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Lobo fans raise money for Aggie fan/war vet who lost out on $2K


While rivalries in college football are among the most heated in all of sports on the field — and before and after the games — the hatred tends to subside off the field, especially when real life interrupts.

Case in point?  New Mexico-New Mexico State.

First, though, the back story.

In an attempt to drum up interest in what’s a really bad football team, New Mexico State announced a couple of weeks ago that they would select a random student as the winner of a $2,000 cash prize if he/she were in the stands after the third quarter of the late-September game against San Diego State.  The student whose name happened to be called that day, Matthew Zajac, wasn’t in attendance and therefore forfeited the money.  His reason for not being at the game?  He has been caring for his 87-year-old grandmother since his father died and his “priorities were elsewhere.”

One more thing you should know about Zajac: he is a double amputee, having lost both of his legs in a 2007 IED explosion while serving our country in Iraq.

The fact that NMSU did not honor the $2K prize in spite of Zajac’s circumstances did not sit well with a large segment of the population, including a certain slice of their hated rivals’ fan base.

Upon hearing Zajac’s story, Lobo Lair, a New Mexico fan message board, took up the cause.  Specifically, the curator of that board, Mark Chavez, took up the cause by posting that would be personally pledging the first $100 in an attempt to help Zajac “recoup” the $2000 on which he missed out.  Other fans responded and, by late afternoon Wednesday, the site had raised more than  $2,200 for Zajac.

“There’s definitely no love between Lobo fans and Aggie fans, other than the whole New Mexico connection,” Chavez told Deadspin by phone. “While we love to kick each other’s teeth in on the field, we still respect each other as New Mexicans. This wasn’t about cherry and silver vs. whatever colors they are. It’s more about New Mexicans helping New Mexicans.”

While the money was raised for Zajac, Deadspin writes that the war veteran “told Chavez he’d split the proceeds with the Fisher House Foundation, a charity that supports military families.”

Kudos to all involved for the heartfelt gestures on both sides.

And, to NMSU: you see what’s happening here, right?  It’s time for you, like the Lobo fan base, to step up and do the right thing.

Bud Foster says he is too invested in Virginia Tech to leave Hokies

Bud Foster

For years there was a thought that Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster would one day be the successor to longtime head coach Frank Beamer. With Beamer announcing his decision to retire at the end of the season, there was never any word about Foster being handed the keys to the program. Instead, Virginia Tech has found a coach with an offensive identity in the hiring of Justin Fuente from Memphis. Given the way coaching changes can tend to go, nobody would have blamed Foster for being a tad miffed at not getting the job in Blacksburg, but he will remain the defensive coordinator of the Hokies as a key member of Fuente’s new staff. He says he has put in too much work to leave now.

“I’m rooted in here. We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in this place,” Foster said Monday. “It wasn’t hard. I wouldn’t have stayed here for as long as I’ve had if I didn’t feel like we had the opportunity to win at the highest level. I feel that more than ever right now.”

Fuente being able to keep Foster on the staff is a huge advantage. Foster not only ensures Fuente will have a dependable coach managing the defense, which should remain one of the top defensive units in the ACC as long as he stays put. Keeping Foster on the staff also allows for some tremendous stability during the transition, which can always be key when a coach with no previous ties to the university takes over a program. Foster can help Fuente get acclimated to his new surroundings and also keep valuable recruiting ties alive and well during the change.

Foster acknowledged he would love to one day be a head coach, and that dream will continue, but for now he is more interested in contributing at Virginia Tech.

“I always wanted to be a head coach. This would be a dream job. I’m happy with where I am. I’ll never be bitter. I won’t cry myself to sleep wishing “what-ifs” and they type of thing. My goal is to be the best football coach I can possibly be. I want to help this program be the best football program it can possibly be.”

Maryland wasting no time getting in touch with Mark Richt

Mark Richt

On Monday morning Georgia head coach Mark Richt said he was absolutely going to continue coaching even though his days at Georgia are coming to an end. If that is the case, Maryland would like to make that a reality for Richt.

According to a report from Inside MD Sports, Maryland has made first contact with Richt and a meeting could come as soon as tomorrow. Maryland is looking to fill a head coaching vacancy after firing Randy Edsall during the season. Richt will not be the only potential candidate to interview for the Maryland job. The Washington Post reported Monday interim head coach Mike Locksley was also given a chance to interview for the job on a permanent basis. That interview was reportedly set to happen Monday.

It would make sense for Maryland to make a call to Richt. With Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank looking to help build the Maryland program, there are sufficient funds to make a splashy hire for the program, which is showing signs of a well-structured future with plans to improve the football program. The Maryland job has some good potential in the long-term and competes in the same division as some tough opponents. That would include at least two coaches Richt is very familiar with; Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Penn State’s James Franklin. Richt faced Meyer when the Buckeyes head coach was at Florida, and Franklin of course coached at Vanderbilt. All three were in the same SEC East Division down south. Could they be reunited in the Big Ten East in 2016?

Whatever the case may be, if Maryland can land Richt as its next head coach, it would be a tremendous hire for the Terrapins. Heck, he already has the attire for it.

Unlike Missouri, 5-7 Nebraska will jump at opportunity to go bowling

Cethan Carter

Nebraska will be first in line to accept a bowl invitation when it arrives in the mail, despite going 5-7 this season. The Huskers, who are first in line among 5-7 candidates based on APR scores, will reportedly accept a bowl invitation to fill the first vacancy left to fill once all bowl-eligible teams are slotted into the postseason mix.

Missouri released a statement earlier today saying it will not accept a bowl invitation following a 5-7 season. The Tigers would have been the second team among 5-7 teams to receive a bowl invitation based on APR scores. According to a report by Brett McMurphy of, Kansas State would be next in line, followed by Minnesota, San Jose State, Illinois and Rice.

Missouri and Nebraska would appear to have different agendas of course. Nebraska is coming off the first season under new head coach Mike Riley, while Missouri is in the midst of a full coaching search. The decision not to go to a bowl game allows Missouri’s coaching staff in place under the now retired Gary Pinkel to pursue new opportunities without having bowl preparations get in the way.

Maryland sack master Yannick Ngakoue entering NFL Draft

Yannick Ngakoue, Christian Hackenberg

Maryland will have a new head coach in 2016. Whoever that head coach ends up being will have to find a way to replace one of Maryland’s best players. Defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue says he will skip his final year of eligibility with the Terrapins and declare for the 2016 NFL Draft.

Ngakoue was the second in the Big Ten with 13.0 sacks this season, trailing only Penn State defensive lineman Carl Nassib. Ngakoue’s sack total is a Maryland school record and was one of the few reasons for optimism for Maryland’s dreadful football season, which ended with just three wins.