Nick Saban

Report: UT regent reached out to Saban’s agent in January


All things considered, this will not end well.  On any level.

Over the past several years, even prior to Texas’ middling on-field play the past three seasons, the speculation has gone that, once Mack Brown retires or is forcibly shown the door, UT officials will make an all-out effort to hire Nick Saban as its next head football coach.  Never mind that it’s a laughable proposition to even think Saban would consider leaving the best job at the FBS level for the cash-rich Longhorns; that’s been the rumor buzzing across many a message board and even amongst some in the media.

Thursday, however, brought a new development to what’s previously been nothing more than nameless, faceless Internet rumormongering.

Speaking on the record to the Associated Press (for some reason), current UT regent Wallace Hall confirmed that he had spoken to Saban’s agent in the days after the Tide’s most recent BCS title this past January about Saban replacing Brown.  A former regent, Tom Hicks, was also on the call.  Hicks is the brother of current regent Steve Hicks, and Tom Hicks played a pivotal role in hiring his good friend Brown away from North Carolina in 1997.

What’s unclear is whether UT initiated the contact or if it was Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton.

What is clear, at least in Hall’s eyes, is that he was contacted by an unidentified person about meeting Sexton, with that information passed on to UT officials.

“I notified then-chairman Gene Powell, who then informed vice chairman and athletic liaison Steve Hicks, which resulted in a conference call with Mr. Sexton,” Hall wrote to the AP in a statement. “Introductions were made and then I withdrew from the process.”

Tom Hicks reportedly met with Brown and asked the coach about the possibility of retiring.  The AP writes that Brown “said he wanted to keep coaching and the matter was dropped.”

Steve Hicks confirmed to the AP that, before the matter was dropped, the conversations revealed by Hall all indeed took place.

“Wallace Hall brought this to the chairman and myself. Nothing was authorized by the board and the chairman and myself thought the board should not be involved,” Steve Hicks said. “Tom and Mack are friends and talk often. They simply visited and just talked the idea through. It was dropped and nothing happened … It was a short conversation.”

After that January conversation, Hall said, he had no further contact with Sexton.  The regent added, though, he does not know if others affiliated with UT have or haven’t been in contact with the agent.

Again, there should be little or no worry on the part of either the university or Tide Nation that the 61-year-old Saban would leave Tuscaloosa for Austin.  What this does ensure, however, is that if/when Brown is canned and thanks to this report, rumormongers will have concrete, on-the-record proof of UT’s interest in the man who’s building the preeminent football program at the FBS level.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.