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COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Auburn RB ruled ineligible for Outback Bowl; FSU's Fisher to get $1.8M as coach

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn running back Eric Smith is academically ineligible for the Outback Bowl against Northwestern.

Coach Gene Chizik said Friday that Smith won't practice with the team or make the trip for the New Year's Day game, but he expects him back in the fold in January.

Smith has run for 99 yards and caught 18 passes for 226 yards for the Tigers.

He was suspended for the season opener after being charged with third-degree assault for an off-campus fight.

Smith was granted youthful offender status.

Chizik said the rest of the players were in good academic standing. He wouldn't say how the Tigers would fill Smith's various roles, but said "we've made provisions."

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AUBURN'S HAWTHORNE LEAVES TEAM BEFORE OUTBACK BOWL:

Auburn receiver Tim Hawthorne isn't waiting for the Outback Bowl to move on.

Hawthorne graduated Friday and decided to leave the team ahead of the Tigers' New Year's Day game against Northwestern. Hawthorne was a highly recruited player out of Homewood High School but had only 13 catches in his career.

He had a fifth year of eligibility remaining.

Hawthorne's career has been marred by injuries. He also missed much of spring practice in 2007 after sustaining injuries in a car wreck that killed a friend.

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FISHER'S SALARY RELEASED:

Florida State's new football coach Jimbo Fisher has agreed to a five-year contract worth $1.8 million annually, not including incentives.

Fisher, currently FSU's offensive coordinator, will take over from coach Bobby Bowden on Jan. 5. Bowden will coach his final game Jan. 1 in the Gator Bowl against West Virginia, where he'd been before coming to Tallahassee 33 years ago.

The incentives include $50,000 for winning an Atlantic Coast Conference division title, $50,000 for the ACC championship, $125,000 for appearing in the national championship game and another $125,000 for winning it.

Finishing in the top five of The Associated Press poll would give him $100,000 while making the top 10 would be worth $50,000.

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ECU'S HOLTZ STAYING:

Skip Holtz has made it official: He isn't going anywhere this offseason.

East Carolina's recent success has made his a common name mentioned when coaching jobs open every year, and the coach on Friday acknowledged talking to multiple, unidentified schools about their vacancies.

"After sitting down and looking at everything and weighing all of our options ... Greenville is the best place for us to be," Holtz said.

Holtz, who's 38-26 in five seasons at East Carolina, has seen his stock rise as he led the Pirates (9-4) to their second straight Conference USA title and consecutive berths in the Liberty Bowl.

He opened his pre-Liberty Bowl press conference by addressing the "entire rumor mill that keeps running around, that everybody has run so wildly with." The coach says his discussions with other schools came with the blessing of East Carolina's administration and added that there have been no adjustments made to the contract extension he signed last year that runs through the 2013 season.

His decision "takes a lot of the uncertainty out of it, and I think it's really done a great thing (because) it stimulates you mentally, where we're going as a program and what we're trying to do," Holtz said. "It's stimulated some great conversations with (athletic director Terry) Holland and myself, where we're going as a program, where we want to go, what we need to do to get there.

"It's been a very positive couple of weeks, what we've been through," he added. "But all of a sudden, you sit down and you make that decision and say, 'You know what, we're staying. Greenville's home.' You roll your sleeves up and say, 'Let's get busy.'"

There certainly has been plenty to keep him occupied in the three weeks since the Pirates' title-game victory over Houston.

Amid the job whispers, he has been preparing his team for its bowl game against Arkansas (7-5) and has been hearing from some old friends from his childhood. He spent his teenage years in Fayetteville, Ark., while his father coached the Razorbacks from 1977-83