Sep 4, 2021; Annapolis, Maryland, USA;  Marshall Thundering Herd running back Rasheen Ali (22) reacts after scoring a first half touchdown against the Navy Midshipmen at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall RB Rasheen Ali steps away from team

Marshall running back Rasheen Ali will miss the start of the season for personal reasons.

Thundering Herd coach Charles Huff said there is no timetable for the return of the redshirt sophomore, who ran for 1,401 yards and tied for the FBS lead with 23 rushing touchdowns last season.

“Rasheen will be away from the team for some time, and as soon as he is mentally, physically and emotionally ready to return, he will be back,” Huff said in a statement. “Our team and staff are doing a great job of supporting him, and we are looking forward to getting him back soon.”

The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, W.Va., reported that Ali missed a team scrimmage on Saturday and canceled an upcoming promotional appearance.

Florida State transfer Khalan Laborn will likely start in Ali’s place when Marshall opens the season Sept. 3 against visiting Norfolk State.

Ali posted six 100-yard games on the ground in 2021, including a season-high 203 yards at Charlotte on Nov. 20. He also caught 45 passes for 334 yards and a touchdown in 13 games.

–Field Level Media

Sep 14, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; A general view of the end zone before their game between the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Giants to add seven to Ring of Honor

The New York Giants are reaching back into team history and adding six players and a contributor to the Ring of Honor, the franchise’s highest achievement.

Former running backs Joe Morris, Ottis Anderson and Rodney Hampton, as well as defensive end Leonard Marshall, were invited to practice on Tuesday and were told of their selection by Giants president and CEO John Mara.

Joining them as new members of the Ring of Honor are Ronnie Barnes, the senior vice president of medical services who has been on the team’s medical staff for 47 years, and defensive back Jimmy Patton and halfback/receiver Kyle Rote. The latter two will be inducted posthumously.

All seven of the honorees were members of Giants championship teams: Patton and Rote in 1956; Morris in 1986; Anderson and Marshall in 1986 and 1990; and Hampton in 1990.

Barnes has been with the Giants for all four NFL championships.

Their additions will leave the Ring of Honor with 50 members. Two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning was honored in 2021.

“We are proud to add these deserving and legendary figures in Giants history to our Ring of Honor,” Mara said in a news release. “Each of the players was among the very best at his position to wear a Giants uniform. All of them helped our franchise win championships and enjoy long-term success, as has Ronnie Barnes, who has been an invaluable and beloved member of our organization for decades.”

The enshrinement ceremony will take place Sept. 26 when the Giants host the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on “Monday Night Football.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2020; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; UAB Blazers players celebrate after defeating the Marshall Thundering Herd for the Conference USA Championship at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Sun Belt-bound schools reach deal with C-USA

Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss have reached a separation agreement with Conference USA to depart for the Sun Belt this year, ESPN reported Tuesday.

The reported deal comes more than a month after C-USA threatened legal action against the schools for failing to give 14 months’ notice before leaving the conference, per league bylaws. The conference filed for arbitration, with the three schools filing for temporary injunctions against arbitration.

The three schools are on the Sun Belt football schedule for 2022. Meanwhile, C-USA will play with 11 members in 2022 and is expected to release a new schedule soon; the three schools were on C-USA’s schedule for 2022, as well.

C-USA’s football schedule had included 14 schools split into divisions of seven. The East Division is losing Marshall and Old Dominion, and the West is losing Southern Miss.

Six other current C-USA institutions — Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA — will eventually join the American Athletic Conference, but have not expressed intention to make the move in 2022.

Liberty, New Mexico State, Jacksonville State and Sam Houston will eventually join C-USA.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd running back Sheldon Evans (5) runs the ball and shakes a tackle from Old Dominion Monarchs safety R'Tarriun Johnson (21) during the second quarter at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

C-USA threatens legal action to keep 3 members from leaving early

Conference USA released its 2022 football schedule on Monday, a matrix that included Southern Miss, Marshall and Old Dominion even though the three institutions announced Friday their intention of leaving the conference this summer.

The trio reached an agreement to join the Sun Belt Conference before July 1, 2023. They issued nearly identical statements Friday claiming that C-USA had shown an “unwillingness” to negotiate an earlier exit.

The conference fired back Monday.

“Conference USA intends to conduct the 2022-23 athletic year with the full 14 institution membership intact,” the conference said in a statement. “The C-USA Board of Directors will exhaust all necessary legal actions to ensure all members meet their contractual obligations as defined by and agreed to in the Conference USA Bylaws.”

Marshall interim athletic director Jeff O’Malley tweeted Monday that his department stood by its previous statement despite C-USA including the Thundering Herd on its football schedule.

C-USA’s football schedule includes 14 schools split into divisions of seven. It would be down to 11 teams should the trio depart early, with the West Division losing Marshall and Old Dominion and the East losing Southern Miss.

Six other current member institutions — Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA — will eventually join the American Athletic Conference, but have not expressed intention to make the move in 2022. Liberty, New Mexico State, Jacksonville State and Sam Houston will eventually join C-USA.

Sports Illustrated reported that the Sun Belt also had crafted its yet-to-be-released 2022 football schedule with Southern Miss, Marshall and Old Dominion included.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd defensive back Micah Abraham (6) breaks up a pass intended for Old Dominion Monarchs quarterback Stone Smartt (4) during the third quarter at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Southern Miss, Marshall, ODU to leave C-USA in June

Southern Miss, Marshall and Old Dominion confirmed Friday they are leaving Conference USA at the conclusion of this academic year.

The schools issued nearly identical statements, alluding to a stalemate with C-USA over an exit plan. The three said their conference membership will end effective June 30.

Each school had an agreement to join the Sun Belt Conference before July 1, 2023. Their announcements did not indicate whether their membership will begin with the 2022-23 academic year.

“The University first advised Conference USA in early December 2021 of the University’s plans to terminate its membership in June 2022. Since then, the University has clearly and consistently repeated its intentions to the conference,” read the statement from Southern Miss. “The University has from the outset expressed its desire to work with Conference USA to achieve an amicable separation, including offering to cooperate to ensure that all remaining conference members had complete competitive schedules for those sports in which the University competes. Conference USA has so far refused to discuss any such arrangement with the University.

“The Conference’s unwillingness to discuss the concept of separation this year creates confusion and doubt for all concerned. The remaining members of Conference USA deserve certainty about their schedules as they plan for competition next year. For their sake, the University makes public its intent.”

The Sun Belt will have 16 member schools with the three additions. James Madison also is entering the league, which also will consist of Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Little Rock, Louisiana, UL-Monroe, South Alabama, UTSA, Texas State and Troy.

Conference USA remains in flux. Also departing are Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA, which are heading to the American Athletic Conference. Liberty, New Mexico State, Jacksonville State and Sam Houston are set to join.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA;  Marshall Thundering Herd quarterback Grant Wells (8) passes the ball against Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns during the first half of the 2021 New Orleans Bowl at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall QB Grant Wells entering transfer portal

Marshall quarterback Grant Wells announced his plans to transfer Monday after two seasons as the starter for the Thundering Herd.

Wells was the Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2020 and led Marshall to the New Orleans Bowl in 2021.

“It has been a tremendous honor to be Marshall’s quarterback for these last 2 years. I’ve made memories that will last a lifetime,” he posted on social media. “With that being said, I have decided to transfer from Marshall University.”

Wells completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 3,535 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 13 games for Marshall (7-6) in 2021. He threw for 2,091 yards with 18 TDs and nine picks in 10 games in 2020.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2021; Lafayette, LA, USA; Louisiana Ragin Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis (1) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Appalachian State Mountaineers during the Sun Belt Conference championship game. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

No. 23 Louisiana brings lethal defense to New Orleans Bowl vs. Marshall

Louisiana and Marshall will get an early start on their Sun Belt Conference rivalry when they meet in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Saturday in the Caesars Superdome.

The No. 23 Ragin’ Cajuns (12-1) secured the host berth in the New Orleans Bowl by defeating Appalachian State 24-16 in the Sun Belt championship game Dec. 4.

The Thundering Herd (7-5), who finished second in the Conference USA East division, will join the Sun Belt no later than July 1, 2023.

Louisiana has won a school-record 12 consecutive games since losing the season opener at Texas.

The Cajuns’ fourth consecutive Sun Belt West division title helped head coach Billy Napier land the head-coaching job at Florida. Napier coached the team in the conference championship game before departing.

Co-offensive coordinator Michael Desormeaux was named as Napier’s successor and will make his head-coaching debut against Marshall. After the bowl game, Desormeaux will have to fill three spots on his staff that were created by Napier hires at Florida.

“I don’t want there to be a whole bunch of distractions among the players any more than what we’ve already had,” Desormeaux said. “These guys for the last two or three weeks, they’ve been through the ringer. The No. 1 priority for myself and my staff is to send this team off the right way in this New Orleans Bowl.

“We started this thing a long time ago — for some of these kids for four years in the making — and we’ve got one more mission this year that we plan on finishing. We have a great team. They deserve to finish this thing the right way.”

Cajuns super senior quarterback Levi Lewis is 34-7 as the Cajuns starter and will be playing his final game.

Louisiana is 11th in the country in scoring defense (18.2) and created 21 turnovers while committing just eight.

