Big 12: Virginia Cavaliers

Longest-tenured coaches with no BCS bowls

August, 19, 2009
8/19/09
6:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

While doing some research for another story, I developed this chart. I was curious which coaches in BCS-affiliated conferences had the longest tenures without making a BCS bowl trip.

  1. Jim Leavitt, USF: 13th season at job
  2. Randy Edsall, Connecticut: 11th season at job
  3. Mike Leach, Texas Tech: 10th season at job
  4. Gary Pinkel, Missouri: ninth season at job
  5. Al Groh, Virginia: ninth season at job
  6. Mike Riley, Oregon State: ninth season at job
  7. Greg Schiano, Rutgers: ninth season at job
  8. Jeff Tedford, California: eighth season at job
  9. Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt: eighth season at job
  10. Rich Brooks, Kentucky: seventh season at job
  11. Mike Stoops, Arizona: sixth season at job

I think the list highlights several interesting trends. The top two are coaches who have led their programs from the formative stages.

Then, it gets interesting. Leach consistently has been one of the outstanding coaches in the nation. But his program still has never taken the "next step" to a BCS game.

The same goes for Pinkel, Groh, Riley and Schiano -- all accomplished coaches who have repeatedly taken their programs to bowl games over the years. They just haven't been able to take their program to that "big game."

Of those on the list, I think that Tedford has the best opportunity to break that streak this season as the Bears might be in line to challenge USC in the Pac-10 and maybe be in contention for a BCS at-large berth.

But I thought it was very interesting that two coaches who qualified for a share of their respective divisions championships in the Big 12 rank so highly on a list for the lack of a BCS bowl appearance.

Gator Bowl opening could loom for Big 12

August, 4, 2009
8/04/09
12:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big East's hard-line pronouncement about its availability for the Gator Bowl might add another potential suitor into the Big 12's upcoming bowl mix.

New Big East commissioner John Marinatto told the Tampa Tribune that he is unwilling to continue the "shared-pick" arrangement that sends the Big East No. 2 team twice and the Big 12 No. 4 team twice in a four-year period to the Jacksonville-based bowl.

"It would be doubtful," Marinatto told the Tribune. "It's not what we want and not what we're going to try for. It's not on our agenda. We believe the Big East has earned that, we don't want the hybrid model.

"If we have to go somewhere else, so be it."

In the other two years of the shared pick, the No. 4 Big 12 team will go to the Alamo Bowl and the No. 5 Big 12 team will go to the Sun Bowl. That will be the case during this upcoming season.

New agreements will begin in 2010 and Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe has been working furiously over the last several weeks with various current partners and potential new bowls for destinations for his teams.

Big 12 teams have played in the Gator Bowl in two of the last three seasons, with Texas Tech meeting Virginia in the 2008 game and Nebraska and Clemson meeting in the 2009 game. The Big 12 has won both of those games.

Beebe said last week that the Gator Bowl has been a strong arrangement for the Big 12 for several reasons. First, it is a New Year's Day game that provides the strong kind of exposure that the conference craves. Secondly, it is based in Florida to give them a consistent recruiting presence in another part of the country.

But the Jacksonville trip is an expensive one for Big 12 fans -- particularly if they are forced to buy their airline tickets inside a 21-day window from the game.

The Big 12's current bowl arrangement provides its winner to the BCS and its No. 2 team to the Cotton Bowl. That long-term relationship is unlikely to change -- particularly as the Cotton Bowl moves to the Dallas Cowboys' plush new stadium in Arlington, Texas.

But after that, the Gator Bowl could get in the mix for a No. 3 team which is currently held by the Holiday Bowl. Bowl sources indicate the Alamo Bowl also is interested in that team and the Houston Bowl could be interested as well.

A more regionally based bowl such as the Alamo or Texas bowl might make more sense and prove more attractive to more Big 12 schools because of its proximity inside the conference's geographic footprint.

Even with a higher payout at another bowl in another part of the country, that number could be diminished if the Big 12 school wouldn't sell its quota of tickets. The conference's teams would be more likely to sell those tickets if they played in a bowl game where fans could drive.

But both bowls would struggle matching the sizzle of playing inside Florida -- particularly considering every Big 12 team normally plays at least one game inside the state of Texas as part of its regular-season schedule.

I expect a lot of posturing and positioning in the next several weeks. But however it plays out, the Big 12's stature among the bowls has never appeared stronger.

