Bear Bryant

100th anniversary of Bear Bryant’s birth looms over Alabama-Texas A&M showdown

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When No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M face off on Saturday in College Station, it will be just the sixth time these two schools have met.

Despite this historical unfamiliarity, both teams are bound together by a common thread that goes beyond their mere status as Southeastern Conference brethren.

It stands to reason that both programs would not be in the position they are now if not for the work of one man — Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant, who was born 100 years ago this week.

His first team at A&M, the 1954 squad, went 1-9 after surviving a grueling training camp at Junction, Texas. Two years later, the legendary “Junction Boys” would go undefeated and capture their first Southwest Conference championship in 15 seasons. When John David Crow won the Aggies’ first Heisman Trophy in 1957, it was in large part because Bryant vouched on his behalf.

“If he doesn’t win it, then they ought to quit giving it,” Bryant told the press.

In 1958, Bryant was tabbed by his alma mater to be its head coach and athletic director: “Momma called. And when Momma calls, you just have to come runnin’,” he said of his return to Alabama.

His tenure at Alabama was remarkable.  He coached the Tide for 25 years, winning six national titles (1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, and 1979) and thirteen SEC championships. He was the three-time national Coach of the Year.  When he finished, he had won more games than any other Division I coach, compiling a lifetime record of 323-85-17.

The Bear passed away in January of 1983, just a few weeks after retiring from football.

What would he think of these two teams getting ready to play on Saturday? He’d probably get a kick out of Johnny Manziel’s free-wheeling style — after all, he coached one Joe Namath — though it’s doubtful he’d tolerate any of his off-the-field antics. The power-running and physical approach of the Crimson Tide on both sides of the ball would be right up his alley.

Most of all, he’d be proud of what his two teams had become — national powers playing the sport at the highest of levels.

If there’s anyone left who represents the spirit of Bryant and his connection to these two schools, it’s Crow, who coached under Bryant at Alabama after starring for the Aggies on Bryant’s last team there. When Alabama and A&M storm onto Kyle Field on Saturday, he’ll be there to watch his Heisman heir try to pull off another upset. But he won’t be devastated if the Tide wins.

“I tell everybody that A&M is my true love and that I want us to win everything that we do, but Alabama is a close second because of the ties I had with Coach Bryant, and with my son playing over there,” Crow told the College Station Eagle.

If this year’s game is as exciting as last year’s 29-24 upset by A&M in Tuscaloosa, it may signal the beginning of a rather interesting and unique rivalry.

The Bear would no doubt approve.

Urban Meyer, on LSU speculation: ‘I’m going to be the coach at Ohio State’

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes shouts on the sidelines against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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A report surfaced Monday that, in its search for a replacement for the deposed Les Miles, LSU was set to gauge the interest of a handful of big-name head coaches, among them Ohio State’s Urban Meyer.

With the opening of Big Ten play on tap for this weekend, the Buckeyes head coach wasted little time in shooting down the speculation connecting him to the Bayou Bengals.

“No, I’ve not been contacted,” Meyer said of LSU during the Big Ten’s weekly teleconference. “And I’m going to be the coach at Ohio State.”

Meyer is in his fifth season as the head coach at OSU, guiding the Buckeyes to a 53-4 mark in that span.  For perspective, the Tigers have lost four of their last eight games, paving the way for unceremonious ouster and Meyer’s name being mentioned in connection to the opening.

Alabama’s Nick Saban was also mentioned as a coach who LSU would gauge his interest in the job.

Wazzu’s Shalom Luani won’t face charges stemming from assault

PULLMAN, WA - OCTOBER 17:  Shalom Luani #18 of the Washington State Cougars carries the ball to a touchdown on an interception return against the Oregon State Beavers in the fourth quarter at Martin Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Pullman, Washington.  Washington State defeated Oregon State 52-31.  (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
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After a very public back and forth between the police and university, Washington State has some (somewhat) positive off-field news on which to celebrate.

Monday, Whitman County (WA) prosecutor Denis Tracy announced that he will not file charges against Cougars safety Shalom Luani in connection to a fight outside of a Pullman Domino’s Pizza shop.  Video evidence indicated that it was Luani who broke a man’s nose with a punch; however, the prosecutor stated that a jury would likely conclude that Luani, who claimed he was ambushed by six males who pushed him from inside the pizza shop outside and sustained a concussion in the scuffle, had acted in self-defense.

From Tracy’s letter to the alleged victim:

[I]n order to prove that a criminal assault happened, the prosecutor must not only prove that the suspect hit someone, but the prosecutor must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect was not acting in self defense.”

“In this case, it is my view that no reasonable jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Luani was not acting in self defense. …

“Since I cannot prove that Mr. Luani was not acting in self-defense. I cannot prove that he committed a criminal assault.

