Stunning: Oregon’s Darron Thomas to pursue NFL dreams

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Wow. That’s about all you can say.

I can’t imagine too many people felt that when quarterback Darron Thomas led Oregon to a 45-38 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl that it would be the last game the junior would play for the Ducks. However, according to Oregon’s SID Andy McNamara, Thomas has indeed decided to pass up another year with UO and try his luck in the 2012 draft.

Thomas will join Ducks running back LaMichael James in the draft, but this move is far, far more unexpected than the one James made just a week ago.

“I came to this decision on behalf of myself and my family,” Thomas said. “I have a dream of playing in the NFL and I’m going to pursue those dreams.

“I would like to thank everyone in Oregon for all their support and I would thank the coaches for all their help, especially Coach (Chip) Kelly.” Thomas added. “I love my teammates and wish them the best of luck, and am confident they will continue the winning tradition that has been established. Last but not least, I thank all the Oregon fans for their help and support.”

Thomas said back in December that he would return for another year with Oregon, but as we’ve learned again, those words can only be taken so far.

Below is a statement from head coach Chip Kelly.

“As in all cases, we educate our players with the information we feel will be beneficial to them throughout the process but ultimately, the decision is left up to the players. I will always support Darron in his decision and want to thank him for everything he has done for this program. He obviously has played a major role in elevating Oregon football to new heights and I wish him well in the future.”

Thomas finished the 2011 season with over 2,700 yards passing, 33 passing touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He finishes with 5,910 yards passing for his career with 66 touchdowns.

The controls for Oregon’s offense now rests in the hands of redshirt freshman Bryan Bennett, who saw some significant playing time when he was asked to fill in for Thomas during the Arizona State and Washington State games this season.

The move to replace Thomas with Bennett during the half of the Ducks’ game against Wazzu caused some to wonder if the Ducks were going through the ol’ quarterback controversy routine, something Kelly and Co. adamantly denied.

But now the Ducks have lost their star running back and quarterback to the NFL. It’s too early to tell if that will affect Oregon’s chances at another Pac-12 title — USC is now apparently a Top 5 favorite again — but it does make the conference race a bit more interesting.

Missouri set to rent empty dorm rooms to fans for football weekends

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Homecoming could be taken to another level at Missouri this fall with a chance for Tigers fans to actually spend a weekend in their old dorm rooms.

As part of an effort to make up several budget shortfalls and adjust to dwindling freshman enrollment, Mizzou revealed plans this week to rent out unused dorm rooms in residence halls for football games and other campus events. The St. Louis Post Dispatch adds that the concept has been in the works for some time and a mind-boggling seven residence halls have been taken offline in the wake of a huge drop in the number of students following a number of serious issues at the Columbia campus.

Guests who want to bypass a local hotel for games and sign up for the opportunity will be able to grab a furnished, two-bedroom suite with four single beds for $120/night. Internet access, bed sheets and towels are included and you can even head on down to the campus cafeteria to boot in order to buy food. For those planning on tailgating before a big game, the Post Dispatch notes that the school is still discussing whether alcohol will be allowed in the rooms.

While the ability to stay in an actual dorm room is pretty unique when it comes to the SEC football experience at the school, the reason for even taking this step should raise eyebrows even further given the situation at Mizzou. Student protests rocked the campus two years ago and Columbia really hasn’t been the same since with declining enrollment dropping off sharply ever since to further add to the crisis at the university.

Though financial necessities may be forcing the Tigers to go this route with unused dorms, it will be interesting to see if other schools in less dire situations at least take a look at emulating the concept on a smaller scale for game days in the future. Several universities around the country already have on-campus hotels so taking the next step to Airbnb some dorms seems like it will be in the cards for a football Saturday soon enough.

Buffalo reportedly receives state approval for new $18 million football field house

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If it seems like every college football program has an indoor facility nowadays, that’s because it’s a statement that is pretty close to being true. Now it’s time to cross one of the few remaining FBS holdouts off the list of those without one as Buffalo has finally gotten a thumbs up to build one just across the street from the school’s football stadium.

Buffalo Business First reports that the state has given the green light to a nearly $18 million field house project and that the university could issue construction bids for the building as soon as next week.

The project will check off a lot of boxes for the athletic department and the football team in particular. It reportedly will result in a 90,000-square-foot facility that includes both a full turf field and a small track. The exact timeline still appears to be up in the air a bit but it seems as though the school will receive bids soon and then commence construction sometime in early 2018.

That’s welcome news for head coach Lance Leipold as the Bulls were the lone MAC school without an indoor facility as of 2017. Given the winters (and fall’s and spring’s…) in upstate New York, the addition of a place to practice and train away from the elements should be a boon for the program going forward.

Kansas planning $300 million stadium renovation and new indoor football facility

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No matter how good or bad your football team is nowadays, chances are high that your school is planning to upgrade football facilities in order to keep up with the burgeoning college athletics arms race.

Case in point lies in Lawrence, where Kansas is set to embark on a whopping $300 million renovation of Memorial Stadium that will also include an indoor practice facility. AD Sheahon Zenger disclosed the plans on Wednesday night while speaking at a booster function, according to the Kansas City Star.

“It will be something that will be just that next step in transcending our program to the next level,” Jayhawks head coach David Beaty reportedly said. “We really do have to keep up with the facility war that goes on out there.”

Memorial Stadium is one of the older stadiums in the Big 12, dating back to the 1921 opening of the site. While there have been a handful of updates in the past few years, there hasn’t really been much of a major renovation since 1998-99. Plans for the updated design and any additional features should be unveiled in September based on the timeline that Zenger disclosed.

No word on if Kansas is planning on adding any waterfalls to project just yet however.

Arkansas State stadium expansion includes pair of waterfalls

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The college athletics’ arms race of the past few decades has produced a number of unique designs when it comes to various stadiums and other football-centric facilities. Just about everybody is trying to hang their hat on something new and different to set themselves apart from the crowd and that ethos is seemingly creeping into just about every design element in any new building across the country.

Arkansas State appears to be the latest program to go in this direction and, based on new renderings of a north end zone project for Centennial Bank Stadium that were released on Thursday, the school is perfectly content to ignore TLC’s advice and start chasing actual waterfalls.

“This project will allow us to attract the top students in the country and provide first-class services to develop our students on and off the playing surfaces,” athletic director Terry Mohajir said in a statement on the school’s website for the project. “Additionally, we’ve created a unique feature to pay homage to the great state of Arkansas, the Natural State.”

This is far from the only water feature to be incorporated into a stadium in recent years (Jacksonville’s EverBank Field — home to the annual Florida-Georgia game — has a pool after all) but is a little bit outside the box for a smaller FBS school’s stadium. The two waterfalls are set to be placed on either side of the north end zone grandstand and include a new outdoor premium seating area as well. Also included in the project are a new weight room, a training/rehabilitation area, new football locker room, position meeting rooms, a players’ lounge, academic rooms and team-theater meeting area.

No cost breakdown or timeline were given but safe to say the former will involve millions of dollars and the latter will result in several years passing before the water is flowing in Jonesboro.