NCF Nation: Tulane Green Wave

1. The SEC released Monday its schedule rotation for nondivisional conference opponents, laying out in stark terms the cost of playing only eight conference games a year. For instance, Texas A&M players who enroll this fall will play UCLA twice (2016-17) and never play Georgia or Vanderbilt (the fifth-year guys will get Kentucky in 2018). Or this: Missouri plays at Kyle Field this fall, and the Tigers won’t return to College Station before 2026, when this year’s first-graders will enroll in college. That’s conference play?

2. I can’t recommend highly enough the breakdown of Big Ten balance sheets that my colleague Matt Fortuna began Monday in a four-part series. The numbers are staggering, yes, but the explanation of expenditures by Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis provides depth and detail to the amount of resources afforded to scholarship student-athletes. I’m for giving them full cost of attendance, but as Fortuna highlighted, the increase in services provided by schools over the last decade is staggering.

3. At the Tulane commencement Saturday, Wynton Marsalis used words and his horn to give graduates a compelling message. But the best moment came when university president Scott Cowen singled out former Green Wave defensive back Devon Walker, paralyzed in a game two years ago. When Cowen asked spectators and Walker’s fellow graduates “to show our love and our respect for this incredible young man,” they responded with a 40-second standing ovation.
Setting up the spring in the American Athletic Conference:

CINCINNATI

Spring start: Feb. 27

Spring game: April 5

What to watch:
  • Gunner Kiel: Attention has followed the former high school sensation for years, from Indiana to LSU to Notre Dame and now to Cincinnati. He enters his redshirt sophomore season having never taken a college snap. With sixth-year senior Munchie Legaux still recovering from last year's leg injury, the show is Kiel's to run this spring.
  • Hank Hughes' defense: The former Cincinnati defensive coordinator returns after coaching last season at UConn. There, he orchestrated a rushing defense that finished 23rd nationally despite a 3-9 campaign. He will keep a 4-3 base but loses three all-conference performers from last season: Greg Blair, Jordan Stepp and Deven Drane.
  • RDA IV: Ralph David Abernathy IV has been a playmaker out of the backfield for the Bearcats in recent seasons, but he has moved to the slot this spring. He will probably still line up in the backfield at times, but seeing what the 5-foot-7, 161-pounder can do in space is definitely worth keeping an eye on, especially if the man throwing him the ball, Kiel, lives up to the hype at quarterback.
EAST CAROLINA

Spring start: March 21

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Carden's ascent: Shane Carden could be a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate in 2014. He enters his fifth year in the program coming off a season in which he completed better than 70 percent of his throws for more than 4,000 yards, totaling 43 combined touchdowns between passing and rushing. Similar numbers in a new league will get him much more attention.
  • Replacing Jeremy Grove: The redshirt senior linebacker recently announced that he was hanging up his cleats after several shoulder injuries. The former freshman All-American led the Pirates in tackles for two years running before being limited last season. Expect bigger roles for Zeek Bigger and Brandon Williams, who together last season totaled 10 tackles for loss and three forced turnovers.
  • Filling the backfield void: East Carolina says goodbye to Vintavious Cooper, who turned in consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. While signee Anthony Scott looks like a player who could contribute right away upon his summer arrival, the burden for now falls on the shoulders of three backs who totaled 548 yards on the ground last season.
HOUSTON

Spring start: March 3

Spring game: April 11

What to watch:
  • O'Korn looks to take next step: John O'Korn started 11 games last season at quarterback, proving to be efficient through the air and on the ground while taking the Cougars to a bowl game in their first season in the American. Now he's running an offense that, including him, returns eight starters. He set the bar pretty high as league rookie of the year, but incremental improvement could mean big things for Houston in 2014.
  • CB battles: Zach McMillian and Thomas Bates have graduated, taking their combined 10 forced turnovers from last season out the door with them. Two transfers could find themselves in the mix, as Lee Hightower (Boise State) and Tyler White (Utah) look to battle for starting spots on a defense seeking help in the secondary.
  • Trevon Randle: The former LSU linebacker and three-star recruit now finds himself in more of a pass-rushing role after sitting out the 2013 season for undisclosed reasons. The move is interesting for the 6-foot-2, 218-pound Randle, but the talent is certainly there for Randle to become a playmaker, wherever he ends up playing on the field.
MEMPHIS

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 11

What to watch:
  • Paxton Lynch's growth: Lynch made a name for himself by unseating Jacob Karam as the starting quarterback during fall camp last season. He followed with an up-and-down season for the 3-9 Tigers, showing flashes of playmaking ability and a penchant for turning it over. He is now the hunted, not the hunter, with redshirt freshman Brayden Scott now in the role Lynch played last season in hoping to steal the No. 1 job.
  • Hayes' return: The biggest coup of the offseason was the NCAA granting Brandon Hayes a sixth year of eligibility. The former walk-on was the team's MVP and leading rusher last season, and he will help take plenty of pressure off of whoever emerges as the starting quarterback.
  • Defensive growth: The Tigers were ranked 39th last season in total defense, and eight starters return. The unit gave the offense chances to win last season against league heavyweights Louisville and UCF before falling by a 24-17 margin in both games, and the Tigers welcome two new coaches in Ricky Hunley (line) and Ryan Walters (corners).
SMU

