NCF Nation: Jamie Pollard

AUSTIN, Texas -- Did Iowa State get robbed against Texas a year ago? Jordan Hicks couldn't help but crack a sly grin after hearing the question.

"No," Texas' senior linebacker said. "No, we won that game."

You won't hear Paul Rhoads delving into that topic this week. It's a safe bet that Cyclones AD Jamie Pollard, already out $25,000 this season, isn't touching it either. They've already said plenty in the past, and a full 12 months have now passed.

But it's clear, based on Pollard's comments earlier this month, that there's still somewhat of a scar. Don't expect the Cyclones to forgive and forget when it comes to the controversial goal-line fumble in Ames last season.

"We've been on the short end of several controversial calls," Pollard said on Oct. 4, "and it's hard to sit idle and watch ESPN, Fox, other announcers not debate but feel sorry for Iowa State because maybe there will be another apology for a call."

The play on a Thursday night in Ames on Oct. 3, 2013, was high up on Pollard's list of grievances. Iowa State fans will tell you that Jeremiah George clearly stripped Johnathan Gray at the goal line before he went down, forcing a fumble that could've sealed the deal for Iowa State and its 30-24 lead in the final minute.

Gray will tell you his forward progress was halted, and he was down before the ball came out. That's the story the game officials were sticking to, and replay upheld the call due to a lack of indisputable evidence. Case McCoy stuck in the go-ahead score on the next play, and Jackson Jeffcoat clinched victory with a game-ending interception.

The Gray play rightfully evoked fire from Rhoads in his postgame comments. He expressed his outrage over having his potential game-winning play "taken away" when a fumble should've been "clear to everybody." Rhoads also took a not-too-veiled shot at game officials for the number of penalties (10 for 118 yards) his team received. He later received a public reprimand from the Big 12.

Another source of frustration that week: the cut block by former Texas receiver Mike Davis on ISU's Deon Broomfield also elicited a few days of controversy and, eventually, an apology delivered via one uncomfortable video.

So, yeah, the Cyclones have reason to want a little revenge on Saturday.

"I think they're going to come in here with a chip on their shoulder," Hicks said. "I know their coach is probably preaching that right now, that we shouldn't have won last year and this and that. Whatever it may be, we've got to be ready to match their intensity and exceed that."

Iowa State players have not taken the bait this week when it comes to that questionable call. They've moved on and recognize that the 31-30 game wasn't decided on just that one play.

"You can talk about that [controversial play]," Cyclones defensive end Cory Morrissey said, "but there were plays throughout the game we should have won the game with."

He's right about that. Had the Cyclones not settled for a field goal on their previous possession, after driving all the way down to the Texas 6-yard line, they could've led 34-24 and taken control of the game for good. But, again, that's the past now.

The stakes are much different this time around -- both teams are currently 2-4 -- but this much hasn't changed: Iowa State gave Texas a four-quarter fight in 2013 that UT didn't see coming. They can do so again this weekend.

"Those guys are going to come out and play their tails off. They have a phenomenal coach," Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "I have a lot of respect for him because he gets the most out of those guys.

"They're going to try to upset us and try to beat us. It's going to be a fun game, because those guys are always coming to play us, and it's always been like that since I've been here."

Big 12 reprimands, fines Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard

October, 7, 2014
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The Big 12 reprimanded and fined Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard $25,000 -- the largest fine ever doled out by the league -- for ripping officials after the Cyclones' loss Saturday at Oklahoma State.

"Mr. Pollard's public statements called into question the integrity and competence of game officials and the conference's officiating program," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. "To insinuate that games are called unfairly to negatively impact a program is irresponsible and completely baseless.

"... We take pride in our officiating programs and will continue to strive for the highest possible standards and the fairest competition."

The Big 12 added that further remarks from Pollard would result in more serious penalties moving forward. Pollard issued a statement Monday apologizing for violating the Big 12 sportsmanship guidelines.

Read more from Jake Trotter on this story here.
The Big 12's second day of spring meetings came and went on Thursday in Kansas City, Mo., with no real news after the conference reaffirmed its commitment to 10 members on Wednesday.

Until the new configuration of the BCS is settled (i.e., what form will a four-team playoff take?), the Big 12 won't be taking much action, if any. Outgoing commissioner Chuck Neinas confirmed at least that much. Neinas also said he might stay on through July to relieve new commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who has other obligations on the United States Olympics Committee's board of directors. Bowlsby would still come aboard June 15, but there would be a period of overlapping commissioners.

