Old Dominion Monarchs

HUNTINGTON, WV - DECEMBER 06: Remi Watson #8, Kevin Rodriguez #35, and Stefan Houston #3 of the Marshall Thundering Herd take the field before their game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Joan C. Edwards Stadium during the Conference USA championship game on December 6, 2014 in Huntington, West Virginia. The Thundering Herd defeated the Bulldogs 26-23. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Report: Conference USA football could return to ESPN this fall

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It’s no secret that ESPN is the front door to the college sports world, and any league that doesn’t have a foothold on the Worldwide Leader faces a serious uphill climb for coverage. See: Conference USA.

C-USA currently splits its rights between Fox Sports 1, CBS Sports Network and the American Sports Network and, unless you happen to be a fan of one of the league’s 14 teams, you probably didn’t see a game before bowl season. But that could change soon.

The conference’s television deals expire at the end of June, and Harry Minium of the Virginian-Pilot reported ESPN has become a “late but serious bidder” for a portion of the C-USA package.

A change in partners would be well received by C-USA on two fronts. First, it’s ESPN. Second, the conference isn’t raking it in as is. Minium reported Old Dominion has planned for a drop in television revenue of $600,000 to $700,000 this fall — up from the originally anticipated fall of $500,000. And ODU only received $1 million last year to begin with. The drop can be attributed to the exodus of high-wattage programs — Houston, Memphis, East Carolina — to the AAC, allowing Fox and CBS to pay below the agreed amount. Exit fees had subsidized the loss in revenue, but those funds are running dry.

Conference USA declined to comment on the state of the negotiations, but five games have already been moved to weeknights — indicated back-channel negotiations are well under way.

That Old Dominion (and, presumably, other C-USA schools) could make only $300,000 on TV rights from an entire year is, in a word, shocking. In a world where the Big Ten could secure half a billion dollars over six years for half its package, this is a nice reminder that that world isn’t open to everyone.

Virginia and Old Dominion set for future 3-game set

Virginia fans cheer on the Cavaliers after they scored a fourth quarter touchdown against Georgia State in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Ryan M. Kelly)
AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Ryan M. Kelly
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Old Dominion’s push to add nearby ACC programs to its schedule continues with the addition of a three-game set with Virginia. The two schools announced a three-game scheduling agreement that will see Virginia get two home games and play one game at Old Dominion.

Virginia will host Conference USA’s Old Dominion on November 17, 2018 and again on September 17, 2022. Old Dominion will welcome Virginia to Norfolk on November 21, 2020. According to The Virginian Pilot, Virginia will pay Old Dominion $400,000 per home game (Old Dominion will not pay Virginia for its home game).

Old Dominion has done a solid job of locking up contracts with multiple ACC opponents for years to come. The Monarchs visit NC State this fall in the second half of a home-and-home deal. Old Dominion has a home-and-home deal with North Carolina kicking off in 2017 and concluding in 2020. In between is a home-and-home deal with Virginia Tech as part of a long-term scheduling agreement. Wake Forest is also added for a home-and-home series in 2019 and 2020 (which means three ACC opponents for Old Dominion in 2020).

Old Dominion has tried sticking to straight home-and-home deals but the financial strain that leads to inevitably took a toll and influenced the decision to concede a home game against Virginia. Part of that appears to be the expected reduction in television revenue coming for Conference USA. Per The Virginian Pilot;

Conference USA officials recently learned that new TV contracts that go into effect in July will reduce the league’s revenue by about $500,000 per school per year. In addition, ODU is set to begin paying athletes stipends in August that are part of the so-called full cost of attendance. The stipends, which pay for cell phones, entertainment and travel not included in scholarships, will cost ODU about $800,000 per year.

With that in mind, it might not be a shock to see Old Dominion’s next scheduling agreement with a power conference opponent come with an extra road game as well.

WKU QB Brandon Doughty headlines All-Conference USA team

WKU wins 35-19 over FAU
The Associated Press
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League champions Western Kentucky led the All-Conference USA team with six First Team announcements, but runner-up Southern Miss placed the most overall players on the first and second teams with 10.

Louisiana Tech posted nine first- and second-team honorees, followed by WKU with eight.

And new North Texas head coach Seth Littrell, in his second day on the job, got a reminder why he’s in Denton, as the Mean Green were shut out of the first- and second-teams for the first time since 1957.

The first and second teams can be found below:

First Team Offense

QB — Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky, Sr.
RB — Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech, Sr.
RB — Jalen Richard, Southern Miss, Sr.
OL — Sebastian Johansson, Marshall, Sr.
OL — Jaylen Hunter, Middle Tennessee, Sr.
OL — Andrew Reue, Rice, Sr.
OL — Cameron Tom, Southern Miss, Jr.
OL — Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky, Jr.
TE — Tyler Higbee, Western Kentucky, Sr.
WR — Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech, Jr.
WR — Richie James, Middle Tennessee, Fr.
WR — Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky, Jr.

First Team Defense

DL — Michael Wakefield, Florida International, Sr.
DL — Trevon Coley, Florida Atlantic, Sr.
DL — Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic, Jr.
DL — Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech, Sr.
LB — Evan McKelvey, Marshall, Sr.
LB — T.T. Barber, Middle Tennessee, Sr.
LB — Nick Holt, Western Kentucky, Sr.
DB — Richard Leonard, Florida International, Sr.
DB — Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech, Jr.
DB — Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee, Sr.
DB — Kalan Reed, Southern Miss, Sr.