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 5 (no spring game)

What to watch:
  • Replacing Gilbert: SMU opened practice Tuesday with five men in the mix to become its starting quarterback, with Neal Burcham carrying the front-runner status after starting the final two games last season in place of Garrett Gilbert (knee), who totaled nearly 3,800 yards rushing and passing last season, accounting for 27 scores.
  • Receiver depth: The Mustangs are relatively thin at the position following the graduation of two of its top three receivers from last season, as Jeremy Johnson and Keenan Holman each tallied more than 1,000 yards in 2013. Deion Sanders Jr., meanwhile, will miss spring practice because of a shoulder injury.
  • The next Acker: Cornerback Kenneth Acker starred with the Mustangs, earning second-team all-conference distinction after finishing second in the league in passes defended (16) and tallying a team-best three interceptions on the season. Jay Scott, who forced three turnovers himself last season, is also gone. Talented safety Shakiel Randolph could see his role increased after showing plenty of promise in his first two seasons, including a 37-tackle campaign last season.
TEMPLE

Spring start: March 24

Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Receiver help: Temple will open spring practice without Robbie Anderson, the Owls' top receiver from last season, who is no longer with the team. Both Anderson and the graduated Ryan Alderman combined for more than 1,300 yards last season, so the pressure will be on Jalen Fitzpatrick and John Christopher to carry bigger workloads going into 2014. They'll have a familiar Philly face coaching them, with former QB Adam DiMichele now the Owls' receivers coach.
  • Aerial attack: One silver lining from a 2-10 campaign last season? P.J. Walker, who rebounded after losing the preseason quarterback battle and ended up starting the season's final seven games, threw for 2,084 yards. He was part of a group that passed for the most yards ever (2,996) by a Temple team, a promising sign moving forward for the second-year player (and his second-year coach, Matt Rhule).
  • Tyler Matakevich: The kid just keeps on getting better, as the linebacker followed up his impressive rookie season by tallying 137 total tackles — including 11.5 for loss — picking off one pass, recovering two fumbles and forcing three more. He wears a single-digit jersey, No. 8, to signify his toughness, and he is a great central piece for the defense to build around. Temple was ranked 109th overall in yards allowed last season.
TULANE

Spring start: Feb. 7

Spring game: Feb. 26 (no spring game)

What to watch:
  • Injuries: The situation is a little different here with Tulane, which is already finished with its spring season, allowing us to instead look back. And the Green Wave even ended up finishing earlier than anticipated, as coach Curtis Johnson ended it after Feb. 26, cutting the final two practices because of injuries. Among the walking wounded throughout last month: Linebacker Nico Marley, running back Sherman Badie and linebackers Sergio Medina and Edward Williams, who both missed all of spring because of pre-existing injuries.
  • QB battle: Tanner Lee is seemingly the front-runner to start in 2014 after redshirting as a freshman this past fall. A local prospect from Jesuit High, he passed for nearly 4,000 yards in high school while tallying 39 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, and he received a much heavier workload this spring after the Green Wave struggled with consistency in the passing game in 2013.
  • Filling the backfield void: Orleans Darkwa is gone after totaling 920 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Tulane might be turning to another redshirt freshman, with Badie getting plenty of attention this spring before suffering a concussion down the stretch. Senior Rob Kelley (420 yards in 2013) and three other backfield contributors from last season return to give this unit a bit of depth.
TULSA

Spring start: March 11

Spring game: April 19

What to watch:
  • Defensive stability: No one in the program is happy following a 3-9 campaign last fall, but the Golden Hurricane bring back plenty of experience from last season as they move into Year 1 in the American. Ten starters are back on defense. Despite finishing just 102nd in yards allowed last season, that gives the program a nice foundation as it welcomes in a tougher slate of opponents.
  • Josh Blankenship and the offense: Head coach Bill Blankenship's newest hire is his son, Josh, who was brought in to coach quarterbacks and rework an offense that finished 100th overall last season. The former Muskogee High head coach is part of a restructured offensive staff after coordinator Greg Peterson left the program and Bill Blankenship gave up coaching the QBs.
  • Backfield holes: Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas are gone after totaling nearly 1,700 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Reinforcements are on the way in three running back signees from this recruiting cycle, with one of them, juco transfer Tavarreon Dickerson, enrolling early and looking to make an impact after averaging 8.5 yards per carry last season at Trinity Valley.
UCF

Spring start: March 12

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Like after Bortles: Blake Bortles will be examined and re-examined in the public eye daily before the NFL draft, and his replacement back at UCF has some major shoes to fill. His backup last season, Justin Holman, is the most experienced of a three-man group that includes early enrollee and former SMU commit Tyler Harris.
  • Replacing Storm Johnson: Johnson is gone after rushing for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, and Will Stanback will likely have to prepare for a much bigger role in his sophomore year after getting 105 carries in his rookie campaign of 2013. There are plenty of other bodies back there, but none managed the workload Stanback carried last season as a freshman.
  • Offensive line depth: Brent Key is now the assistant head coach of the offense, and he will serve as offensive line coach as well. The spring will be very important in helping to sort out the chaos up front, and one player worth keeping an eye will be Chester Brown, who saw limited action last season after switching from the defensive line in fall camp.
UCONN

