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Sun Belt announces new eight-year deal with ESPN running through 2027 season

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The four letter is signing up for more #FunBelt.

The Sun Belt conference announced on Thursday that they have agreed to a new eight-year contract with ESPN that will run through the 2027 football season and the 2027-28 academic year.

“The continuation of our agreement with ESPN marks one of the most historic announcements since the Sun Belt’s founding in 1976,” Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said in a statement.  “This is truly an ‘all in’ collaboration with ESPN, the Sun Belt, and our member institutions and the volume and accessibility of our games will have a profound impact on the future of the Sun Belt.  We have enjoyed a long relationship with ESPN since its founding in 1979 and we look forward to being featured on its newest platform, ESPN+, which promises to revolutionize how audiences view content.”

Most notably, it was confirmed that the inaugural Sun Belt Football Championship Game will be played on Saturday, December 1st and will be televised on either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2. Future championship games will also be on one of the three networks after the conference moved to a divisional format starting in 2018. The new deal also includes a guarantee that all Sun Belt home football games will be available on an ESPN platform and that at least 10 games will be televised on either ABC or one of the ESPN cable networks.

Naturally, many of the league’s other sports such as men’s basketball were also covered under the umbrella of the new contract. The bulk of those games from women’s basketball to soccer and beyond will wind up on the new ESPN+ streaming platform that the Disney-owned company is launching in the coming weeks.

No monetary terms were announced as part of the deal but it’s safe to assume that the TV revenues won’t be in the same ballpark as their Power Five peers such as the SEC or ACC. Still, given the challenges we’ve seen in the Mountain West and Conference USA (among others) in this new media environment, it seems the Sun Belt has locked up a quality partnership with ESPN for the long-term and granted some stability for the league in the coming years.

Idaho prepares Kibbie Dome for FBS swan song

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On Saturday, the Idaho Vandals will host their final game as an FBS member in the Kibbie Dome, the lovable little domed stadium that had a bit of a cult following. With the Vandals preparing to make an unprecedented move down to the Football Championship Subdivision, the Kibbie Dome is not going anywhere, but the chance to appreciate it for its quirkiness as an FBS stadium is now or never.

What makes the Kibbie Dome unique is it was actually originally constructed as an outdoor stadium. The concrete structure became the home to Idaho football in October 1971 over the site of the school’s previous football stadium. After the 1974 season, however, the stadium was enclosed with a rood that mimics the look of an aircraft hanger. That led to quite a unique atmosphere that trapped the sound inside the stadium and made the gameday scene fell more compact. The stadium only ever held 16,000 fans for football, although it set a record with nearly 20,000 fans for a home football game against Boise State in 1989.

The Kibbie Dome was Idaho’s version of Syracuse’s Carrier Dome, in that it served multiple purposes. In addition to football, the Kibbie Dome has hosted basketball and other sporting events like track and field and tennis. Unlike the Carrier Dome, however, the Kibbie Dome was designed to let in natural sunlight. Some more modern dome stadiums with a larger budget have incorporated similar lighting features in more recent years, which suggests the Kibbie Dome was actually ahead of its time in one way.

For years, the Kibbie Dome has been the smallest stadium in the FBS. That is no longer be the case, courtesy of Idaho’s opponent this weekend. The new title of smallest FBS stadium will belong to Coastal Carolina. Brooks Stadium currently has a seating capacity of 15,000, although Coastal Carolina’s jump up to the FBS will lead to eventual stadium upgrades and renovations that should increase the capacity to some degree.

Farewell, Kibbie Dome. It was fun while it lasted. May the memories continue in the FCS.

Seven 2016 finalists headline Manning Award preseason watch list

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This is the last preseason watch list you’ll have to endure this year. I promise. I think.

Wednesday, the Manning Award released its list of the top 30 quarterbacks in the country, although a player not on this initial list is not necessarily precluded from winning the award. This is the only major award, it should be noted, that is handed out after the bowls, and is named in honor of the quarterbacking triumvirate of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.

Highlighting this year’s list are seven of the 10 finalists from a year ago: J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Jake Browning (Washington), Sam Darnold (USC), Luke Falk (Washington State), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Lamar Jackson (Louisville) and Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma).

All FBS conferences are represented, led by the ACC and SEC with five watch listers apiece. The Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-12 and Sun Belt are next with three each, with two apiece for all of the AAC, Big 12, Conference USA and MAC. Class-wise, there are 13 seniors, 12 juniors and five sophomores.

 

“We once again have a great group of quarterbacks returning to college football this fall,” said Archie Manning said in a statement. “While this Watch List has many of the best returning players, we look forward to making midseason additions as teams settle on definite starters and as young players step up and make names for themselves. I’m really looking forward to getting the season rolling to see which guys will rise to the top and become Manning Award finalists.”

Deshaun Watson was the 2016 winner of the award.

Below is the complete 2017 Manning Award preseason watch list.

Oregon State going with Jake Luton as starting QB

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So much for that drama.

Exiting spring practice, Oregon State hadn’t yet settled on a starter in a three-way competition consisting of Darell Garretson, Jake Luton and Marcus McMaryion.  After just one week of summer camp, however, Gary Andersen had seen enough as the head coach confirmed Tuesday that Luton will be the Beavers’ starter under center.

OSU will open the 2017 season on the road against Colorado State Aug. 26.

Luton transferred to Corvallis after one season at the college level. The 6-7, 235-pound quarterback actually began his collegiate career at the FBS level.

Luton took a redshirt as a true freshman in 2014 at Idaho, then played in six games the following season. He started one game in 2015 as a replacement for injured starter Matt Linehan. In those games, Luton completed 49-of-78 passes for 383 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. He also scored five rushing touchdowns.

In Jun of 2016, he announced his decision to transfer from the Vandals.

ACC tops as Bronko Nagurski watch list hits triple digits

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It may not be the biggest award in college football, but it’s certainly the most voluminous.

Watch List Season continued unabated Thursday morning, with the Bronko Nagurski Trophy revealing a group which consists of a whopping 103 FBA players.  Within that triple-digit preseason club, there are 30 defensive backs, 29 linebackers, 25 defensive ends and 19 defensive tackles.

Two 2016 first-team Football Writers Association of America All-Americans appear on the list — Clemson’s Christian Wilkins (pictured) and Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden.

Conference-wise, the ACC leads with 20 players selected for the initial watch list.  The Big Ten is next with 16, followed by the SEC’s 14, the Pac-12’s 13 and the Big 12’s 11.  The AAC paced Group of Five leagues with 10, with the Sun Belt (6), Mountain West (5), Mid-American (3) and Conference USA (2) rounding out the conferences, while football independents chipped in the remaining three.

The Nagurski Trophy has been handed out annually since 1993 to college football’s best defensive player.  Last year’s winner was Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen.