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Updated: WAC, two members issue statements on realignment

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If you check this here site on even a semi-regular basis, you’ve no doubt read by now that the WAC appears to be on its last leg as programs left and right are reportedly nearing a mass exodus.

Future WAC members Texas State and UT-San Antonio, as well as current members Louisiana Tech, Utah State and San Jose State, have all been connected, in one form or another, to moves to Conference USA, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt*.

(*That’s how you know things are bad)  

So while there is undoubtedly a lot of moving parts behind the scenes, the WAC issued the following statement today, courtesy of interim WAC commissioner Jeff Hurd:

“The Western Athletic Conference Board of Directors is well aware of the changing landscape in Division I athletics and has been in discussion about it for the last several weeks. Further, it continues to evaluate the impact upon the WAC and is closely engaged in evaluating its membership options.  It will not speculate relative to those options, but it has confidence that the WAC will maintain its more than 50-year history as a preeminent Division I conference.”

Additionally, New Mexico State released this statement:

“The national conference situation is a changing landscape and the administration on campus is doing their duediligence to secure a plan for the future. I don’t think anyone can project what the end game will be within the next 90 days or even a year or two down the road. It is so easy to look at this as the sky is falling but in reality a lot of conversations are happening about conference affiliation.  We remain extremely optimistic and committed to the future of NM State Athletics.”

And here’s one from Idaho:

“Conference realignment has been a major story in college athletics for several years now. A growing appetite for more funding and a steady flow of television and other media dollars feeding that appetite has resulted in conference alignments and realignments. That uncertainty continues today.

“Over the past several weeks, President Nellis and director of athletics Rob Spear have worked actively to advocate for the University during this recent shift in conference realignment. We are disappointed in the recent changes that are driven not by tradition, academic quality, competitiveness, or the student experience, but by money.

“Our student-athletes continue high rates of success on and off the field. The Vandals currently are atop the Western Athletic Conference Commissioner’s Cup standings and have been rewarded often for their academic successes.

“We believe our strong presence in the Northwest media markets is being overlooked during this crucial evaluation period. We are a presence in both the Spokane and Boise media markets, which extends our reach throughout the entire Inland Northwest.

“As we anticipate future conference movement, we continue to believe strongly that athletes are students first and the experience for them and our fans is first and foremost. We will continue to work diligently to most strongly position the University of Idaho.”

Now, it is important to reiterate that the rate at which conference realignment is reported is almost always faster than the rate at which these things actually occur. That said, the future doesn’t look bright for the WAC.

ECU transfer Kurt Benkert wins Virginia’s starting QB job

In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert rolls out to pass during NCAA college football practice in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Four months ago, Kurt Benkert was one the losing end of a quarterback competition at East Carolina.  Fastforward to today, and he’s now the trigger man in a Power Five offense.

First-year Hoos head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced Wednesday that Benkert will start the season opener against Richmond.  Benkert had been involved in a competition that included returning starter Matt Johns and Texas/Arizona transfer Connor Brewer.

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Benkert came to the Cavaliers as a graduate transfer, but is not a one-year stop-gap as he has two years of eligibility remaining.

Named the Pirates’ starter in early August of 2015, Benkert sustained a right knee injury a couple of weeks later that knocked him out for the entire season.  Blake Kemp took over and kept a stranglehold on the starting job through spring practice this year, triggering Benkert’s decision to move on.

Benkert has attempted 10 passes in his collegiate career, all in 2014.

In starting all 12 games for the Cavaliers last season, Johns’ 2,810 passing yards were third in school history while his 20 touchdowns were tied for fourth.  His 17 interceptions, though, were the most of any FBS quarterback in 2015.

Cassius Peat granted release by Mich. St., appears headed to JUCO

COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 15:  A Michigan State Spartans helmet on the bench during a college football game against the Maryland Terrapins at Byrd Stadium on November 15, 2014 in College Park, Maryland.  The Spartans won 37-15.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Earlier this month, Mark Dantonio stated that Michigan State was giving Cassius Peat “an opportunity to work on his academics and get himself in order” as his status with the program was “in flux.”

A week or so later?  He gone.

MSU confirmed Wednesday that Peat has been granted a release from his scholarship and will transfer from the Spartans.  And, in fact, the defensive lineman may have already found a new home, one at the junior college level.

Peat, initially a UCLA commit, was a three-star 2015 recruit who was rated as the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Arizona.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman, and had been listed as the No. tackle heading into summer camp.

However, according to mlive.com, Peat did not report for camp amidst his academic issues.

Ex-Oregon St. DB goes home to LaTech as grad transfer

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Running back Justin Davis #22 of the USC Trojans is defended by safety Cyril Noland-Lewis #17 of the Oregon State Beavers in the second half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 27, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. USC defeated Oregon State 35-10.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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A week after transferring from Oregon State, Cyril Noland-Lewis has found a new home that happens to also double as his hometown.

The Ruston News Star, among others, has reported that Noland-Lewis is transferring into the Louisiana Tech football program.  As he is coming to Tech as a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play for the Bulldogs in 2016, his final season of eligibility.

The defensive back, who went to high school in Ruston, was at the Bulldogs’ practice Tuesday as Tech continues preparations for the season opener Sept. 3 against Arkansas.

Noland-Lewis started 10 games for the Beavers last season.  Six of those starts came as a safety, the others as the nickel corner.  OSU moved Noland-Lewis to cornerback this offseason, where he ultimately found himself buried on the depth chart in summer camp.

The 6-0, 198-pound fifth-year senior, who began his OSU career as a linebacker, played in a total of 37 games during his time in Corvallis.

Tyler Rodgers, NMSU’s starting QB, arrested on battery charge

BATON ROUGE, LA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Tyler Rogers #18 of the New Mexico State Aggies drops back to pass against the LSU Tigers during the first quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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It’s not been a good day for a couple of starting quarterbacks at Group of Five programs.

The Las Cruces Sun-News has reported that New Mexico State’s Tyler Rogers turned himself in last Friday on a warrant that had been issued for him Aug. 14.  The junior was booked on one count of misdemeanor charge of battery against a household member.

The alleged victim is Rogers’ girlfriend. A verbal altercation at a party allegedly turned physical in a vehicle later on. When police arrived, the woman, who was initially crying, “downplayed the incident and said that it wasn’t really anything and that the altercation did not get physical and didn’t consider Mr. Rogers grabbing her arm as being a physical altercation.”

The woman decided against completing a domestic violence supplement report, and, according to the Sun-News, it’s unclear if the woman is cooperating with police.

“I was very disappointed in hearing the news but we are in the information gathering stage,” NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia said in a statement. “These are allegations that we take very seriously and we look forward to getting as much detail as possible so the university can be informed and the athletic department can make an informed decision moving forward.”

Because “it is a misdemeanor, there isn’t a suspension coming forth right now,” head coach Doug Martin said.

Rogers has started 15 games the past two seasons for the Aggies.