Spring start: March 10

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • New leader: Bob Diaco had an introductory news conference like few others. The former Notre Dame defensive coordinator is filled with energy, and he certainly brings a new approach atop the program following the Paul Pasqualoni and Randy Edsall eras. He already has made some cosmetic changes in the training facility, but bringing immediate change on the field is a bigger challenge in 2014.
  • Casey Cochran. The Huskies won their final three games last season, putting up 28 or more points in all three contests. Cochran passed for a school-record 461 yards in the finale, and seeing how he and the rest of the quarterbacks develop under this new staff will go a long way toward determining what UConn can do next season.
  • Defensive replenishments. For all of their struggles in recent years, the Huskies haven't lacked for talent or effort on the defensive side of the ball. That shouldn't change under Diaco, who won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator in 2012. But replacing standouts such as Shamar Stephen and Yawin Smallwood won't be easy.
USF

Spring start: Feb. 26

Spring game: March 29

What to watch:
  • QB battle: Penn State transfer Steven Bench was named the starter at midseason in 2013, but he found himself behind freshman Mike White after an injury. Both quarterbacks turned the ball over way too much last season, and increased production from that position is crucial if Willie Taggart wants to get this program turned around in his second season as head coach.
  • Running backs: The battle to replace Marcus Shaw is on after his 765-yard season in 2013. Mike Pierre, Willie Davis and Darius Tice are the men being counted on now in the backfield, but no player from that trio carried the ball more than 41 times or topped 141 rushing yards for the season.
  • Jamie Byrd: Byrd enrolled at USF this January following a stint at Iowa Western Community College, and he has two years of eligibility remaining. He had 53 tackles, two interceptions, seven passes defended and a fumble recovery last season, and the hard-hitting speedster could make an early impact with the Bulls in the secondary.

American spring preview

March, 5, 2014
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Another year, another set of fresh faces.

And, of course, new challenges, as well.

This is life now in the American Athletic Conference, which won’t complete its makeover complete until next season, when Navy joins the fold as a football-only member.

For now, it watches two others walk out the door while welcoming three new programs into the fold.

Goodbye, Louisville and Rutgers. Hello, East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa.

And, if last season is any indication, the newcomers may not be second-class citizens upon their arrivals.

"There's enough talent around the country that creates a little bit more parity than people are talking about now," said East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeil. "I know they're trying to talk about these conferences and those conferences. Well, I've been to those conferences, and there's good football players in each league. And I feel we're ready to compete with anyone. I'm not afraid to say that, and I know other coaches in the league are not, either."

That became evident through UCF's historic campaign in the remodeled league's debut last season, with the Knights going 12-1 and topping Baylor in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. These, of course, were the same Knights that lost twice to Tulsa a year earlier, and the Golden Hurricane now enter the American coming off a disappointing 3-9 season last fall.

That is all encouraging from one perspective. But the optimist's approach shows a similar surprising run could be on the horizon in 2014.

"East Carolina is going to have a huge advantage in our conference. I think they're going to be the next guys, to be honest, similar to UCF," said conference commissioner Mike Aresco.

"Everything's in place: They've got a Heisman candidate, they've got just some tremendous players and I think they're going to make a mark quickly because they've never had this kind of TV exposure. They've got a 50,000-seat stadium and they fill it up all the time. Their quarterback Shane Carden I think will be a Heisman candidate. I think they're the kind of team that will really benefit."

Among the old guard, UConn made a major move by hiring prized Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco to head its program. Cincinnati has another year under Tommy Tuberville and could possibly start the most talked about quarterback to never take a college snap in Gunner Kiel.

The American begins life in the post-BCS era with no automatic entry to access bowls. It is a member of a group of five conferences from within which the top overall team will be granted a berth at the adults' postseason table.

It's not exactly ideal, but after enduring a year of turmoil and coming out on the other end with a BCS win and several probable high draft picks to its name, the league enters its next phase with a much more positive outlook.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl preview

December, 21, 2013
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A preview of Saturday's R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl between Tulane (7-5) and Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4) at 9 p.m. ET (ESPN):

Who to watch: Tulane cornerback Lorenzo Doss is tied for second in the national rankings with seven interceptions. He already has 12 in his career, and he's just a sophomore. A first-team All-Conference USA selection, Doss also returned two interceptions for touchdowns. ... Louisiana-Lafayette senior linebacker Justin Anderson leads the Ragin' Cajuns with 123 tackles and 10 tackles for loss this season. He ranks in the top 15 nationally in tackles per game (10.3) and solo tackles per game (5.9). He was a first-team All-Sun Belt selection. ... Tulane senior Ryan Grant leads the team in receptions (70), receiving yards (926) and receiving touchdowns (nine) and is looking to become the first Tulane player to have consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons since 1987.

What to watch: Keep an eye on the quarterbacks. Ragin' Cajuns junior Terrance Broadway broke his arm on Nov. 30 but has practiced and might play. If he can't go, redshirt freshman Brooks Haack will start for Louisiana-Lafayette. Tulane starting quarterback Nick Montana is the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. Nick Montana has started 10 of 12 games, missing two in the middle of the year with an injury, but leads the team with 1,654 passing yards and 14 touchdowns with nine interceptions. The backup, Devin Powell, has appeared in seven games and started the two Montana missed.

Why to watch: The Ragin' Cajuns continue to rise under coach Mark Hudspeth. They have improved their standing in the Sun Belt in each of the past three seasons, going from third in 2011 to second in 2012 to a Sun Belt championship this year. The 45-year-old coach is 26-12 since taking over in Lafayette. Meanwhile, Tulane is a nice story, as well, making the postseason for the first time in 11 years. Curtis Johnson is in his second year as coach of the Green Wave and is already making an impact, taking the team to a winning record for the first time since 2002. Also, the site of Saturday's game – the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – has long been Tulane's home stadium, but this will be the Green Wave's finale there as they open Yulman Stadium, their new on-campus home, next year.

Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette 31, Tulane 27.

R+L Carriers New Orleans

December, 8, 2013
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Tulane Green Wave (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (8-3)

Dec. 21, 9 p.m. ET, New Orleans (ESPN)


TULANE GREEN WAVE BREAKDOWN
He won’t win coach of the year, but Curtis Johnson has done a remarkable job in just his second season at Tulane. The New Orleans native took over a program that hadn’t had a winning season since 2002, and now it is headed to only its fourth bowl game in the past 30 years.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Johnson
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsCurtis Johnson's Green Wave are going bowling for the first time since 2002.
At quarterback is a name you might have heard of. Nick Montana, son of Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, transferred to Tulane last December after a year in junior college.

Montana has thrown for 1,654 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His favorite target has been senior wide receiver Ryan Grant, who leads the team with 70 receptions for 926 yards and nine touchdowns.

But the turnaround has been predicated by the defense. Tulane has gone from the bottom of the conference to the top in both yards per game and points per game. Cornerback Lorenzo Doss is tied for second in the FBS with seven interceptions. -- Greg Ostendorf

vs.

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE RAGIN' CAJUNS BREAKDOWN
Louisiana-Lafayette was cruising right along on the heels of eight straight victories until hitting the skids and losing each of the past two weeks. The Ragin’ Cajuns could have won the Sun Belt Conference championship outright but were blasted 30-8 by South Alabama on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeTerrance Broadway
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesLouisiana-Lafayette's Terrance Broadway threw for 2,276 yards and 19 TDs and rushed for 421 yards and 8 TDs.
That’s after losing 31-28 at home to Louisiana-Monroe the previous week. Lafayette will make its third straight New Orleans Bowl appearance and hopes to have starting quarterback Terrance Broadway back for the game. He broke his forearm in the loss to ULM, and redshirt freshman Brooks Haack started in his place in the loss to South Alabama and struggled.

Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth said Broadway’s injury wasn’t a “severe break” and that the Cajuns are optimistic he’ll be back for the Dec. 21 bowl game. They had scored more than 30 points in seven of their previous eight games before stumbling these past two games. -- Chris Low

Video: Former Tulane WR inspires

September, 7, 2013
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One year removed from suffering a life threatening spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down, former Tulane safety Devon Walker inspires those around him.
1. Nick Montana, the son of NFL legendary quarterback Joe Montana, appears to have found a home at Tulane. Nick started out at Washington and, not content with sitting behind Keith Price, transferred to Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) Junior College last season. In two Green Wave scrimmages last week, Montana completed 11 of 15 passes for 132 yards. The three other players competing with Montana for the Tulane starting job -- a redshirt freshman, a true freshman and a walk-on -- have never played college football.

2. In the days before air-conditioning, cooling off in the Deep South usually included an ice cold watermelon. It has been a tradition at Georgia, dating probably to the ‘70s, to mark the end of two-a-days with a watermelon cutting party. Bulldogs coach Mark Richt has added another annual marking of the close of the toughest part of August. He takes the team to the Gabrielsen Natatorium, where the freshmen are expected to jump off the 10-meter board. College football without tradition wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

3. Big things have been expected of Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston ever since the Seminoles beat out Alabama, Stanford, Ohio State and LSU to sign him. It’s not just because of his athletic talent -- he pitched out of the bullpen and played outfield for Florida State last season -- but because of the good head on his shoulders. Coaches says he is a natural leader and his ego is clearly in check. I can’t wait to see him play at Pittsburgh on Labor Day night.

Future American Power Rankings

June, 21, 2013
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You've seen the college football future power rankings. Let's take that to another level here, using the eye test to look at how this conference is set up in the years to come.

1) Cincinnati. With at least a share of four of the past five conference titles, and with a proven coach in Tommy Tuberville aboard, the Bearcats are the class of the conference.

2) UCF. The most ready-made of the conference newcomers this fall, the Knights have the ideal talent, recruiting tools and coaching to compete for the conference crown year-in and year-out moving forward.

3) USF. Like rival UCF, USF is ideally located to land top talent. The Bulls have had that talent in recent years, but the hope is that new coach Willie Taggart can make the most of it and thrive back on the recruiting trail in Tampa, Fla.

4) Tulsa. Three straight eight-plus win seasons show that this program is on the rise, as the Golden Hurricane, much like UCF, look ready to compete with the league's elite upon their arrival.

5) UConn. The last of the "old guard" of the old Big East is in need of a turnaround following consecutive 5-7 seasons under Paul Pasqualoni. A Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2010 and five draft picks this past April show that there is potential here.

