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Update: Tennessee officially hires Rick Barnes

Update: The University of Tennessee has officially hired Rick Barnes as its new head coach, the school announced Tuesday morning. A press conference is set for later this afternoon in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

"Rick Barnes is an elite basketball coach in every respect," Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart said in a statement. "Rick brings an extremely impressive track record of excellence, as well as much-needed stability, to our men's basketball program. This is an exciting day for our Tennessee family."

Barnes' new contract with Tennessee is for six years, at $2.25 million per year with incentives, according to multiple reports. In addition, Barnes will get his $1.75 million buyout from Texas. 

His new contract is similar to his $2.55 million per year base salary he received at Texas this past year. The hiring comes just two days after Texas let go of Barnes.

Original story: ESPN reported Monday afternoon that Barnes and Tennessee were close to a deal that would send the former Texas head coach to the Volunteers. In his farewell press conference Sunday, Barnes hinted to the fact he would land another coaching job soon when asked about his future.

“Will I coach again? Yeah, quicker than you’d probably think,” Barnes said.

Barnes and Texas “mutually agreed” to part ways Sunday morning, according to the official announcement. But it wasn’t as mutual as the report suggests. After failing to live up to expectations in the last couple of years, which includes losing to Butler in the first round this year and missing the tournament entirely in 2012-2013, reports leaked Thursday that Texas men's athletic director Steve Patterson told Barnes to make changes to his staff or risk being fired.

His staff offered to leave, but Barnes wouldn’t let them.

"I couldn't do that," Barnes said. "That would be me saying this is about me. I've been carried by a lot of people here. We're in this together."

Barnes would be the third coach in three years for the Volunteers, who saw Sweet 16 success just two years ago under the guidance of Cuonzo Martin before he bolted for Cal this summer. Donnie Tyndall of Southern Mississippi replaced him.

However, Tyndall's time at Tennessee was short-lived as he was fired Friday after just one season. His time was doomed before he started when Southern Mississippi released a statement in November that it was under investigation by the NCAA. Later in January, it said it had inflicted a self-imposed postseason ban. All this comes after Tyndall headed Morehead State when they went on probation five years ago for booster related activity.

"Knowing what I know now, is that a mistake?" Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart told the AP on Friday. "Probably. ... But, you know, there are a lot of coaches out there that have a transgression in their history somewhere that had an opportunity to do better. Obviously, if we'd known [then] what we know now, we would have moved in another direction."

Tyndall finished 16-16 in his lone year with a chance of future punishment “highly likely,” according to Hart.

Tennessee loses its top scorer from last season but will return juniors Kevin Punter and Armani Moore, who finished averaging double-digit points.

Barnes’ wife is also an alumnus of Tennessee.

Freshman guard Ariel Atkins looks to help the Longhorns build upon last season when they went 22-12.

Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

It’s a new season for Texas women’s basketball.

After losing to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, the Longhorns will open their season Sunday with the hope of grabbing a third Big 12 title.

After a strong finish last season and a long off-season, Texas is now the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 conference title for the first time since 2004. The Longhorns have an impressive No. 3 preseason national ranking from SLAM Magazine and are ranked No. 9 by ESPN.

“I’m really, really looking forward to seeing what this team is capable of doing,” head coach Karen Aston said.

After two home games, the Longhorns will have early tests this season when they travel to the west coast to play No. 6 Stanford and No. 23 UCLA. In addition to the games on the west coast, Texas will also battle No. 4 Tennessee and No. 5 Texas A&M before the conference season begins. 

Aston, in her third consecutive season as head coach, said she favors the tough start in non-conference play. 

“We are in better shape this year and that probably comes from the third year of training,” Aston said. “We have a base now, where we can really play a lot of different ways.”

However, Aston isn’t afraid to admit her freshmen players — including High School Player of the Year and freshman guard Ariel Atkins — don’t have all the plays under their belts yet, and, despite the confidence boost from high expectations, the team still has a long road ahead.

“One game at a time — that’s really the only thing we need to focus on,”
Aston said. 

Texas has 10 returning letter-winners this season, including 6-foot-7 junior center Imani McGee-Stafford, who fouled out in the final minute
against Maryland.

Stafford was given preseason All-Big 12 honors while Atkins was named the Preseason Freshman on the Year.

In addition to the Longhorns’ strong returning core, ESPN recently ranked Texas’ recruiting class No. 11, giving Aston more confidence in her team.

“We have experience to go along with some young ones that will bring us a different level of energy and, to say the least, talent,” Aston said.

