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MAC confirms ‘historic’ broadcast agreement

MAC Logo

Monday it was reported that the Mid-American Conference had reached an agreement with ESPN on an extension of its broadcasting agreement.

Tuesday said agreement came to fruition.

The MAC announced in a press release this morning that it has reached a 13-year rights agreement with a ESPN that will be, the league wrote, “the largest and most extensive agreement in the 68-year history of the Conference.” The WWL will now control the broadcasting of all MAC sports, football in particular, through the 2026-27 season.

Every MAC football game, for instance, will be broadcast on one of ESPN’s myriad platforms. Also from the release:

The Marathon MAC Football Championship Game and the MAC football regular season is the foundation for the national deal with ESPN. The 2014 MAC football regular season will be highlighted by national coverage of 14 mid-week games during the month of November on ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3 as the Conference race unfolds in both the East and West divisions. The Marathon MAC Football Championship Game on Friday, Dec. 5 at 7 pm ET will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

“This is a historic day for the Mid-American Conference,” said MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher. “ESPN and the MAC have a long history together and were visionary in embracing mid-week football which continues to be a significant presence on the ESPN college football calendar. The length of this partnership brings long-term stability for the Conference well into the next decade.”

While no specific financial terms have been released, it’s believed the MAC’s new deal will put it on par with other non-Power Five conferences such as Conference USA and the Mountain West.

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After leaving Cal football for Cal rugby, Sione Sina moves on to Utah

Sione Sina

Sione Sina left the Cal football team prior to spring practice earlier this year and joined the Cal rugby team, taking part as a starter in the national championship game of that sport this past May.  Three months later, it appears Sina has come back to football, albeit at a different Pac-12 institution.

Multiple media outlets have reported that Siena has transferred into the Utah football program and will play for the Utes.  Because he has already graduated from Cal, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Well, technically he’s eligible to play, although his recent past suggests it’s up in the air whether he’ll actually be healthy enough to take the field.

A three-star JUCO signee in the Class of 2013 and mid-year enrollee, Sina neither participated in spring practice nor played that season due to unspecified injuries.  Injuries, again unspecified, kept him out of spring practice, specifically the contact portion, the following year as well.

He played in the second game of the 2014 season against Sacramento State, but did not play again because, well, you know.

(Photo credit: Cal athletics)

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Charlotte OL coach Phil Ratliff hospitalized after ‘cardiac event’

Phil Ratliff

As Charlotte gets set to embark on its first season at the FBS level, one member of head coach Brad Lambert‘s coaching staff suffered a health event that could impact at least his short-term availability for the 49ers.

The university announced Tuesday that offensive line coach Phil Ratliff was hospitalized Monday evening after suffering what was described as a cardiac event. “The Ratliff family and the 49ers football program are thankful for the many prayers and well-wishes being sent their way by friends, family and fans,” the school wrote in its release.

“Complete details are not available at this time and we urge individuals to avoid speculation out of respect for the family,” the release added.

The 44-year-old Ratliff has been an assistant at Charlotte since 2012, one year prior to the program’s first season at the FCS level. Prior to Charlotte, he had served as a tight ends coach at Marshall, his alma mater where he was a two-time All-American lineman in his playing days.

(Photo credit: Charlotte athletics)

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Irish’s second-leading ’14 rusher declared academically ineligible

Purdue v Notre Dame

Academics has once again claimed a key member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The father of Greg Bryant confirmed to IrishIllustrated.com that his son has been declared academically ineligible and will not play for the Irish in 2015.  Greg Bryant Sr. added that his running back son will not be reporting with the team for summer camp, although he will return to campus as a student later this month.

What his football future holds beyond that is unclear, whether he sits a season and returns next year like Everett Golson or if he transfers out as others before him have done.

Back in June, it was reported that Bryant would be suspended for the first four games of the year, with the speculation on that punitive matter centering on academics.   At least according to the father, Bryant was thiiis close to making the grade.

Regardless of how close he was, Bryant’s absence will serve as somewhat of a blow to the Irish ground attack.