6) SMU. June Jones and Hal Mumme together will be a fascinating experiment to watch this year. But with their history and an always-strong nonconference slate, the Mustangs can put themselves in position to be a conference contender only if the breaks fall their way.

7) Navy. The Midshipmen won't be aboard until 2015. But eight-plus wins in nine of the past 10 seasons against a solid independent schedule suggests the triple-option can give its new conference brethren problems upon its arrival in two years.

8) Houston. Kevin Sumlin had a great run in 2011. Tony Levine still has some work to do, especially on the defensive side of the ball, after a down season in 2012. But landing big-name receivers like Deontay Greenberry and Markeith Ambles shows that there is promise for the Cougars moving forward.

9) Temple. The Owls started off 2-0 in the Big East last season, but then received a rude awakening. New coach Matt Rhule seems perfect for the role, but the cupboard is bare as he tries to turn things around in Year 1.

10) East Carolina. The Pirates always face their share of tough nonconference opponents, but Ruffin McNeill seems to have the program trending upward after going bowling in two of his first three seasons.

11) Memphis. Justin Fuente won't let the Tigers get too high on themselves after a three-game winning streak to end last season. By opening up key spots -- including quarterback, where Jacob Karam returns -- he has shown that he is set on taking this program to another level as it enters a new conference and tries to put the Conference-USA era behind it. Still, Fuente faces an uphill battle.

12) Tulane. The Green Wave haven't won five games in a season since 2004. They have their work cut out for them, as they move up to a better version of the C-USA they have struggled in.
Last Wednesday's announcements that Connecticut had agreed to a home-and-home series with Boise State and that Cincinnati would be heading to the Big House in 2017 were the latest in a trend that has seen BCS-conference schools boost their nonconference schedule strength.

While the soon-to-be-former Big East is entering its last season as a BCS school, before the four-team college football playoff takes into effect in the 2014-15 season, aggressive scheduling is one way to keep the league on the national radar.

The slates will provide several opportunities for big national upsets in the coming years, so here's a look at some of the notable future opponents for each current conference school.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats host Purdue this season and will travel to West Lafayette, Ind., in 2016. They go to Illinois this year as well, a return trip from the schools' 2009 game at Nippert Stadium. In addition to going to Michigan in 2017, Cincinnati goes to Ohio State in 2014 and 2016 and has a home-and-home with BYU set for 2015 and 2016 (at BYU, at Cincinnati).

Connecticut: The Huskies host Michigan and Maryland this year, the second parts of home-and-homes from 2010 and 2012, respectively. In addition to the Boise State home-and-home set for 2014 and 2018 (at UConn, at Boise), UConn has a home-and-home with BYU in 2014 and 2015 (at UConn, at BYU), a home-and-home with Tennessee set for 2015 and 2016 (at UConn, at Tennessee) and a home-and-home with Virginia scheduled for 2016 and 2017 (at UConn, at Virginia).

Houston: The Cougars host BYU this year and head to Provo, Utah next year.

Louisville: The Kentucky series is the only one the Cardinals currently have scheduled with a BCS-conference opponent through 2016, going to Lexington this season and in 2015, with the Wildcats visiting in 2014 and 2016. Perhaps that will change when the Cardinals begin ACC play in the 2014 campaign.

Memphis: The Tigers host Duke this season after visiting the Blue Devils in 2012. They have a home-and-home with UCLA for 2014 and 2017 (at UCLA, at Memphis), a home-and-home with Kansas for 2015 and 2016 (at Kansas, at Memphis), a home-and-home with Missouri for 2015 and 2016 (at Memphis, at Missouri) and a four-game home-and-home with Ole Miss from 2014-17, beginning in Oxford, Miss.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights host Arkansas this season after traveling to Fayetteville, Ark., in 2012. They will host future Big East member Tulane in 2014, each's first season in its new conference, after playing the Green Wave in Piscataway, N.J., in 2010 and in New Orleans last season. Miami (FL) visits Rutgers in 2018 and hosts it in 2019, and the Scarlet Knights have future home-and-homes with UCLA (2016 at Rutgers, 2017 in L.A.) and Kansas (2015 at Rutgers, 2018 in Lawrence, Kan.) To Rutgers' credit, it had also originally scheduled home-and-homes with Maryland and Penn State before it had announced that it was moving to the Big Ten.

SMU: The Mustangs have quite the in-state home-and-home lineup. They canceled this season's home game with Baylor, and while it is unknown if the 2013 game will be made up or bought-out completely, the schools still have a home-and-home scheduled through 2019. The Battlle for the Iron Skillet with TCU will continue through 2017, with the Horned Frogs playing host this season. SMU will go to Texas A&M this year and host the Aggies in 2014, closing out a four-year home-and-home. They begin this season with a Friday night home contest against Texas Tech.

Temple: The Owls begin the Matt Rhule era at Notre Dame this season, a place they will re-visit in 2017. The Irish will visit Philadelphia in 2014. The two-for-one Penn State series continues from 2014-16, with the Nittany Lions visiting Philly in 2015. Temple will host Maryland in 2014 and travel to College Park at a future date to be determined, after a home-and-home in 2011 and 2012 that saw the visiting team win each time (Temple, then Maryland).