"It was great to see Bob and Chuck together today at the head table, talking about things," Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis told reporters Thursday. "I think the transition will be smooth."

The league's presidents were in attendance Thursday and reaffirmed the athletic directors' stance on expansion.

[+] EnlargeDeloss Dodds
Erich Schlegel/Getty ImagesTexas athletic director DeLoss Dodds lit into the SEC and Big East during the Big 12 meetings.
"We're all very satisfied with 10 teams," Hargis said. "We're not shutting the door to any opportunity that might arrive. We're not in the market, we're not receiving applications. Our expansion committee is inactive."

To my knowledge, that's the first public confirmation that the expansion committee is indeed inactive. Interesting stuff. If Notre Dame becomes a possibility, it's clear the Big 12 would listen, and I'd assume that Florida State would engender a similar reaction, to a lesser extent. For now, though, the Big 12 maintains it's sitting at 10, even if no one (yours truly included) really believes it.

With Florida State officials expressing conflicting messages about the school's future conference affiliation, and the future of the Big East very much in flux, how could you?

A few other quick notes:

  • Texas AD DeLoss Dodds came out firing on Thursday, tossing barbs just about everyone's way. The SEC has Texas in its footprint? "They have a sliver of the east side," he told reporters. On the Big East? "I don't know if they qualify as a BCS [conference]. They've lost a lot of strength."
  • Neinas, on the league extending its six-year grant of media rights agreement, which is in progress, but not a done deal? "I don’t believe the membership feels it’s a gun-at-the-head arrangement. It’s just a step forward moving together."
  • The league membership also didn't sound very fired up about re-instituting a championship game in the new iteration of the BCS. Reports John Hoover of the Tulsa World: “We have come to really appreciate the position we’re in right now by not having a championship game,” said Iowa State’s Jamie Pollard, chairman of the Big 12 athletic directors. Said Dodds: "If this all happens the way we’re visualizing today, I think there are some football coaches out there that will say, ‘Well, what are we doing? We’re 12-0, we’ve got to go into play a team that’s 9-3, we’ve got a shot at getting beat.' Or, 'We win the game, it’s a struggle, we get two kids hurt’ -- I mean, those kinds of things are gonna be the reality of it."

Dodds might not have been making many friends Thursday, but he did make some among the league's coaches with that comment for sure.

Friday is the final day of meetings, but it's been a quiet week compared to the past two years at Big 12 spring meetings. For now, it's mostly just been the league's members drawing battle lines on where they stand in relation to the playoff and expansion.
The Big 12's spring meetings kicked off with the league's athletic directors meeting in Kansas City on Wednesday, and made it clear beforehand that expansion would be only informally discussed.

Still, the questions had to be asked, and they were answered. For now, the league is happy with 10 members, echoing its stance for the past few weeks.

Will anyone believe them? (Does it matter?)

"We could expand to some number. You name the number -- 12, 14, 16," Texas AD DeLoss Dodds told CBSSports.com. "We could expand, but the question is, do we need to expand?"

Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas, in fact, made it simple.

"The Big 12, athletic directors reaffirmed their commitment to 10 members," he said.

For now, anyway. Florida State is still only flirting, but if the Seminoles make up their mind, the safe bet is that stance will change very quickly.

Until then ... here we are.

Playoffs were a hot topic, but the league's athletic directors reiterated what we essentially already knew: The Big 12 is in favor of a four-team playoff.

"We're in favor of taking the four highest-ranked teams," said Neinas, who has begun to transfer power to new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. "We think it should be some type of selection committee operation, and how you rate a conference champion, strength of schedule must be included."

I love the selection committee idea personally, an idea reiterated by chairman of the league's athletic directors, Iowa State's Jamie Pollard.

The BCS has its flaws. That's obvious. The biggest flaw in piecing together a selection committee? How do you do it? How do you find panel members without bias? Is that possible? Do you copycat the NCAA's formula for the basketball tournament?

All difficult questions with answers to come.

"There needs to be a human element to kind of handle the unknowns. You can't always say computers get it right or opinion polls will get it perfect," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said. "You still need someone with good, rational thinking to deal with unforeseen circumstances that may come up.

"Who knows what form that takes, but some form of human element that gets college football to the point of determining the best teams."

Chalk me up on board with that.

Rhoads building toward big things at ISU

December, 22, 2011
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Paul Rhoads doesn't know if he'll be at Iowa State forever.

