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July 26, 2010

Monday with Mike: Hill takes less pay to stay

Amid all the talk last week from $4 million-a-year coaches about the "pimps" and "predators" who prey on college football players, Fresno State coach Pat Hill agreed to a new contract.

And he took a voluntary pay cut.

The deal means Hill, who is entering his 14th season with the Bulldogs, is signed through the end of the 2013 season. He had been making about $1 million per season, and athletic director Thomas Boeh said he wouldn't discuss financial details until the contract is actually signed.

Fresno State, as with many state entities in California, is having budget issues. Hill admitted last year that he and his coaches were mandated to take 24 unpaid furlough days -- and that the staff had to take two days off each month, even during the season.

Hill is 100-65, including 70-33 in the WAC, with Fresno State. But the Bulldogs haven't won a WAC title since 1999, and they have been looking up at Boise State for league supremacy for a while now.

Still, Hill's program is nationally relevant and has garnered notice for annually playing some of the country's toughest non-conference schedules; the Bulldogs' 50-42 loss at USC in 2005 may have been the best regular-season game of the previous decade.

"I've made some sacrifices to help the athletic department," Hill told the Fresno Bee. "It's never been about money. I feel good about being the coach at Fresno State. and I'm excited about the prospects of the future here."

Here's some more football news as we count down the minutes until fall practice begins in some places on Aug. 2:

Lane Kiffin left behind some ticked-off Tennesseans when he left for the USC job in January. He just ticked off another one -- Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher. Kiffin hired Titans running back coach Kennedy Pola as the Trojans' offensive coordinator over the weekend, and Fisher -- a USC alum, by the way -- was upset because no one from USC called to ask permission to interview Pola. Pola was hired by the Titans in February after the surprise dismissal of Earnest Byner. Fisher to The Tennessean newspaper of Nashville: "I'm very disappointed in Lane Kiffin's approach to this. Typically speaking, when coaches are interested in hiring or discussing potential employment from coaches on respective staffs, there is a courtesy call made from the head coach or athletic director indicating there is an interest in talking to the assistant. So I am very disappointed in the lack of professionalism on behalf of Lane, to call me and leave me a voice mail after Kennedy had informed me he had taken the job."

The Big Ten is holding its football media days on Aug. 2 and 3, and the league holds some meeting in conjunction with the media event. Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne will be in attendance; the Huskers are joining the league next summer. It's not known how involved Osborne will be in the meetings, but one of the items up for discussion is how the league will split into two six-team divisions.

Linebacker Josh Shirley was one of the most touted UCLA recruits when he signed in February, but he was relieved of his scholarship this summer after being arrested on a theft charge. Now, he is enrolled at Washington and could play this fall for the Huskies, who need help at linebacker.

Ole Miss' quarterback situation got a bit dicier when backup Raymond Cotton decided to transfer. Cotton is a better athlete than projected starter Nathan Stanley, but Stanley is more polished and has a better grasp of the offense. Still, it wasn't a given that Stanley would start. The new No. 2 guy is junior college transfer Randall Mackey, who just arrived on campus. He and Stanley are the only scholarship quarterbacks on the Rebels' roster.

To no one's surprise, a vote of 177 select media members at SEC Media Days had Alabama and Florida winning their respective divisions this fall. Unbelievably, though, one media person chose Vanderbilt to win the SEC East. (Hey, perhaps that voter knows something no one else does -- like that every other SEC East team is going to be on probation and ineligible for the league title. Because that's the only way Vandy wins anything.)

Staying with Vandy, interim coach Robbie Caldwell hired Tulsa offensive line coach Herb Hand for the same job with the Commodores. Hand also had been co-coordinator for the Golden Hurricane, along with newly hired quarterback coach Chad Morris; Morris was coach at Austin (Texas) Lake Travis High last season. To replace Hand, Tulsa hired North Texas line coach Spencer Leftwich.

Three schools received some bad news about potential starters last week. Kentucky announced that senior cornerback Paul Warford was ineligible academically. That means the end of a UK career for Warford, who also missed the '08 season because of academic reasons. Washington tight end Kavario Middleton has been dismissed from the team for violating team rules. Middleton started 11 games last season and was battling with Chris Izbicki for the starting role this season. And Marshall cornerback DeQuan Bembry -- one of the best players at his position in Conference USA -- was booted from the team after being arrested for drunk driving. It was his second brush with the law this year and the third in his time at the school.

The Mountain West Conference is allowing its fans to be part of the league's Media Days activities on Tuesday and Wednesday. Fans can go to the league's official website -- themwc.com -- and follow the links to submit questions to the coaches and players who will be at the festivities.

ESPN announced some changes in its broadcasting crews for SEC games this season. For the SEC Network's Game of the Week, Dave Neal will continue as play-by-play man with former Heisman winner Andre Ware as the analyst. For the weekly ESPNU game at noon, Rob Stone will do play-by-play and former Georgia All-America defensive end David Pollack will be the analyst. And for the Saturday night SEC game on ESPNU, Clay Matvick will be the play-by-play guy and former NFL coach Herm Edwards the analyst.

Some stadium talk. Florida Atlantic's board of trustees approved a plan last week seeking about $45 million to build a 30,000-seat, on-campus stadium. The Owls currently play at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, about 20 miles from campus. And Mississippi State officials announced they're developing plans that one day might have Scott Field seat 75,000. The on-campus stadium currently holds 55,082.

Former N.C. State wide receiver Donald Bowens had hoped to transfer "home" to USF and spend his final year of eligibility playing for the Bulls. Instead, Bowens -- who is from St. Petersburg, across Tampa Bay from USF's campus in Tampa -- is heading to Division II North Alabama. Bowens has graduated from N.C. State and was planning to attend grad school at USF, which has been hit hard by injuries at wide receiver. Instead, he was not accepted into grad school and now will play for Terry Bowden at UNA.

We were remiss in not mentioning this last week, but New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner -- who died July 13 -- began his career as a college coach. He was a graduate assistant at Ohio State under Woody Hayes in 1954, was a line coach at Northwestern in 1955 for Lou Saban and was a running backs coach at Northwestern in 1956 and '57 under Jack Mollenkopf. He then left coaching to join the family's shipping business. Steinbrenner lived in Tampa and donated generously to charities and organizations in the area; George Steinbrenner High School opened in the Tampa suburb of Lutz in 2009.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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