Speculation again connects Nick Saban to the Browns

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Unfortunately for an Alabama football team preparing for what could be a third BCS championship in four years, it’s back.

The “it” in the latest rumor mill churning is speculation connecting Alabama head coach Nick Saban to a return to the NFL in general and to the Cleveland Browns specifically.  In the months since confirmation surfaced in August that Jimmy Haslam was purchasing the Browns, the speculative thought process was the new owner would bring in Joe Banner as his new team president — he did — who would in turn hire Mike Lombardi as his new general manager — he might — who would in turn at least attempt to bring his old Cleveland buddy Saban in as head coach.

That was the under-the-surface speculation, anyway.  Which the Boston Globe decided Sunday to bring to the surface with some fire to go along with the smoke.

In the Globe‘s report that focuses mainly on a potential Lombardi return to football management, and citing two unnamed NFL sources, Greg Bedard writes that “Saban has let it be known that if he returns to the NFL… it would likely be with Lombardi playing Pioli to his Belichick.”  First and foremost, Saban has let it be known that he’d consider a return to the NFL, where he failed miserably in his only stint with the Miami Dolphins?  The fact that a move back to the NFL would be part of Saban’s thought process as he’s preparing for a fourth BCS title-game appearance stretches the bounds of reason to the point of breakage.

Secondly, this “situation” is dot-connecting at its best.

Saban, a defensive back at Kent State in his collegiate playing days, was part of the ill-fated early-90’s Browns organization that included Lombardi, Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick.  The latter two famously reunited in New England, with Pioli serving as “general manager” while Belichick held final say over personnel decisions during the Patriots’ run of Super Bowl success.  With Lombardi reportedly in play as the future GM in Cleveland, and with Banner preferring a head coach having final say on personnel, dangling the NFL/Browns/Lombardi/personnel carrot in front of Saban could be enough to prompt the best coach in the best situation at the FBS level to “take the plunge again,” Bedard reports.

Why Saban, who was 15-17 with the Dolphins before leaving for Tuscaloosa — after he wasn’t — would “let it be known” that he’s open to a departure back to the big-boy league is unclear.  It certainly wouldn’t be money; at nearly $5.5 million annually, Saban is the highest-paid coach in college football.  A chance at redeeming his only coaching failure at any level?  Perhaps, although there’s clearly no love lost between Saban and the next level.

What is crystal clear, though, is how Saban’s better half views any type of speculation that has her husband headed somewhere other than Tuscaloosa.

“To answer your question [of her Saban having any interest in rebuilding another college program or returning to the NFL] and get right to the point, no. We’re very comfortable here. We love it here. It’s a great fit for our family. It’s a good fit for me. As far as we’re concerned, this is where we’ll retire someday.

“As far as jobs go, this is it for us. I don’t mean to be presumptuous. I would have to talk this over with Nick, but as far as I’m concerned, this is it.”

Those were the comments made by Terry Saban, the coach’s wife, during a radio interview two days before the Globe‘s report reared its head.  “This is it” has a very definitive finality to it; to be fair, so did “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach” two weeks before he was.

Because of that distant past, Saban could in the near future find himself in damned if he does, damned if doesn’t territory if the Globe‘s report and other speculation continues to grow legs.  Damned if he unequivocally denies the Browns speculation (PAWWWLLL, IT’S 2006 AGAIN!!! ROLLTIDE!!!), and damned if he doesn’t (PAWWWLLL, SILENCE IS THE FIRST ACT OF A TRAITOR!!! ROLLTIDE!!!).

All the while preparing his Alabama team for an unprecedented three titles in a four-year span in the BCS era.  “Troll Tide” indeed.

Report: Wisconsin and Notre Dame discussing Soldier Field series

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Notre Dame and Wisconsin have not met on the football field since 1964, but that drought in the series could come to an end in the somewhat near future. The Chicago Tribune reports the two schools are discussing plans for a potential football series that would be played in Chicago’s Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

Why Soldier Field? Why not?

Notre Dame last played in Soldier Field in 2012 when they played Miami as part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series of games traveling around the country. The Shamrock Series has also made stops in San Antonio, New York, Arlington, Indianapolis, and Boston. There is no Shamrock Series game in 2017, but it is expected to return in 2018 (playing Navy in San Diego). Notre Dame has never lost a game in Soldier Field. Wisconsin has also played in Soldier Field. In 2011, the Badgers dominated Northern Illinois.

Of course, the contrarian view here wonders why two programs with fantastic football environment s would want to abandon their locales in Madison and South Bend to play a game in Chicago. The obvious answers here are that it is easier to schedule one game on a neutral field and it tends to be more financially motivated to do so. Until an agreement is announced, it is just speculation to suggest both Notre Dame and Wisconsin will receive a nice paycheck out of playing in Soldier Field once or twice (or more).

