Brandon Knapper

Knapper

Ye olde notebook:

n Of late, readers have peppered me with requests to find out two things: 1) when suspended WVU forward Esa Ahmad would be returning, and 2) if South Charleston native Brandon Knapper will return to the court from knee surgery.

Thankfully, I found out over the weekend Ahmad will be back for the road game Jan. 13 against No. 18 Texas Tech. WVU followed a tweet I sent out Tuesday with a press release on the matter. That news, by the way, grew substantially in importance late Tuesday night when Tech knocked off No. 10 Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.

Then, on Wednesday, I received an answer from Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins concerning Knapper. Followers have seen the guard in the WVU uniform. They’ve seen him on the floor in pregame warm-ups.

But, according to the head coach, that may be the extent of Knapper’s action this season. Huggins said he probably won’t burn the injury redshirt the guard is wearing even if cleared medically.

“Probably not at this point and time,” Huggins said. “He doesn’t know anything. He’s so far behind everybody else that why would you waste a year?”

The coach, however, said Knapper is “doing good” in his recovery from a meniscus tear in his right knee.

n Some in the media have turned their attention toward the Big 12 in light of bowl victories from schools like undefeated UCF, which defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl, and South Florida, which took down Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl. Certainly they are good candidates if the league decides to expand, correct?

Yet on Wednesday Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby threw a wet blanket, comforter and quilt on the topics of both league and playoff expansion. He was asked by ESPN’s Heather Dinich if the current four-team College Football Playoff is fair to UCF.

“It’s fair because playing in the American Athletic [Conference] is not the same as playing in the Big Ten or the SEC or the Big 12, it’s just not,” Bowlsby said. “They have some big games, but they don’t have an Iowa State who can beat a second-ranked Oklahoma. The depth of those leagues and the quality at the top, getting ready for one game against Auburn, that’s a lot different than playing Auburn every week.

“TCU, if TCU and UCF played 10 times, I defy anybody to convince me that UCF would win the majority of the games. Of course I’ve only been looking at it for 35 years.”

Strong words, especially if there was any interest in expanding. And in a follow-up, Big 12 Board of Directors chair and WVU president E. Gordon Gee mostly quashed expansion thoughts as well.

“At the moment I believe the Big 12 is very satisfied with its configuration,” Gee said in an email to the Gazette-Mail on Wednesday. “I am not certain what interest there may be furthering conversations after the bowl season.”

n While on the topic of the Big 12, the CFP web site spells out the playoff bowl distribution schedule and Forbes put together a piece on it. This season, the Big Ten will take the lion’s share of the “Power 5” bowl money at $89.5 million, while the ACC will take home $87.5 million, the SEC $70 million, the Pac-12 $62 million and the Big 12 last at $60 million.

Yes, that’s despite having Oklahoma in the CFP semifinal, which pays the Big 12 a $6 million kicker.

Here’s the deal. Each of the “Power 5” leagues receive a base payout of an estimated $54 million, according to the CFP site. The Big 12 receives that extra $6 million via Oklahoma’s berth. But that’s it from the consortium. The reason: The conference championship hurt — and eliminated — TCU’s chances at a New Year’s Six bowl.

Remember, the CFP semifinals are rotated by the following pairings: Rose/Sugar (this season), Orange/Cotton and Fiesta/Peach. The highest ranked teams after the playoff teams — in addition to a “Group of 5” team — fill in the other slots. Had TCU made, say, the Cotton Bowl, the Big 12 would have received another $4 million.

But here’s where it gets screwy. While the Big Ten received $4 million twice because Ohio State played in the Cotton and Penn State played in the Fiesta, the league received $27.5 million because Wisconsin made it to the Orange Bowl. The ACC also landed $27.5 for Miami’s berth in the Orange.

It’s because the three “anchor” or “legacy” bowls are the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. Each “Power 5” league is contracted or “anchored” to one of the three. And that’s where the big money lies. Those bowls had to pay so when they don’t host semifinals, league champions still hit town. Thus, the Big 12 received a whopping $40 million last season because Oklahoma played in the Sugar Bowl.

One could argue the Big 12 shouldn’t have held a championship because a) Oklahoma might have made the CFP anyway, b) if not, OU would have played in the more lucrative Orange Bowl, and c) TCU probably would have landed in a New Year’s Six bowl without its title game beating from the Sooners.

That said, the Big 12 made a cool $30 million for staging its title game, so …

n Whew. You know, maybe, just maybe, the athletes should be getting paid after all. In fact, maybe they should be getting paid a bunch.

n And finally . . .

On Wednesday, I spoke with Rick Trickett, the pride of Masontown and Glenville State.

In case you’re unaware, Trickett has been one of the nation’s most respected offensive line coaches. He’s been Jimbo Fisher’s assistant head coach at Florida State of late.

Yet you may know Fisher took a mega-deal at Texas A&M. But when his offensive staff was announced on Wednesday, Trickett wasn’t there.

“I’m walking in a store to buy a cowboy hat,” Trickett said when reached.

The O-line coach said Fisher had a staff meeting four weeks ago and said he’d be back in touch with everyone. That apparently didn’t include Trickett though. And, no, Trickett won’t be staying at FSU with new coach Willie Taggart. It looks as if Greg “Big Sweat” Frey will again be following in Trickett’s footsteps.

Anyway, Trickett said he’s “definitely going to coach” somewhere next season.

The cowboy, it seems, isn’t ready to ride off into the sunset just yet.

Mitch Vingle can be reached at 304-348-4827 or mitchvingle@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter@MitchVingle.