Old Dominion Monarchs

RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 17: David Washington #10 of the Old Dominion Monarchs hands off to Ray Lawry #33 against the NC State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
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Virginia budget keeps Old Dominion stadium expansion on the books

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Stadium renovation stories are flying all over the place these days, and Old Dominion is not going to be left out of the fun. A stadium renovation proposal made last June managed to stay a part of the Virginia House and Senate budget proposals, a sign everything continues to be on schedule for the university to move forward with its renovation plans.

“They have come to Richmond and made a good case,” Virginia Senator Frank Wagner said, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “This is not going to involve any student fee increases or any additional money. It’s fiscally prudent. Everything appears to be a go.”

The budgets are to be reviewed by the end of the month of February before the adjournment of the General Assembly.

The proposed plan is to tear down the existing football stadium and rebuild from scratch to increase the seating capacity to 22,130 (from 20,118). The plan can be done without raising student fees, which is a welcome move in a time when the cost of attending college is increasing.

The plan for Old Dominion is to tear down the stands currently residing at Foreman Field at the conclusion of the 2018 football season and rebuild modern seats in its place in time to open the 2019 season. The project is slated to cost about $55 million. This would be the first p[art of a grand master plan for stadium expansion, with a second phase to come that would cost a reported $95 million to expand the stadium as the program continues to grow.

Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is seen during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium on October 15, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana. Stanford defeated Notre Dame 17-10. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

Shai McKenzie details restrictions Virginia Tech placed on transfer

BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Running back Shai McKenzie #22 of the Virginia Tech Hokies breaks a tackle against the Western Michigan Broncos in the second half at Lane Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Blacksburg, Virginia. Virginia Tech defeated Western Michigan 35-17. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)
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Right or wrong, but unsurprisingly, Shai McKenzie‘s departure from Blacksburg comes with some strings attached.

Nearly two weeks ago, McKenzie took to Twitter to announce his decision to transfer from Virginia Tech and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere.  On the same social media site Monday, the running back revealed that his future elsewhere won’t include any ACC schools as well as none of the teams on the Hokies’ 2017 and 2018 non-conference schedules.

The latter group includes Notre Dame, West Virginia, East Carolina, Old Dominion, Delaware and William & Mary.

A four-star 2014 recruit, only one signee was rated higher than McKenzie in Tech’s class that year.

The Pennsylvania native’s career actually began with promise as he was second on the team in rushing as a true freshman when he went down with a torn ACL in the fifth game of the season.  At that time, McKenzie had 269 yards on the ground; in the two years since, he ran for a combined 126 yards.  His 2015 season was limited to two games because of the lingering effects of the ACL injury.

Old Dominion caps first 10-win FBS season with Bahamas Bowl victory over EMU

RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 17: David Washington #10 of the Old Dominion Monarchs hands off to Ray Lawry #33 against the NC State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images
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Old Dominion (10-3) checked off a few items on the season-long to-do list for the still young FBS program. On Saturday, with a 24-20 victory over Eastern Michigan (7-6) in the Bahamas Bowl, Old Dominion capped the first 10-win season in program history since moving up the FBS and Conference USA with its first bowl victory in its first bowl game in program history. Old Dominion quarterback David Washington passed for three touchdowns and Ray Lawry rushed for 133 yards on the ground in the win for the Monarchs.

Eastern Michigan had their chances on offense against Old Dominion, but racking up 470 yards and owning the lead in time of possession was put to waste against Old Dominion. Settling for a field goal in the fourth quarter from the two-yard line and punting the ball on a fourth and eight from the Old Dominion 48-yard line with under six minutes to play gave the Monarchs a chance to put the game on ice. Eagles quarterback Brogan Roback passed for 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns to lead the Eastern Michigan offense, bringing a disappointing close to an otherwise remarkable season for the Eastern Michigan program.

Old Dominion never trailed in the game. After taking a 10-0 lead into halftime, Old Dominion had to fend off Eastern Michigan in the second half. The Eagles tied the game at 17-17 late in the third quarter but could only score a field goal while Old Dominion tacked on a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The game-winning score came on a five-yard touchdown pass from Washington to Jonathan Duhart.

At the moment, the MAC is still looking for its first bowl victory of the season after dropping to 0-3. Conference USA improved its record to 3-2 this bowl season with the Old Dominion win. Conference USA now owns bowl victories against the American Athletic Conference (Western Kentucky over Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl), MAC and Sun Belt Conference (Southern Mississippi over Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl). The lone loss of the bowl season so far came against the Mountain West Conference, with UTSA coming up three points shy against New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl. Conference USA can even its record against the Mountain West in the Hawaii Bowl when Middle Tennessee takes on Hawaii.

Old Dominion’s 2017 season kicks off on September 2 at home against Albany. The Monarchs will also host North Carolina and play at Virginia Tech in back-to-back weeks in September before diving into Conference USA play.

Eastern Michigan will get the 2017 season underway on September 2 at home against Charlotte. The Eagles also play three non-conference game son the road against Rutgers, Kentucky and Army next season.

Old Dominion holds halftime lead in first bowl appearance in school history

NASSAU, BAHAMAS - DECEMBER 10:  View of the Junkanoo Parade during CMT Story Behind The Songs LIV + Weekend at Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island - Day 3 at Sandals Royal Bahamian on December 10, 2016 in Nassau, Bahamas.  (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Sandals Royal Bahamian)
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Sandals Royal Bahamian
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Playing in the first bowl game in program history, Old Dominion is certainly not holding back in the Bahamas Bowl against Eastern Michigan. The Monarchs faked a punt on their first possession of the game and took a 10-0 lead on the Eagles with a 47-yard touchdown strike from David Washington to Zach Pascal in the second quarter.

Eastern Michigan’s first offensive possession of the game ended with Old Dominion stuffing the Eagles on a 4th and 2 attempt from the Eastern Michigan 49-yard line. But Old Dominion failed to do anything with the possession starting just inside the Eastern Michigan half of the field by going three-and-out. A brilliant punt by Bailey Cate pinned the Eagles at their own one-yard line (and probably inside their one-yard line). The Eagles ran 11 plays to work out of their own end but ended the drive with a punt. The two teams then exchanged interceptions on the next two possessions before Old Dominion took to the air to get in the end zone.

Much is made about bowl game attendance by some people, and the Bahamas Bowl is certainly not helping to change the bowl game narrative out there.

It may never happen, but I would imagine the attendance of the Bahamas Bowl would be far better if it included Alabama and Ohio State. Maybe they should put a College Football Playoff game in the Bahamas one year?