Photo Credit: Hannah Hadidi | Daily Texan Staff

Since its launch in 2011, the Longhorn Network has flooded the UT athletic department with cash.

However, the ESPN-backed Longhorn Network frustrated the rest of the Big 12 with its lack of revenue sharing — among other things — and irritated Missouri and Texas A&M so much that, coupled with other issues, they decided to bolt for new conferences.

Texas A&M and Missouri received the revenue sharing they wanted when the SEC boosted their already prestigious position in the NCAA by launching the also ESPN-backed SEC Network on Aug 14.

The SEC Network lacks the availability concerns that dragged down the Longhorn Network for some Texas fans. Upon its launch, the new channel was available to a reported 90 million households via powerhouse providers Dish Network, AT&T, Comcast, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable, among others. 

A concerning figure for the Longhorns is the advantage in exposure the SEC Network has created over its Austin counterpart.

Fans, pundits and head coaches have all but unanimously crowned the SEC as the greatest conference in college football, and conference newcomer Texas A&M has been snatching four- and five-star recruits from the Longhorn’s traditional hunting grounds.

For a few years, Texas could pitch a 24/7 exposure to recruits driven by the prospect of stardom. However, Texas’ neighbors to the east can now pitch that same access to an even bigger audience, which has the possibility of pushing the already tipping recruiting scale further towards SEC schools.

The Longhorn Network has struggled to reach the majority of viewers within Texas, although a new carriage agreement with Dish is expected to help the issue.

Meanwhile, July estimates ranked the SEC Network the fifth largest sports network in the country with an expected 75 million subscribers and a revenue of $611 million. 

After accounting for the costs and the revenue share taken by ESPN, the estimates predicted that each of the 14 member schools will haul in around $19.6 million this year from the SEC Network and total TV revenue could balloon to $40 million by the network’s third year.

To put those figures into comparison, in 2012-2013 Texas reported $33.4 million in total royalty and licensing revenue, including the cash influx from the Longhorn Network.

The channel accounts for a huge role in Texas claiming the title of wealthiest athletic department in the country, and it helped make Texas one of the few schools that has been able to distribute athletic revenue to academics rather than the other way around.

Money has not—and should not—be a problem for the Longhorn Network thanks to the 20-year, $300 million deal ESPN signed in 2011, guaranteeing a large revenue stream to Texas Athletics. However, Florida and Alabama could dethrone Texas as the NCAA’s revenue king if things go as planned for the new network. 

Between a handful of injuries and two handfuls of suspended players over the past few years, the Texas football staff has learned to rely on more than just veteran players alone. 

As Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for offense, said, success doesn’t just require “work with ones,” but, instead, in the era of head coach Charlie Strong, the Longhorns look to “develop the team.” With this philosophy, the staff expects to reward freshman standouts who have already proven themselves in the offseason.

“We play with what we have, and we’re always looking to develop younger players so that they’re in place to play,” Watson said. “We always have that philosophy. During training camp, we work with ones, twos and threes so that we can bring the younger players along and increase our depth. It always works out in a formula for a season.”

Among the freshmen rumored to run the offense Saturday are wide receivers Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe. Foreman, the No. 15 wide receiver in the class of 2014, according to ESPN, was a four-time district honoree at Texas City High School, recording 32 touchdowns throughout his high school career before he and his brother, freshman running back D’Onta Foreman, signed with Texas. Joe, an Abilene Cooper High School graduate, arrives in Austin with three all-district honors behind him, including the District 2-5A Offensive Most Valuable Player his senior year as quarterback. Behind center, he passed for 1,864 yards with a 58.3 percent completion rate and also rushed for 1,657 yards, averaging 8.1 yards per carry.

However, his high school performance only got him a spot on the roster. With Strong’s motto for earning privileges, Joe also needs to earn his spot on the playing field. Now, Watson believes Joe’s summer showing has proven that.

“Lorenzo Joe is going to be a factor in our season somewhere down the road,” Watson said. “When? It’s probably going to be when the opportunity presents itself, but he’s been prepared.”

Though he’ll no longer jog out to center, Joe has worked closely with junior starting quarterback David Ash throughout training. Ash said Foreman and Joe showed a “tremendous amount of dedication” that will translate to execution on the field.

“It was a hard camp,” Ash said. “It was a grind, and those guys came out every day, and they improved each and every day. They learned more and more, [showing that], beyond the shadow of a doubt, they have the capability and the ability to play football at this level. It won’t be long before they’re a huge part of what we do.”

