Paul Hornung Award names Saquon Barkley its 2017 winner

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He may have been snubbed in the eyes of some when it came to the Heisman Trophy voting, but Saquon Barkley will still be taking home at least one piece of national hardware this awards season.

It was announced Wednesday morning that the Penn State running back has become the second straight player from the Big Ten to win the Paul Hornung Award.  Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers was the winner of the 2016 award.

There were three other finalists for this year’s award — North Carolina State running back Nyheim Hines, Iowa State linebacker/quarterback Joel Lanning and Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis.

“It is an honor to win an award like the Paul Hornung Award for the most versatile player in college football,” Barkley said in a statement. “I am so appreciative of Mr. Hornung and the Louisville Sports Commission for selecting me for this very special honor. I have to give a lot of the credit to my teammates and coaches, they are the reason that I am in position to win this award and I could not have done it without them. I also want to thank our amazing fans at Penn State. We Are!”

“I am thrilled for Saquon to join this elite list of Paul Hornung Award winners,” said Barkley’s head coach, James Franklin. “I couldn’t be more proud of Saquon and everything he has accomplished at Penn State. In my 22 years of coaching, I have never coached or seen a player who can affect the game the way Saquon Barkley does. The Hornung Award is not only honoring the most versatile player in college football, but is also recognizing one of the best people in college football.”

Barkley, who’s expected to leave Penn State early for the NFL, is currently second in the country in all-purpose yards.  Not only does Barkley lead the Nittany Lions in rushing, but he’s third in both receptions and receiving yards and is the team’s top kick returner.

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.