Friday Notebook: Knights-Sooners-Horns, Pac-12 Future And Heup It Up!

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It was just a routine schedule release and these days they have become television shows that spend hours breaking down games that won't be played for many months. But on Wednesday, the SEC released its 2023 schedule for all their teams- conference and non-conference games. No big deal, right? No, but yes.

In the crazy world of conference realignment over the last two years and social media speculation and billion dollar media deals, people just assumed rich schools would pony up high eight or nine figures to pick up and move to a new league. But at least not in 2023.

Once the SEC released its 2023 schedule it made it clear...UCF will be in a conference with Texas and Oklahoma- for at least one season. Stop and think about that for a second. Forget about imagining that 20 years ago when UCF was playing in the MAC. Just go back two years ago and no one would have thought the Knights would be in the same league with the Longhorns and Sooners. And as odd that might be for many in college football, it is reality come next fall.

The Big XII is still working on its 2023 schedule but is expected to release their slate of games in the not-too-distant future. It's not known if UCF will play either Texas or Oklahoma and if they do who and where and when. Maybe they play one. Maybe they play both. But they will play in a 14-team Big XII that includes two brands few ever thought would call the same conference home...

It's been a little more than a year since the Pac 12 hired George Kliavkoff as its new commissioner. Shortly after he took over, Kliavkoff said the conference had never been stronger with its members united and didn't rule out the league might go looking to add to its membership. This came shortly after the news broke that Texas and Oklahoma were jumping to the SEC. That led to the speculation that the Pac 12 might go poaching from the Big XII with some of its members looking to jump from the unstable conference and go west. The college football media praised the hire of Kliavkoff and mocked then Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby for allowing his two biggest brands to jump ship to the SEC. The media questioned the future of the Big XII as a Power 5 league and wondered if it was about to become the American 2.0.

One year later, Kliavkoff was still telling people how stable his league was and united and how bright the future was. Then news broke last month that USC and UCLA were headed to the Big Ten and apparently he was shocked. Or was he?

Yesterday, Nebraska athletic director Trev Albert met with the media to talk about a variety of Cornhusker related items. During his Q&A he spoke about improvements being made at Memorial Stadium, adding alcohol sales at basketball games and a new multi-media rights deal for the school. That last item is important because Alberts said in the spring was aware of the plans for USC and UCLA to move to the Big Ten and it played a role in his choice of what company(Playfly, who also recently signed a significant deal with UCF) he would partner with. Wait, what? If Trev Alberts knew in the spring about the move of the Trojans and Bruins, how did the commissioner of the Pac 12 not know? Or did he know? Did Kliavkoff know and desperately try to keep them? Did other Pac 12 ADs know? How did Alberts and other Big Ten ADs know and the story not get out? No matter who knew what and when, the two LA based schools are headed to the Big Ten and Kliavkoff can go on as many podcasts as he wants preaching power and unity and speculate on new media deals but his league is still uncertain of its future. He states that all members are committed to sticking together, despite reports that at least two of his members(Oregon and Washington) had discussions with the Big Ten. 

The Pac 12 may survive because the new 12-team college football playoff likely guarantees them a spot. But there's not a single school in the Pac 12 not looking elsewhere for the most money and a stable future and compared to the once weakened Big XII, the Pac 12 and its future is not as stable as its leader may think...

When Danny White left UCF to take the athletic director job at Tennessee he may have struck out when it came to hiring the first few names on his list of football coaches to replace Jeremy Pruitt. When he ultimately decided to hire Josh Heupel, most in the college football media world thought it was a decent hire, but not a home run. Heupel had won 12 and 10 games in his first two seasons with the Knights, but he was 6-4 in 2020 and some felt the glow had worn off. Heupel inherited a roster that saw many players enter the portal and an NCAA investigation hanging over the program. But now, less than two years since Heupel got to Knoxville, he takes his 11th ranked team into the biggest regular season Tennessee has played in years. A sold out crowd and nationally televised audience against Florida, gives Heupel a chance to showcase his high-powered offense and with a win, the Vols likely move into the top 10 and become Georgia's biggest challenger in the SEC east...

Tampa Bay Times college football writer Matt Baker, appearing on our Thursday radio show, said South Florida is indeed moving forward with plans to build an on-campus stadium but the school has not said how much it will cost and what is a realistic timeframe of when it would open. He did say speculation is that the stadium may cost $350M. Baylor spent $266M on McLane Stadium that opened in 2014. Minnesota spent about $300M for its stadium that opened in 2009. South Florida also has not stated how it would pay for a stadium that might cost $350M. That remains the biggest question once you get past the public meetings and pretty renderings that excite fans...

Final note: We may call a football pigskin but footballs have always been made of cowhide, not pig skin.

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