Saban again denies NFL interest, says ‘this is where I belong’

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Wherever there’s a football dynasty being built, there’s an architect behind its construction.  And, in the case of the Alabama dynasty — and make no mistake, that’s exactly what it is — Nick Saban‘s fingerprints are all over the Tide.

The Tide as a team and Saban as a head coach are the standard-bearers in today’s game, and the empirical data is irrefutable.  Two straight BCS titles — the only team to accomplish that — and three in four years, with a shot at three straight and four in five with a plethora of talent returning in 2013.  Of the last eight BCS championships, a Saban-coached team has won four of them, leaving the 61-year-old coach just two titles behind the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most ever.

In the background of the building and maintaining of a football juggernaut, though, is the constant hum of NFL noise.

It was there in the run-up to the BCS championship game, which both Saban and his wife attempted to stamp out to no avail.  It was there in the postgame following the throttling of Notre Dame as well.  And, once again, Saban attempted tamp out whatever embers of a move to the NFL may still be smoldering.

At a celebratory press conference Tuesday morning, Saban was again asked about what if any future he has in the professional ranks.

“How many times do you think I’ve been asked this question?” Saban said according to the Birmingham News. “How many times do you think I’ve been asked to put it to rest? And I’ve put it to rest and you continue to (ask) it. …

“I kind of learned through that experience [with the Miami Dolphins] that maybe this is where I belong. I’m really happy and at peace with all of that. No matter how many times I say that, you all don’t believe it. I don’t know why I keep talking about it.”

Of course, Saban knows exactly why people continue to talk about the NFL even as he continually denies interest in a return.  Simply put, Saban will never completely live down his strident “I’m not going to be the Alabama head coach” line two weeks before he was the Alabama head coach.

That’s not on the media, that’s on Saban for publicly painting himself into that corner back in December of 2006.

What is on the media, though, is clinging to the notion that, because he went 15-17 during his two years with the Dolphins, Saban has some unfinished business as far as the NFL is concerned.  That he simply couldn’t stand the lone stain on his otherwise sterling coaching résumé and would need to return to right that wrong.

Saban has steadfastly denied that’s the case, and laid out in perhaps the clearest terms yet exactly why he prefers college over the professional ranks.

“Somewhere along the lines you learn a lot from the experiences of what you’ve done in the past,” he said. “I came to the Miami Dolphins eight years ago for the best owner, the best person I’ve ever had the opportunity to work for. In the two years I was here, I had a very, very difficult time thinking I would impact the organization the way I wanted to and the way I was able to in college. It was very difficult for me.

“There’s a lot of parity in the NFL, there’s a lot of rules in the NFL. People say you can draft the players you want to draft. You draft the player that’s there when you pick. Might not be the player you need, might not be the player you want. You’ve got salary cap issues. We had them here. You’ve got to have a quarterback. We had a chance to get one here, sort of messed it up.”

And therein lies the reason why there’s (almost) no chance that you will ever see Saban, especially as the years tick off the calendar, on an NFL sideline in anything but a spectating role.  Certainly there will be suitors from that level who will inquire about Saban’s availability — the Cleveland Browns will make a run at him in the coming days, if they haven’t already — but they can expect the same answer myriad others have received over the past few seasons.

No thanks. And Roll Tide…

Arizona State, Mississippi State ink home-and-home

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Arizona State and Mississippi State on Tuesday announced a home-and-home series to be played in 2024-25. Arizona State will host the first game in Tempe on Sept. 7, 2024, and the clubs will meet in Starkville on Sept. 6, 2025.

The Sun Devils and Bulldogs have never met previously.

The Arizona State trip is not Mississippi State’s only upcoming trek from the Deep South to the Southwest. The Bulldogs also lined up a visit to Arizona in 2020 and Texas Tech in 2029. Mississippi State will open the 2024 season against Eastern Kentucky and visit Southern Miss the week after its Arizona State visit, on Sept. 14. The Bulldogs have no other games lined up in 2025 as of yet, according to FBSchedules.

Likewise, Mississippi State is not the Sun Devils’ lone upcoming SEC opponent. Arizona State has a home-and-home with LSU on the docket for 2026-28, per FBSchedules. The Mississippi State games complete both of the Sun Devils’ non-conference schedules for these respective seasons. Arizona State opens with Wyoming and visits Texas State in 2024, and hosts Northern Arizona and Texas State in 2025.

UCLA lands Texas Tech graduate transfer OL Justin Murphy

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Help is on the way for Chip Kelly‘s offensive line. One graduate transfer offensive lineman has the Bruins on his list, but another has already pulled the trigger for UCLA.

Texas Tech graduate transfer Justin Murphy on Tuesday committed to UCLA in a post on his Twitter account.

A native of Belton, Texas, Murphy signed with Texas Tech in 2014 and made four starts at right guard as a redshirt freshman. He again started four games at right guard in ’15 before moving out to tackle, where he started another four games. But after battling a series of knee injuries, Murphy announced in the middle of the 2016 season he had medically retired from the game.

After sitting out 2017, Murphy announced in March he planned to make a comeback.

UCLA remarkably started the same offensive linemen in all 13 games last season, but tackle Kolton Miller entered the NFL draft, guard Najoee Toran and center Scott Quessenberry graduated.

Toledo posts, then deletes, tweet offering to change mascot to Shrek

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There are plenty of annoying trends on Twitter, but perhaps the worst is the “I’ll do X if this gets retweeted X-thousand amount of times.” I blame Wendy’s.

But blanket policies are never a good way to go through life, and an exception was made on Tuesday when Toledo offered to change its mascot from a rocket to Shrek with 500,000 retweets.

Sadly, some dreams are simply too beautiful to live in this fallen world, and the tweet was outed to be a hoax. “We are definitely not changing the school mascot to Shrek,” Toledo media relations specialist Christine Billau told USA Today. “The tweet was meant to be fun, but it caused too much of a distraction.”

Meanwhile, Bowling Green gleefully hopped on the dog pile with both elbows pointed out.

UMass grad transfer lineman narrows choices to Auburn, UCLA, USC

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It’s not yet known to where Jack Driscoll will transfer, but the field has been significantly narrowed.

Earlier this offseason, Driscoll decided to transfer from UMass.  Tuesday, the offensive tackle confirmed to Rivals.com that he’s down to three schools as a potential landing spot — Auburn, UCLA and USC.

Neither football program will have to wait long for a decision as Driscoll expects to make an announcement Wednesday.  Driscoll had taken an official visit to all three of the campuses prior to whittling down his transfer to-do list.

“It will come down to one of those three schools,” the lineman told AuburnSports.com. “I feel like all three of the schools would be a good fit.”

Driscoll will graduate from UMass early next month, and will be eligible to play immediately in 2018 at whichever program he selects.  The upcoming season will be the first of two years of eligibility the 6-5, 294-pound lineman has remaining.

After starting eight games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, with most of those starts coming at left guard, he started all 12 games in 2017.  All of those starts this past season came at right tackle for the football-independent Minutemen. He was named to Phil Steele’s All-Independent first team while he earned second-team All-Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) honors for good measure.