Gators look to UTEP for new defensive assistant

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Exactly a week after Bryant Young abruptly and unexpectedly left the Florida coaching staff, head coach Will Muschamp has reportedly found a replacement.

Following up on speculation over the past 24 hours or so, the Gators announced via a press release Wednesday morning that Jeff Choate has left UTEP for a job with the Gators.  Choate was just hired as the Miners’ defensive coordinator this past January.

At UF, Choate will coach outside linebackers and serve as special teams coordinator.

“We are excited to have Jeff Choate join our staff,” said Muschamp. “He is a high-energy coach, an outstanding recruiter and evaluator, and has a reputation as one of the top special-teams coaches in the nation. He has coached on both sides of the ball and was most recently a defensive coordinator. He sees the big picture and will be a great addition to our staff.

“I got to know Jeff several years ago when I as at Texas and he was at Boise State. He visited Austin and we spent a lot of time talking defensive and special teams schemes. He also visited us in Gainesville last spring and we are very much on the same page philosophically.

Young, who left the program for personal reasons, had served as a defensive line coach since Muschamp took over at UF in 2011.

Prior to one season as linebackers coach at Washington State in 2012, Choate had spent six seasons at Boise State.  Also on that Broncos staff was Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to join the Gator staff and have the chance to compete at the highest level,” said Choate. “I’ve gotten to know Coach Muschamp over the past couple of years and have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a coach and a person. I’m looking forward to continuing the great special-teams tradition that has been established here and can’t wait to get to work.

“I would also like to thank everyone at UTEP, and most importantly Coach Kugler, for the support and opportunity they gave me. I wish him and the program nothing but the best of luck.”

Choate, who was a candidate for the Idaho head-coaching vacancy last year, becomes the second assistant (kind of) first-year UTEP head coach Sean Kugler has lost to an SEC team in less than three months.  In late January, special teams coordinator Jeff Banks left for the same job at Texas A&M  — after a very brief pit stop at Virginia.

Fortune Magazine names Nick Saban one of World’s 50 Greatest Leaders

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Add another line to the future College Football Hall of Famer’s burgeoning résumé.

Fortune Magazine Thursday released its annual list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.  Checking in at No. 12, ahead of the likes of Apple CEO (and Auburn alum) Tim Cook (No. 14), Oprah Winfrey (No. 27) and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (No. 29)?  Alabama Crimson Tide head football coach Nick Saban.  He’s the only individual on the list with direct ties to college football.

Below is a portion of the magazine’s write-up on the coach:

Add an earlier one he won at LSU in 2003, and his six rings match Alabama legend Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most football championships by a college coach in the so-called poll era, dating back to 1936. Now that he’s succeeded to a historic degree, Saban is grappling with the sports version of what business guru Clayton Christensen famously dubbed the “Innovator’s Dilemma”—the fact that success today makes it hard to keep the edge you need to win in the future. But if the last few years are any indication, the grappling is going pretty well.

The only other individuals from the sports world who made the list tennis player Serena Williams (No. 15) and “The Gymnasts and Their Allies” (No. 22), with the latter connected to the scandal surrounding disgraced former professor at Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and sports physician for both the Spartans and USA Gymnastics Larry Nassar.

For the complete list, including the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and other schools at No. 1, click HERE.

Alabama announces future home-and-home with Notre Dame

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The reports have officially come to fruition.

Late last month, it was reported that Alabama was working on scheduling a home-and-home series with Notre Dame.  Nearly a month later, the Crimson Tide confirmed that it has indeed reached a scheduling agreement with their counterparts with the Fighting Irish.

The Crimson Tide will travel to South Bend Sept. 2, 2028, with the Fighting Irish heading to Tuscaloosa on Sept. 1 of the following season.

“It doesn’t get more tradition-rich than Alabama and Notre Dame when it comes to college football,” a statement from UA athletic director Greg Byrne began. “What a great opportunity this is for our program and for our fans to kick off the 2028 and 2029 seasons.”

The two storied football programs have met seven times previously, with the last coming in the 2012 championship game.  The Tide won that last matchup, but trail in the series 5-2.  Including the BCS title game, three of the meetings have come in the postseason, with the other two being the 1973 Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl following the 1974 season.

The 2029 game will mark the Fighting Irish’s first-ever appearance at Bryant-Denny Stadium as their two previous regular-season games against the Crimson Tide were played at Legion Field in Birmingham (1980, 1986).  Alabama has played Notre Dame in South Bend twice (1976, 1987).