WSU athletic director Bill Moos, who along with the university’s president met with the chief of the Pullman Police Department earlier this month, issued a statement expressing his happiness over the prosecutor’s decision.

We are pleased that the prosecuting attorney’s office came to the same conclusion as we did regarding this case. While not always afforded the opportunity, I believe this illustrates the stance we have taken from the beginning which is to handle such matters internally, not speak in great detail, until the legal process has played out. Though we choose to reserve comment on such instances, we continue to cooperate with law enforcement, and assume innocent until proven guilty. We will not engage in public debate, rather, will let the legal process run its course, and as best we can gain an understanding of all the facts, without publicly acknowledging guilt or innocence prematurely. We will continue to educate our student-athletes on representing our fine university is a positive manner and also emphasize they remove themselves from situations that have the potential to impact them and the university negatively.

Luani started all 13 games for the Cougars last season after transferring from the junior college ranks, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors.  This season, he leads the team with two interceptions.

Bovada taps Houston’s Tom Herman as favorite to replace Les Miles at LSU

SAN MARCOS, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Tom Herman of the Houston Cougars leads his team onto the field before the game with Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium on September 24, 2016 in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, wagering establishments are beginning to roll out the odds on the next head coach down on the bayou.  Somewhat surprisingly, however, this particular house doesn’t include the current sideline bosses at Alabama and Ohio State.

According to odds released by Bovada.lv earlier this afternoon, Houston’s Tom Herman, at 5/4, is the overwhelming favorite to replace Les Miles as LSU’s head coach.  Behind Herman is former LSU assistant and current Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher at 3/1.

Not unexpectedly, both Herman and Fisher denied yesterday that they have been contacted by LSU about the opening.  Left unsaid, however, is whether their respective agents have been in contact with the school or those connected to the programs.

It was reported earlier this month that language will be inserted into Herman’s contract that will stipulate the coach is to receive a $5 million bonus if the Cougars move from the AAC to one of the Power Five conferences.  That could be a moot point, however, if a new report that Oklahoma, and thus the Big 12 are cooling on expanding beyond its current 10-team configuration.

Herman is set to make $3 million annually on a new contract agreed to last November.  LSU, though, could nearly double that salary if Herman is their target, and UH likely couldn’t — or wouldn’t — match it.

Interim Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron is given a fighting chance to landing the job permanently as the wagering website has given the line coach 9/1 odds at keeping the position beyond this year.  Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is behind Orgeron at 12/1.

In addition to Herman, Fisher, Orgeron and Kiffin, Bovada also included North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (4/1), USF’s Willie Taggart (6/1), TCU’s Gary Patterson (15/1), former Oregon and current San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly (15/1), Louisville’s Bobby Petrino (18/1) and former Baylor head coach Art Briles (28/1) in their initial set of odds.

Nebraska Cornhusker LB, on backlash after national anthem kneel: ‘we deserved to be lynched or shot just like other black people’

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Wide receiver Tanner Gentry #4 of the Wyoming Cowboys reaches for a pass as linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey #15 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers defends at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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Protests were front and center at college football games across the national landscape this past weekend, and so was the backlash.

Nebraska linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, along with freshmen teammates Mohamed Barry and DaiShon Neal, knelt in protest during the playing of the national anthem Saturday night prior to the game against Northwestern. According to Rose-Ivey in a statement he read during player media availability Monday and posted on his Twitter account, he and his teammates were dealt racially-charged criticism from “fans” on social media after the display.

“Some believe DaiShon, Mohamed and myself should be kicked off the team or suspended, while some said we deserved to be lynched or shot just like the other black people who have died recently,” Rose-Ivey stated during the oral portion of his impassioned message. “Others believe we should be hung before the anthem before the next game. These are actual statements we receive from fans. …

“We did it understanding the implications of these actions, but what we didn’t expect was the enormous amount of hateful, racially motivated comments we received from friends, peers, fans and members of the media about the method of protest.”

According to Barry, however, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, especially as it pertains to ‘Husker fans.

Like 15 positives to the negative,” Barry said. “Our fans, they agree with it, they see the injustice, and for the most part they support us.

“The biggest thing isn’t that they agree or disagree with why we did, it’s ‘oh, why you did during the national anthem?’ It’s the perfect time to let it be known. What’s another time when people would actually talk about it? If we did it during practice, no one would talk about it. If it was any other particular moment — but the national anthem, that glorifies America and all that, it’s the perfect time.”

Nebraska’s governor, Pete Ricketts, had a different opinion of the protest. A decidedly different opinion.

“Generations of men and women have died to give them that right to protest,” Ricketts said. “I think the way they chose to protest was disgraceful and disrespectful.”