He doesn't know if he'll always be welcome.

He knows what he wants.

"I’d like to have my name attached to things that have never been done in the history of Iowa State football," Rhoads told ESPN.com this week.

Let's assume he means he'd like his name attached to more things that have never been done in Ames.

First came the 2009 turnaround. Rhoads inherited a team that lost its final 10 games under Gene Chizik, yet he led the Cyclones to a bowl game-winning season the following year that also included a win at Nebraska, Iowa State's first since 1977.

His impassioned locker room speech ("I am so proud to be your football coach!") went viral, making a big win even bigger on the national stage.

In 2010, he beat Texas for the first time in school history.

[+] EnlargeIowa State coach Paul Rhoads
Reese Strickland/US PRESS-WIRECoach Paul Rhoads has led the Cyclones to bowl games in two of his three seasons in Ames.
This year, he knocked off No. 2 Oklahoma State for the school's first win over a top-6 opponent in 59 tries, ended a three-game losing streak to rival Iowa and put the Cyclones back in a bowl game when nobody outside the facilities gave them a shot to make the postseason.

Early this season, Iowa State president Gregory Geoffroy and athletic director Jamie Pollard began preparing what eventually became a 10-year, $20 million contract extension. The new deal allowed Rhoads to shed the title of the Big 12's lowest-paid coach.

They first presented it to him after a 13-10 win over Kansas with a bye week awaiting.

Two weeks after beating the Jayhawks, he rewarded their loyalty by beating the national title-aspiring Cowboys to send the Cyclones to a bowl game.

The two sides discussed details as Rhoads' name floated to the top of Pittsburgh's wish list for its new head coach. The extension was announced on Dec. 16. Rhoads confirmed what most assumed: He's not going to Pittsburgh, but the extension doesn't necessarily mean he plans to be at Iowa State forever.

"I don’t think any coach can ever say 100 percent they’re going to be at this school this year or this long or any of that," he said.

Mike Gundy's called Oklahoma State his "New York Yankees job", but Rhoads stops short of calling Ames his destination job.

"I’m excited about what we’ve done and I’m even more excited about where we can take this. But that doesn’t mean that this is the last and only head-coaching job for me. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future," he said. "But right now, with this 10-year extension, the commitment of our kids and the commitment of the administration, I’m the same way. I’m fully committed to what we’re building."

He's not saying forever, but he's said plenty.

"Do I desire to be here? Absolutely. That’s why I agreed to a 10-year extension. I’m extremely proud of the work that we’ve done in three years."

Rhoads has earned a spot as one of the Big 12's best coaches, and is ready to build on accomplishments that have been big for an often-downtrodden program that looks on its way up.

"We’ve won three league games three years in a row. We’ve got to start toppling that mark," he said. "We’ve got to get to .500 and above, and I’d love to see this thing grow and develop like we are right now, and at some point, be able to challenge for a Big 12 championship on the field."

Rhoads already has the Cyclones in two bowl games in three years. Before he arrived, the Cyclones had played in nine since 1900. The bar for achievement hasn't been consistent, but it's been high. Dan McCarney got Iowa State to bowl games in five of six seasons before resigning in 2006. He also got the Cyclones into the AP top 10 in 2002.

Rhoads will try and surpass that.

"The energy around this program is the best that it’s ever been," Rhoads said. "I think we have this program positioned to move forward the best that it’s ever been. I think the Big 12 stability right now is calmed down with the grant of rights and where we’re headed in our next negotiation with the primary [media rights].

"We’re very solid."

Rhoads' new contract is deserved, and he says it's about much more than rewarding him for a job well done the past three seasons. It's about what's best for the school.

"It provides stability that hasn’t always been existent in this football program. I think that stability is vitally important in the living room and in the meeting room," he said. "When you’re out trying to convince young men that this shining star at Iowa State is not one that’s going to burn out, that we’re building for the long haul and we’re building for the future and we want them to help become a part of that."

Iowa State 'proud' to keep Paul Rhoads

December, 16, 2011
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Iowa State hasn't been a "destination job" for many coaches.

It might be one for Paul Rhoads.

The Cyclones coach signed a 10-year, $20 million contract with Iowa State, making clear his intentions to stay in Ames for quite a bit longer.

Gene Chizik won five games in two seasons at Iowa State before leaving for Auburn. Rhoads took over a two-win team and won seven games in 2009, capped by a bowl win.