Last season, Bryant’s 289 yards rushing were good for second on the team.  As our own JJ Stankevitz explained at the time of the initial report, though, the loss Bryant does not necessarily serve as a death knell for that facet of the offense, although that was in the context of a four-game suspension and not a season-long loss.

While the optics of suspending a former big-time recruit aren’t good, there’s reason to think Notre Dame can absorb his absence with the backfield combination of [quarterback Malik] Zaire, Tarean Folston and C.J. Prosise. In a 31-28 Music City Bowl win over LSU, those three players handled 46 of Notre Dame’s 51 carries and totaled 244 of its 263 yards.

UPDATED 4:44 p.m. ET: In a statement, head coach Brian Kelly confirmed that Bryant will not play for Notre Dame in 2015.

“There are certain expectations within our program that must be met on a daily basis,” Kelly said, adding, “quite simply, Greg did not meet those expectations.”

The school added that Bryant will remain on scholarship and can practice with the Irish, but he will not occupy a spot on the 105-man roster.

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Travel stipends extended to CFP semifinals, too

College Football Playoff National Championship - Media Day

Last year, amidst a mini uproar, the College Football Playoff announced that it would be helping families defray the costs of traveling to the inaugural championship game.  Ahead of the start of the second season with a playoff system in place, that defraying has been extended.

The CFP announced in a press release “that it will expand its program to offset expenses for student-athletes’ parents or guardians to travel to the Playoff Semifinals this season.” A $2,500 stipend per student-athlete will be doled out to up to 100 families from each of the four semifinalists to help with expenses for hotel accommodations, travel and meals.

The $2,500 stipend per student-athlete family for the CFP championship game will remain in place as well.

“We were pleased to implement this expense-reimbursement program for the first College Football Playoff National Championship and we received warm and sincere positive feedback from the family members,” said Bill Hancock, executive director of the CFP, in a statement. “Extending support to the Playoff Semifinals will be another terrific benefit for folks who will be thrilled to be present to celebrate the accomplishments and experiences of their student-athletes.”

This year’s semifinals will be the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl. The 2015 title game will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

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Wake officially adds Wisconsin grad transfer Devin Gaulden

Devin Gaulden, Brandon Reilly

Earlier today Wake Forest announced that defensive back Thomas Brown has been suspended for the 2015 opener.  A short time later, they announced the addition of a player who could potentially take his place.

Following up on speculation from the last couple of days, Wake confirmed in a press release that it has officially added Devin Gaulden to its football roster.  Gaulden, a defensive back, decided late last month to transfer from Wisconsin.

Because Gaulden has already received his degree from UW, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2015 as a grad transfer.

A three-star member of the Badgers’ 2011 recruiting class, Gaulden played in six games as a true freshman.  He missed all but the first four games of the 2012 season and the entire 2013 season because of knee issues.

Returning to play in all 14 games in 2014, he started five of those contests.

Because of the injury issues, there’s a distinct possibility Gaulden could receive a medical hardship waiver that would give him a sixth season of eligibility that would be used in 2016.  Wake has yet to address whether a waiver will be pursued.

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UGA, South Carolina open camp with QB question marks

Mark Richt, Steve Spurrier

For the past few years, both Georgia and South Carolina had a firm grasp on just who would be their starting quarterback entering summer camp.  This time around, though, both are entering somewhat unfamiliar territory.

The Bulldogs and Gamecocks opened Summer Camp 2015 Tuesday, with the former commencing a three-man quarterback competition and the latter a four-man.  Mark Richt might have a bit of an advantage on his counterpart in Columbia, though, as the UGA head coach at least has a quarterback who has started a game at this level of football.

Greyson Lambert transferred to UGA earlier this offseason from Virginia, where he started nine of 12 games in 2014.  While Lambert may have an edge in experience, his play was spotty at best for the Cavaliers — 11 interceptions, 10 touchdowns — leading some (most?) observers to tap Brice Ramsey as the front-runner, with the graduate transfer with two years of eligibility potentially battling Faton Bauta for the backup spot.

