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Mountain West 'in the room' on BCS talks

Mountain West Conference schools have gone from outsiders in the Bowl Championshp Series to non-voting members, thanks to a recent development in the BCS. The MWC, which is made up of eight former Western Athletic Conference schools such as Utah, Wyoming and UNLV, will participate in BCS meetings and discussions over the next six years.

Only Conference USA and the Mountain West are non-voting members on the BCS panel.

"We're in the room," Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said. "If they ever talk about the potential of a change in the BCS structure, even though we're a non-voting member, we're there. It's closer to the BCS than we were yesterday."

The BCS is a designed to determine an NCAA Division I-A national champion and uses six conferences, the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10 and Southeastern conferences and the member schools therein, to vote on the national champion.

For at least six more years, Mountain West teams will have to qualify for one of four BCS bowls by having a team ranked in the top 12 of the BCS standings, which are determined by national polls, computer formulas and strength of schedule.

UNLV inks Robinson to one-year extension

A three percent pay raise and a one-year extension will keep UNLV coach John Robinson in Las Vegas for a while.

The pay raise increases Robinson's total compensation to $365,000 a season, but UNLV athletic director Charles Cavagnaro says he's happy to see Robinson staying put.

"I think this extension shows how successful the relationship between UNLV and John Robinson has been for both sides," Cavagnaro said. "He can coach at UNLV as long as he wants to be here. From all accounts, he is having as much fun building this program as anyone and I think he really enjoys his role at this school as part of the Las Vegas community."

Robinson, who won the national championship as coach of Southern California in 1978, went 3-8 last year. The Rebels broke a 16-game losing streak and a 26-game losing skid on the road while also winning a league game for the first time since 1994.

Robinson has won more than 100 games as a college coach (107-43-4) and compiled a 79-74 record in nine seasons as coach of the Los Angeles Rams (1982-91). Robinson also won the National Coach of the Year award in 1979 and his .708 collegiate winning percentage ranks ninth among active coaches.

ESPN, MAC reach TV deal

A three-year deal between the Mid-American Conference and ESPN guarantees an ESPN network will televise at least five regular season football games and nine regular-season basketball games.

ABC, a partner of ESPN, will televise the MAC football title game on Dec. 2.

"The deal affords us guaranteed national exposure in football and men's basketball over the next three years, which is critical as this conference continues to grow," MAC commissioner Rick Chryst said.

Conference scheduling shakeups in SEC set for 2002

Since expanding the Southeastern Conference to 12 teams in 1992 and dividing the conference into divisions and adding a conference title game, the SEC has added changes to the conference scheduling format.

SEC officials decided to drop the 5-2-1 conference game format for a new 5-1-2 format. Under the old format, each team was required play five games in its division, two permanent opponents from the other division and one rotating opponent from the other division.

The new format, set for the 2002 season, requires each team will play five games within the division, one permanent opponent from the other division and two rotating opponents from the other division each year.

"Each year, one team will rotate on and one team will rotate off each schedule," SEC Commissioner Roy F. Kramer said. "Each school will play a different conference schedule every year. This is one of the attractions of this new schedule."

Minnesota's Mason gets 7-year deal

With the scandal of former Golden Gophers' basketball coach Clem Haskins looming in his mind, Glen Mason signed a seven-year deal with the University of Minnesota months after negotiations began.

Mason said UM having to pay Haskins $1.5 million last summer to get rid of him following a massive academic fraud scandal with the Gophers' basketball team was a concern.

"It has to do with if someone wants to fire me and not pay me anything," Mason said when asked about the hang-up in contract talks. "You're asking why? You know why. It's because of Clem, because they fired him. They had to pay him."

Mason's new deal is worded in a way that would make getting out of the contract easier than it was for Haskins. Mason guided the Gophers to an 8-4 record last year, leading the team to the Sun Bowl against Oregon, the team's first postseason appearance since 1986.

"We are enormously pleased with this agreement that reflects coach Mason's contributions both on and off the field," university President Mark Yudof said. FSU to honor Bowden with stadium name change

One day, Bobby Bowden will retire as Florida State's football coach. The next day, he'll see the stadium the Seminoles call home bear his name.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed into law a bill stating that Doak Campbell Stadium will become "Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium" the day after Bowden retires as FSU's coach.

Don't look for the 70-year-old Bowden to step down anytime soon, though. He is under contract until 2003 and has no plans to retire.

After 24 seasons at FSU, he's won 231 games, national titles in 1993 and '99 and has had 13 consecutive 10-win seasons.

Texas A&M pregame bonfire extinguished for at least 2 years

Texas A&M president Ray Bowen has suspended the school tradition of a pregame bonfire for at least two years following an accident at last year's bonfire on Nov. 18 that killed 12 students and injured 27 others.

