West Virginia president in favor of Big 12 expansion


If you thought the Big 12 being given the opportunity to hold a conference championship game with just 10 members was going to silence all talks about conference expansion, think again. West Virginia president Gorden Gee is apparently joining Oklahoma president David Boren on his side of the chalk line in the debate over the Big 12 operating with 10 members or 12.

I think the notion of going to 12 [schools] is most likely,” Gee said in a story published by the Charleston Gazette-Mail this week. Gee said the topic of expansion and the issues attached to it are scheduled to be discussed during the Big 12’s meeting of presidents and chancellors in early February. It is at those meetings the spotlight will be shining on Boren, who is expected to take the lead in addressing a number of previously stated concerns regarding the conference’s stability like the Longhorn Network blocking a path to creating a conference-wide network among others. But when it comes to finding two more potential members, Gee is on board the expansion train.

“I think [the remarks] are fairly consistent with the thinking in the Big 12,” Gee said. “It’s nothing new. I’m in favor of expansion. I think he’s expressing what we’ve been thinking.”

It makes sense West Virginia would be in favor of expansion.In an ideal world for West Virginia, the Big 12 would focus their expansion efforts closer to Morgantown by adding Cincinnati or Memphis, or both. The Big 12 already missed out on the opportunity to add Louisville of course, and the Big 12 is not going to be able to lure any other power conference option away to join either, so forget about those Clemson and Florida State dreams from a few years ago that never panned out.

Helmet sticker to SB Nation.

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.