things staying the same. That's why I don't think you're going to see a head coach around for 30 or 35 years at the same school. People just get tired of it."

Hawkins still remembers the first time he ever met Bowden on a Nike cruise in Aruba shortly after he had taken over the Boise State job.

"We were on the boat and I was looking around. I saw Bobby and he told me  'What are you looking at?' I told him I was looking around at all of these guys wondering what the heck I was doing there," Hawkins said. "He told me I was 'one of the guys' now."

The realization still is a defining career moment for Hawkins, who jokes that he felt like he finally made it after riding on the boat with the other coaching legends.   

"Maybe I was supposed to be scrubbing the deck or something, I don't know," Hawkins said, chuckling.