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Western Michigan’s starting free safety questionable for Week 8 game vs. rival Central Michigan

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Western Michigan could head into a rivalry game this weekend at less than full strength in the secondary. Fortunately for them, the rival’s passing game isn’t exactly a strength — or is much of the rest of the offense, for that matter.

A.J. Thomas suffered a knee injury in practice last week and didn’t play in Western Michigan’s win over Bowling Green last weekend. With Central Michigan on the docket this weekend, the free safety is officially labeled as questionable by his head coach.

“He got a twisted knee last Wednesday, and we didn’t actually know (the extent),” Tim Lester said by way of mlive.com. “We thought it was going to be bad. We had the MRI, nothing’s wrong with him.

“He got shaken up a little bit, but no surgery is required.”

After playing in nine games as a true freshman in 2017, Thomas emerged as the Broncos’ starting free safety this season. In six games in 2018, he’s fourth on the team in tackles with 32. WMU has three interceptions as a team, and Thomas is responsible for one of them (Anton Curtis has the other two).

This Saturday’s opponent, CMU, is 117th nationally in passing at 147.9 yards per game. That, though, is part of an overall anemic offense in Mount Pleasant that’s 126th in total offense (286.7 ypg) and 124th in scoring offense (18.1 points per game).

The 1-6 Chippewas haven’t scored more than 24 points in any game this year.

Report: Sun Belt set to name first black FBS conference commish

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One Group of Five conference is set to make history later on this week.

According to Dan Wolken of USA Today, and citing two people with knowledge of the situation, the Sun Belt Conference is set to name Keith Gill as the league’s next commissioner.  An official announcement is expected at a press conference Tuesday.

When confirmed, Gill would become the first African-American ever named as the commissioner of a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conference.

The past two years, Gill, who played running back for Duke in the early nineties, has served as the executive associate commissioner of the Atlantic 10, with his primary focus being overseeing “Men’s Basketball Championship Community Relations.”  Prior to that, Gill worked as the athletic director for five years each at Richmond and American University.

Gill would replace Karl Benson, who announced in August of last year that he would be stepping down as the SBC’s commissioner after a half-dozen years on the job.

QB Connor Neville announces transfer from Washington State

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Washington State redshirt sophomore quarterback Connor Neville won’t be a Cougar in 2019. Where he will play remains to be determined. Neville announced the news about his transfer on his Twitter account on Monday.

While sharing a screenshot image of an email from the NCAA to confirm he has officially been entered into the NCAA transfer portal, Neville bluntly let the world know he is now eligible to have contact with any potential recruiters and coaches looking to add him to their program.

Neville was a three-star recruit in Washington State’s Class of 2017. Even though the Cougars are losing Gardner Minshew to the NFL this year, Mike Leach seems to be able to plug in whatever quarterback he wants and get the kind of production he expects through the air. With Minshew moving on and Neville apparently ready to find a new home, the quarterback position is still pretty deep this spring. Redshirt senior Trey Tinsley and Anthony Gordon, redshirt sophomore John Bledsoe (the son of former Washington State and NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe), redshirt freshman Cammon Cooper and freshman Gunner Cruz already kept the position pretty stocked for this spring. The addition of Gage Gubrud as a graduate transfer from Eastern Washington only made the position a little more crowded, and some expect Gubrud to compete for the starting job.

After redshirting in his 2017 season, Neville did not appear in a game for the Cougars in 2018. According to Neville, Washington State will sign a runoff waiver for Neville to allow him to be eligible to play immediately this fall for any other program in the country, including FBS programs. Neville will have three years of eligibility to use wherever he lands next.

LaDainian Tomlinson creates endowment fund for TCU student-athletes

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One of the most famous players in TCU football history is giving back to his alma mater in a big way. LaDainian Tomlinson, former TCU running back, College Football and Pro Football Hall of Famer, has teamed up with TCU to roll out the Tomlinson Student-Athlete Development Endowment Fund to benefit student-athletes at TCU across all 21 sponsored sports.

“LaDainian Tomlinson epitomizes the values we hold dear to TCU and we could not be more proud to strengthen our relationship with him and his team in this joint venture,” TCU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Jeremiah Donati said in a released statement. “We both understand how critically important student-athlete development programming can be in positively shaping the lives of young men and women long after their athletic careers are over.”

“Since retirement, I have been working with my team to find the very best opportunities to serve,” Tomlinson said in a released statement. “One of the greatest opportunities afforded me is certainly being a Trustee. As I’m already engaged in year-round leadership development in other sectors, we are in perfect alignment with TCU’s student-athlete development programs and ultimately support TCU’s Lead On initiative. I look forward to our teams working closely to help build elite citizens year-round. We have to train these young leaders how to do what we are asking them to do. Leadership is developed year-round, not in retreats or semesters. We have the opportunity to lead the nation, and I intend to help ensure we do just that through this partnership.”

According to TCU, the fund will collect funds through private donations and go toward helping to support TCU student-athletes in preparing them for life and careers after graduating from the university. In short, Tomlinson is leading the charge to help make sure a TCU student-athlete has a successful path to a career after playing their last games for the university. For a program that has continued to grow as TCU has from the days of playing in the WAC, Conference USA, and the Mountain West Conference and now in the Big 12, this is a noble effort to help those who suit up in a TCU sports uniform that continue to be a part of the growing program.

It’s always cool seeing star players find ways to give back to their universities. TCU has certainly grown as a program since Tomlinson last took a handoff for the Horned Frogs in the WAC in 2000. The two-time WAC Offensive Player of the Year has wasted no time in cementing his spot in the TCU family since his departure for a hall of fame NFL career by serving on the TCU board of trustees.

LSU to approve Ed Orgeron’s contract extension and raise this week

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Coming off his best season as a head coach, Ed Orgeron will officially get a nice new raise from LSU this year. According to a report from The Advocate, citing information gathered from the agenda for an upcoming board meeting, Orgeron is set to officially receive a two-year extension with a $4 million contract.

The new contract would extend Orgeron through the 2023 season and increase his buyout price tag to $10 million this year, with a reduction in buyout cost of $250,000 each month until it drops to $4 million in 2021.

Naturally, the new contract will come with plenty of incentives for Orgeron for various milestones and achievements during any season. The contracts for new assistant coaches will also be on the agenda for the board. It is expected the board will approve all football contracts on the agenda without hassle. These votes are merely formalities in many cases, including this one for LSU.

According to a database of coaching salaries compiled by USA Today last year, Orgeron was paid $3.5 million by LSU, which ranked him 36th among coaches active last season and 10th among SEC coaches. After coming off his third year as head coach of the program and with a contract that was set to expire in 2021, the time to work out a new deal feels about right for LSU and Orgeron. Tacking on two more years now provides job security and allows Orgeron and his staff to sell recruits on the commitment the program has in Orgeron moving forward for the bulk of their college football career in the years to come.

Since taking over as head coach following Les Miles, Orgeron has a record of 25-9 in the past three seasons in Baton Rouge. That is highlighted by a 2-1 bowl record that includes last season’s Fiesta Bowl victory over UCF. It is easily Orgeron’s best run as ahead coach in his career, which includes a 10-25 mark at Ole Miss and a brief 6-2 stint at USC before he left the program after learning he had no chance to become the next head coach of the Trojans.