Marshall lost two of its last three games, which included a 53-21 thrashing at the hands of Western Kentucky.

“We’ve got a point to prove,” first-team All-CUSA running back Rasheen Ali said. “We all want to finish strong because we didn’t get the outcome we wanted at the end of the season, so we can go down to New Orleans, and come out with a victory.”

Ali, a freshman who averages 103.4 rushing yards per game, is tied for first nationally with 20 rushing touchdowns and is second with 22 total touchdowns and 11.0 points per game.

Marshall is tied for fourth nationally with 35 rushing touchdowns and is 10th in total offense (470.8) and 12th in passing offense (310.9). The defense is led by All-CUSA linebacker Abraham Beauplan (104 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble) and is tied for 13th nationally with 38 sacks.

The game is a Louisiana homecoming for three members of the Thundering Herd. Safety Cory McCoy, voted defensive MVP by his teammates and coaches, is a graduate transfer from McNeese State. His head coach with the Cowboys was Lance Guidry, who is a native of Welsh, La., and the current Marshall defensive coordinator. Tight end Hayden Hagler is from Sulphur, La.

Louisiana went to the New Orleans Bowl each season from 2011-14 and won each game before losing to Southern Miss in the same bowl in 2016.

This will be Marshall’s first appearance in the New Orleans Bowl.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd wide receiver Shadeed Ahmed (0) celebrates with fans after catching a touchdown pass during the first overtime against the Old Dominion Monarchs at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall indicates it is leaving Conference USA for Sun Belt

Marshall is the latest school to commit to joining the Sun Belt Conference.

The athletic department released a video on its Twitter account on Friday indicating it was joining the league.

“Let’s have some fun! #RiseAsOne|@SunBelt,” the text above the video said.

Marshall will become the ninth school to depart Conference USA in the latest round of league shuffling.

The addition of Marshall will give the Sun Belt 15 full members, including 13 for football.

Earlier this week, the Sun Belt formally announced the additions of Southern Miss and Old Dominion. Both those schools will depart C-USA and join the Sun Belt no later than July 1, 2023

The Sun Belt also has held discussions with FCS power James Madison, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.

Six other C-USA schools — Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA — are leaving to join the American Athletic Conference in 2023 at the earliest.

The defections leave C-USA with five members: Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, UTEP and Western Kentucky.

C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said last week that the league is seeking new members with some possibly coming from the FCS level.

–Field Level Media

Sep 30, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; A player of the Marshall Thundering Herd holds his helmet to celebrate the touchdown by tight end Ryan Yurachek (not pictured) against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the second half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall All-American OL Cain Madden to transfer

Marshall second team All-American guard Cain Madden announced Wednesday that he has entered the transfer portal.

Madden has one year of eligibility remaining, granted by the NCAA to all athletes last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s the 11th player from last season’s team to transfer after the Thundering Herd fired head coach Doc Holliday in January after 11 years.

“I am genuinely grateful for the five years at Marshall where I have been able to grow and cultivate my skills both on and off the field,” Madden posted to Twitter.

Madden started nine games last season, earning a second team All-American nod from The Associated Press.

Pro Football Focus rates Madden the top overall right guard in the country.

–Field Level Media

Nov 7, 2020; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; The Marshall Thundering Herd logo is seen on a pylon in the end zone before a game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Marshall to hire Alabama assistant Charles Huff as coach

Marshall is in the process of hiring Alabama running backs coach Charles Huff as its new head coach, according to multiple reports.

Huff’s hiring is expected to be discussed and approved by the university’s board of governors on Monday. Huff also had the associate head coach label at Alabama and would become the 12th current Black head coach at the FBS level.

The 37-year-old Huff will replace Doc Holliday, who was let go after 11 seasons with the Thundering Herd.

Huff is the second Alabama assistant to land a head job in recent weeks. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is the new coach at Texas.

The Crimson Tide averaged 48.5 points while going 13-0 this season. Alabama rolled to a 52-24 victory over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff title game earlier this week.

Huff just finished his second season with the Crimson Tide. Among his college assistant stops was Penn State (2014-17), where he was the position coach of All-American back Saquon Barkley. He also was the assistant running backs coach for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills in 2012.

Huff has drawn rave reviews for his recruiting throughout a college coaching career that began in 2006. He played college football at Hampton and was the team’s starting center in 2005.

Holliday compiled an 85-54 record after taking over the Huntington, W.Va., program in 2010, including a 6-2 record in bowl games and three straight 10-win seasons from 2013-15.

This season, the Thundering Herd went 7-3 and were ranked as high as No. 15. Holliday was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year for the second time.

–Field Level Media