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…

New Mexico AD Paul Krebs in hot water for Scotland golf trip

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New Mexico AD Paul Krebs (right) had it all figured out. He wanted to go to Scotland to play golf (who doesn’t) but he didn’t want to pay for it (who does?). So he came up with a solution: he’d turn it into a UNM fundraising trip and make the school pay for it.

The school sold 23 packages to travel across the pond for a getaway of luxurious accommodations and bucket-list golf, but put the bills of himself, two UNM executives and a handful of local businessmen on the school’s dime. Lots of dimes, in fact. The trip cost the Lobos nearly $65,000.

“The trip was a working trip and it was designed to immerse us with these donors. It was an intensive experience and I understand why people may question it,” Krebs told KRQE-TV earlier this month.

Despite his attempt at justification, it appeared Krebs knew from the start the trip was an ethical no-no. The $65,000 bill was classified as a basketball tournament on UNM’s accounting paperwork, and Krebs failed to disclose the nature of the June 2015 trip to acting president Chaouki Abdallah until last week.

“VP Krebs came to me and told me that he wanted to tell me something that he had forgotten or did not tell me before,” Abdallah told KRQE. “I was not happy.”

It is not clear why the UNM Foundation or the Lobo Club,  non-profits that handles the school’s and the athletics department’s fundraising efforts, respectively, did not cover the cost of the trip, especially since Lobo Club executive director Kole McKamey was one of the UNM officials who was on the trip. Putting the bill on the university’s ledger also appears to be a violation of the state’s anti-donation laws. The $24,000 cost to take the Albuquerque businessmen has since been refunded by an anonymous donor.

“(Krebs) told me about it in no uncertain terms,” Abdallah told said. “He didn’t try to sugarcoat it. He said I made a mistake. I didn’t tell you about it before. Here’s what happened. I’m going to try to fix it.”

 

Miami Beach Bowl officially moves to Frisco, Texas

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The Miami Beach Bowl was an unnecessary bowl game played in a metro area already populated by bowl games — but at least it was in Miami. Bowl games may have lost their luster over the past decade-plus, but it’s hard to complain about being sent to South Beach in December for a football game.

The Miami Beach Bowl is no more, and it’s now been reincarnated as another unnecessary bowl game to be played in a metro area even more populated by bowl games — and it won’t be anywhere near as interesting as Miami.

Meet the Frisco Bowl, the newest ESPN-created postseason college football game to be played in the scenic locale of Frisco, Texas.

The north Dallas suburb will host the game at Toyota Stadium, a 20,500-seat outdoor venue that’s home to MLS club FC Dallas as well as the FCS National Championship every January. The Frisco Bowl will also compete for sponsorship dollars and public attention with the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, the Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas and the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.

“We are pleased to be able to host this game in one of the most vibrant football markets in the country,” said ESPN vice president of events Clint Overby. “The infrastructure and facilities that exist in Frisco are outstanding and will be an excellent venue for the teams, players, administrators and fans traveling into the marketplace. We look forward to working with civic organizations and businesses in the area to create an annual event that embraces the spirit of the community.”

The first annual Frisco Bowl will pit an American Athletic Conference team against a to-be-determined conference at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 20.

2017 Texas signee sees felony drug charge reduced to misdemeanor

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It appears the door to one member of Texas’ 2017 recruiting class arriving in Austin this summer has opened a little wider.

In late February, Reese Leitao was arrested at his Oklahoma high school on a charge of possession/delivery of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to sell within a thousand feet of a school, a felony.  Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman is reporting, Leitao pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug possession charge.

As part of the plea agreement, Leitao received a four-year deferred sentence; provided he stays clean during that time, the charge will be wiped off his record.  The American-Statesman writes that, “[a]ccording to Leitao’s attorney, Leitao has ‘some probationary work,’including speaking engagements at schools, and will be under the supervision of the district attorney.”  A $1,000 fine was part of his punishment as well.

The ball is now in the hands of first-year UT head coach Tom Herman as to whether Leitao will have a football future with the Longhorns.

“I’m happy,” the attorney, Allen Smallwood, told the newspaper. “Hopefully the University of Texas will be happy.”

At the time of Leitao’s arrest, a statement attributed to Herman said that “[w]e’re collecting information, will talk to Reese and his family, let the legal system run its course and then address it further at the appropriate time.” As of this posting, the university has yet to publicly address the development.

Leitao was a three-star 2017 signee, rated as the No. 19 tight end in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma.

Miami All-American, NFL Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy dead at 48

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One of the most physically-gifted and talented players in the history of Miami Hurricanes football is gone way, way too soon.

The Orlando Police Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Cortez Kennedy passed away earlier today.  He was just 48 years old.

No cause of death has been determined, with the OPD stating that “at this time there is nothing suspicious to report but we are conducting an investigation regarding his unattended passing.”

After starting his collegiate playing career at the junior college level, Kennedy moved on to the University of Miami, earning All-American honors in 1989.  In 2004, he was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The third overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft, Kennedy spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Seattle Seahawks.  In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Not surprisingly, Kennedy’s sudden passing has brought an outpouring of emotion from those connected to the football program.