Bowen says the next bonfire held will be smaller and have a more professionally run construction after a five-member Texas A&M research team said flawed construction techniques and a lack of adequate supervision were the primary reasons for the tragedy.

The bonfire tradition usually draws thousands to campus on the eve of the Texas A&M vs. Texas game. Last year's bonfire collapse marked the second cancellation since 1909 and the first since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Modifications to the future bonfire would include a professionally engineered design, an annual safety compliance review, expanded university oversight of the construction and revising the selection of student bonfire leaders.

In addition, the bonfire would be a one-tier, teepee-shaped log stack, and not like the collapsing four-tier, wedding-cake style stack from a year ago. Construction would also be limited to two weeks, with pre-cut logs and a controlled atmosphere also provided.

Christopher Newport University names coach

Matt Kelchner, a 41-year-old assistant at William & Mary since 1984, was named coach for the inaugural Christopher Newport football team in 2001.

Kelchner, who served as recruiting coordinator and offensive backfield coach at William & Mary, began coaching Division III CNU in June. He was selected from a pool of more than 70 candidates.

Christopher Newport will compete in the Dixie Conference, which includes Shenandoah, Greensboro, Methodist, Averett and Ferrum.

Carr, Michigan agree to contract extension

Lloyd Carr, who has won a national championship and more than 40 games in his five years as Michigan's coach, will stay in Ann Arbor for at least six more years.

Carr's base salary will remain at $287,000, but he will get additional compensation for media appearances and other services, earning $565,000 for the coming season and $765,000 in subsequent years, school administrators said.

"The contract extension reaffirms the University of Michigan's commitment to Lloyd and to the success of the football program," interim athletic director Bill Martin said.

"Lloyd's accomplishments on the field, plus his relationship with players, staff, alumni and fans have been an integral part of his success throughout his career at Michigan."

Carr's staff will also benefit from the new deal as $55,000 will be distributed among his assistant coaches. Carr, who won a national title in 1997 and is 49-13 at Michigan, also plans to give $50,000 a year to Michigan's athletic scholarship fund.

Carr's contract now will expire after the 2005 season. Last season, the Wolverines were 10-2, including an overtime victory against Alabama in the Orange Bowl.

Cowboys' Tate saddles career accomplishment

A longtime goal of a former McNeese State football player was reached as Tommy Tate was named the Cowboys' new football coach.

"It's been one of my goals to become head football coach at McNeese State University. I came here as a walk-on football player and was fortunate to make the team and play," Tate said.

As the 13th football coach and third in three years, Tate, 44, was school officials' unanimous choice to lead the Cowboys despite having no prior head coaching experience.

"We've selected a coach who we feel will carry the Cowboy tradition of successful football forward. He's a coach who has been part of building this tradition for the past 20 years," athletics director Sonny Watkins said.

Tate, who had been a McNeese assistant coach for 20 years, was interim coach after Kirby Bruchhaus resigned June 6 amid an investigation of alleged gambling.

Criticism could get costly for Bengals' players

After listening to receiver Carl Pickens criticize coach Bruce Coslet, the Cincinnati Bengals are trying to make similar comments in the future costly.

Pickens re-signed with Cincinnati three days before the 1999 season opener, but was vocally opposed when he discovered that Coslet would be retained as Bengals' coach for next year. The relationship between the Bengals and Pickens has soured so much that the Bengals are trying to resolve a grievance with the NFL Players Association to release him.

In an effort to stop such problems in the future, Bengals' owner Mike Brown says team rules would call for a player to pay back part of their signing bonus if they publicly criticize teammates, management or coaches.

"We don't want to go through the kind of situation we went through with Carl," said Brown, who expects the clause to only be used in extreme circumstances. "And we feel the players, who are the club's employees, should be loyal to the team. We aren't looking to restrict players' conversations unreasonably."

Roberts replaces Goodwin as coach at Northwestern State

After three seasons at Southern Arkansas, Steve Roberts has become the replacement for Northwestern State coaching legend Sam Goodwin. Roberts, who went 25-6 while at SAU, takes over for Goodwin, who is now the athletic director at Henderson State.

Goodwin, 56, coached for 17 years at NSU and finished with a 102-88-3 record, giving him the most wins in school history. Northwestern has won two of the past three Southland Football League titles and advanced to the Division I-AA playoffs in 1997 and '98.

Rhein eeks out record-setting second NFL Europe title

A 43-yard touchdown drive and a missed 40-yard field-goal with four seconds to go by the Scottish Claymores' kicker gave the Rhein Fire (8-3) their second World Bowl title in three years. The Fire took a 13-10 lead with 1:12 to go thanks to a 1-yard touchdown by Pepe Pearson.

But it wasn't until after Claymore's kicker Roger Hart missed his 40-yard try that Rhein players could begin celebrating. Galen Hall, coach of the Fire, became the first coach in league history to win two World Bowl titles.