Defensively, Strong anticipates freshman defensive back Jason Hall will also see playing time. According to Strong, ESPN’s No. 87 safety in the nation has positioned himself to contribute. The All-State 5A honorable mention tallied 57 tackles, six interceptions and six pass breakups his senior year of high school, claiming the compliments of Texas’ leading defensive back Quandre Diggs.

“He’s a guy that will come up and hit you,” Diggs said. “He’s rangy. He’s like 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, and he’s smart. He’s instinctive. He’s a freshman who came in and worked his tail off. He’s always had a hunger for the game.”

Freshman running back Donald Catalon has also garnered recognition, although Watson anticipates giving him a little more time to develop before he hits the field.

Mack Brown speaks to media in December 2013 at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium about stepping down as the head coach of the Texas football team. Brown will receive the lifetime achievement award at the Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards on Jan. 13, 2016.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Former Texas coach Mack Brown has inked a deal with ESPN to become a college football studio analyst starting this season.

Brown joins ESPN after spending 16 years as head coach of the Longhorns.

Brown will appear on ESPN’s “College Football Countdown.” The countdown show will feature pregame, halftime and postgame commentary for games on ABC as well as “Saturday Night Football.” Brown will work with John Saunders and former Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell.

“I’m so excited and grateful to be joining ESPN’s college football coverage team,” Brown said in a news release. “We’ve been talking about it for a few months, and I think it’s a great opportunity to continue to be an active part of a game I love so much. People who know me know I’m a football junkie, so I’m really looking forward to watching and studying teams, sharing thoughts, and talking football with all of the passionate college football fans across the country each and every week.”

Joining ESPN alongside Brown is former North Carolina coach Butch Davis who will be an analyst for ESPN2’s college football studio coverage on
Saturdays.

Workers on Congress Ave. put together a half pipe on Tuesday for the upcoming X-Games. 
 

Photo Credit: Jenna Von Hofe | Daily Texan Staff

Austin's first X Games will kick off Thursday night in front of the Texas State Capitol on Congress Avenue before shifting venues to Circuit of the Americas in South Austin on Friday.

Austin will host the four-day extreme sports competition — which includes skateboarding, BMX and motocross — each summer through 2017. ESPN, which owns the X Games, chose Austin to replace Los Angeles as the host of the summer games over other finalists Chicago, Detroit and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The kickoff will consist of BMX and skateboarding events at a temporary vert ramp starting at 5 p.m. and will also feature former skateboarding professional Tony Hawk. 

Julie Loignon, Circuit of the Americas spokeswoman, said having the majority of the events at the circuit will allow attendees to experience the games in one location.

“[This gives] the ability to have more of a one-stop-shop kind of experience, where you can see all the competitions you want, you can be part of the music scene, and, if you have any downtime, you can go into all these really cool villages and just play,” Loignon said.

From 2003 to 2013, when the X Games were held in Los Angeles, the events were held across the city in multiple venues, two of which were about 20 miles apart.

Sgt. Jeff Crawford, who works in APD’s special events unit, said the containment of the X Games’ events makes the police department’s job easier than if it were spread throughout the city.

“It’s like the difference between having a concert at Auditorium Shores and a concert at the Erwin Center,” Crawford said. “That was a big relief in my mind that, ‘Hey, they’re going to have it [at Circuit of the Americas], so we’re not trying to turn a whole bunch of downtown surface streets into a big venue.’”

ESPN estimates between 10,000 and 15,000 people will attend the kickoff event downtown Thursday, Crawford said.

“It’s not going to be just like a flood of people all over downtown,” Crawford said. “For a few hours, it’ll be a few thousand extra, but I don’t think anything too dramatic over a normal weekend on Sixth Street.”

At last year’s X Games in Los Angeles, 100,000 people attended the events.

Kaitlyn Clark, a spokeswoman for Mayor Lee Leffingwell, said the X Games will benefit Austin’s economy, as well as exposing Austin to multiple countries around the world. ESPN will broadcast the X Games in more than 215 countries and territories, and 410 million households will see the games, according to its website.

“To get Austin on the international stage like that is just a really exciting opportunity,” Clark said.

Partly because of the X Games, many bus routes that formerly ran down Congress Avenue began permanently running along Guadalupe and Lavaca on Tuesday, according to Capital Metro.

Loignon said Circuit of the Americas will not provide shuttle service to the venue because the parking lot is large enough for all the expected attendees. According to Loignon, the Circuit expects the majority of attendees to be from the U.S., but some international visitors are expected to attend as well.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

When Texas hit a bump in the road in the 2012-13 season, it needed to rebuild its chemistry, its school confidence and its recruiting program. The Longhorns went from losing in the first round in the lowly regarded College Basketball Invitational in 2013 to advancing to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament in 2014, despite an offseason in which they seemed to lose more talent than they gained.

