Mark Hollis, Mark Dantonio

MSU’s Hollis named SBJ’s Athletic Director of the Year

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Mark Hollis may be just No. 58 on the list of highest-paid athletic directors in the country, but he’s No. 1 in the hearts of at least one influential media entity.

In a press release, Michigan State announced that its athletic director, Mark Hollis (pictured, left, with Mark Dantonio), has been selected as the 2012 Athletic Director of the Year by the SportsBusiness Journal.  Hollis, coming to the end of his fifth year on the job, was one of five finalists for the honor, with the others being Temple’s Bill Bradshaw, Michigan’s Dave Brandon, Arkansas’ Jeff Long and Baylor’s Ian McCaw.

“It’s very humbling to receive an honor like this,” Hollis said in a portion of his statement. “Individual awards are difficult to accept in higher education and athletics; however, they do recognize the innovation and teamwork necessary to achieve success. I value working with people at Michigan State University, the Big Ten Conference and the NCAA in providing educational opportunities for our student-athletes and engagement through sports for our alumni and supporters.”

The release detailed the myriad athletic achievements during the 2011-12 academic year that helped land Hollis this year’s honor, including the Spartans football team claiming the first-ever Legends Division title and playing in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game:

…Michigan State became bowl eligible for a school-record fifth consecutive year and finished ranked No. 10 in the final USA TODAY Coaches Poll after tying the school single-season record with 11 wins, including a dramatic 33-30 triple-overtime victory over Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl.

Michigan State’s men’s basketball team captured a share of the conference regular-season championship and won the 2012 Big Ten Tournament title. The Spartans advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the 10th time in the last 15 seasons. During Hollis’ tenure, MSU has appeared in 15 consecutive NCAA Tournaments – the longest current streak among Big Ten schools and the third longest in the nation.

Overall, eight sports participated in their respective team NCAA Championships, while individuals competed in five more NCAA Championships. The Spartan volleyball team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007, while the women’s basketball team earned its fourth-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. The women’s cross country team placed 16th in the NCAA Championships – its best finish since 2008. After two rounds of the NCAA Championships, the women’s golf team sits in tie for 21st place. Thirty-one members of the MSU track and field team have qualified for the upcoming NCAA Regionals, and this weekend, the women’s rowing program will make its 14th appearance in the 15-year history of the NCAA Championships in this sport.

Hollis becomes the fifth winner of the SBJ’s award, joining Texas’ DeLoss Dodds (2011), Ohio State’s Gene Smith (2010), Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione (2009) and Wake Forest’s Ron Wellman (2008).

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.