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Minnesota gives interim Coach Tracy Claeys a three-year contract

Minnesota gives interim Coach Tracy Claeys a three-year contract
Tracy Claeys is no longer Minnesota's interim football coach after accepting a three-year deal from the university. (Jay LaPrete / Associated Press)

Minnesota signed football Coach Tracy Claeys to a three-year contract through the 2018 season Wednesday, dropping the interim tag from Jerry Kill's long-groomed sidekick Wednesday in favor of stability for the Gophers over a national search.

The widely expected decision came exactly two weeks after Kill tearfully announced his retirement because of the continued difficulty of managing his epilepsy and the demanding job.

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The 46-year-old Claeys, who has been an assistant to Kill for 21 seasons, will make $1.4 million next year, $1.5 million in 2017 and $1.6 million in 2018. That will put him near the bottom of the Big Ten Conference in terms of overall football coach compensation.

True to his laid-back, no-frills form, Claeys negotiated the deal without an agent.

"It's a great honor to follow a guy who trained us so well," said Claeys, who joked that he tried to persuade Kill to put recent losses to Michigan and Ohio State on his record since the succession wasn't formalized until now.

Claeys was the acting head coach for seven games in 2013, too, when Kill stepped back for seven games to focus on his health after a series of seizures. The Gophers went 4-3 during that stretch, including consecutive wins against Northwestern, Nebraska, Indiana and Penn State. Kill's long-time defensive coordinator has a different personality than the fiery Kill, but they're both natives of rural Kansas with similar philosophies about running the program.

President Eric Kaler and interim Athletic Director Beth Goetz were sold, as was Board of Regents Chairman Dean Johnson. "We believed in Tracy and his leadership," Goetz said.

Irish's Fuller to return

Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller says he plans to return to school for his senior season.

The 6-foot, 184-pound junior said after practice Wednesday he plans to return so he can earn his psychology degree. He had previously said he would decide after the season whether to leave early for the NFL.

When asked if the game against Wake Forest (3-6) could be his last home game for the Fighting Irish (8-1 and No. 4 in the College Football Playoff ranking) Fuller said, "No. I need to graduate. That's what I came here for."

Fuller ranks fourth in the nation with 12 receiving touchdowns, and moved into second place in school history last week with 28 career touchdown catches. His 900 receiving yards rank 14th and his 100 yards receiving a game ranks 13th.

MAC action

Matt Johnson threw three touchdown passes, Travis Greene ran for three scores and Bowling Green beat Western Michigan, 41-27, in Kalamazoo, Mich., for the Falcons' seventh win in a row.

Johnson threw for 269 yards with one interception for Bowling Green (8-2, 6-0 Mid-American Conference). Greene had 24 carries for 170 yards, which put him five yards shy of breaking Bowling Green's career rushing record of 3,423.

Corey Davis caught 13 passes for 158 yards for Western Michigan (6-4, 5-1).

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Freshman Ryan Graham had 268 total yards and two touchdowns in his first career start, and Northern Illinois beat host Buffalo, 41-30, for the Huskies' fifth straight victory.

Graham was 15-for-24 passing for 190 yards and had 18 carries for 78 yards for Northern Illinois (7-3, 5-1 MAC). Joel Bouagnon ran for a career-high 156 yards and had two touchdowns for Buffalo (5-5, 3-3).

Etc.

Tennessee defensive end/linebacker Curt Maggitt likely will miss at least the rest of the regular season with the hip injury that has sidelined him since mid-September. ... Illinois Coach Bill Cubit indefinitely suspended freshman linebacker Julian Jones pending the outcome of a criminal investigation in Georgia.

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