For now, though, all three of the potential starters are starting dead-even in the eyes of the coaching staff — and that’s expected to remain that way for the foreseeable future, at least until one grabs the job and runs away with it.

“We’re going to rotate the top three guys, the three scholarship quarterbacks,” Richt said in quotes distributed by the school. “We’re going to rotate them one guy with the first unit, one guy with the second unit, one guy with the third unit, rotating it around on a day‑to‑day basis until we think it should stop.

“[The competition] could go all the way to the first game. At some point we may drop it to a two‑man race. It’s just hard to say how it’s going to go. But that’s our starting point.”

As for Steve Spurrier, he’s in the early stages of sifting through his four-horse race, a field that includes Connor Mitch, Lorenzo Nunez, Perry Orth and Michael Scarnecchia.  That foursome has combined to attempt nine collegiate passes, with Mitch responsible for six of them as Dylan Thompson‘s primary backup last season and Orth the other three.

Quarterback, though, is just one position of interest to the Ol’ Ball Coach.

“The quarterback battle is going on,” said Spurrier. “Like I told them, we’re charting everything. A lot of jobs are up for grabs. We had two huddles – two offenses and two defenses going rapid fire. Hopefully we’ll be doing that all week. We had more guys getting snaps. We didn’t have a lot of “watchers” here today.”

Both Richt and Spurrier would like a decision sooner rather than later to give the starter extended time working with the first-team offense ahead of their respective openers, but neither will rush a decision just for the sake of making one. At least as far as Richt is concerned, though, decision-making will play a key role in who emerges as the starter when the trigger on a decision is pulled.

“We’re obviously talking to them about the things that are important, about quarterback play. We’re not necessarily saying, this is what you have to do to win the job, per se, but this is what you have to do to become the best quarterback you can be,” Richt explained. “That’s the goal for everybody: to be the best quarterback, linebacker, safety, running back, whatever it is. We’re all trying to perfect our trade, so to speak. We talk about in terms of perfecting your trade.

“The more you know about your position, the more you are prepared, the faster you can play, and you’ll make better decisions as a quarterback if you get in a good habit of how you think, how you progress through your reads. Even your fundamentals, the balance that you have when you throw the football, all those things together help you become the best you can be. That’s what we’re hoping for for everybody.”

USC will open the season Thursday, Sept, 3, against North Carolina in Charlotte, while UGA opens two days later at home against Louisiana-Monroe.  Two weeks later, the Bulldogs will host the Gamecocks in Athens in a key SEC East clash.

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Parking karma comes back and bites Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer AP

The parking space gods can be a ruthless and vindictive group, even if you happen to be the head football coach of the defending national champions.

Back in mid-June, kicker Jack Willoughby, who transferred to Ohio State from Duke a couple of months earlier, had the audacity to park in a spot reserved for Urban Meyer.  As most would do when put into this situation, Meyer decided to teach the young man a lesson that you don’t mess with a football coach’s perks.

Fast-forward a couple of months, and Meyer decided, for whatever reason, to park in Jacoby Boren‘s parking spot.  The Buckeye offensive lineman then decided to give his coach a tough-love taste of his own parking medicine.

Karma: just as vindictive and ruthless as the parking space gods.

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Wake suspends one starter for five games, another for opener

Duke v Wake Forest Getty Images

Just a couple of days before summer camp opens, Wake Forest has meted out punishment that will impact both its offensive line and defensive secondary once the 2015 season kicks off.

The football program announced in a press release that Ryan Anderson has been suspended for the first five games of the 2015 season for violating unspecified team rules.  The redshirt freshman offensive lineman will miss games against Elon, Syracuse, Army Indiana and Florida State before being eligible to return for the Oct. 10 road trip to Boston College.

Prior to his suspension, Anderson was viewed as the likely starter at center for the Demon Deacons.

In addition to Anderson, Wake also announced that Thomas Brown will be suspended for the opener against Elon for, you guessed it, violating unspecified team rules.  The junior was slated to be one of Wake’s starting safeties.

The past two seasons, Brown has played in 23 games as a backup defensive back.  As a true freshman in 2013, he returned a fumble 59 yards against Duke to give Wake a 7-0 lead in an eventual 28-21 loss.

Both Brown and Anderson will be permitted to practice with the team during their respective suspensions.

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All-American: Cincinnati overwhelming AAC media favorite

Tommy Tuberville

As far as the media is concerned, there’s no doubt Cincinnati will be hoisting a new trophy to go along with its new duds.

In a poll of 30 beat writers covering the league, the Bearcats, one of three co-champions in 2014, were tapped by 22 of them to claim the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship game.  The only others receiving votes were Memphis (five), Houston (two) and UCF (one).  Memphis and UCF were co-champions along with Cincinnati last season.

Not surprisingly, UC is the overwhelming favorite to win the East Division as well, garnering 29 of the 30 first-place votes.  The only other team to earn a nod in that division was UCF.

The West Division was much closer, with Memphis (13), Houston (10) and Navy (seven) all receiving first-place votes.  The Midshipmen will be entering its first season ever as a member of a conference after 134 years as a football independent.

Below are the complete media preseason voting results.

AAC Preseason Poll

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Frank Solich adds new assistant to Ohio coaching staff

Anthony Perkins

With summer camp right around the corner, Frank Solich has made an addition to his Ohio University football staff.

The Bobcats announced in a press release Monday that Anthony Perkins has been added as Solich’s cornerbacks coach.  Perkins will replace James Ward, who coached the same position the past two seasons before departing the program in late June.

No official reason for Ward’s departure has been given.

“We are excited to have Anthony join our staff,” Solich said in a statement. “He is an up-and-coming young coach and we are excited to have him get to work with our core of cornerbacks.”

Perkins spent the past two seasons at FCS Indiana State. He played his college football at Colorado in a career that ended in 2011, capping his time as a Buffalo as one of four senior captains.

(Photo credit: Indiana State athletics)

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4-star-signee-turned-MLBer-turned-walk-on appears done at Miss. St.

Rashun Dixon

It seems as if Rashun Dixon‘s long, lengthy journey from touted football prospect to drafted baseball prospect to football hopeful yet again in Starkville has come to an unofficial end.

Mississippi State players reported for summer camp over the weekend and commenced practice in earnest for the 2015 season Monday.  One of those not present was the sophomore tight end Dixon, whose name is not a part of MSU’s online roster.

On his Twitter account late last month, Dixon indicated that he was back on the Left Coast.

Dixon played in two games last season, but it’s his back story — and his status as a legacy player — that makes his apparent departure noteworthy.

In 2008, Dixon was a four-star member of MSU’s recruiting class, the last of Sylvester Croom‘s tenure.  Dixon never suited up for the Bulldogs, however, as he was drafted in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Oakland Athletics and embarked on a career in professional baseball.  He batted in the neighborhood of .250 during his time with the organization and was ultimately released.

Six years after his initial flirtation with football, the 23-year-old Dixon decided to return to the Bulldogs as a walk-on player.  He played in two games during the 2014 season.

Dixon is the younger brother of Anthony Dixon, who led MSU in rushing every year from 2007-09.  He’s also the brother of Deshun Dixon, a Bulldog walk-on who was arrested in late April and charged with driving under the influence.  He’s not currently listed on MSU’s online roster.

(Photo credit: Mississippi State athletics)

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After sitting out 2014, Temple WR Anderson ruled eligible for 2015

Robby Anderson

Temple’s offense should be getting back a key contributor this fall, and he should be well rested. Robby Anderson, who was not with the Owls in 2014, has been ruled eligible to play again this fall.

Temple head coach Matt Rhule learned of the eligibility update from the NCAA Monday evening as he and other Temple representatives were gathering in Rhode Island for the start of American Athletic Conference media day festivities.