Phil Steele pegs Hawkins on the hot seat

July, 28, 2009
7/28/09
11:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Anybody who has read this blog for any length of time knows the deep respect I have for Phil Steele and his work.

His blog has been providing some interesting nuggets as we get ready for the upcoming season.

One item that caught my eye earlier this month was his list of coaches who he thinks are on the hot seat in terms of keeping their jobs.

As a matter of history, Steele's top three choices from last season all either resigned or were fired. And seven of his 12 picks from before 2008 are no longer coaching at their previous jobs. So when Steele puts a "nickel on your head," it's usually not a good sign.

The Big 12 has only one member of the list: Colorado's Dan Hawkins at No. 4. Hawkins is listed behind Louisville's Steve Kragthorpe, Indiana's Bill Lynch and Virginia's Al Groh.

This is a huge year for Hawkins, who has posted a 13-24 record and made only one bowl trip in his three seasons with the Buffaloes.

Despite those recent struggles, it has done little to diminish Hawkins' confidence coming into the season. He has repeated his "10 wins and no excuses" several times since first making that call at a team banquet following last season's 5-7 record that featured seven losses in the final nine games.

But the Buffaloes' schedule is much more forgiving this season with key divisional games against Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas all at home.

I'm expecting that should be enough to allow the Buffaloes to remain in North Division contention until late in the season. And I also wonder if Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn would willingly get rid of his own hire after only four seasons.

Those reasons will make Colorado one of the most interesting stories in the conference this season. But I'm thinking Hawkins will win enough this season to be one of the few coaches who can escape mention on Steele's list and still come back to coach again next season.

Wild game, even wilder rants boost OSU-Tech game to No. 14

June, 23, 2009
6/23/09
6:44
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 14

The day that press conferences were bigger than anything on the field.

Date: Sept. 22, 2007
Place: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
Score: Oklahoma State 49, Texas Tech 45

Oklahoma State's wild victory over Texas Tech started the 2007 conference race with one of the most memorable games in Big 12 history.

The two teams combined for 94 points, 62 first downs, and 1,328 yards. There were also three lead changes in the final 12:25.

And that action was upstaged by the comments of both teams' coaches in the post-game press conference.

OSU coach Mike Gundy quickly became a celebrated national figure after he defended his backup quarterback Bobby Reid, who he felt had been unfairly portrayed before the game in a column in the Daily Oklahoman.

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach had a similar eruption where he questioned the toughness of his defense after it had been gashed for 366 rushing yards.

It was a wild scene unlike anything that has been seen -- before or since -- in Big 12 history.

Earlier, the action on the field was nearly as memorable.

Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree had helped stake the Red Raiders to a 35-28 halftime advantage with three early touchdown grabs. But OSU stormed back to tie the game on Zac Robinson's 3-yard keeper with 1:15 left in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, OSU's defense came up with a huge play when Tech wide receiver Edward Britton fumbled at the Tech 38. On the next play, OSU took the lead when Seth Newton hit Jeremy Broadway on a 33-yard option pass for a touchdown to give the Cowboys the lead.

Tech stormed back to tie the game four plays later when quarterback Graham Harrell threw his fifth touchdown of the game -- a 41-yard strike to Danny Amendola.

The Red Raiders withstood OSU on the next drive as Robinson was stopped on fourth down at the Tech 40 by Joe Garcia. Tech then marched 58 yards on a scoring drive capped by Alex Trlica's 19-yard field goal that gave the Red Raiders a 45-42 lead with 4:49 left.

After an exchange of punts, OSU had one final chance. And on the first play from scrimmage, Robinson hooked up with tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a 54-yard TD reception that gave them the lead for good with 1:37 remaining.

Tech marched to the OSU 15, but Crabtree dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone with 19 seconds left after OSU cornerback Ricky Price had flashed in front of him.

It provided Gundy with a victory in his first conference game of the season, emboldening him to make perhaps the most celebrated rant in college football history.

Factoids to note: Harrell's 646 passing yards was the fourth-best single-game total in college football history at the time of the game as he completed 46 of 67 passes. OSU had three backs who rushed for 100 yards for the first time in the same game in school history -- Dantrell Savage with 130 yards, Robinson with 116 yards and Kendall Hunter with 113 yards. Crabtree and Amendola both had huge games as Crabtree produced 14 receptions for 237 yards and Amendola snagged 14 catches for 233 yards ... It was only OSU's second victory in a Big 12 opener in nine seasons.

They said it, part I: "Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40!" OSU coach Mike Gundy's comments after he felt backup quarterback Bobby Reid was unfairly attacked in a newspaper column before the game.