This season, he has the Cyclones back in a bowl game for the second time in three seasons, and is 18-19 over his tenure.

His five-year deal that ran through 2013 paid him $1.15 million this year. The school said the total value of the new contract was $20 million, with specific terms to be released later.

"The support of everyone in Cyclone Nation has been fantastic," said Rhoads, who took his first head coaching job at Iowa State after serving as defensive coordinator at Auburn in 2008. That followed eight years as defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham left after one season to coach Arizona State this week, and the Panthers were reportedly targeting Rhoads for a return.

"Today is a great day for Iowa State University," athletic director Jamie Pollard said. "Paul Rhoads and Iowa State are a perfect match for one another, and we could not be happier that he is going to be our football coach for the long term."

Rhoads helped the Cyclones pack Jack Trice Stadium with 50,000-plus fans for all six games this season, the most in school history. He also helped the team achieve notoriety with his famous postgame YouTube videos after big wins, capped by his signature catchphrase, he's "so proud" to be his team's coach.

This season, Iowa State beat then-No. 2 Oklahoma State for the first win in program history against an opponent ranked in the top six. Before the win, the Cyclones were 0-56-2 against such opponents.

The Cyclones also ended a three-game losing streak to Iowa this season, and beat Texas for the first time in school history last season. That win against the Longhorns, combined with an upset of Nebraska in 2009, gave Iowa State wins against ranked opponents on the road in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1976-77.

The news also had Rhoads' name trending on Twitter on Friday afternoon.

Does he get a bonus for that?
The Big 12 would like to do a lot in the near future.

It would like the nine remaining members to grant their media rights to the league, ensuring stability for at least six years. It would also like to expand, or at least formally explore expansion.

Neinas
Neinas
But for now, it still has to know, to borrow a phrase from former commissioner Dan Beebe, "who is on the plane."

For now, Missouri has offered no concrete guarantee that it won't be leaving for the SEC, but new commissioner Chuck Neinas is confident the Tigers are staying.

"We understand that relative to the grant of rights issue this matter has to be considered by the Missouri board of curators, and they will have an opportunity to review what the conference has accomplished, what we're doing and what we plan to do," Neinas told reporters on a conference call Wednesday night. "I think that once they have an opportunity to fully understand and comprehend what the conference is doing that they will agree that Missouri should continue to be a good member of the Big 12 Conference."

There's no timetable for the grant-of-rights proposal, considering each school has different requirements to do so, but Neinas discussed that and Missouri's future on Wednesday.
He also said he did not know of any offer to Missouri from another conference.

"I have not been contacted by anyone from the Southeastern Conference," he said.

Neinas suggested that Missouri would probably miss its century-old Border War football rivalry with Kansas and the opportunity to play its conference basketball tournament regularly in Kansas City, Mo., if it decided to switch leagues.

"So I think there's a lot to look at," Neinas said. "You know what happens is a pretty girl walks down the aisle and you say, 'Boy, I'd like to take her to the prom.' But there's also one who's tried and true and you know is going to be there."

Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard told the Austin American-Statesman he "wouldn't say they are holding up (future plans)," and that he feels "strongly" they will stay in the league.

Neinas also added that his lack of knowledge of an offer from the SEC didn't mean Missouri didn't have one, but he's reiterated several times he feels Missouri will stay.

"There would be a problem of perception," Neinas said of the possibility of a fourth team leaving the Big 12 in 15 months. "We can build the house again with different pieces. I can tell you that there is no shortage of interest from schools exploring membership in this conference. But we want Missouri to continue to be a member of the Big 12."

Big 12 meets, seeks stability

September, 28, 2011
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GRAPEVINE, Texas -- The Big 12's nine remaining athletic directors met on Tuesday with new commissioner Chuck Neinas.

Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard, the chairman of the athletic directors, was slated to speak to a few waiting media members after the meeting, but Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds left the meeting first.

"I'm not talking," he said, hardly slowing his pace out of the Hilton hotel. "Jamie's talking."

A few minutes later, Missouri athletic director Mike Alden also declined comment, only noting later that it was "a crazy time."

"Jamie's talking," Alden said. "We all talked about it in there."

The Big 12 may not have any restrictions from leaving the league in writing yet, but considering the league's last formal meeting, Tuesday can certainly be considered progress.