UCF: The Knights aren't backing down as they move up a level of play. They go to Penn State this season and will host the Lions in either 2014 or 2015. They host South Carolina this season and visit the Gamecocks in 2015. They go to Missouri in 2014 after hosting the Tigers this past season. They host BYU in 2014 after visiting the Cougars in 2011. And they go to Maryland in 2016 before hosting the Terps the following season. UCF has a 2017 date at Texas, too, as part of an agreement that saw the Longhorns visit the Knights in 2007 for UCF's first game in its new stadium before hosting them in 2009.

USF: The Bulls host Michigan State this season as part of a two-game home-and-home that will be returned in 2017. They will play the final game of a five-game series with the Miami (FL) this fall at home as well. USF will host North Carolina State in 2014, have a two-game home-and-home with Indiana in 2015 and 2016 (at USF, at Indiana) and play at Florida sometime in the future.
Tulsa has a news conference scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET Tuesday to announce its move to the soon-to-renamed Big East, sources told our Brett McMurphy.

The Golden Hurricanes will leave Conference USA on July 1, 2014, along with Tulane and East Carolina.

The addition of Tulsa will give the "old" Big East 12 teams when Navy joins the conference in 2015.

Rutgers and Louisville will move to the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, at the same time those three schools join their new conference.

You can read more on the move here from McMurphy, who reported the news last Tuesday.

Q&A: Big East commissioner Mike Aresco

February, 14, 2013
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Mike Aresco's five months on the job as Big East commissioner has been anything but routine. The former CBS Sports executive vice president of programming has seen Notre Dame, Rutgers, Louisville, Boise State and San Diego State make plans to leave his conference since he took the job. He has seen the "Catholic 7" basketball schools break off in an effort to form their own conference, while he has added Tulane and East Carolina, the latter currently set to enter as a football-only member. There is also the matter of negotiating a new television deal.

With moving days taking part across the blogs this week, we caught up with Aresco to talk about incoming 2013 members Central Florida, Houston, Memphis and SMU, as well as several other topics facing the Big East.

Obviously there's a lot out there right now about the TV deal. Where do you guys stand with that, and do you need a 12th school immediately to move forward with any further TV negotiations or deal?

Mike Aresco: I think we are getting closer. The TV doesn't really depend on whether we add another team or teams. I think our position has been that we're not interested in numbers just for numbers' sake. We don't need to be 14 or 16 teams or any of that. We just want to make sure we have the right teams and the right mix athletically, academically. And right now, as you know, we're at 10 with Navy going to join in '15. And Louisville/Rutgers -- if they leave after next year, we're not sure yet -- but if they leave after next year, we would replace them and have 10 and we would also have Navy coming in obviously a year later. At this point, we would definitely look at a 12th, because you'd want even divisions if you ultimately go to a championship game, which I think is our goal. We don't absolutely have to do that, but we think that that's what we would want to do. You can play unbalanced divisions, but it's not a great idea. It just isn't. So I think in that sense we would look at perhaps adding another team -- you know the usual suspects, you've heard those. And I don't know when we would make that decision. We've got some meetings coming up, we call it our group of 11 schools, and we could make a preliminary decision as to whether we want to expand, in probably the next several weeks, and then determine just what we want to do. And then if we did expand, [we'd choose] that team. But in terms of our football, I think everybody's fine playing as a 10-team league until we get Navy in. If we feel the need to expand, great.

[+] EnlargeMike Aresco
Bill Shettle/Cal Sport MediaAmerican Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said he's confident that the league will have an attractive future bowl lineup.
But you mention some of the teams, I think our conference is really built on some programs that have had success and that really have a lot of potential. We look at SMU, and June Jones has done well there, but I think their best years are still ahead of them. Houston a couple years ago, obviously a tremendous season with Kevin Sumlin. Again, they need to sustain that. Same thing, USF has had years when they've been highly ranked and had good seasons. And UCF, you've seen what UCF has done, very strong program with good facilities. I think what we're looking to do is with our group from the North, Cincinnati, [Tommy] Tuberville there now. UConn. Temple, Al Golden left a program that was definitely rebuilt, and they have to sustain that. And eventually Navy, East Carolina with a great fan base. It's a good group of schools that frankly need to probably develop a storyline, now that we're going to be together. The schools haven't played together before. But I think they're all spending money, they're all trying to improve. Many of them are in big markets. I didn't mention Memphis -- they're spending a lot on their programs, and I didn't mention Tulane, they'll stay until 2014. Houston, building a new stadium.

So I think it's a story of growth. That's what we're looking for, we're trying to grow. We think we can compete. Our goal is to be competing with the five conferences that are perceived as the five power conferences. As you know, we were one of the six, we're still one of the six BCS conferences, but we know that we have to fight and try to be, again, a challenger, to challenge those other five. And that's why I think TV and exposure and marketing and promotion are really important. I think we've got some good brands, some good schools, but there's a lot of untapped potential there.

You mentioned Rutgers and Louisville in passing there. Do you plan ahead as if next year will be their last year in this conference? Where do you guys stand with them as it relates to that?

