It’s been awhile, but Eastern Michigan can again say they’re going bowling.
Tuesday morning, the MAC football program announced that it has accepted a bid to play in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. EMU will face Conference USA’s Old Dominion in the Dec. 23 game.
The Bahamas Bowl will mark the Eagles’ first postseason game since the 1987 California Bowl. That had been the program’s lone bowl appearance.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to be selected to compete in the 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl,” athletic director Heather Lyke said in a statement. “We are proud to represent the MAC and expect to finish our season strong. Our coaching staff and student-athletes have worked incredibly hard to be in a position to compete in the postseason and continue to build pride in the Block E. We are thankful for all of our loyal alumni, donors, fans and our university leadership for being committed to supporting our football program.”
EMU’s seven wins are its most since winning seven in 1989, and the team will finish above .500 for the first time since 1995. The seven wins also matches the Eagles’ win total for the previous four seasons combined.
Lasts season, Chris Creighton‘s second with the school, EMU won just one game. Their six-win turnaround this season tied for the best mark in the FBS.
“Nearly a year ago our seniors set our season goal, to go to a bowl game for the first time in 29 years,” the head coach said. “We could not be more excited to accept this invitation. What an awesome experience this is going to be for everyone associated with our program.”
Including BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl, three of the 80 bowl invitations have been extended.
Though she isn’t the most visible coach on Baylor’s campus, women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey is certainly the most accomplished. In her 17th season on campus, Mulkey has led the Lady Bears to two national championships, three Final Fours, eight Big 12 championships and a run of six consecutive Sweet 16 visits.
She has mostly remained silent through the school’s ongoing sexual assault scandal, but spoke up Saturday night after an 86-48 thrashing of Texas Tech that saw Baylor clinch its seventh consecutive conference championship and Mulkey secure her 500th win in Waco.
“If somebody’s around you and they ever say, ‘I will never send my daughter to Baylor,’ you knock them right in the face,” Mulkey said.
As you’ll see in the video below, the green and gold crowd greeted that line with applause.
“Because these kids are on this campus. I work here. My daughter went to school here. And it’s the damn best school in America.”
“I’m tired of hearing it,” Mulkey explained of the comments in the post-game press conference. “I’m tired of people talking on it on a national scale that don’t know what they’re talking about. If they didn’t sit in those meetings and they weren’t a part of the investigation you’re repeating things that you’ve heard. It’s over. It’s done. It’s a great institution, and I would send my daughter here, and I’d pay for anybody else’s daughter to come here. I work here every day. I’m in the know, and I’m tired of hearing it… The problems we have at Baylor are no different as any other school in America. Period. Move on. Find another story to write.”
As a reminder, a lawsuit alleges 52 rapes were committed by Baylor football players under head coach Art Briles.
Arizona signee My-King Johnson probably caught most Wildcats’ fans attention with his impressive name when it was listed among the 23 signees for the football program on National Signing Day.
The 6-3, 225 pound defensive end’s name is set to become a little more well known however.
In a story on Saturday in the Arizona Daily Star, Johnson confirmed that he would become the first active openly gay scholarship player in FBS when he enrolls over the summer down in Tucson.
“I do feel like when I say that, it can put a target on my back,” Johnson told the paper about going public with his sexuality. “But whatever.”
Johnson is far from the only gay athlete to play major college football but does appear to be one of the first to go public on the matter prior to suiting up for a major program. Missouri’s Michael Sam came out once he entered the NFL Draft. Just up the road in Tempe, where Johnson went to high school, Arizona State walk-on Chip Sarafin told his teammates in 2014.
From the Daily Star:
When Johnson told UA assistant Vince Amey about his sexuality while being recruited, the coach’s reaction — “We want you to be a Wildcat” — was exactly what he wanted to hear.
Johnson picked the Wildcats despite offers from numerous FBS programs, including many in the Pac-12. Perhaps coincidentally, he really jumped on the radar of the coaching staff when he sacked quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, an Arizona signee himself (and the son of head coach Rich Rodriguez), three times in a high school game.
It certainly seems as though Johnson is very comfortable telling his story to a wider audience than just his teammates and coaches by doing the interview with the Daily Star and the environment down in Tucson has been very welcoming to all the new attention that it will bring. As the Wildcats begin spring practice this month, chances are the coaching staff is probably just as excited about the prospect of Johnson making an instant impact on defense this fall after seeing plenty of issues on that side of the ball during a 3-9 campaign in 2016.
Arizona has its replacement for former athletic director Greg Byrne.
Central Michigan AD Dave Heeke is set to take the same position in Tucson with the Wildcats, the school announced Saturday afternoon.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be part of the Arizona Athletics family. It is truly an honor to be named the new Vice President for Athletics and have the opportunity to return to the prestigious Pac-12 Conference,” Heeke said in a release. “I want to thank Dr. Hart and those involved with the search process for their confidence in my ability to lead one of the premiere athletics departments in the country. This program is about excellence and we will continue to focus on achieving at the very highest level athletically and academically, while creating the finest experience in the country for our student-athletes.
Heeke has been in Mount Pleasant since early 2006 and found plenty of success with the MAC school across numerous sports. In football, he notably hired Butch Jones to replace Brian Kelly when the latter left for Cincinnati and has seen the Chippewas make a bowl game eight times during his tenure.
While he is a Michigan native, he’s no stranger to the way things operate out West having spent 18 years at Oregon. While he held a variety of roles in Eugene, he eventually became a senior associate athletic director with the Ducks before departing for CMU.
Arizona had a vacancy in their athletic leadership ever since Byrne left to become Alabama’s AD not long after the national title game in January.
Spring practice is already underway in Tucson but it took until the end of this week for Arizona to finally have a complete offensive coaching staff.
The Wildcats announced on Saturday that Theron Aych would be taking over as the team’s new receivers coach, filling a vacancy created when Tony Dews left for West Virginia.
Aych helped provide a nice boost to the Miners’ passing game in his one season in El Paso and spent five seasons at Division II Angelo State prior to that. He served as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach with the Rams during his five-year stint before moving up to the FBS level.
The Pac-12 is no new experience for Aych though, as he served as a graduate assistant at Washington over a decade ago.
Aych should have his work cut out for him this spring with the team featuring plenty of young players at the receiver position while also dealing with the loss of standouts like Trey Griffey and reliable veteran Nate Phillips both gone.