"As far as formal agreements, we're working towards that," Pollard said. "I can't give you specifics, because that's something that's still a work in progress, but I will tell you that all nine member institutions are fully engaged and committed to putting together the necessary agreements to put together the kind of stability that we all want to have."

In short, that means granting the most valuable media rights, Tier 1 and Tier 2, to the conference for six years. If that's done, media appearance money would be paid to the Big 12. If a school left, the Big 12 would collect revenue from media appearance, not the conference's new school.

The school would be valuable to the Big 12 and only the Big 12.

That's not done yet, and for now, Missouri could leave the conference under the same conditions Texas A&M did, likely only facing a stiff exit fee.

"Could people change their position? Yeah, that's human nature," Pollard said. "I don't anticipate that happening. I really don't, and the special committee is clearly going to work toward initiatives that will further solidify so that doesn't happen."

Chairman of the board of directors, Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, assembled the special committee to deal with the league's ongoing issues, appointing members from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa State.

No consensus on the Big 12's future membership has been reached ("It could be 9, 10, 12, 16. Pick a number," Pollard said.) but the Big 12's athletic directors did begin examining schedules should the league move forward into the 2012 season with just nine members.

Group meetings concluded on Tuesday, and directors will meet one-on-one with Neinas on Wednesday. The Big 12 is still reeling from the loss of three members in 15 months, but a day after Texas A&M made its exit official, Pollard remains hopeful of the Big 12's future.

"Each institution has to figure out what's right for them, and you come out of it stronger on the other side. It feels like that today. The nine of us in that room? We've been through a lot together. An awful lot together," Pollard said. "Our obituary has been written several times, and it hasn't come to fruition. That's strengthened us, and we said this a year ago. Ultimately, we have to prove it. We have to prove it. But I feel very comfortable with the individuals in that room that are my peers and our league is going to be a very viable league."

At least this time, there was nobody talking over him.

Big 12 Media Days: Best of Day 2

July, 27, 2011
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Another successful day at the Westin Galleria on the new, shorter Big 12 Media Days. Here was the best of Day 1, and now for Tuesday's top moments.

Best one-liner: Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech

Tuberville, surely mindful of the reprimand he received last summer after he questioned the Big 12's future publicly, was asked a similar question and had his response ready.

"I don't know what the future is, but I don't think there's any doubt we can sustain with 10 teams and we can make the best out of it and even become a stronger conference maybe than what it was," he said.

But he couldn't resist once he finished.

"That's a political answer, right?" he asked, drawing laughs before he stepped off the dais. "I worked on that."

Best accessory: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma

Lewis showed up to Big 12 Media Days with his brand new Big 12 Championship ring, the lone Sooner player to bring it to Dallas from Norman.

"I was going to wear all three of them, but I decided to just bring one," he said. "I didn't want to blind anybody."

Best dressed: Texas Tech

The Red Raiders take home the overall title for the second season in a row, narrowly edging out the Kansas State players with the Powercat-embroidered blazers.

Texas Tech players, coaches and media staff were all suited up, complete with Double T logo lapel pins.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma coach Bob Stoops
AP Photo/Matt StrasenCoach Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma contingent made a unique entrance into Big 12 Media Days.
Best entrance: Oklahoma

The Sooners ascended the escalator for the morning interview session into a throng of cameras and reporters, as well as TV cameras. No other team faced that kind of attention throughout the day, as the national championship contenders took their turn during media days alongside four other teams picked to finish as the Big 12's bottom four teams.

According to Bill Haisten at the Tulsa World, at one point during the coaching one-on-ones, Stoops was surrounded by 29 reporters while no other coach had more than five firing off questions at them.

Best Star Wars reference: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma

Asked if the Sooners needed 5-7 Texas to have a better year in 2011, Lewis replied, "Does Obi-Wan need Darth Vader?" Lewis, who was also shilling for his own television network throughout the day, was asked about the comments later in the day.

"Of course we're the good guys!" he said.

Biggest eyebrow raiser: Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech

Tech fans couldn't have enjoyed hearing Tuberville admit his reasons for canceling a game with TCU. Asked if there was any truth to the perception he couldn't win it right now based on the team's current construction, Tuberville admitted there was "a little bit of that as a coach."

"That's really probably not the type of team we want to play right now. Not that we didn't want to play them. It was obvious that we had somebody had to go in that slot where they were at, you know, pretty much fit what we needed to do," he said.

Tuberville did say the Red Raiders eventually "need" to play what he called a "natural game," but for now, it won't be happening.