They said it, part II: "We got hit in the mouth and acted like somebody took our lunch money. All we wanted to do was have pouty expressions on our face until somebody dabbed our little tears off and made us (expletive) feel better," Tech coach Mike Leach on his defense's inability to contain OSU's offense.

They said it, part III: "If I put it on the other shoulder, he's going to catch that easily and we win. If I put it a foot on the other side of him, we catch the ball and win. It's probably my fault. He played a heck of a game," Tech QB Graham Harrell on Michael Crabtree's late drop that cost the Red Raiders a game-winning touchdown.

They said it, part IV: "That was my Superman," OSU tight end Brandon Pettigrew describing his leap for the end zone on his game-winning touchdown.

The upshot: Gundy became a cult figure after his 3-minute 20-second outburst, which has been replayed on YouTube millions of times after the incident. Robinson claimed the starting position after the comeback victory and Reid never started at quarterback again. He eventually started at wide receiver later in the season, but transferred to Southern University after the season for his final year. In an interview with ESPN the Magazine's Tom Friend, Reid said that Gundy's rant "basically ended my life."

Leach fired defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich the following day and inserted Ruffin McNeill into the position. The move worked as the Red Raiders' defense improved markedly and helped spark them to a 9-4 season punctuated by a 31-28 victory over Virginia in the Gator Bowl. That triumph helped boost Tech to a No. 22 ranking in the final Associated Press poll that season.

OSU used momentum from the comeback victory to charge to a 7-6 record during the rest of the season, capping the season with a 49-33 triumph over Indiana in the Insight Bowl in the Cowboys' second-straight bowl victory under Gundy.

The countdown:

15. Rout 66: No, that score wasn't a typo.
16. Kansas State finally slays the Cornhuskers.
17. Kingsbury and Long hook up in a passing duel for the ages.
18. Henery and Suh make Colorado blue.
19. Stunning OSU rally leads to Stoops' first home loss.
20. It's never over for Texas Tech until it's over.
21. Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
22. A Texas-sized comeback -- Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
23. A Border War unlike any of the rest -- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.
24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.
25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee" against UNLV in 1999.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's pretty quiet among Big 12 coaches these days after spring practice has completed.

That tranquility is also seen in the t-shirts offered by the Web site firethatguy.com, which has four different complete pages of t-shirts hyping the ouster of professional and college football and basketball coaches around the country.

Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, Miami coach Randy Shannon and Virginia coach Al Groh all have their shirts. New Florida International University basketball coach Isiah Thomas has several shirts available -- even before coaching his first game.

The Big 12 coaches are spared, although the folks at CoachesHotSeat.com still have a heavy Big 12 slant.

Texas A&M's Mike Sherman remains in the No. 1 position nationally and Dan Hawkins of Colorado checks in at fifth. They surround Lane Kiffin of Tennessee at second, Kragthorpe at third and Groh at fourth.

Baylor's pro day gives Smith a chance to strut his stuff

March, 3, 2009
3/03/09
10:50
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The guys with the team-logo golf shirts and stopwatches will be criss-crossing the country over the next few weeks. The relatively new phenomena of "pro day" begins Tuesday where scouts flock to colleges across the country in order to gauge incoming pro talent.

Their one-stop measuring and clocking binges began at large schools like Texas, which helped developed the idea of making a big production of showcasing its draft-eligible players.

"We do it to spotlight all of our players," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "We want to give them all a chance to work for the NFL teams. If some might not get invited to the combine, this gives them all the opportunity to show what they can do."

The first pro day in the conference will be today at Baylor. It also could be one of the most important.

Massive Baylor tackle Jason Smith had a nice series of workouts in Indianapolis at the NFL combine last month. But another strong outing should provide the 6-foot-5, 309-pounder with enough boost where he would be the top offensive lineman available in the draft.

That opportunity presents itself after the meltdown by Alabama's Andre Smith at the combine. Those struggles could mean that Jason Smith, Virginia's Eugene Monroe or Mississippi's Michael Oher could end up as the first lineman selected with a strong showing at their pro days after their earlier workouts in Indianapolis.

It should be interesting as former Big 12 players get to show what they can do over the next several weeks at their respective pro days. Here's the list of dates, according to a list compiled in this morning's Sporting News Daily.

March 3: Baylor

March 4: Texas A&M

March 5: Missouri

March 9: Colorado

March 10: Kansas, Oklahoma

March 11: Oklahoma State

March 12: Kansas State, Nebraska, Texas Tech

March 25: Texas

Note: Iowa State has not set its date.

