Taggart lands a raise from WKU

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Playing in just its fourth season at the Div. 1-A level, Western Kentucky earns seven wins in 2011 and should’ve qualified for its first bowl game in the program’s history.

As a result of that turnaround from a two-win season in 2010, though, the man who will lead the Hilltoppers into the offseason will do so armed with a new deal.

In a release, WKU announced that head coach Willie Taggart has agreed to a new four-year contract with the school.  The release states that the contract begins on January 1, 2012, and includes an automatic one-year rollover on December 31 of each year through 2019.

Taggart’s annual salary will more than double under the new deal, going from $225,000 in 2011 to $475,000 in 2012.  Additionally, the budget for Taggart’s assistant coaches will increase by 20 percent.

“This is a much deserved new contract for Coach Taggart, and we are pleased to demonstrate this level of commitment to him and the entire WKU football program,” athletic director Ross Bjork said.  “Our second place finish in the Sun Belt Conference and 7-1 league record illustrates perfectly the significant impact Willie has had on our program since taking over just two seasons ago.  We successfully competed on a consistent basis following our bye week in September, which is a tremendous credit to our entire coaching staff and players.  In addition to helping our players develop and succeed on the field, Coach Taggart cares deeply about his players as both students and people.  All 12 of our seniors are on schedule to graduate this year, and our 959 APR ranks second in the conference.  We also have had the conference’s top-rated recruiting class each of the last two seasons.  Quite simply, every aspect of our program has improved under his watch and we are excited about the future.”

“I sincerely appreciate the commitment made by Dr. Ransdell, Ross and the WKU administration,” Taggart said.  “I am very humbled by this show of support, and I will earn every bit of it.  As I often say, ‘WKU is in my DNA’ and this is where I want to be.  We had a very good season this year in many respects, and I would like to thank my coaching staff and our players for their hard work, dedication and sacrifices to the cause.  While we made great strides this year in many areas, we still have work to do to continue this program’s rise to achieving national respect.  We need to perform better in non-conference games, and we need to fill Houchens-Smith Stadium on a consistent basis.  Our program and the Hilltopper Nation can achieve anything we desire.  We are looking forward to signing another strong recruiting class and beginning preparations for the 2012 season, and spring practice begins in just over three months.  Go Tops!”

WKU was 2-22 in the two seasons prior to Taggart’s arrival; in the past two years, the Hilltoppers have compiled a 9-15 record, including a 7-5 mark this year.

WATCH: Ohio State fans infiltrate Michigan’s practice in Italy

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The greatest rivalry in all of sports never takes a break, even during the offseason on an entirely different continent.

One day after he showered Pope Francis with some Michigan-themed gear, Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines conducted the first on-field practice of their Italian road trip.  There were some “spies” in their midst, however, as a handful of Ohio State fans clad in Buckeyes colors drove a couple of hours to take in their enemy’s practice.

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“I’ve still got my eyes on those guys,” an amused Harbaugh said. “Still a little suspicious.”

The fans, though, came in peace, with one even offering kind words for what the head coach has meant to The Game.

“We love the Big Ten,” Alicia Sexton, a military teacher based in Naples and a graduate of OSU, told the Detroit News. “We really are appreciative to Jim Harbaugh. We love that the rivalry is back, and it makes watching the game in November fun. Harbaugh has definitely brought the rivalry back.”

Suspended LSU player facing felony burglary charge

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And now we know a little more of the rest of the story.

Wednesday, LSU announced that Adrian Magee had been indefinitely suspended from the football program.  The stated reason?  Unspecified violations of team rules.

Not surprisingly, word subsequently surfaced that the offensive lineman had become entangled in an off-field situation.  Specifically, Magee, after a warrant had been issued for his arrest, has been charged with simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling in connection to an alleged on-campus apartment heist.  The charge, it should be noted, is a felony.

According to reports, Magee actually returned some of the items he allegedly lifted after finding out there may be video evidence of the incident.  From WBRZ-TV:

According to Baton Rouge Police, the victim returned to his apartment just before midnight on April 1. The victim says he returned to find the door to his apartment was forced open and he was missing electronic items and cash.

The victim says he was looking through the apartment when Magee stuck his head through the open door and asked the victim if he had been burglarized. The victim says he’s an LSU fan and immediately recognized Magee due to him wearing clothes with his football jersey number on it.

After the victim told Magee that he was going to check his security cameras to see who burglarized his apartment, Magee walked out and soon returned with several of the victim’s belongings, according to the arrest warrant.

According to the victim, an Xbox gaming console, six Xbox games, Gucci flip flops, an Onyx bluetooth speaker, and $1,200 cash were stolen from the apartment. The victim’s girlfriend’s purse was also dumped out and rifled through.

A three-star member of the Tigers’ 2015 recruiting class, Magee was rated as the No. 45 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 20 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.  An injury forced the 6-5, 309-pound lineman to take a redshirt as a true freshman.

Last year as a reserve, Magee saw action in three games.

This spring, Magee started at right tackle because of an injury to returning starter Toby Weathersby.  Weathersby is expected to be fully recovered for the start of summer camp in early August, with Magee sliding back to his role as a backup.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

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The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.