Most underrated interview: Kelechi Osemele, LT, Iowa State

I hadn't had a chance to meet Osemele until Tuesday, but I was impressed, and I'd expect his coaches (past, present and future) would all agree. His physical skills are obvious, but he was engaging, funny and any time a player drops a "cognizant" in an interview, it's probably going to be a good one. Osemele didn't attract as much attention of some of the conference's bigger names in attendance on Tuesday, but he should have.

Best salesman: Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

Rhoads opened his time at the dais with a reminder of the impressive upgrades on the way at Iowa State, including a new indoor facility, big scoreboard and sound system. The sound system and scoreboard are expected to be ready for the 2011 season, and the indoor facility will follow in 2012, giving Rhoads another recruiting tool to help put his 2012 class together.

"The video scoreboard wasn't something I had in mind [when I took the job], but very quickly got thinking that way after the opening game of 2009. The sound system was well beyond it's time," he said. "And the environment of Jack Trice Stadium is really going to be enhanced by this new video board as well as the audio component of it, which I think is maybe just as important. Having moved into our current facility back in 1996, when we moved from the Big Eight to the Big 12, and knowing what was in place there, yeah, I knew sooner rather than later we were going to need a brand-new football facility. And I'm very appreciative that Jamie Pollard and the administration saw that way as well."

The Big 12's programs of the decade

January, 21, 2010
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The arrival of Mack Brown and Bob Stoops late in the 1990s helped rejuvenate dormant programs at Texas and Oklahoma. By the end of the following decade, both traditional powers were clearly the Big 12's top two programs and among the nation’s best.

The return of Bo Pelini to Nebraska helped the Cornhuskers close the decade strongly and claim a spot just below the Big 12's "Big Two." Texas Tech has been among the nation's most consistent teams of the decade. North teams like Colorado, Kansas State and Missouri all popped up to make at least two appearances in the Big 12 title game.

But Oklahoma and Texas have been the Big 12's behemoths during the recent decade. Here's how I rank the programs ranked based on their accomplishments in the last decade.

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners earn a slight edge over Texas despite the same number of victories in the decade because Bob Stoops took them to six Big 12 titles. The earlier teams depended more on defense, while Stoops’ more recent squads have been offensive juggernauts to reflect the overall change in the Big 12.

2. Texas: A victory in the BCS title game earlier this month might have catapulted Texas into the top slot. Mack Brown has pushed his program into parity with Oklahoma after struggling with the Sooner dynasty built by Stoops earlier in the decade.

3. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers withstood more tumult in the last decade than in any era since Bob Devaney turned the program in 1962. Even with two coaching changes, Bo Pelini has the Cornhuskers steered to the top of the North Division and poised for much more heading into the new decade.

4. Texas Tech: Mike Leach took the Red Raiders to an 84-43 record during the decade, with another victory added by Ruffin McNeill in the Valero Alamo Bowl for third place among Big 12 teams in victories. They fall behind Nebraska because they still have never advanced to the Big 12 title game or claimed a BCS bowl berth. That will be Tommy Tuberville’s task to change the culture and break that ceiling for the program.

5. Kansas State: The program was at its best during the early part of the decade when Bill Snyder took the Wildcats to the last title by a North Division team in 2003. The program dipped under Ron Prince, but could be poised to make another step forward after confounding prognosticators by remaining in the North Division title hunt until the last game in 2009.

6. Missouri: Gary Pinkel has the program humming with two title-game berths, strong incoming talent and a reputation as the conference’s foremost developers of unheralded recruiting talent. Pinkel's growth has been strong, but he still needs to take them another step where they start winning conference championships and appearing in BCS bowl games.

7. Oklahoma State: The infusion of T. Boone Pickens’ money has helped make the Cowboys’ facilities as good as most in college football. That growth has helped pick up recruiting as Mike Gundy’s program has made a bowl trip in four of his five years coaching the Cowboys.

8. Colorado: Gary Barnett had the Buffaloes as the North Division’s most consistent program with four championship game appearances in five seasons, including the 2001 Big 12 title. They haven’t been nearly as successful since Dan Hawkins took over with one bowl trip, no bowl victories or trips to the championship game.

9. Texas A&M: The Aggies still have the elements that could return them to prominence with rich tradition, strong facilities and an ideal recruiting location. But it’s tougher for them to challenge in the South Division with Oklahoma and Texas at the highest levels in recent history and growing programs at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and even Baylor.

