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Alabama blocking GRAD TRANSFER Brandon Kennedy from SEC schools

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Ridiculous, asinine, petty, you name it.  Again.

After leaving Alabama as a graduate transfer in June of 2016, Maurice Smith‘s intended transfer to Georgia was initially blocked by UA before both the school and the SEC relented. Fast-forward nearly two years, and Brandon Kennedy, who earlier this month decided to take the grad transfer route out of ‘Bama, is being barred by his former university from transferring to any school in the conference, al.com is reporting

Specifically, the website reported that the offensive lineman is interested in a transfer to rivals Auburn and Tennessee. Kennedy, who received his bachelor’s degree from the university last December, is appealing the inane restrictions.

In addition to the intra-conference restrictions placed on the graduate transfer, Kennedy, who has two years of eligibility remaining, is also barred from transferring to seven of the eight schools on UA’s non-conference schedule the next two years — Arkansas State, Duke, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisville, New Mexico State, Southern Miss and The Citadel. Kennedy will be allowed, for whatever reason, to play for FCS Western Carolina, which is nice.

In granting Smith’s 2016 request for a waiver, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey noted that, “among other contributing factors, that a student-athlete who graduates in three years and exhibits a strong commitment to his or her academic future provides compelling motivation to help them achieve their goals on and off the field.”

Kennedy enrolled in classes at UA in the summer of 2016 and graduated a little over three years later.

Since last summer, two players have transferred within the SEC. In June of 2017, running back David Williams moved from South Carolina to Arkansas. Earlier this month, defensive back Nick Harvey left Texas A&M and chose South Carolina over, among others, Auburn and Tennessee.

Both Williams and Harvey left their former schools as graduate transfers.

And then there’s this: Chris Black, who announced his decision to transfer from Alabama in December of 2016, landed at Missouri as a graduate transfer in February of 2017 — without Nick Saban or the university blocking his move to the SEC East school.

Doug Martin adds two to New Mexico State coaching staff

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A little over four months before the start of the 2018 season, Doug Martin‘s coaching staff is once again whole.

New Mexico State announced Monday that Martin has added Chili Davis and Ronnie Pentz to the Aggies’ full-time, on-field staff.  Pentz will serve as defensive ends coach for Martin while Davis will handle NMSU’s tight ends.

In addition to his role as a position coach, Pentz will carry the title of co-defensive coordinator.  Davis, meanwhile, will take over for Chase Holbrook.  Holbrook will remain on Martin’s staff and take over as quarterbacks coach.

Last season, Davis was an offensive graduate assistant for the Aggies, his first year with the program.  This will mark his first-ever on-field job at any level of college football in a coaching career that began in 2012 at his alma mater Fordham.

Pentz spent the past five season at FCS San Diego as both special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.  This will serve as Pentz’s first-ever job at the FBS level.

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.

New Mexico State defends signing of ex-Minnesota player accused of sexual assault

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New Mexico State last month announced the addition of a junior college transfer, but this one isn’t like most others.

As a redshirt freshman at Minnesota in 2016, Ray Buford, Jr., was allegedly involved in a sexual assault that would eventually engulf the program in result in head coach Tracy Claeys being pushed out. Though he was never charged by two separate investigations, Buford was suspended and later recommended for expulsion, along with three others, but instead announced he would leave the school before the school could kick him out.

He wound up at Independence Community College in Kansas and, now, New Mexico State.

New Mexico State’s transfer protocols require that a student be eligible for return at his or her original school in order to gain admittance to NMSU, which is under question since Buford was recommended for expulsion at Minnesota.

“Sexual assault, sexual misconduct and sexual harassment is front and center right now everywhere,” NMSU Title IX coordinator Lauri Millot told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “NMSU’s obligation is to protect our campus community, students and our staff and do it in a way that incorporates prevention, education and an appropriate response so we don’t put students or staff in a hostile environment.”

Aggies head coach Doug Martin told the paper that Buford was admitted after a multi-month investigation. In fact, Buford committed in December but was not announced until a month later.

“It started in October when we handed all of the information we had to the administration and everyone involved in making that decision,” Martin. “Football did not make the decision. We just brought it to them and said (Buford) is a young man who we believe deserves a second chance and you guys (NMSU administrators) tell us what you want us to do. I don’t think we have chased guys like that like some programs do. We have been selective and wouldn’t bring in anyone who we didn’t think deserved to be here.”

New Mexico State will compete as an FBS Independent in 2018. The Aggies went 7-6 in 2017, ending the year with a win over Utah State in the Arizona Bowl, the program’s first bowl trip in six decades.

Five decades in the making, New Mexico State pulls out overtime win in the Arizona Bowl to beat Utah State

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It was a rematch 57 years in the making and both sides wanted to soak up every extra moment. New Mexico State ended the NCAA’s longest bowl drought in dramatic fashion to beat Utah State 26-20 in overtime on Friday night in an Arizona Bowl full of the highs and lows of college football.

In front of what seemed like half of Las Cruces at the home stadium of the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, the Aggies put behind several quarters of offensive malaise by marching 69 yards midway through the fourth quarter to tie the game on an incredible Jaleel Scott catch in the end zone. The NMSU defense came up with a stop in the extra period not long after and a missed field goal by USU was just the opening the team needed before running back Larry Rose III burst up the middle for a 21 yard touchdown that set off pandemonium in the stands.

The victory not only gave the Aggies of New Mexico State their first win in the postseason since 1960 — which happened to be a 20-13 defeat of Utah State in the Sun Bowl — but capped off a pretty incredible story for one of the smallest programs in all of FBS. Rose finished the game with 142 yards on the ground and was the team’s leading receiver in the game as well. His running made up for a rather lackluster offensive day for quarterback Tyler Rogers (191 yards, one TD, two INTs) and company as the group had eight 3-and-outs against one of the better secondaries at the Group of Five level.

While those long stretches without points or any kind of offensive production made things hard to watch at times in this one, there was at least plenty of excitement early in the first quarter when Utah State’s Savon Scarver (96 yards) and NMSU’s Jason Huntley ran back-to-back kickoffs for touchdowns not five minutes in.

The loss caps off another tough season for Matt Wells’ Aggies after they led in just about every statistical category but saw kicker Dominik Eberle make only two of his six field goal attempts to let a win slip through their fingers. QB Jordan Love (254 yards passing) and RB LaJuan Hunt (133 yards rushing, 1 TD) both had decent outings but it wasn’t enough as points came at a premium for both sides.

The game also marks the end of an era for New Mexico State as it was their final contest as a member of a conference — in this case the Sun Belt. The program will operate as a football independent in 2018 and, funny enough, will play Utah State again next September up in Logan. Something says both sets of Aggies will have plenty to play for when that one rolls around in what should be a fun footnote to a long, long drought being emphatically ended on Friday.