Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

HUNTINGTON, WV - DECEMBER 06: Rakeem Cato #12 of the Marshall Thundering Herd and head coach Doc Holliday celebrate defeating the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 26-23 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium after the Conference USA championship game on December 6, 2014 in Huntington, West Virginia.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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As revenues rise in Power 5, C-USA sees revenue in freefall

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The Power 5 conferences have never been richer. That doesn’t mean business is easy for everyone in college sports, though.

According to a report from Harry Minium of the Virginian-Pilot, Conference USA is in line to receive $2.8 million — total — from its 2016-17 television contracts. Keep in mind Texas will earn more than $40 million on its own next year, with the entirety of the Big Ten and SEC soon to follow.

Conference USA received $9.95 million in fees from CBS Sports Network and Fox Sports this year and another $6.15 million in exit fees from schools leaving for the American Athletic Conference, but each of those revenue streams is set to dry by the fall.

Due to incredibly unfortunate timing, C-USA had to return to the negotiating table at a time sports networks are in between the bubble of the cable explosion and whatever comes next in the digital world. The result is C-USA returns to ESPN and its fire hose of much-needed exposure, but at a substantially reduced rate. The league will also be found on CBS Sports Network, beIN Sports and the American Sports Network.

“Right now, the television market is horrible,” C-USA commissioner Judy McLeod said. “The pool of money that’s there is going to the big guys.”

According to Minium, C-USA’s $200,000 per school media rights distribution ranks ninth in FBS, trailing each of the Power 5 schools along with the AAC ($2 million per), the Mountain West ($1.7 million) and the MAC ($670,000) but ahead of the Sun Belt ($100,000).

WKU officially adds Wake grad transfer Steve Donatell

Steve Donatell
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On the same day Western Kentucky lost a potential starting quarterback to likely season-ending surgery, the Hilltoppers officially gained a target in the passing game.

In late March, Wake Forest transfer Steve Donatell confirmed that he had decided to continue his collegiate playing career at WKU.  A couple of months later, the football program confirmed to the Bowling Green Daily News that the tight end has been added to the Hilltoppers’ roster.

As Donatell comes to WKU as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2016.  This coming season will be his final year of eligibility.

Donatell began his career at Wake as a linebacker, starting the first three games of his redshirt freshman season at the position before a knee injury sidelined him for the remainder of 2013.  The 6-6, 230-pound senior moved to tight end in spring practice last year and caught three passes for 31 yards.

WKU will be looking to replace the production lost at the position by All-American Tyler Higbee, a fourth-round pick of the Los Angeles Rams who caught 38 passes for 563 yards and eight touchdowns last season.

WKU QB Nelson Fishback out 4-6 months following pectoral surgery

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Nelson Fishback exited spring viewed by some as the favorite to replace Brandon Doughty under center for Western Kentucky.  Unfortunately, the quarterback won’t be able to lay official claim to that title moving forward.

In a press release, WKU announced that Fishback recently underwent surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle.  As a result, Fishback will be out for 4-6 months.

At the short end of the timeline, Fishback would be able to return in early October.  At the long end, he’d miss the entire regular season of his senior year.

“This is extremely disappointing for Nelson,” head coach Jeff Brohm said in a statement. ” He has worked hard to put himself in this position and is a young man who does all of the things you would want out of your quarterback.  Nelson has always been the kind of teammate you want to have inside and outside of the locker room.”

Fishback appeared in 11 games for the Hilltoppers.  In that limited action, he completed 20-of-26 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown.  He also ran the ball 10 times for 29 yards and another touchdown.

57 centers named to Rimington Award spring watch list

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  The first watch list of the offseason has arrived.

The first for that honor this year is the Rimington Award, which on Tuesday released its spring watch list that is 57 players strong.  The Rimington Award, named in honor of former Nebraska standout Dave Rimington, is presented annually to the top center in the nation and is determined by the consensus All-American center pick from three existing All-America teams — Walter Camp. Sporting News and FWAA.

None of the finalists for the 2015 award, won by Alabama’s Ryan Kelly, are included on this year’s initial watch list as all three have since moved on with expired eligibility.

The ACC and SEC pace all conferences with eight watch listers apiece, followed by the AAC and Big 12 with seven each.  The Big Ten placed six, while the Pac-12’s three was the least of all of the Power Five programs.