MA: Don't know yet, Matt, we're still negotiating with them. I think they would probably want to leave after '14, and if a reasonable settlement can be negotiated, we'll certainly look at that. We just haven't made any decision yet. They're definitely in for this year, and then the question is whether they would stay through '14.

Similar with Notre Dame. I know they announced last week that they were going to be in there for at least one more year. Would you envision that being their last year there?

MA: Again, all three of those schools have a commitment through the summer of '15 and then the question comes whether they would stay that extra year. That's going to depend on what kind of agreement we negotiate with them. We certainly have shown a willingness to engage in those kinds of negotiations.

With all the moving parts, do you plan or foresee a nine-game conference schedule in the future?

MA: We don't right now. It's something we could look at, but right now we plan to do an eight-game conference schedule. As you know, a lot of conferences are adopting nine games. Again, we'll either be at ... 11 or 12 [in 2015], '14 we'll either be 10 or 11. I think our membership has expressed preference for eight games. Eight conference games allows them to play more nonconference games. But that's something we can revisit certainly.

As you guys move forward, as the landscape itself moves forward, what are your plans as it relates to bowl tie-ins? What do you guys hope to accomplish in those negotiations?

MA: We'd like to certainly keep the tie-ins we have; we have some good ones. It's a fluid situation. We also could look at some others that make some sense. Again, the conference now will have schools from Texas, from Carolina, very attractive. I think our goal will be to make sure we're in a variety of bowls in a variety of locations so we have nice experiences for our fans and teams. We're definitely talking. We know that that next round is coming up soon. There's going to be some change, we realize that. Could we have some slightly different bowl configurations? We could. But we really like the bowls we're involved in, whether it's the Russell Athletic, or it's the Belk, or it's the Pinstripe, the Liberty, the BBVA Compass. Go down the list, we've got good bowls. But we're going to look at others, too. And we're a bigger conference, Matt, than we were. We'll be at 10 this year, then we'll be potentially at some point 11 and maybe 12. That could give us a chance to develop more tie-ins.

I've seen you touch on this earlier in other interviews. East Carolina, is that a school you want to become a full member eventually?

MA: That's something we haven't decided yet. We're going to take a hard look at that very soon. I think that would certainly be their preference. We haven't made any decisions yet, but we would certainly give that a lot of consideration.

What about the name? I know there's been so much debate about who gets it, who's negotiating with what, what the real Big East is and so forth. How does that play out in your mind in terms of the Big East name? Is that something you really want to fight hard to keep? Do you think maybe a fresher approach would be best for the conference? What's your take on that?

MA: Yeah, people have speculated either way on that. I think our feeling is we would fight hard for it because we think that you can do a fresh approach and keep the name. We would talk about the new Big East or the reinvented Big East, because it isn't the same Big East it was a few months ago. We can't pretend it is. We've had 12 teams leave in the interim for various reasons, and no one's fault, but the point is we know we're a different conference even though we are the Big East. The Big East has tremendous brand equity built up over a lot of years, in basketball and in football. And so consequently our preference would be to keep the name and just rebuild our league and rebuild the brand. I don't think it needs much rebuilding, but clearly when you've had some of the publicity we've had, you need to deal with that and we will. So we think going forward with that brand, with that brand equity is more advantageous than not.

To go off that a little bit, what is it about this conference that you think makes it an elite conference moving forward? What are some of the characteristics that are going to make you a real player in the years to come?

MA: I think we have a real chance to be a player. I think that we have schools that historically have had success, that are in good markets, that have good brands, that have not played together and, as I said, have not developed a storyline yet. But if you look around and you look at the individual programs, they have good potential, they'll play good opponents and I think that they will hold their own. I think you've got schools in talent-rich states. You've got schools with good fan support. You've got schools, again, as I said, in big markets. And take it one by one. Again, Cincinnati with Tommy Tuberville, and they've had a history of hiring excellent coaches. One of the goals of our conference is to hold on to our coaches as long as we can. And you know that head coaches come in, do a great job and move on. We'd like to hold on to them, but if we don't, we'd like to get the next great coach to come along. We had Brian Kelly in this conference. We had Brady Hoke at San Diego State, which didn't end up joining the Big East. You had a lot of terrific coaches around. Kevin Sumlin, look what he's done. And we need to retain them.

But Cincinnati and Tuberville. Connecticut's done a great job over a 10-year period of building a program. Then you've got Navy, everybody loves Navy; they play good football. Temple, again, has just real potential in Philadelphia, has to realize it and it will. East Carolina, solid football program, will gain a lot more attention and exposure in the Big East than it did where they were. And UCF, you've seen what they've done. You've seen what USF has done over the years. USF a little disappointing recently but thinking they've got the coach that is going to take them to the next level. Memphis is spending a lot of money and resources on the program. They have real potential as well. Tulane, new stadium, rich recruiting area. They've had success historically in football. Katrina set them back but they're spending money, they've got the will and determination to get better. And the same thing with Houston and SMU. And as those schools get better they'll garner a lot of attention. Look at SMU, you saw what they did in the bowl game. And you saw what June Jones has done the last few years. So I think there's real potential. There's also a history of achievement. Not necessarily sustained achievement; they haven't had consistently great seasons sometimes -- that doesn't mean that we can't do that.

And one other thing, Matt, I would say: The Big East brand and the Big East conference has always elevated anyone who joined, and I think that's still going to be true. If you look at the history of Louisville coming into the conference, [they] didn't have programs like they have now. Tom Jurich has always credited the Big East with part of their success. Same thing with Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech. He'll always maintain that if it weren't for their time in the Big East, they never could've built their program and their brand. So I think we've always been a scrappy conference. We've had to reinvent ourselves a few times, we've done it successfully, we'll do it again. We also view ourselves as a challenger brand, meaning we're going to challenge. Perception is important. We need to show people that we've got a strong group of schools that are going to compete at a high level, and the goal obviously is to make sure we have the resources. And we'll look at TV. We'll do well enough on the TV in terms of finances, you've read about some of that. And we have resources in our conference, we're part of the BCS for one more year. Going forward we're still part of, I don't know what the whole system's going to be called, but we'll have significant revenue from that. And we'll have other sources of revenue in our conference. So financially we're in good shape. And we think our schools will have the resources to do what they need to do to compete.

Tulane changes tune on fickle Big East

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
5:16
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This gives whole meaning to the phrase Big Easy.

Tulane's announcement Tuesday that it will join the Big East in 2014-15 marries New Orleans with a conference that is down to one football program in the New York market, is about to boast nine former football-playing Conference USA members and is seemingly hanging on to several others by a thread.

And there's the whole pending new television deal, too, something considerably more difficult to negotiate when one of the biggest schools in the conference jumps ship to the Big Ten. (Rutgers, fittingly, opened this season with a win at Tulane.)

"The Big East has been a conference of opportunity for new members, and Tulane is well on the way to taking advantage of Big East membership," commissioner Mike Aresco said during Tuesday's conference call.

No kidding.

At least Tulane president Scott Cowen saw the conference for what it was eight months ago, when he told the school's student weekly, The Tulane Hullabaloo: "If you look at the Big East now, the Big East is no more than the old Conference USA. Every school in the Big East with the exception of Rutgers and UConn will have come from Conference USA and the Mountain West."

Well, there is Temple. And future football members Boise State and San Diego State. But no more Rutgers.

And, well, there are some more gems, thanks to that telling interview with The Hullabaloo unearthed by colleague Brett McMurphy.

"My view is that the Big East is not a power conference, and anyone who thinks they are doesn’t know athletics," Cowen told The Hullabaloo in the March 23 story.

More than 40 years ago, Cowen played college football at UConn. On Tuesday, naturally, he was singing a different tune about the Big East, saying it is a great fit for Tulane.

"I would say on a personal level, as someone who was born and raised in New Jersey, who was a student-athlete at a Big East school, I've always been looking for the bridge between the Big East and New Orleans," Cowen said on a teleconference. "This is the bridge I had hoped for, and I am so delighted that I'll be able to go back and forth now over the years between a great conference and a great city."

Where to next is anyone's guess.

Statements on Tulane to the Big East

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
2:20
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The Big East and Tulane have made their marriage official, announcing that the Green Wave will begin playing in the conference in all sports during the 2014-15 school year. Here are statements both parties released:

Big East commissioner Mike Aresco: “I am pleased and excited to welcome Tulane University to the Big East Conference. Tulane University is an outstanding academic institution and is committed to excellence in athletics. They will be a valued member of the Big East.”

Tulane president Scott Cowen: “Tulane University is pleased to accept membership in the Big East Conference. The Big East is a distinguished collection of institutions that will be a wonderful home for Tulane. We look forward to our mutual association and we are delighted to welcome the Big East to the Big Easy!”

Tulane joining Big East

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
12:01
PM ET

The conference shuffle continues with word that Tulane will join the Big East in all sports, a source told ESPN's Joe Schad on Tuesday.

An announcement is expected later in the day.

For more, click here.
1. I noted a couple of days ago that Dri Archer of Kent State, all 5-foot-8 of him, led the FBS in all-purpose rushing. Little did I know, pun intended. Five of the top seven players in this category are 5-9 or shorter: Archer, Tavon Austin of West Virginia (third), Venric Mark of Northwestern (fourth), Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska (fifth) and Bernard Reedy of Toledo (seventh). With the advent of the spread, more players who depend on quickness in space will succeed. And yes, I know. Some of them can run between the tackles, too.

2. Tulane first-year head coach Curtis Johnson said this week that he teared up as the Green Wave defeated SMU, 27-26, for his first victory. He wants his team to invest itself like that, too, and cited the baseball playoffs as an example. “I just watched those millionaires -- the Yankees, the A’s, Detroit, Oakland -- and you just watch their emotion. I felt the one thing our team needs to learn is emotion. ... We have to learn that when we make a big play, it’s a big deal.”

3. Maryland coach Randy Edsall has taken a lot of grief in his season-and-a-half. The Terps offense starts freshmen at tackle, guard, quarterback and wide receiver and the team’s leading rusher is a freshman, too. Maryland ranks in the bottom 10 in the FBS in rushing, total offense, sacks allowed and turnover margin. Yet the Terps are 4-2 overall, 2-0 and leading in the ACC Atlantic. In truth, the schedule is backloaded. Toss out Boston College and the rest of Maryland’s remaining schedule is 22-10. But what Edsall has done so far is either coaching or alchemy.

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