Big 12 links: Can Harrell change thinking about spread QBs?

February, 26, 2009
2/26/09
12:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Spring practice is only one day away from starting in the Big 12 as Texas kicks off its work Friday afternoon in Austin.

I can hardly wait.

Here are some stories from around the conference to get you primed.

  • Doug Farrar of The Washington Post wonders if Texas Tech's Graham Harrell can crack the stigma dogging spread quarterbacks promulgated by NFL teams.
  • Nebraska linebackers coach Mike Ekeler has turned down the opportunity to join South Florida's staff as defensive coordinator, according to Tampa Tribune reporter Brett McMurphy.
  • Considering the Virginia staff is already stacked with an offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and offensive line coach, Accsports.com figures out what former Kansas State coach Ron Prince will be doing on Al Groh's staff.
  • Dallas Morning News columnist Kevin Sherrington wonders if Texas Tech coach Mike Leach really wanted to use the word "extort" to describe his contract negotiations last week -- especially considering the nation's struggling economy.
  • Former Nebraska fullback Willie Miller is in court on a charge of road rage after allegedly ramming an off-duty Omaha policeman with his automobile after a high-speed chase last April, Todd Cooper of the Omaha World-Herald reports.
  • Kansas is hoping that the atmosphere at the school's basketball victory over Nebraska helped convince several key junior recruits to attend the school, Stephen Montemayor of the University Daily Kansan writes. Most notable among the attendees was Wichita, Kan., quarterback Blake Bell, who is also considering a group of suitors including Notre Dame, Oklahoma, LSU, Georgia and Nebraska.

Big 12 newcomers set for opportunity

February, 26, 2009
2/26/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Several key players are poised to earn their shot at playing time after sitting out last season. Here are some of the more notable newcomers who will start practicing with their teams during the spring with hopes of winning starting jobs.

Texas RB Tre' Newton -- The son of former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Nate Newton didn't fall too far from the tree as far as his blocking skills, even if he is more than 100 pounds lighter than his father was during his playing career. Texas coaches visualize him as the ideal replacement for Chris Ogbonnaya as a third-down specialist because of his receiving and pass-blocking skills.

Baylor DT Phil Taylor -- You may remember him after he played two seasons as a starter at Penn State before his dismissal from the Nittany Lions squad for his role in an on-campus fight. The 6-foot-4, 340-pounder practiced with the Bears and turned heads throughout practice last season. He arrived at Baylor because of his association with defensive coordinator Brian Norwood, a former Penn State assistant. And the best example of Baylor coaches' expectations for him can be seen in this nugget: Of Baylor's 29 recruits in its most recent recruiting class, none were defensive tackles.

Missouri WR Rolandis Woodland -- Missouri coaches likely could have used him last season, but preserved his redshirt because of the depth at the position. Some observers are reminded of Jeremy Maclin when they watch Woodland's receiving and kick-returning skills.

Nebraska DT Baker Steinkuhler -- How about this for a neat family twist? Steinkuhler has a good chance to slide into playing time opposite Ndamukong Suh at the same position his older brother, Ty, played for the Cornhuskers last season.

Kansas State DE Jeffrey Fitzgerald - -A two-year starter at Virginia who earned Freshman All-American honors in 2006 should immediately boost the Wildcats' dormant pass rush. Fitzgerald produced 12 sacks and four interceptions in two seasons as a starter with the Cavaliers before leaving school because of academic issues.

Sherman soars to No. 1 spot on Hot Seat rankings

February, 24, 2009
2/24/09
6:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Despite recently bringing in Texas A&M's most highly regarded recruiting class in this decade,  coach Mike Sherman is ranked as the coach with the hottest seat in the country in the continuing poll commissioned by the Web site coacheshotseat.com.

Sherman was ranked fifth immediately after the regular season, but jumped to first in this week's poll. Others coaches listed nationally in the top five, in order, included Lane Kiffin of Tennessee, Steve Kragthorpe of Louisville, Al Groh of Virginia and Dan Hawkins of Colorado.

Interestingly, the recent extension of Mike Leach's contract made his job security worse. Leach was ranked 109th immediately after the regular season and is 101st this week.

