Nick Saban

Saban: ‘We just couldn’t get the mental energy, intensity we needed’

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All week long, when pundits discussed the chances of Texas A&M upsetting Alabama, they invariably pointed to the emotional toll the Tide’s win over LSU last weekend as something that could swing the game in the Aggies’ favor.

In the aftermath of A&M’s stunning upset of the No. 1 team in the country, and at least to some extent, the Tide’s head coach agreed.

The past four weekends, the Tide has faced three teams that were, at the time, ranked inside the Top 15 as well as its annual cross-division rival in Tennessee.  When asked specifically about the Tigers game taking too much out of the team, Saban uncharacteristically leaned on the emotional crutch graciously provided to him by the reporter.

“I think the players refocused and really tried and it seemed like early in the week we were pretty good, but later in the week, emotionally, I’m not really talking about physically, we just couldn’t seem to get the kind of mental energy and intensity that we needed to play against this kind of team,” the coach said in quotes distributed by the team. “We have had a pretty tough stretch here, and that’s no excuse but, Mississippi State, LSU, and this game – playing at Tennessee, which is a big game for us emotionally.”

To Saban’s credit, it wasn’t even remotely all about what his Tide didn’t have or what may have been lacking in their emotional reserves.  As everyone saw, and whether they’re new to the SEC or not, A&M is one hell of a football team as Saban readily acknowledged.

“[Y]ou have to really congratulate Texas A&M. They played a tremendous game and certainly outplayed us in the game today,” Saban said. “We knew that this was going to be a difficult game and that they had a really good team. They had lost to two top-10 teams by three and five points and they are a better team now that they were then, because the quarterback is playing better every week.

“We were going to need to play our best game today and we didn’t do it and that’s my responsibility.”

The good news for Saban and the Tide is that this is far from a lost season.  The SEC West title is still well within their reach, as is a spot in the BcS title game if certain dominoes fall their way.

Even better?  Of the 23 current starters — 12 listed on the offense — 16 of them are underclassmen and, barring early leaps for the NFL, would return in 2013.  On the two-deep depth chart, 36 of the 46 players are non-seniors.

So, yeah, the Tide will be loaded with talent again in 2013 — talent with the benefit of an additional year’s worth of experience, it should be noted.

Coastal Carolina officially joins the Sun Belt today, in all sports except football

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 23:  Alex Ross #4 of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers drops back to pass during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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One of the final aftershocks of the Great Realignment from earlier this decade officially reaches the surface today.

The Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina are now officially all-sports members of the Sun Belt Conference. In every sport, that is, except football. Joe Moglia and his 41-13 football program will compete this fall as an FCS independent before making the leap in 2017.

“This is a great day for the Sun Belt Conference as we are very proud to have Coastal Carolina University officially join our membership,” Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson said in a statement. “The Sun Belt has a bright future and Coastal Carolina makes a perfect fit as it too has seen a tremendous amount of growth and success with its baseball team most recently winning the College World Series and a national championship. Under the leadership of President DeCenzo, Athletics Director Matt Hogue, and all the Chanticleer coaches and student-athletes, I expect CCU to be very competitive in the Sun Belt immediately and represent the SBC in NCAA championships in the upcoming season.”

The oddity here is that no Sun Belt member has ever won a national championship while a member of the Sun Belt (Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Louisiana-Monroe each claimed Division I-AA/FCS national championships). Meanwhile, Coastal Carolina registered its first ever national championship in baseball just yesterday, its final day as a Big South member and on the eve of moving to the Sun Belt.

That, of course, didn’t stop the Sun Belt from covering the Chanticleers’ run through Omaha like they were one of their own.

Coastal Carolina’s first football season will also mark affiliate members Idaho and New Mexico State’s final season in the Sun Belt. The sleeker, geographically cohesive 10-team Sun Belt will launch its championship game in 2018.

Jeremy Foley’s successor at Florida unlikely to come from within

GAINESVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 06:  Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley speaks on during an introductory press conference on December 6, 2014 in Gainesville, Florida. Jim McElwain has left Colorado State and replaces ex-Florida head coach Will Muschamp who was fired earlier this season.
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Jeremy Foley‘s rise up the ranks of Florida’s athletics department is a path that launched thousands of sports careers.

After obtaining a Master’s degree in sports administration from Ohio, a 22-year-old Foley took an internship in Florida’s ticket office. He was hired full-time after the internship ended. Then he was promoted to ticket manager. Then he took over all ticket and game operations. Before his 30th birthday Foley was running Florida’s business operations and by age 39 he was the Gators’ athletics director.

He remained in that position, of course, throughout the duration of his career. A career that will end in October.

Foley’s quarter-century run atop the Florida sports pyramid and four decades working within it will come to an end soon, and in the process of finding his replacement it appears the Gators will choose from a well different than they found the old boss. Foley was famously and obviously loyal to Florida, and also to his team of senior executives.

His top three executives, executive associate AD for internal affairs Chip Howard, executive associate AD for external affairs Mike Hill and executive associate AD for administration Lynda Tealer have been in Gainesville since 1989, 1993 and 2003, respectively. And each has taken their name out of the running to become Florida’s next AD.

“Each of the internal people have made a decision not to pursue the athletic director position for their own individual reasons,” Florida spokesman Steve McClain said in a statement on Thursday to the Florida Times-Union.

Georgia AD Greg McGarity, a former Foley protege in Gainesville, took his name out of the running earlier last month.

Veteran secondary starter dismissed by Colorado State

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 20:  Wide receiver Kaelin Clay #8 of the Utah Utes runs for yardage after catching a pass as defensive back Preston Hodges #24 of the Colorado State Rams hits him out of bounds during the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 20, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Utah won 45-10.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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With the start of summer camp just up the block and around the corner, Colorado State has seen its secondary take a rather significant hit.

A CSU official has confirmed to the Loveland Reporter Herald that Preston Hodges has been dismissed from Mike Bobo‘s football program.  The Reporter Herald writes that Hodges “had become academically ineligible and was dismissed from the team.”

The past three seasons, Hodges had started 28 games in the Rams’ secondary.  Eight of those starts came at cornerback last season.

Exiting the spring, the senior Hodges was listed No. 2 on the depth chart at one of the safety spots.

In addition to Hodges, offensive lineman Blake Nowland is no longer on the team’s roster.  There was no reason given for his departure.

After playing in three games as a redshirt freshman in 2014, Nowland missed the entire 2015 season because of a broken leg.

Heisman Trophy odds see change at the top

Leonard Fournette
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There is a new preseason favorite for the 2016 Heisman Trophy, at least as far as Bovada is concerned.

The betting service Tuesday listed LSU running back Leonard Fournette checks in with the best odds at 9/2. He moved ahead of Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, whose odds went from 9/2 in January to 5/1 now.

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey’s odds moved to 11/2 while Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield are all at 12/1.

Several players were added to the board since January, including UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen (16/1), Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough (20/1) and Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham (28/1).

The group of newcomers also includes both of the competitors to be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback. DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire are both set at 28/1.