First Team Specialists

K — Garrett Schwettman, Western Kentucky, Sr.
P — Dalton Schomp, Florida Atlantic, Jr.
KR — Deandre Reaves, Marshall, Sr.
PR — Richard Leonard, Florida International, Sr.
LS — Lance Schuffert, Southern Miss, Sr.

Second Team Offense

QB — Nick Mullens, Southern Miss, Jr.
RB — Kalif Phillips, Charlotte, Jr.
RB — Ray Lawry, Old Dominion, So.
RB — Ito Smith, Southern Miss, So.
RB — Anthony Wales, Western Kentucky, Jr.
OL — Michael Montero, Florida International, Jr.
OL — Reggie Bain, Florida Atlantic, So.
OL — Darrell Brown, Louisiana Tech, Jr.
OL — Jens Danielsen, Louisiana Tech, Sr.
OL — Michael Selby, Marshall, Jr.
OL — Rashod Hill, Southern Miss, Sr.
TE — David Morgan II, UTSA, Sr.
WR — Ed Batties, Middle Tennessee, Sr.
WR — Zach Pascal, Old Dominion, Jr.
WR — Mike Thomas, Southern Miss, Sr.

Second Team Defense

DL — Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte, Jr.
DL — Jarquez Samuel, Marshall, Sr.
DL — Michael Smith, Southern Miss, Sr.
DL — Jason Neill, UTSA, Sr.
LB — Anthony Wint, Florida International, So.
LB — Nick Thomason, Louisiana Tech, Sr.
LB — T.J. Ricks, Old Dominion, Jr.
LB — Brian Anderson, Southern Miss, Sr.
DB — Cre’von LeBlanc, Florida Atlantic, Sr.
DB — Bryson Abraham, Louisiana Tech, Sr.
DB — Jeremy Cutrer, Middle Tennessee, Jr.
DB — Bennett Okotcha, UTSA, Sr.

Second Team Specialists

K — Jonathan Barnes, Louisiana Tech, So.
P — Tyler Williams, Marshall, Sr.
KR — Kylen Towner, Western Kentucky, So.
PR — Deandre Reaves, Marshall, Sr.
LS — Matt Cincotta, Marshall, Sr.

The top rushing performance you may have missed in Week 1

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The 2015 season is supposed to be a big season for young running backs. You know the heavy hitters already — Nick Chubb, Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette etc. — but here’s one you may not know. There were plenty of performances worth recognizing after the first weekend of college football was put in the books. One you may have overlooked was Old Dominion running back Ray Lawry. Against Eastern Michigan, Lawry rushed for 223 yards and four touchdowns, both new career highs for the sophomore. Both are numbers that now lead the nation out of the gates of a brand new college football season.

The New Jersey native came through in a big way for Old Dominion by rushing for a 45 yards for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the game Lawry broke loose on a 54-yard touchdown run too. It would seem, perhaps depending on the opponent, Old Dominion has a little home-run threat to utilize in the running game. Time will tell how effective he is on a regular basis once Old Dominion’s schedule gets a little tougher. That will not happen this week, with Norfolk State coming to town. The following week though, against North Carolina State, could be different. Old Dominion pushed NC State last season in Raleigh, and now Old Dominion gets a chance to score an upset win over the ACC opponent on their home field. Lawry should play a key role in that upset bid.

Lawry did not go unrecognized by Conference USA. On Monday the conference awarded him Offensive Player of the Week. He ended his day just one yard shy of the school record for single-game rushing yards. Lawry should once again be able to pile up some big numbers this weekend as Old Dominion hosts Norfolk State. The Spartans were just routed by Rutgers in the season opener, and should have their hands full once again with Old Dominion’s ground attack.

Lawry rushed for 947 yards and 16 touchdowns last season for Old Dominion, as the program underwent its transition year from FCS to FBS. He ended the season with a career-high 213 rushing yards in the last game of the season against FAU and set his single-game rushing touchdown bar of four touchdowns earlier in the year at Western Kentucky.

Shad Thornton, NCSU’s leading rusher, hit with two-game suspension

Tyler Hunter, Shadrach Thornton
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In what’s become an annual tradition in Raleigh, North Carolina State’s top running back has once again found himself in his coach’s doghouse.

Dave Doeren announced Thursday that Shadrach Thornton has been suspended for the first two games of the 2015 season.  The head coach declined to go into detail, allowing only that the issue responsible for the situation occurred six months ago.  The Raleigh News & Observer writes that “[t]he only outstanding legal charges against Thornton are minor traffic infractions.”

Because of the suspension, the senior back will miss the opener against Troy and the Week 2 matchup with Eastern Kentucky. He’ll return for the following week’s game at Old Dominion.

Thornton has led the Wolfpack in rushing each of the last three seasons, with his totals increasing from 694 yards to 798 to 907 last season. Earlier this month, he was named first-team All-ACC.

However, he’s had a hard time staying in the coaching staff’s good graces. In 2013, he was suspended for the opener after being charged with violence against a female. He was indefinitely suspended in December of that year for another run-in with the law, and reinstated in August of last year.

UPDATED 1:26 pm. ET: And now we have the alleged reason behind Thornton’s suspension.