And it was that kind of turnaround and ability to do more with less that paid off in more ways than wins, as center Myles Turner, ranked the No. 2 recruit in the class of 2014 by ESPN, committed to Texas on Wednesday in a nationally televised event.

“Just watching Texas work last year, they’re a real blue-collared program,” Turner told ESPN at his televised decision. “The only reason I’m here is through hard work, and that’s what Texas has done and can do in the future. I really like their work ethic down there.”

As the highest-rated Texas recruit since No. 1 Avery Bradley in 2009, Turner immediately propels an already promising Longhorn team to among the top programs in the country.

But the setting for his announcement — his high school gym in Euless — paired with the laundry lists of “thank you’s” he went through speak volumes about
his character.

“It’s a great family atmosphere down there. To join these guys and hopefully do something special next year would mean a lot,” Turner said. “Barnes and his coaching staff have shown a lot of support and expressed to me how special things could be down there, and I believe it.”

With his accountability, hard work and appreciation for team chemistry, Turner will slide right into a recently gelling Texas defense. He’ll take pressure off sophomore center Cameron Ridley in the zone and allow junior forward Jonathan Holmes to dominate at small forward. Not even the Longhorns’ tallest player, sophomore center Prince Ibeh, surpasses Turner’s height. 

Turner, who averaged 18.1 points, 12.2 rebounds and 6.8 blocks per game his senior season, will also benefit from freshman guard Isaiah Taylor’s speed and penetration and sophomore guard Javan Felix’s ability to spread the floor with his outside shot.

But it is pride and dedication to the Barnes program that will make the difference between a skilled individual — like many of those whom left after 2013 — and a skilled team player. Turner has the Texas pride, as he told ESPN, “I’ve always been a Texan, am happy to be a Texan and there’s a lot of pride for people in the state of Texas so to stay in Texas means a lot to me.” 

Turner cited former Longhorn and current NBA All-Star Kevin Durant as a factor in his decision and a person whose footsteps Turner wants to follow.

“I just wanted to emulate him — his work ethic — on and off the court,” said Turner, who met Durant in middle school. “Just seeing what he was able to accomplish really inspired me.”

Brimming with pride as he comes to Austin next year, Turner won’t have to travel too far from home. But his journey to Texas — he says it’s always a journey — will bring the Longhorns closer to a tournament appearance in Indianapolis.

When he first heard that ESPNU wanted to feature ESPN Top-300 defensive tackle Poona Ford’s college announcement on National Signing Day, Hilton Head (S.C.) head coach B.J. Payne thought there was no way Ford would want to proceed with it. But Ford, much to his coach’s chagrin, agreed.

“I said, ‘Poona, that’s not you,’” Payne said. “‘You’re a quiet kid. That goes against everything that you are about. You know I’m not a fan of that.’ He goes, ‘Coach, when else does our high school have a chance be on the stage on national television and let me give a thank you back to the teachers and the school that made me who I am?’”

Taken aback by this gesture, Payne allowed Ford — who committed to Texas in February — to proceed and watched as the shy student, who usually avoids media attention, soaked it in as a tribute to those around him. It was a genuine motive but not at all surprising for a kid who once received 40 references by his teachers within an hour of them being requested and, during summer practices, ate lunch with Payne’s children because he’s their favorite player.

Ford’s arrival in Austin is a direct result of his bond with head coach Charlie Strong, which is why he originally committed to Louisville in August 2013. Ford visited the Cardinals that summer for a 13-hour visit, during which Strong didn’t leave Ford’s side. It seemed that Strong had broken through to the quiet Ford, who left the visit with Louisville as his top choice.

“I think Strong just has a way of putting guys at ease, almost that father figure where they open up,” said Hilton Head defensive line coach Joey Maddox, who took Ford to visit Louisville. “He just gave that family feel, and that’s one thing Poona’s always been around — his family.”   

“He’s an all-around great person, a good motivator, and there’s just something about him that makes me want to play for him,” Ford said about Strong.

When Strong left for Texas, Ford worried that he wouldn’t be asked to follow him, but that concern didn’t last too long. A week after declining the Cardinals, Ford visited Austin, and following trips to Missouri and Purdue, signed with the Longhorns on National Signing Day.

“At the end, I picked the right school that fit me,” Ford stated.

