Conference USA athletic directors have voted unanimously to recommend holding the league's inaugural football championship game in 2005. The recommendation now goes before the league's board of directors.
The game would feature champions from two divisions. East Carolina, Marshall, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, UAB and Central Florida will compete in the East Division and Houston, Rice, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa, and UTEP will play in the West.
The team with the highest conference winning percentage would host the championship game.
Conference USA would become one of five Division I-A conferences to hold a football championship game. The Big 12, SEC and Mid-American Conference play title games, and the ACC will add one in 2005.
Next year, Conference USA will add six schools: Marshall, Rice, SMU, Tulsa, UCF and UTEP. Members Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida are moving to the Big East in 2005.
MARYLAND: Coach Ralph Friedgen received an eight-year contract extension that could keep him at his alma mater through 2012. Friedgen, 31-8 in three seasons, will get an annual package of $1.5-million, according to athletic director Deborah A. Yow.
CLEMSON: Right now, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden doesn't mind seeing all the hands-off yellow and green jerseys on his practice field, but that will change if most of the 15 players who missed Thursday's practice aren't ready to go by next week. "We've still got two weeks to go" before the opener against Wake Forest on Sept. 4, Bowden said. "If we were closer to the game, I'd be more concerned."
The most serious ailments are running back Duane Coleman's broken foot; offensive lineman Chip Myrick's mononucleosis, and defensive lineman Vontrell Jamison's broken arm.
TENNESSEE: Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer are trying to accomplish a feat that even Peyton Manning couldn't pull off - start at quarterback for the Vols in the season-opener as a freshman. Ainge and Schaeffer share the No. 1 spot on the depth chart after sixth-year senior C.J. Leak and junior Rick Clausen were bumped to No. 2.