All 10 of the FBS leagues, plus one independent (Notre Dame), are represented on the spring watch list, the full roster of which appears below.

AAC
Deyshawn Bond, Cincinnati, senior
Ryan Crozier, UConn, redshirt sophomore
Will Noble, Houston, sophomore
Drew Kyser, Memphis, sophomore
Evan Brown, SMU, junior
Brendan McGowan, Temple, redshirt senior
Chandler Miller, Tulsa, sophomore

ACC
Jay Guillermo, Clemson, senior
Alec Eberle, Florida State, redshirt sophomore
Freddie Burden, Georgia Tech, redshirt senior
Nicholas Linder, Miami, junior
Lucas Crowley, North Carolina, senior
Alex Officer, Pittsburgh, redshirt junior
Jason Emerich, Syracuse, redshirt senior
Jackson Matteo, Virginia, senior

BIG TEN
Joe Spencer, Illinois, senior
Sean Welsh, Iowa, junior
Brendan Moore, Maryland, sophomore
Mason Cole, Michigan, junior
Dylan Utter, Nebraska, senior
Michael Dieter, Wisconsin, sophomore

BIG 12
Kyle Fuller, Baylor, senior
Dalton Risner, Kansas State, sophomore
Jonathan Alvarez, Oklahoma, junior
Brad Lundblade, Oklahoma State, junior
Austin Schlottman, TCU, junior
Tony Morales, Texas Tech, senior
Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia, redshirt senior

CONFERENCE USA
Michael Montero, FIU, senior
Dillon DeBoer, FAU, redshirt senior
Daniel Stephens, Middle Tennessee State, senior
Nick Clarke, Old Dominion, sophomore
Cameron Tom, Southern Miss, senior
Max Halpin, Western Kentucky, redshirt senior

MAC
Tim McAuliffe, Bowling Green redshirt junior
James O’Hagan, Buffalo, sophomore

MOUNTAIN WEST
Jake Bennett, Colorado State, junior
Asotui Eli, Hawaii, redshirt sophomore
Nathan Goltry, Nevada, senior
Arthur Flores, San Diego State, senior
Austin Stephens, Utah State, senior

PAC-12
Toa, Lobendahn, USC, junior
Coleman Shelton, Washington, junior
Riley Sorenson, Washington State, senior

SEC
Frank Ragnow, Arkansas, junior
Brandon Kublanow, Georgia, senior
Jon Toth, Kentucky, senior
Ethan Pocic, LSU, senior
Jamaal Clayborn, Mississippi State, senior
Robert Conyers, Ole Miss, senior
Alan Knott, South Carolina, redshirt junior
Coleman Thomas, Tennessee, junior

SUN BELT
Devin Mondie, Arkansas State, senior
Andy Kwon, Georgia Southern, senior
Gabe Mobley, Georgia State, sophomore
Steve Matlock, Idaho, senior

INDEPENDENTS
Sam Mustipher, Notre Dame, junior

Report: Wisconsin paying WKU $1.35 million for 2018 game

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 27:  An overall of Camp Randall Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images)
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The Wisconsin Badgers will be hosting Western Kentucky in Camp Randall Stadium to open the 2018 college football season. That is old news that was reported a few weeks ago. Now we know just how much that opening game is going to cost Wisconsin.

According to a Wisconsin State-Journal report, Wisconsin will pay Western Kentucky of Conference USA $1.35 million to make the trip to Madison. Per the Wisconsin paper, the $1.35 million price tag is the most expensive to date for Wisconsin for a game of this type. Wisconsin will also pay $1.2 million each to Utah State and FAU in 2017 and another $1.2 million each to New Mexico in 2018 and North Texas  in 2019. So it is not quite that much of a leap when discussing the price of paying for a guaranteed home game with no return trip.This actually appears to be the going rate for a power conference school scheduling a non-power conference program.

This actually appears to be the going rate for a power conference school scheduling a non-power conference program. The prices for guaranteed games will continue to rise with the market as well, but how a growing divide between power and non-power conferences could lead to some interesting negotiations in the future. Will some Group of Five schools have some more bargaining power as power conference programs look to build stronger schedules? Maybe, but likely not. Schools from power conferences may be willing to pay for better competition from the Group of Five (which Western Kentucky certainly qualifies right now) than bottom feeders, but when push comes to shove and you need to fill a spot on the schedule, the cheaper alternative may win out often enough.