Western Kentucky pulls away for first Conference USA championship

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Western Kentucky (11-2, 8-0 Conference USA) needed some big plays late in the first half to pull even with Southern Mississippi (9-3, 7-1 Conference USA), but it was all Hilltoppers in the second half as the home team captured its first Conference USA championship in school history.

WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty passed for 410 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another score in the conference championship victory. Western Kentucky’s defense made plays as well, forcing four Southern Mississippi turnovers in the win. That included three interceptions of Nick Mullens. For WKU, Doughty’s top target was Taywan Taylor, who ended the game with 165 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. D’Andre Ferby helped ice the game for Western Kentucky with a pair of rushing touchdowns.

Western Kentucky added on to its school record for wins in a single season since jumping up to the FBS by picking up its 11th win of the season. Before winning 10 game sin the regular season this fall, the most wins WKU had in a season since making the move up was eight wins, which were earned each of the past two seasons.

The result of the win could also help keep WKU head coach Jeff Brohm on the radar for future coaching searches. Brohm will get a chance to pick up his second bowl win in as many seasons as a head coach.

Despite taking the loss in the conference championship game, there should be no reason to be disappointed at Southern Mississippi. Head coach Todd Monken has done an admirable job turning things around with the program since taking over in 2013. A year after Larry Fedora left for UNC after winning the Conference USA championship, Southern Miss went 0-12 in 2012. Monken won just one game in his first season and three game sin his second. The foundation appeared to be laid and the growing pains worked out for a nine-win season this fall and a chance to win a 10th game once again in a bowl game.

Penn State trustee says he’s ‘running out of patience’ with ‘so-called victims’ of Jerry Sandusky

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With Baylor seemingly running away with the title of most embarrassing university in collegiate athletics, a Penn State trustee has said “hold my beer.”

Friday, former Penn State president Graham Spanier was found guilty on one count of endangering the welfare of children in a trial related to his role in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.  In an email to the Chronicle of Higher Education this week, PSU trustee Albert Lord had sharp words for the victims of Sandusky, who was found guilty on 45 of 48 child-sex abuse charges in June of 2012 and is currently serving a sentence of at least 30 years.

“Running out of sympathy for 35 yr old, so-called victims with 7 digit net worth,” the trustee wrote in a portion of the email. “Do not understand why they were so prominent in trial. As you learned, Graham Spanier never knew Sandusky abused anyone.”

Spanier was found not guilty on two other charges, a second count of child endangerment and one count of criminal conspiracy.

In a statement, the chairman of the school’s board of trustees, Ira Lubert, attempted to distance the body from Lord’s comments.

“Al Lord’s comments are personal and do not represent the opinions of the board or the university.”

Sun Belt commish issues statement on Arkansas gun law

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A highly-charged state law continues to garner the attention of the college football world.

Last week, the state of Arkansas legislature passed a law (House Bill 1249) that would allow concealed-carry handguns on publicly-owned property, which would include college sporting events.  A day later, and after realizing, amidst considerable controversy, the potential for alcohol-fueled fans to attend an SEC football game armed, the state’s senate voted to amend the law to exclude college sporting events.

The amendment still must pass through the House of Representatives, leading SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, with the University of Arkansas as a member of his conference, to release a statement Tuesday that was no doubt meant to apply pressure ahead of the vote.  Thursday, the Sun Belt’s commissioner, Karl Benson, followed suit out of concern for his membership, including Arkansas State in football.

During the last week I have followed closely the news articles regarding Arkansas House Bill 1249, and now also a potential amendment to what is now Act 562. Given that both the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Arkansas State University are members of the Sun Belt Conference — and as my colleague Greg Sankey of the Southeastern Conference has stated — I too support the Arkansas State Senate’s exemption in Senate Bill 724 that would prevent firearms from being allowed inside publicly funded stadiums and arenas in the State of Arkansas.

It’s unclear when the House will vote on the amendment.  Regardless of which version of thew law is finally agreed upon, it will go into effect Sept. 1.

Arkansas opens its 2017 season Sept. 2 against Florida A&M in Fayetteville.  Arkansas State’s home opener is a week later against the Miami (Fla.).

Foot injury could sideline Auburn’s Tashawn Manning for rest of spring

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After kicking cancer’s ass, this latest health issue hardly qualifies as a big deal.  Still, it’s a thing.

Tashawn Manning has been battling an unspecified foot injury of late, which has limited the defensive tackle’s availability for most of the first two-thirds of Auburn’s spring practice sessions.  With just five practices remaining, Manning could very well be sidelined for al of them.

“The problem is this is Day 9 and Saturday will be Day 11, so there’s a probability” that the player will not see the field for what remains of spring practice, Manning’s position coach, Rodney Garner, said according to al.com.

Around Thanksgiving of 2015, Manning, then an Auburn verbal commit, was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia.  In July of last year, he was finished with chemotherapy and declared cancer-free.

The defensive lineman didn’t play at all last season, instead taking online classes as he built up his strength as well as his weight after losing more than 60 pounds because of the chemo.  In January, he enrolled at AU and, two months later, was cleared to participate in the spring.

Suspended Mich. St. staffer receives one-MONTH contract extension

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A disturbing situation in East Lansing has added a head-scratching twist.

According to ESPN.com, and by way of a Freedom of Information request, Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell was on the receiving end of a one-month contract extension earlier this month.  Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance, was set to see his contract expire at the end of this week.

What makes this development noteworthy is that Blackwell has been indefinitely suspended by the Spartans since early February.

Around that time, it was confirmed by the university that three still-unnamed MSU football players had been suspended after allegations of sexual assault were made against them last month.  An unnamed football staffer was suspended at the time as well; that staffer was subsequently identified as Blackwell.

A police investigation, as well as a Title IX probe, into the allegations continue.  Blackwell is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault, but rather a non-sexual crime that’s connected to the investigation.

Mark Dantonio hadn’t spoken publicly about the allegations until earlier this week, and the head coach probably would’ve been better served to have kept it that way.