Ideally, having Wisconsin and Notre Dame agree to a home-and-home deal would be the way to go, or a three-year deal with a home-and-home series and a neutral site game in Chicago. But we’ll just have to wait and see

Soldier Field hosted a 2015 Big Ten game between Northwestern and Illinois and the Illini are going to be hosting USF in Soldier Field in 2018.

From a Big Ten scheduling standpoint, a game against Notre Dame would satisfy Wisconsin’s non-conference scheduling requirement to include a game against another power conference program in whatever season or seasons the Irish appear on the schedule. Wisconsin currently satisfies that scheduling requirement in 2018 and 2020-2025. The non-conference schedule is full in 2019, meaning the Badgers need a road game against USF or a home game against Central Michigan or North Texas to be given approval from the Big Ten (or work out a deal to slide Notre Dame into that schedule. Notre Dame currently has a schedule vacancy on September 7, 2019, which is when Wisconsin is scheduled to play Central Michigan, but the Irish have a full 12-game schedule in place for the 2019 season.

The bottom line is whenever this scheduling arrangement is announced, it may not be happening until 2020 at the earliest.

Fire up the Les Miles rumor mill at Ole Miss, even if just for fun

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The head coaching vacancy that has opened up at Ole Miss has gotten the ball rolling on a number of potential coaching rumors for some notable names on the coaching free agent market. As noted this weekend, the betting favorites have been listed, and they include SMU head coach Chad Morris as the betting favorite, followed by former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley. Former LSU head coach Les Miles has been given some decent odds to land the job as well, and he is now one of the most interesting names being debated by those monitoring the situation at Ole Miss.

When Miles was pushed out of the way at LSU last season, he made it perfectly clear he was still looking to coach and win. It was just a matter of finding the right opportunity and having the right offer come along. He had his name attached to various coaching rumors during the last go around the coaching carousel last season, but remained a free agent when all was said and done, for whatever the reasons may be. But with a job in the SEC West suddenly on the market, Miles reportedly has expressed his interest in the job.

This should hardly come as a surprise, as Miles has made it known he wants to continue coaching, and the Ole Miss job could be in need of a coach who can weather the storm. The unknown and cloudy future Ole Miss has to navigate through makes the job less desirable on the surface, but a questionable outlook as far as the NCAA is concerned does not mean the job will be without its potential suitors. After all, it may not be Alabama or LSU, but a job in the SEC West will always be worth checking out regardless of the program.

One of the most popular questions asked during a handful of recent radio interviews since the firing resignation of Hugh Freeze has been where will Ole Miss turn next for its head coach? It may be too soon to accurately answer that question, although I have suggested we should not rule out the possibility of Ole Miss landing a good coach, even if that coach is flying well below the radar right now. It may be popular to suggest the Ole Miss job is toxic right now, but if Penn State and Baylor could end up finding decent coaches to take over their programs (and admittedly, Penn State got lucky with hiring Bill O’Brien and we’ll see if Matt Rhule works out at Baylor), then there is no reason to believe nobody would have any interest in the Ole Miss job.

As for Miles, if he wants to have one more chance at winning a championship, Ole Miss may not be the most desirable option. But if scoring revenge against LSU is the motivating factor, then Ole Miss can still work out. Ole Miss hiring Miles may feel like a reach and it feels like a combination that doesn’t quite fit at this point in time, but it would be advisable for Ole Miss to at least make the phone call to Miles and have a discussion.

And all of this may be for nothing. Maybe interim head coach Matt Luke will prove to be a solid coaching option for the Rebels moving forward. We can at least watch him coach a game or two before diving too deep into the coaching future of Ole Miss.

But having Les Miles back on a sideline somewhere will be fun if and when it happens.

UAB adds former Tennessee DE Mykelle McDaniel

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UAB is returning to the playing field this fall after a brief absence from the world of college football, and head coach Bill Clark is working hard to build a program once again. This weekend, Clark was more than happy to announce the latest addition to the program in the not-so-subtle ways college football coaches tend to do on Twitter.

A couple of hours after that tweet was posted by Clark, former Tennessee defensive end Mykelle McDaniel announced on his Twitter account he had committed to the Blazers, followed by a retweet of Clark’s previous post.

McDaniel will be forced to sit out the upcoming 2017 season due to NCAA transfers. He will be eligible to play again in 2018 with three years of eligibility remaining. McDaniel sat out the 2016 season at Tennessee as a redshirt.

Get an early look at those brand new $10,000 Texas lockers

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One of the fun headlines from this offseason has been focused on the amount of money Texas is spending to upgrade its lockerroom, complete with a full redesign of the individual lockers. Longhorns football players will now have fancy HD TVs fixated above their locker showing off their profile. The season may still be a month away, but we now have an early look at how those new lockers look.

And it looks like it was worth the money.

It is just a brief glimpse of the new lockers, but it falls in line with locker renovations being seen around the country at schools capable of investing in the resources to do so. The locker setup itself appears to be similar to lockers used at some other programs, but the burnt orange looks smooth in these lockers.