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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.

West Virginia postpones Fan Day because of mini-outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease

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Almost Heaven, y’all!

West Virginia had been set to play host to Fan Day Sunday afternoon. However, because of five cases of hand, foot and mouth disease being diagnosed within the program recently, Fan Day has been canceled.

From the football program’s press release:

Hand, foot and mouth is a mild but highly contagious viral infection that is very common among children but can spread to adults. The virus usually goes away on its own in a period of less than a week, and there is no specific treatment, just steps to ease the symptoms.

Because it is highly contagious, it is in the best interest of the general public to postpone the event. WVU’s medical staff continues to monitor the situation, taking proper steps to control the virus and communicating with the proper campus personnel.

“I know fans who were planning on attending Fan Day will be disappointed, but this is in the best interest of all involved,” WVU athletic director Shane Lyons said in a statement. “Our medical staff is doing an excellent job of addressing the matter. However, there is no reason to put the general public at risk.”

According to the program, a new date for Fan Day will be announced when it becomes available.

Wisconsin WR Quintez Cephus taking leave of absence as he deals with pending legal issue

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Wisconsin’s passing game has taken hit, although it remains to be seen how long its effects will linger.

On his personal Twitter account Saturday night, Quintez Cephus announced that he has been “forced to take a leave of absence from the team in order to focus all of my attention on clearing my name.” In his social media statement, the wide receiver stated he was informed by his lawyers Friday afternoon that the Dane County (WI) District Attorney’s office will pursue unspecified charges against him for an incident that occurred back in April of this year.

“I have been wrongfully accused of unlawful conduct and I am innocent of any allegations associated with this consensual relationship,” Cephus wrote, adding that the pending charges are the result of a three-month investigation.

No details of what led to this situation have been divulged.

While UW has yet to publicly address the development, they are expected to release a statement on the situation in the not-too-distant future.

Last season, Cephus led the run-centric Badgers in receiving touchdowns with six and yards per catch at 16.7.  His 501 receiving yards were good for second, while his 30 receptions were third on the team.

In April of last year, Cephus’ father was murdered after being shot in the head execution-style.

Georgia’s Zamir White, nation’s No. 1 running back in 2018, suffers torn ACL

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One of the crown jewels of Georgia’s top-ranked 2018 recruiting class will have to bounce back from a significant injury yet again.

Kirby Smart confirmed Saturday that Zamir White suffered an injury to his left knee during the second scrimmage of summer camp earlier in the day. The non-contact injury occurred when the true freshman was taking part in punt coverage.

While the head coach didn’t initially know the extent of the injury, a subsequent MRI revealed that White sustained a torn ACL in the left knee. The school has not yet confirmed the Athens Banner-Herald‘s initial report.

White suffered a torn ACL last November during his North Carolina high school team’s playoff run, but had been given the all-clear medically to fully participate in practice. That ACL injury, incidentally, was in his right knee.

A consensus five-star signee, White was the No. 1 running back on 247Sports.com‘s composite board and was the No. 9 player overall. Only one member of the Bulldogs’ class this year, quarterback Justin Fields, was rated higher than White.

White had been expected to help replace the production lost with the departures of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to the NFL.

Nick Saban on injury concerns: ‘You just think whatever happens, we just s**t another player’

NCAA FOOTBALL: SEP 05 AdvoCare Classic - Wisconsin v Alabama
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It’s still mid-August, but Nick Saban‘s already in rare form when it comes to dealing with the media.

Saturday. it was confirmed that backup linebacker Chris Allen will be lost for the entire 2018 season because of a serious knee injury. Additionally, offensive tackle Matt Womack, who underwent surgery Friday after reinjuring his foot, will miss 4-6 weeks.

Following today’s scrimmage, Saban became agitated when he was asked by a member of the media about his level of concern with the mini-spate of reserve players going down with injuries. From al.com:

I’ve been concerned all along,” Saban said. “So, I don’t even know why you’d ask the question.”

And then things really got rolling.

“Because you all don’t, you just think we just, whatever happens, we just s**t another player and everything is going to be perfect. All of our fans think that. You all think that. That’s what you write about. That’s the message you send out there.

For the record, Saban has shat quite well on the recruiting trail over the last decade:

2018: Fifth in 247Sports.com‘s composite rankings
2017: First
2016: First
2015: First
2014: First
2013: First
2012: First
2011: First
2010: Fourth
2009: Third

In that span, Saban has signed 41 five-star recruits and another 146 who were four-stars.

And the Class of 2019? Saban is getting s**t done yet again as the Crimson Tide is currently ranked No. 2 behind Georgia.