“I am elated,” Rhule said (per Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com). “I love the kid and just on a personal level, even when it looked like he wasn’t coming back, I maintained a relationship.”

Anderson was not enrolled at Temple last season, so he worked on improving his academic standing with junior college classes. After completing junior college requirements, Anderson enrolled back at Temple for summer classes. The NCAA approved of his academic improvement and ruled him eligible as a result.

Anderson led the Owls in receiving in 2013 with 791 yards and nine touchdowns. If he can mimic that level of success, he should once again be the top target for Temple quarterback P.J. Walker this season. Temple has a chance to have a successful season this year with a respected defense and growing and maturing Walker under center leading the offense. If Anderson steps right in to be the go-to receiver after sitting out the 2014 season, Temple’s potential could be worth monitoring in the American Athletic Conference.

Temple will open the season at home on September 5 against Penn State.

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SMU adds former Gamecock to defensive line

Pharoh Cooper, Cody Gibson, Deon Green, Rory Anderson

SMU enters the 2015 season with a new head coach in Chad Morris and plenty of room for improvement across the roster. The defensive line may have just gotten a little better on Monday, thanks to the summer arrival of a former South Carolina Gamecock.

Deon Green has formally been added to the roster at SMU, as evidenced by his inclusion on the team’s official roster Monday. Green missed out on playing in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons due to a knee injury that required surgery and a good amount of rehab work. He appeared in just two games in 2013 and recorded just four tackles for the Gamecocks last fall. He made the decision to transfer in January and was one of many South Carolina players to do so.

Green was a three-star recruit out of high school. The Orlando native will finally have a chance to compete and play a key role on his new team. SMU’s defense was 113th in the nation in total sacks, 117th against the run and 124th in tackles for loss last season. For reference, there were 128 FBS programs last season.

Helmet sticker to The Dallas Morning News.

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Assault charges filed against Ex-Utah CB Dominique Hatfield

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl - Utah v Colorado State Getty Images

The latest development in the off-field saga surrounding former Utah Ute defensive back Dominique Hatfield comes in the form of formal police charges. Hatfield has been charged with misdemeanor assault stemming from his involvement in a fight during a party in July. A police investigation is still ongoing.

A probable cause statement accuses Hatfield of refusing to stop rolling marijuana after being asked to stop. As the exchange escalated, Hatfield and others allegedly grabbed the victim and striking him in the face and other parts of the body, per a report from KSL.com. The victim had cuts on his face and nose as well as some bruising around the eyes, shoulder and back.

Utah recently dismissed Hatfield from the program amid the initial allegations and connection to the fight. The dismissal followed an initial suspension from the team, and was based on information gathered related to the incident. Despite being dismissed, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham seemingly left the door open for a possible return to the program for Hatfield. How this latest information changes that outlook is probably not very promising.

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Pitt suspends WR Tyler Boyd for season opener

Tyler Boyd

One of the top offensive players in the ACC will have to sit out the season opener. On Monday, Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi announced the suspension of wide receiver Tyler Boyd from the September 5 home game against Youngstown State. Sophomore defensive lineman Rori Blair will also sit out the game due to disciplinary action.

“In addition to their game suspensions, Tyler and Rori have been, and will continue to be, subject to internal discipline and accountability,” Narduzzi said in a released statement. “The situations were very disappointing and both young men have expressed their regret. Our expectation is that each of them, as well as our entire team, will learn from their mistakes and be better for it moving forward.”

Boyd was given 12 months probation following a driving under the influence charge back in June. He was suspended by the program and has since been allowed to return to the team. Boyd led the ACC in receiving with 1,261 receiving yards last fall and was named to the All-ACC preseason First Team at the recent ACC media day event in North Carolina.

The absence of Boyd will likely have a minimal impact on Pitt’s chances to win the season opener, which will also be the debut of former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini with his new program. Having Boyd out of action is a blow to Pitt’s offense, but hardly enough of one that should put the Panthers at risk of losing to the Penguins in the first game of the season. Youngstown State did topple the Panthers in 2012 though, so who knows!

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