Ford’s decision to sign with Texas gave it a player whom Payne described as “a freak show, [who] just does things that people just shouldn’t be able to do.”

Undersized at 6-feet tall, Ford’s 80-inch wingspan allows him to swat down balls with ease. His 4.8 40 time and 600-pound max squat are a nightmare combination for offensive lines to block.

Ford’s game should fit perfectly into Strong’s defensive scheme. Maddox believes the system he’s played in high school should prepare him for playing in Texas’ defensive line under coach Chris Rumph.

“With the techniques that coach Rumph coaches are a lot of the techniques that I mirror, so it’s not a lot of new stuff,” Maddox said. “The only thing new is going to be the language, some of the jargon may be different from here to there. But, once he gets in line and puts two and two together, the techniques will be the same for him.”

It may be a while before Ford sees the field because of returning upperclassmen, such as senior Desmond Jackson and junior Malcom Brown. But, if he fails to play a significant role early, Payne believes that would be a tribute to the quality of Texas’ depth at defensive tackle.

“If there’s enough guys on Texas or any university in the country to keep that kid off the field his freshman year, I’ll tip my hat to them. He’s that good,” Payne said.

While Ford embraced the media — which he seemed to avoid over the recent years as he rose into an elite Division-1 prospect — on that one day in February, expect the quiet star to return to his business as usual.

Third-year reserves Chet Moss and Leroy Scott were dismissed from the football program for violating team rules, head coach Charlie Strong said on Sunday.

Moss was rated the 16th-best inside linebacker recruit by ESPN in 2011. He appeared in four games on defense and special teams his freshman season before moving to fullback prior in 2012. Starting once at fullback against Oklahoma State in 2012, Moss played in 23 consecutive games in 2012 and 2013 before missing the final three games on suspension.  

Scott ranked in ESPN’s top 150 and was the sixth-highest rated corner of his 2011 class. He played in 38 games over his three-year career and was named the team’s co-special teams player of the year for 2013 season. Scott was expected to compete for significant reps this fall but will now have to look to play elsewhere.

Offensive Lineman Terrel Cuney (top left), quarterback Jerrod Heard (bottom left), safety Edwin Freeman (top right) and cornerback Jermaine Roberts (bottom right) sign their letters of intent on Wednesday to play football for head coach Charlie Strong at Texas.

Texas inked 20 commits to bring the 2014 class total to 23 on Wednesday at National Signing Day. Recruiting website Rivals ranked Texas’ class as the 20th best in the country and second best in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma.

There were no surprise flips to or from the Longhorns on Wednesday, but Texas did land two key defensive players.

The first was defensive tackle Chris Nelson from Lakeland, Fla., where head coach Charlie Strong spent a lot of time recruiting in the past. Despite plans to not officially announce until after 1 p.m., Nelson signed his letter of intent in the early morning.

By 10:40 a.m. it appeared that all 22 expected letters of intent were signed, and the Longhorns were only waiting on ESPN Top 300 defensive tackle Poona Ford’s decision between Missouri, Purdue and Texas.

Ford chose the Longhorns before noon, giving Texas its second signing day commitment at a position of need. After Strong replaced former head coach Mack Brown, Texas lost all three of its projected defensive tackle commits within a few days.

“It’s just so hard to find defensive linemen, so when you have a chance to grab a couple, you have to get them in your program,” Strong said.

After signing zero defensive linemen last year, landing the pair of tackles who had committed to Louisville while Strong was the head coach there is an important step for the Texas defense.

In total, six of the Longhorns’ 23 new players are from outside of Texas, a ratio almost unfathomable during the Mack Brown era.

“You just have to make sure you go get your needs wherever that might be,” Strong said of the high number of out-of-state recruits. “But we are always looking to control this state and stay within this state.”

One of the concerns that seem to be building up after a couple of lackluster recruiting classes and performances on the field is Texas’ hold on talent within the state.

Texas landed zero of the state’s top nine recruits as ranked by Rivals and ESPN this year. Texas’ struggles to land the top Texas recruits has been apparent as in-state recruiting rivals Baylor and Texas A&M made their presence known, picking up four of those nine.

Though this may be a cause for concern, Strong said Texas is still Texas and should always have a chance to land elite Texas recruits.

“We’re still the University of Texas. We will always be the flagship university of this state,” Strong said. “You know you are going to get in every door you can, so now it’s just about selling the University and selling this town and just selling ourselves and the program.”

The good news for Longhorns fans? The last time Texas had the 20th ranked class by Rivals was 2005, the year the program claimed its fourth national title.