10. Kansas: Mark Mangino has awakened football interest here, but it will be up to Turner Gill to build on that growth. The North Division looks open, but Gill will be challenged to match Mangino’s achievements early in his coaching tenure without an immediate replacement for Todd Reesing at quarterback.

11. Iowa State: Dan McCarney's turnaround of this program in the early part of the decade is one of the more underrated building projects in recent college football history after taking the Cyclones to five bowls in the first six seasons of the decade. Included in that run were two near-misses where the Cyclones legitimately could have made a championship-game appearance with more consistent kicking. Athletic director Jamie Pollard went for the sizzle when he hired Gene Chizik to replace McCarney. He now appears to have found a McCarney clone with steady Paul Rhoads in charge.

12. Baylor: The last decade will be marked by an incredible series of building projects at Baylor, but still no bowl game. The Bears appeared poised in 2009 before Robert Griffin's unfortunate season-ending knee injury. Art Briles turned down a couple of intriguing possibilities to remain at Baylor and try to stem the bowl drought, currently at 15 seasons and counting.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

New Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has signed his contract with the Cyclones -- nearly six months after his hiring was announced.

Rhoads, who worked last season as Auburn's defensive coordinator, will have a guaranteed package of $5.75 million over the next five seasons in a contract that is stacked with several performance-based incentives.

The contract will make him the lowest-salaried coach in the conference.

That fact doesn't bother Rhoads, according to the Des Moines Register.   

 "I remember my roots," Rhoads told the Register. "My priority is to win football games. How much money I make isn't even on my mind."

Rhoads will make $950,000 this season and the contract will increase in $100,000 increments each season.

The most interesting part of the contract are some of the incentives. The most intriguing is one caveat that will pay him $100,000 per season for each regular-season triumph after the Cyclones reach seven.

That might seem doable at many schools, but will be a huge challenge at ISU, where the Cyclones have won more than seven games in the regular season only once in the past 20 seasons. That happened in 2000 when Dan McCarney took that team to a 9-3 record.

Some of Rhoads' other perks include:

  •  $100,000 per appearance in the conference championship game.
  •  $100,000 for each championship game win.
  •  $100,000 each time Iowa State cracks the top 10 in the final USA Today/Coaches' poll.
  • $50,000 if the Cyclones finish ranked 11th through 25th in the final poll.
  • $50,000 per appearance in the Gator, Cotton, Holiday or Alamo bowls.
  • $25,000 per appearance in the Sun, Insight, Independence, Texas or any other Tier III bowl.
  • $25,000 for each bowl victory.

Additionally, Iowa State will pay Rhoads' initiation and annual membership dues in the Ames Country Club.

"It's a fair contract for who we are, and where we are at this point in time," ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard told the Register.

It will be a huge challenge for Rhoads to turn things around at ISU, where he's armed with few of the advantages that other Big 12 coaches enjoy.

His contract will be well below market-value, but considering some of the financial challenges that are in place at ISU will still make him one of the highest-paid state employees.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Happy New Year to everyone. There are five games today. It's not nearly as many as in the golden era of college football's past, but still enough to keep you occupied.

Have an extra bowl of black-eyed peas for your lunch and add these links for your nourishment to get ready for a new year.

  • Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione tells Joseph De Avila of the Wall Street Journal that he doesn't think that college football is recession-proof.
  • The Des Moines Register reports that athletic director Jamie Pollard and three Iowa State coaches -- football coach Paul Rhoads, men's basketball coach Greg McDermott and women's basketball coach Bill Fennelly -- will take one-week furloughs to help the university save money. The action will result in about $50,000 in savings.
  • Ohio State has contacted former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman for tips on defending Texas' passing attack. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Doug Lesmerises writes that Beckman, a former Buckeye staff member now the head coach at Toledo, had the best success in the Big 12 against the Longhorns this season.
  • Tulsa World columnist John Klein writes that Oklahoma State has not arrived as a big-time football power, but is clearly making progress on getting there. And the Oklahoman's Scott Wright said two huge decisions will impact the Cowboys in the next several weeks -- whether offensive lineman Russell Okung declares for the draft and who Mike Gundy chooses as his next defensive coordinator.
  • Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal writes of Friday's bittersweet AT&T Cotton Bowl between Texas Tech and Mississippi -- a game that will smash all of the bowl game's attendance records but will be the last to be played at the historic venue in Fair Park in Dallas.
  • Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News details the five steps that sent Texas crashing from the BCS National Championship Game to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a few links to keep you going as we prepare for a dark week without Big 12 football. No Big 12 bowl games begin next Monday when Missouri faces Northwestern.