"I'm so proud of our team and our coaches," Hall said. "I thought it would come down to the last seconds, and it certainly did."

Rhein quarterback Danny Wuerffel and Claymore QB Kevin Daft presented a matchup of two of the best NFLE quarterbacks in the league's biggest game. Daft, whose league-record 107.3 quarterback rating led NFLE, was 16-of-29 for 177 yards with an interception. Wuerffel, who won the 1996 Heisman Trophy, finished with a 107.2 quarterback rating and was 12-of-30 for only 90 yards and two interceptions.

"If I don't play another down of football, I'll be thrilled to have this as my final memory," Wuerffel said. "Winning a championship with these guys and a coach as great as Galen is something I'll remember forever."

Harring hangs it up at Wisconsin-Lacrosse

University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse football coach Roger Harring, who compiled a 261-75-7 in 33 years of coaching at UWL, retired after the 1999 season. Harring ranks 12th in all-time wins among collegiate coaches.

He has been inducted into the UWL Wall of Fame, the Wisconsin Football Coaches' Association Hall of Fame and the NAIA District 14 Hall of Fame. He won NCAA Division III titles in 1985, '92 and '95 and was national runner-up in 1988. His success earned him the national coach of the year after leading the Eagles to the 1992 and '95 titles. Herring has also seen several of his former players go on to play in the NFL, including Joel Williams, Tom Newberry, Mike Maslowski and Bill Schroeder.

"The athletes are far bigger and stronger now than they were when I started coaching," said Harring, a former Marine and graduate of UWL in 1954. "You make adjustments based on the talent you have. I think our program has brought out the best in the athletes. To have the number of players we have had play in the NFL, there has to be something like that happening."

Terry Bowden, Auburn at it again

Auburn University lawyers have requested an arbitration panel resolve the school's claim that Terry Bowden forfeited an $825,000 home mortgage and car benefits when he became an ABC analyst. Bowden, who resigned during the 1998 season, contends his work with the television network does not violate terms of the resignation settlement he reached with the university. This dispute has allegedly been ongoing since Bowden began work for ABC last fall, but the public move by Auburn comes curiously after Bowden blasted the school, a member of the Board of Trustees, and his predecessor Pat Dye, in a newspaper article.

According to documents outlining the terms of the settlement, disputes will be resolved by a three-member arbitration panel, with Auburn and Bowden each picking one panel member and the third agreeable to both parties.

When Bowden resigned in 1998, he reached a settlement in which Auburn paid him $625,000, took over an $825,000 mortgage on his home, provided him with two cars and agreed to make annual payments to him of $10,000 for home upkeep and $4,000 for car gas and maintenance. In return, Bowden was restricted in the type of work he could do in the sports world and agreed not to make any negative comments about the university, its athletic officials and trustees.

Auburn lawyers say the settlement gave Bowden rights to the house for five years and the cars for three years only if he does not work in specific fields, including as a "radio, television, or newspaper commentator, spokesman, analyst or announcer." University attorneys say he broke the agreement with his work as a studio analyst for ABC last year.

Bowden says his contract work is not the kind of employment described in the settlement and his attorneys add that Bowden is only prohibited from accepting "full-time" employment. His attornies said that in no way, shape, form or fashion is Bowden a full-time employee of ABC as he receives no benefits that are available to ABC employees. Bowden's attorney's say Bowden has a contract as a "free-lance artist," working approximately 30 days a year.

Titans keep Fisher in town for 3 more years

Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who guided the Titans to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance last year, will sign a three-year deal to remain as Titans' coach.

Fisher, who is still working out the final wording of his new deal, is expected to earn roughly $2.2 and $2.5 million a year, placing him among the highest paid coaches in the NFL. He guided Tennessee to a franchise-best 16-4 record last year and said he's happy to be back in Knoxville, Tenn.

"I'm very pleased that things have been worked out and resolved," said Fisher. "Everything is to our satisfaction, to the organization's satisfaction, and I'm delighted to say it's over and behind us, and you guys are stuck with me. It's official."

Under the new deal, Fisher will have some increased responsibility, team president Jeff Diamond said. But Fisher said that nothing major would change, despite coaches having more input on decisions.

"We worked so hard the last four years to get where we are that what we want to do is make sure we maintain that." Fisher said.

Supreme Court says no to student-led prayers at high school football games

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling found that prayer does not belong at public school football games, even if students initiate and lead the prayers. The Santa Fe (Tex.) Independent School District, which allowed student-initiated and student-led prayer to be broadcast over the public address system before high school games, was defeated 6-3.

"We recognize the important role that public worship plays in many communities, as well as the sincere desire to include public prayer as a part of various occasions so as to mark those occasions' significance," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. "But such religious activity in public schools, as elsewhere, must comport with the First Amendment."


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