GAC ROUNDUP

<strong>Candlelight vigil remembers fallen SAU football player</strong>

<span>A candlelight vigil was held at Wilkins Stadium on the campus of Southern Arkansas University on Sunday night to honor and pay tribute to SAU football player Brandon Hobdy, who was fatally shot in an off-campus incident earlier that morning. Southern Arkansas President Dr. David F. Rankin opened the vigil with heart-felt remarks followed by reassuring statements from recently-appointed SAU Chief of Police Anthony Williams and Magnolia Police Chief Glenn O. Maxwell. Head football coach Bill Keopple encouraged the crowd to remember Hobdy in a positive light and to support one another within the athletic teams and the University. SAU Director of Athletics Steve Browning followed Coach Keopple, and Browning reiterated to the crowd of the available services on campus for anyone in need during this difficult time. Following Browning, Deandre Jenkins, one of Hobdy’s classmates and teammates, spoke and delivered an emotional address to those in attendance. A prayer and a moment of silence for Hobdy then took place with the illuminating light of candles providing the only light source at the football stadium. Hobdy, 23, a native of Garland, Texas, played wide receiver and was slated to be a significant contributor for the Mulerider offense this coming season. Last season was Hobdy’s first at SAU after he transferred in from Bakersfield College in Bakersfield, Calif.</span>

<strong>East Central softball adds two coaches</strong>

<span>The East Central University softball staff will be larger because of a grant from the NCAA. The Lady Tigers were able to add Debby Abbott as a full-time assistant coach through the NCAA’s Division II Coaching Enhancement Grant. Debby Abbott was also joined on the staff by her husband Teddy Abbott, who was previously on the ECU softball staff, as a volunteer assistant coach. The Division II Coaching Enhancement Grant is designed to provide funding for the creation of new assistant coaching positions for DII schools and is intended to encourage access, recruitment, selection and long-term success of ethnic minorities and women. ECU was one of 15 schools across the country, and two in the Great American Conference, to receive the grant for 2014-16. Southern Arkansas University was the other member of the GAC to receive a grant and also hired an assistant softball coach. Debby Abbott spent the previous two years at Abilene Christian University as an assistant softball coach. During her time with the Wildcats she helped produce seven players earn all-Lone Star Conference team honors, including Keanna Winkfield, who was selected to the NFCA All-South Central Region First Team in 2013. Prior to joining ACU, Debby Abbott coached five years at Muskogee (Okla.) High School, where she led her teams to five regional championships and two Large Division 6A State Championships. Debby Abbott also spent a season at Texas Tech University (2003) and was part of a team that set a program season record with 32 home runs and turned a Big 12 conference record 32 double plays. </span>

<strong>Bisons to get new football scoreboard</strong>

<span>Thanks to several generous donations from members of the 1959 Harding University football team and their families, the Bisons’ First Security Stadium will be equipped with a new scoreboard and a 32-foot by 10-foot, high-definition video board with replay capabilities. Rainey Electronics of Little Rock will design and install the scoreboard and video board, with the unveiling of the new addition scheduled for Oct. 18 as the Bisons host Ouachita Baptist University at 6 p.m. The new scoreboard will include a memorial on the back that honors Carl Allison, Harding’s first head football coach in the modern era; former Harding president and current chancellor emeritus Clifton L. Ganus Jr.; and the 1959 football team, Harding’s first after a 28-year hiatus.</span>

<strong>Reddies ranked No. 8 in AFCA preseason poll</strong>

<span>With back-to-back undefeated regular-seasons and majority a of its offensive specialty players returning, Henderson State University has earned a No. 8 ranking in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Preseason Top 25 poll. The 2013 national champion, Northwest Missouri State University, claimed the top spot in the preseason poll earning 31 of 32 first-place votes. Henderson State received the only remaining first-place vote. Henderson State returns two-time GAC Offensive Player of the Year and GAC Male Athlete of the Year Kevin Rodgers at quarterback. The senior from Rockwall, Texas has thrown for 10,076 yards and 90 touchdowns, while averaging 335.9 yards per game in 30 contests. The Reddies are also ranked No. 5 in Lindy’s preseason Top 25 poll, No. 9 in USA Today’s preseason poll, and 10th in the Sporting News Top 25.</span>

<strong>Carel selected as NWOSU baseball coach</strong>

<span>Northwestern Oklahoma State University Director of Athletics Andy Carter announced the hiring of Sam Carel as head baseball coach. Carel spent eight successful seasons at Jefferson College—an NJCAA Division I program in Hillsboro, Mo.—winning eight-consecutive conference titles, while posting an impressive 296-149 (.665) record. His 2011 and 2012 teams advanced to the JUCO World Series. Under Carel, Jefferson became a hotbed for talent, sending 108 players to four-year schools (61 of them to NCAA Division I schools). In addition, 15 players were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. Over eight seasons, Carel coached 44 all-conference players, including six conference players of the year and 44 NJCAA All-Americans. He was named Region XVI Coach of the Year in 2007 and earned Midwest Community College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year status five times between 2008 and 2012.</span>

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