BushWACked by departures, whither the remaining schools?

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Let’s face it: the Western Athletic Conference, as it’s currently constituted, is dead.  It has ceased to exist as a conference, both technically and in the realm of any reasonable thought.

The six teams left standing are a veritable Who’s Not collection of fringe mid-major football schools — at best — with little cachet left following the departures of Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada for the Mountain West, presumably after the 2010-2011 school year.

Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Hawaii, San Jose State and Utah State?  There’s little doubt that these schools are fine, fine institutions of higher learning, but, when it comes to football, the Sun Belt now scoffs in their general direction.  And chuckles, with a giggle thrown in for good measure.

So, just where does the conference go from here?  Commissioner Karl Benson is expected to hold a press conference at some point Thursday, at which time it’s expected he’ll address the future of his league and any type of salvaging plan they’ve cobbled together in the past 24 hours.

Aside from the obvious of just outright abandoning the conference and allowing the remaining schools to fend for themselves — especially if BYU decides to remain in the Mountain West and not take their non-football sports to the WAC — the WAC will have to look at plucking schools that are currently members of other leagues.  The most obvious candidate for plundering would be Conference USA in general and their Western division specifically.

Houston would be the obvious prize out of that group, with SMU and their cash-flush rebuilding efforts not far behind.  The former would seem an unlikely candidate for departure right now, if for nothing more than there’s a possibility that either the Mountain West (most likely) or the Big 12 (kinda, maybe) could have their eyes on the Cougars in the not-too-distant future; the latter school would appear to be a good candidate, although they may not want to abandon their natural in-state conference rivals.

Beggars can’t be choosers — and right now the WAC is a panhandling fool — so they could be forced to focus their attention on two of the following four schools to get to the NCAA-mandated level of eight schools: Rice, Tulane, Tulsa and UTEP.  Would either of those four schools leave the relative stability of C-USA for the uncertainty that is the WAC?  Not to mention the additional travel expenditures that would come along with it?

If C-USA is out of the question, the attention may turn to the Sun Belt.  With Louisiana Tech already in the WAC fold, perhaps Louisiana-Lafayette and/or Louisiana-Monroe would be an option.  With the exception of getting to the minimum of eight schools to technically form a conference, do those to Louisiana programs add anything — besides travel expenses — of value to the conference?

Of course, there’s always the option of cannon-balling into the Div. 1-AA pool and see what comes ashore, which brings us full circle back to the original premise: the WAC is on life support and, barring what seems right now would be a more-than-minor miracle, will have the plug pulled.

Thus, if the WAC ceases to exist, what happens to the individual schools?  There are two seemingly no-brainers when it comes to the dissolving of the WAC and what happens to the current members.

One, Hawaii would be odds-on favorites to go the independent route.  It’s been discussed in the past and, if they suddenly found themselves conference-less, would be the likely path for the foreseeable future.  The other no-brainer would be Louisiana Tech to either Conference USA or the Sun Belt.  The former already has 12 schools, so the numbers would have to be worked around, while the latter would likely welcome LaTech with open arms and a couple/few cases of beers.

As suggested to me by one of the fine editors at NBC Sports.com/MSNBC.com, two of the remaining four schools could potentially drop down to Div. 1-AA.  Idaho and Utah State, at least geographically, would be a perfect fit for the Big Sky conference.  Dropping down a level would not be optimum, but they could be left with no other choice.

That leaves San Jose State and New Mexico State.  Godspeed, higher-learning institutions.  Godspeed. 

Of course, if the reports come to fruition and BYU does indeed strike out as a football independent and drops their non-football sports into the WAC, the conference may suddenly become attractive again and they could very well, with the BYU draw, pull in an additional two schools, thus staving off extinction.

So, BYU, the ball’s in your court.  You have the power to save or kill an entire conference.  No pressure at all.

Gophers’ leading sacker ruled out of game vs. Nittany Lions

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 01: Tai'yon Devers #92 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers forces a fumble on Darell Garretson #10 of the Oregon State Beavers in the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Gophers recovered the fumble setting up a touchdown.(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
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With injuries decimating its own linebacking corps, Penn State may have caught a break on the other side of the ball.

