Sports briefs

After successfully fighting the NCAA for eligibility during the 2007 season this past May, running back Mu’Ammar Ali has opted to forego his final year as a Viking.

Ali breaks free from the Vikings

After successfully fighting the NCAA for eligibility during the 2007 season this past May, running back Mu’Ammar Ali has opted to forego his final year as a Viking.

Ali, who led the Vikings with 589 rushing yards in six games last season, has already obtained his degree in business communication and administration from Portland State. The speedy, elusive back started for PSU when not suffering from a shoulder injury, once gaining 139 yards and a touchdown in a spectacular showing against Oregon at Autzen Stadium.

With new offensive coordinator Mouse Davis’ run-and-shoot scheme slated for installation this season, Ali’s role would have been significantly reduced. The run-and-shoot offense features a single-back formation, usually highlighting a fullback’s power and toughness, and Ali’s 5-foot-8, 200-pound frame is too slender to fit the bill.

Big Sky All-Conference fullback Bobby McClintock will assume the starting running back role. The powerful sophomore fullback, who rushed for 170 yards on 34 carries and caught four passes for 55 yards last season, flourished during spring practice and the Vikings’ annual spring game, raising eyebrows of coaches and fans, alike.

McClintock earned preseason All-American status from the College Sporting News for the NCAA I Football Championship Subdivision, announced July 18.

Sherri Murrell rounds out coaching staff

Women’s head basketball coach Sherri Murrell, hired to succeed Charity Elliot on July 1, has completed employment of her coaching staff. Murrell, who becomes the Vikings’ 10th women’s coach in the program’s history, signed on assistant coaches Peg Swadener and Lisa Fisher for the upcoming 2007-08 season.

Swadener arrives at Portland State with a great breadth of knowledge for women’s college basketball. Like Murrell, she is an Oregon native, and her last coaching stop was at Princeton University, where she spent the 2006-07 season as an assistant coach. She has also coached a combined nine seasons at Idaho, Oregon and Boise State, spending five years as a recruiting coordinator for the Ducks.

Murrell believes Swadener, who was also a successful coach at Marist High School in Eugene, Ore., before entering the collegiate coaching ranks, brings an immense amount of experience and excellent recruiting abilities.

The second assistant coach Murrell added to her staff is Fisher, a former Portland State assistant. Murrell and Fisher both served on the Vikings’ staff under Jenny Yopp for two seasons from 1996-98. The two then reunited at Washington State after Murrell, the Cougars’ head coach for five seasons from 2003-07, hired Fisher as an assistant coach.

Fisher, a native Portlander, played college basketball at Boise State, where she helped the Broncos claim Big Sky championships in 1992 and 1994. The 35-year-old Fisher is expected to utilize her familiarity with Portland and the state of Oregon in recruiting endeavors. Her longevity and chemistry with Murrell should bode well for the Portland State coaching staff.

In addition to Swadener and Fisher, Murrell will retain assistant coach Mike Wood, a member of Elliot’s reign and just hired in April, to complete her coaching staff.