Until then, read and savor.

  • Legendary former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer tells the Denver Post's John Henderson that the Sooners' current offense might be the best in the history of the school. 
  • Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has given his players several days off before they return for Gator Bowl practice on Friday night as they get ready for the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl against Clemson, according to Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal-Star. The Cornhuskers also plan a coaching clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., after they arrive for the bowl game to build recruiting connections in the North Florida area.
  • Chuck Woodling of the Lawrence Journal-World finds out that teams played cupcakes back in the day even more than today. The 1904 Minnesota team that scored 700 points -- the last team to score 700 points before Oklahoma this season -- beat Grinnell, 146-0, and Twin Cities Central High, 107-0.
  • Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman lists two Texas football memories among the top 10 highlights he remembers about Texas Stadium -- Major Applewhite's near-comeback in the 2001 Big 12 title game loss to Colorado and Texas' tight 9-7 victory over SMU in 1981 where the Longhorns won despite producing only six first downs.
  • John Hillman of Realfootball365.com writes that Jamie Pollard's fate as Iowa State's football coach will rest on the success of untested new coach Paul Rhoads.
  • Kansas coach Mark Mangino is juggling various options during bowl practice as he prepares for the loss of three starting linebackers and two starting defensive ends from this season's team, the Topeka Capital-Journal's Tully Corcoran writes.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

With no bowl games on the Big 12's bowl horizon until the Dec. 29 Valero Alamo Bowl, the biggest story bouncing around the conference will continue to be who Jamie Pollard hires at Iowa State to replace Gene Chizik.

I expect that hiring to be made sooner, rather than later. Which means that should command most of the conference's attention until after Christmas.

Here's are some of the stories that people are talking about around the conference today.

  • Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel writes that current Buffalo and former Nebraska assistant coach and player Turner Gill can afford to be choosy about future jobs. And with that being the case, Shatel writes that Auburn and Iowa State probably aren't the right fit for Gill.
  • Martin Manley of the Kansas City Star's blog "Upon Further Review" notes that the only two sophomores in Heisman history to win the trophy have come in the last two seasons with Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Florida's Tim Tebow.
  • Sean Keeler of the Des Moines Register writes that Iowa State should say no to the hot young coordinator in favor of a proven college head coach. And Keeler also blogged that former coach Gene Chizik never really understood the culture of Iowa when he was coaching there.
  • Colorado coach Dan Hawkins predicted at the Buffaloes' season-ending football banquet that his team would win 10 games next season, according to the Rocky Mountain News' B.G. Brooks.
  • John Maher of the Austin American-Statesman detects little buzz in Columbus for the Jan. 5 Fiesta Bowl against Texas. How down is demand for the game? Maher writes that tickets will go on sale to the general public for the bowl game on Wednesday -- a rarity for Buckeye fans.
  • Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle opines that Michigan transfer running back Sam McGuffie would be an ideal fit for Texas A&M's struggling ground game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Video may have killed the radio star, according to the old English new wave band the Buggles. But expanding mediums are providing additional opportunities for reporters to share their insights with consumers in the rapidly expanding marketplace.

The Big 12 is no different, stocked with a boatload of good weekly vlogs.  And work has started early, even before the season starts, at many newspapers.

The spirited competition between the Lincoln Journal-Star and the Omaha World-Herald in the coverage of all things concerning Nebraska football has spilled over into a video war of sorts.

Omaha World-Herald beat writers Mitch Sherman and Rich Kaipust talk about the need for increasing sacks and turnovers in their most recent video chat. And Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steve Sipple and beat writer Brian Christopherson discuss freshmen who will play for the Cornhuskers this season. It will continue for both papers throughout the season.

But the most effective use of video by a newspaper that I've seen so far is what the Oklahoman has done for its stellar series on Bob Stoops. A group of Oklahoman reporters provide analysis of Stoops' leadership, done with tight videography in a style much like ESPN Classic has used in its Sports Century documentaries. Despite the lack of live action footage, the use of some memorable still pictures of Stoops and Sooners was still very effective.

More newspapers are going to this synergy using different formats. I'll try to include some of the more notable ones in my upcoming posts.  

But the written word still remains supreme in my mind. And here are some scrumptuous morsels for a Friday morning links collection.  

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