With the Week 5 game against Minnesota still three days away, the Gophers have already announced that Tai’yon Devers has been ruled out against the Nittany Lions.  Devers is dealing with an ankle injury that will sideline the freshman through at least this coming Saturday.

The defensive end currently leads the Gophers in sacks with three, including one in last week’s game against Colorado State.  That one proved to be an absolute smothering of the Rams’ unfortunate quarterback.

In addition to the sacks, Devers also leads the Gophers with three forced fumbles in three games.  According to head coach Tracy Claeys, Dever being more aware of his on-field surroundings could’ve allowed him to add to those totals this weekend.

From the St. Paul Pioneer-Press:

The Rams tried to cut Devers, who has wreaked havoc off the edge.

“He has to learn to protect himself,” Claeys said. “He’s going to see that a little more.”

Ex-LSU AD repeats claim Les Miles turned down Michigan, more money in 2011

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 03:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers leads the team on to the field at Tiger Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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One of the biggest open secrets in all of college football has been confirmed (?) by a person who purportedly had a front-row seat to the spectacle.

Shortly after Rich Rodriguez was fired following the 2010 season, Michigan put on the full-court press to land Les Miles as his replacement.  It was known at the time that then-UM athletic director David Brandon and other school officials flew down to Baton Rouge to meet with Miles, who played his football for the Wolverines in the mid-seventies and was an assistant at his alma mater a decade later.

The open secret many still swear by?  That on that trip south Brandon had offered the job, along with a significant raise to what he was making at LSU, to Miles, who ultimately decided to turn it down and stay with the Tigers.

During a radio interview Wednesday, Skip Bertman, LSU athletic director from 2001-2008, confirmed that version of events

“Les Miles turned that job down for more money at Michigan. He turned it down,” Bertman told the ESPN Radio affiliate in Baton Rouge. “He would never say that because he’s a very humble guy. But I was there; he turned it down.”

Renowned Michigan historian John Bacon, however, disputes not only the 2011 claim, but the 2007 claim by Kirk Herbstreit and one made in 2014 as well.

The football program hired Rodriguez in 2007 and Brady Hoke in 2011, then stuck with Hoke through a rough 2014 season that had Miles-to-Ann Arbor speculation flying yet again. Ultimately, though, the university finally landed its Michigan Man in Jim Harbaugh.  I’m thinking that’s working out just fine for the program, regardless of how exactly things transpired with Miles in the past.

Big Ten to use commemorative coin to honor Sam Foltz, Mike Sandler

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Tributes to Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler have seemingly been a weekly occurrence across college football the first four weeks of the season, and the players’ conference will get on board in Week 5.

A commemorative coin will be used to honor both Foltz and Sadler at all seven Big Ten games this weekend, the league announced Wednesday.  As this is the first full weekend of conference action, the coins, with Foltz on one side and Sadler on the other, will be used for the coin flip prior to each league matchup.

The Cornhuskers have decided to use the coins for the remainder of the season.

Folks and Sadler were killed in a July car accident on their way home from a kick camp in Wisconsin. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in the wreck, but is kicking this season for the Tigers and honoring both by wearing special cleats.

Below are the coins that will be used, courtesy of the Big Ten:

sam-foltz

mike-sadler

Nick Saban would ‘love’ for Blake Barnett to stay at Alabama

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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At least from Alabama’s side of it, the door’s not completely shut on Blake Barnett‘s future being in Tuscaloosa.

Earlier Wednesday, a report surfaced that Barnett had decided to leave the football program and transfer out.  In meeting with the media a short time later, Nick Saban confirmed that Barnett had “expressed some concern about his future” at a meeting earlier in the day.

The head coach said he “didn’t know” when asked if Barnett, who lost the starting quarterback job to true freshman Jalen Hurts earlier this year, was still a part of the team, although he made it clear that the redshirt freshman was still welcome in the locker room if he changes his mind.

“Blake is a fine young man,” Saban said. “He’s done a great job with his program, and we’d love to see him be a part of the program in the future, but we also want him to do what’s best for him.”

Barnett, who started the opener against USC but held on to the job for just tw series, was a five-star 2015 recruit who 247Sports.com rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country.  The California high school product originally committed to Notre Dame in November of 2013 before decommitting from the Irish in June of the following year.