“We are excited to be able to add a home-and-home series with a team like Notre Dame,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “Alabama and Notre Dame represent two of the most storied programs in college football history. What a great opportunity for our team and our fans to be able to witness these teams play in two of the sport’s most iconic venues in Tuscaloosa and South Bend.”

Tennessee announces four-year deal for AD Phillip Fulmer

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Earlier this month, it was reported that Tennessee and Phillip Fulmer were closing in on a long-term deal.  Two weeks later, those reports have come to fruition.

Thursday morning, UT announced that it has reached an agreement on a four-year contract with Fulmer to continue in his role as athletic director.  Fulmer was named as acting athletic director on Dec. 1, not long after John Currie was fired from the post.  His first big move came less than a week after being tabbed for the role when Jeremy Pruitt was hired as the Volunteers’ new head football coach.

Fulmer’s contract will reportedly average $1 million annually, with the opportunity to earn up to $300,000 in bonuses as well.

“Phillip has been a great partner over the last four months and I commend him for the work he has done with our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” chancellor Beverly Davenport said in a statement. “Phillip has been connected to the University of Tennessee and its athletics program for more than 40 years and he understands the expectations we have for our athletics department.

“He is surrounded by a very knowledgeable staff that is deeply committed to the success of our student-athletes. I look forward to our continued partnership.”

A native of Winchester, Tenn., Fulmer played his college football for the Volunteers in the late sixties.  He began his coaching career at UT as a grad assistant from 1972-73, then returned as offensive line coach in 1980.  After spending 13 seasons as an assistant, he took over as the Volunteers head coach in 1992 — Johnny Majors has always alleged Fulmer was behind his ouster — and spent 17 seasons leading his alma mater.

In that span, Fulmer went 152-52, winning a pair of SEC titles and the 1998 national championship.

“I am very grateful to Chancellor Davenport for the opportunity to continue to serve our outstanding university and its proud legacy,” Fulmer said. “The positive momentum established by our talented student-athletes, dedicated coaches, excellent staff, our great alumni and fans has united us all. I am excited to work alongside them as we push forward in pursuit of excellence in all sports.”

Jalen Hurts’ dad: if son loses Alabama QB battle, ‘he’d be biggest free agent in college football history’

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For the first time, the rumors surrounding the future of the quarterback situation at Alabama have some real legs.

Ever since true freshman Tua Tagovailoa replaced two-year starter Jalen Hurts in the national championship game, it’s been thought that the former would replace the latter as Alabama’s No. 1 quarterback moving forward.  Even with Tagovailoa battling a hand injury since very early in the spring, most observers are still of the opinion that the rising sophomore will win the job and be under center when Alabama opens the 2018 season against Louisville.

And, should that come to fruition?  Hurts’ father, Averion Hurts, very heavily intimated to Matt Hayes of Bleacher Report that his son, 26-2 as the starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide, would transfer if he loses a job he’s held for most of the past two seasons.

Coach Saban’s job is to do what’s best for his team. I have no problem with that,” Averion Hurts said. “My job is to do what’s best for Jalen—and make no mistake, Jalen is a quarterback, and he wants to play quarterback. He loves Alabama, loves Coach Saban and everything about that place. But he wants to play, and he will play…”

Averion stops mid-sentence because the idea of his son not playing for Alabama isn’t one he takes lightly. What if Jalen doesn’t win the job, he is asked?

He shakes his head slowly, answers begrudgingly. “Well, he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.

Given the rumors swirling around Hurts, the Crimson Tide has been in pursuit of at least one graduate transfer at the position this offseason.  East Carolina quarterback Gardner Minshew announced his commitment to UA in February, only to flip a month later to Washington State.

Earlier this month, a terse Saban told the media he has no timeline on making a decision on a starter.

“First of all, I don’t have a time frame. So how could it affect it? You have a time frame. I don’t,” the coach said. “So from your perspective, maybe I should ask you the question. From my perspective, if there is no time frame, how does it affect it? I can’t answer that. But I don’t think any time a player gets hurt at any position that he should be penalized for that.”

Earlier this week, Saban once again indicated that Tagovailoa would likely be a non-participant in this weekend’s spring game, meaning any decision on a starter likely won’t be made until some point during summer camp.