Here's a look at where Big 12 coaches ranked this week, compared to Dec. 8:

Hot Seat Rankings For Big 12 Coaches
Coach Natl. Ranking, 2/09 Natl. Ranking 12/08
1. Mike Sherman, Texas A&M 1 5 (2)
2. Dan Hawkins, Colorado 5 6 (3)
3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State 23 22 (4)
4. Art Briles, Baylor 44 70 (5)
5. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State 55 N/A
6. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State 84 101 (9)
7. Mark Mangino, Kansas 95 80 (6)
8. Mike Leach, Texas Tech 101 109 (10)
9. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma 108 115 (12)
10. Gary Pinkel, Missouri 109 100 (8)
11. Bo Pelini, Nebraska 111 94 (7)
12. Mack Brown, Texas 117 113 (11)

Note: Paul Rhoads was hired after the December Coaches' Hot Seat poll. At that time, Iowa State Coach Gene Chizik was ranked third in the poll to lead all Big 12 coaches. Numbers in parentheses indicate where that coach was ranked among Big 12 coaches in December.

Could Prince resurface at Virginia on Groh's staff?

February, 18, 2009
2/18/09
7:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Multiple reports from Virginia media outlets indicate that former Kansas State coach Ron Prince could return to Al Groh's staff as an assistant coach.

Charlottesville, Va., television station WVIR reported on its Web site that Prince could be in line to fill an opening created by the departure of Bob Diaco to Cincinnati. 

The thinking is that Prince could shuffle into a position as possibly Groh's assistant head coach. He served as Groh's offensive coordinator in the final three seasons of a five-season stint on Groh's staff from 2001-05.

Prince was the head coach at Kansas State from 2006-2008, posting a 17-20 record while there.

The website ncaafootball.fanhouse.com notes that Groh's staff already has deposed former Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon on his staff, who is working as the Cavaliers' offensive coordinator. It might be interesting to see if one of the former head coaches ends up replacing Groh, who turns 65 on July 13.

So would it really be surprising to see Prince back coaching at his old school? Probably not, considering the job opening that potentially could materialize there very soon.

Picking the Big 12 bowl games

December, 31, 2008
12/31/08
2:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are my picks for the second round of Big 12 bowl games, beginning with Thursday's Konica Minolta Gator Bowl

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl -- Clemson 31, Nebraska 28
Dabo Swinney has energized the Clemson program after taking over as interim coach -- a little like Bo Pelini's job with the Cornhuskers from earlier this season. Both of these teams are playing their best football of the season. But I expect Clemson to beat Nebraska with a taste of its own medicine by controlling the clock thanks to a heavy dose of tailbacks James Davis and C.J. Spiller. If the Tigers can do this and keep quarterback Cullen Harper out of too many long-yardage situations, I expect them to nose past the Cornhuskers and fulfill a little of their early promise expected of them. It just took a different coach to get them there.

AT&T Cotton Bowl -- Texas Tech 34, Mississippi 20
It will be good for the Red Raiders to get back to football after some of the travails of the last several weeks. But Graham Harrell's surgery and Mike Leach's contract squabbles should be long forgotten by the team that many forgot still earned a share of the Big 12 South Division title. Look for a healthy Michael Crabtree to be the difference in this game, if the Red Raiders can keep a salty defensive front from pressuring Harrell. And even if the Rebels get ahead early, remember that Harrell has directed two wild bowl comebacks in the last two seasons, rallying the Red Raiders from a 31-point deficit to win the 2006 Insight Bowl over Minnesota and a 17-point deficit in the final four minutes to direct a comeback in last season's Gator Bowl over Virginia. Houston Nutt has directed a nice renaissance with the Rebels this season, leading them to victories over the last two national championship teams. But the chore of beating Texas Tech will prove too much for them on Friday.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl -- Texas 41, Ohio State 20
After being snubbed for the Big 12 title game, the Longhorns will approach this game with a chip on their shoulder. That's not a pretty proposition for an Ohio State team that has been blown out of its last two BCS bowl games by a combined score of 79-38. The key for the game will be the play of streaky Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor and the return of tailback Chris Wells. I expect Texas' defensive front keyed by Brian Orakpo and Roy Miller to exert enough pressure to keep Pryor discombobulated most of the game. And if Texas can get receivers Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby open against a tough Ohio State secondary keyed by Malcolm Jenkins, the Longhorns should have the edge on offense, too. This game will be close at the half, before the Longhorns pull away in the second half.


My bowl picks last week: 1-1* (50.0 percent)
My picks for the season: 85-14 (85.9 percent)

* Not including Wednesday's Kansas-Minnesota game

SPONSORED HEADLINES