Trevor Walls, Troy Stoudermire Jr.

NMSU presidential candidate open to moving, or dropping, football


New Mexico State was saved from an uncertain future in football when it was invited to join the Sun Belt as a football-only member in March. Conference realignment had picked apart the WAC to the point of extinction, leaving NMSU and Idaho to fend for themselves and find a new home.

Before briefly settling on football independence for the 2013 season, it was thought that New Mexico State could move down to the FCS level. Apparently, that’s still not out of the question for Garrey Carruthers, one of five finalists to become president at NMSU. In an open forum discussion last week, Carruthers said he was open to the idea of moving the football program down, or perhaps eliminating the program altogether. From the Las Cruces Sun-News:

“I’ve actually had conversations with people in the Big Sky Conference,” Carruthers said, referring to a league in the Football Championship Subdivision. “That’s sort of a notch below in football. They’re not eligible for BCS bowls. But what do you think our prospects of getting (to) a BCS bowl anytime soon will be anyway? Not great. I think there’s some other conferences around, where our athletics budget would actually be at the top of the list instead of at the bottom in terms of how much money we’re spending.”

Carruthers added, “I do know there’s a limit to how much money we can spend. And that limit is probably what we’re spending right now. We have to find a conference we’re comfortable in financially.”

Carruthers said during the public forum that he would also consider dropping football altogether.

“The rest of our sports are doing rather well, believe it or not,” he said. “Maybe we should be a minor-sport (program) …. Somebody even mentioned to me yesterday, maybe we should drop football. Maybe one of the options is just stay the course and just join the Missouri Valley (Conference) and play all the sports they play. … That’s an option we need to take a look at. The most expensive sport is football, and probably the least successful at the moment.”

As Carruthers is still a candidate to become university president, nothing is imminent regarding a decision and the Aggies are still Sun Belt bound. It should also be noted that Carruthers said he is not in favor of dropping football even though he would consider it.

But it’s an interesting, candid conversation about the feasibility of fielding a FBS football team. In a time when playoff access, television revenue and media rights agreements are large factors in the literal and figurative wealth of a program, there are fewer discussions about the five lower-tier FBS conferences that don’t stand to make a lot of money and their struggles just to keep afloat. And the gap is clearly widening.

The idea of schools breaking away from the NCAA as a result still seems far-fetched, but another split within the FBS that affects rules, possible athlete compensation, etc, could be closer to reality.

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

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Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.

Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

Penn State football practice, Sept 9, 2015

Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.

Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.

Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

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It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

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Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.