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BCS Championship coaches took different routes to Pasadena

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Jimbo Fisher and Gus Malzahn were each hired to do one thing; restore the pride in their respective programs. Each wasted little time in building a national championship contender, although they took different paths to getting to Pasadena, California for the chance to bring their programs t the top of the college football world.

Fisher is a branch off of the Nick Saban coaching tree. He served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU under the current Alabama head coach, but he remained in Baton Rouge when Saban decided to answer a call from the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Now under Les Miles, Fisher made a name for himself as LSU’s offensive guru and helping to make quarterback JaMarcus Russell a top NFL draft pick (kindly forget how that all played out). As Fisher built up his resume at LSU, it was becoming clear Fisher was going to be given a chance to serve as head coach one day.

That path to becoming a head coach hit a road block in 2006. Fisher interviewed for an opening at the UAB, but his contract offer was vetoed by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees. Saban, now back in the SEC after flaking out with the Dolphins, wanted to bring Fisher back on to his staff at Alabama. Fisher instead took an offer from Florida State to perform the same coaching duties, but this was more than a simple lateral move. Florida State went the extra yard to name Fisher the coach-in-waiting under Bobby Bowden. Bowden announced his resignation at the end fo the 2009 season. Fisher got to work right away by re-energizing a sleeping giant of a program. Fisher’s leadership in recruiting efforts showed immediate results and Florida State started building the foundation for long-term dominance in the ACC that had long been absent in Tallahassee.

The results of that first recruiting class under Fisher will now get a chance to demonstrate how far the program has come. Six starters for the Seminoles on Monday night were a part of the first recruiting class under Fisher as head coach. that includes strong safety Terrence Brooks, linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith as well as wide receiver Kenny Shaw and fullback Chad Abram.

In Fisher’s first year on the job at Florida State, Auburn was making a run for the first BCS championship in school history. Gene Chizik had surprised many by building a championship caliber program at Auburn, but the biggest asset on the sidelines was perceived to be offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who had served his time as a high school coach and college assistant coach at multiple stops. Malzahn quickly became a hot commodity as Cam Newton was playing his way to a Heisman Trophy in Malzahn’s offensive system. During that championship season for Auburn, Malzahn was named the top assistant coach in college football with the Broyles Award. Now a highly attractive option as a head coach, Auburn offered Malzahn a nice raise to keep him around.

Over time it was clear Malzahn was not going to be sticking around for long as an assistant coach. Whether it was a conflict of power or just a matter of getting out and giving head coaching a shot, Malzahn jumped at the opportunity to coach Arkansas State in 2012. It worked out extremely well for Malzahn, leading the Red Wolves to a  9-3 record and a Sun Belt Conference championship. As Auburn continued to falter the pressure was on Auburn to make a coaching change. That meant the end of the line for Chizik, leaving the door wide open for the assistant who was adored for his work within the program.

Malzahn was named the head coach of Auburn in December 2012, and he quickly went to work to put together a staff he felt comfortable working with. Although the optimism was high for the new Malzahn era at Auburn, few could have imagined how rapid the turnaround would be. Auburn was 3-9 in 2012 and immediately turned in a 13-1 season under Malzahn, knocking off rival and top-ranked Alabama in unbelievable fashion, running away with the sEC championship against Missouri and getting a chance to lay claim to one last BCS title on behalf of the time SEC.

On Monday night, the two paths will cross in what could easily be an epic showdown between two of college football’s top coaches today.

Baylor AD Ian McCaw resigns

WACO, TX - AUGUST 31:  A general view of play between the Southern Methodist Mustangs and the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on August 31, 2014 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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On the same day Baylor made the coaching hire of Jim Grobe official, athletics director Ian McCaw has announced his resignation.

“After much reflection and prayer, I have decided that a change in athletics department leadership is in Baylor University’s best interest in order to promote the unity, healing and restoration that must occur in order to move forward,” McCaw said in a released statement Monday evening.

The resignation of McCaw is not to be unexpected given the serious nature of the revelations surrounding the Baylor program in the last week. Art Briles already lost his job and president Ken Starr was reappointed to a different position within the university as it looks to regroup from some egregious violations of Title IX and a complete system meltdown in responding to sexual violence involving Baylor student-athletes. That he lasted this long is puzzling to some, and his resignation is very likely a forced one. McCaw was placed on probation by the university last week.

“We understand and accept this difficult decision by Ian McCaw to resign as Athletic Director and we are grateful for his service to Baylor University,” a statement from Baylor’s Board of Regents read. “We also appreciate Ian’s commitment and involvement in bringing a person of integrity such as Jim Grobe to the University before making this decision.”

It should be expected McCaw let Grobe know of the situation when making the quick coaching hire, although Grobe likely knows this is a short-term deal anyway.

McCaw joined the Baylor program in 2003.

NCAA has no comment on Baylor Title IX violations at this time

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 06:  NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks to the media during a press conference at AT&T Stadium on April 6, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Last week when the Baylor board of regents released a handful of documents outlining Title IX violations, the university also acknowledged it had been in contact with the NCAA regarding various violations. It remains to be seen what, if anything, the NCAA will do in response to the Baylor situation that led to the dismissal of head coach Art Briles. For now, the NCAA has no comment, which is a pretty regular way of staying out of trouble on a sensitive subject.

It would be unwise for the NCAA to open its mouth and say anything regarding the Baylor situation at this point in time. Baylor is still sifting through the mess it has uncovered in Waco and looking to establish a sense of order moving forward. As far as football is concerned, that continued on Monday with the reported hire of former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe as an interim head coach for the upcoming season.

There are a handful of areas the NCAA could weigh on in the future (including lack of institutional control), but there is never a concrete timetable with anything the NCAA does, and the governing body has yet to open any formal investigation of its own. With a “no comment,” the NCAA is reserving judgement until a later time, which makes perfect sense. The NCAA is already keeping its distance as it wants to avoid overstepping its boundaries as it did in responding to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.

This does not mean Baylor will be left off the hook when it comes to the NCAA, because this is something that could drag on for a while.

College football history between Pittsburgh and San Jose

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 21: Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks skates on the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on November 19, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images
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The NHL Stanley Cup Final gets underway later tonight (on NBC) with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins facing off against Joe Pavelski and the San Jose Sharks. The Penguins are no stranger to the championship round in the National Hockey League, having appeared in the Stanley Cup Final four times since 1991, hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup three times. The Sharks are making their first appearance in the Final, finally overcoming a history of failed postseason runs ending before fans had expected.

If you want more on this series, you should skate on over to our friends at Pro Hockey Talk as they break down this series. This, of course, is a college football blog. Looking for any sort of connection I could to the college football world, I wanted to see if the Steel City and the Bay area have collided in the past on the college gridiron. They have, but you will be forgiven if you do not remember such an occasion.

Pitt and San Jose State have never met on the football field, but the Panthers have collided with another program from near San Jose. Pitt and Stanford, from nearby Palo Alto, have met three times before. The first meeting between the two was in 1922, with Glenn “Pop” Warner coaching his Panthers to a 16-7 victory on the west coast. The two schools met for a second time six years later in the 1928 Rose Bowl. Stanford evened the series with a 7-6 win in the Grandaddy of Them All. The third and most recent game in the series was played in 1932, this time in western Pennsylvania. The Panthers blanked the Cardinal, 7-0, en route to an 8-1-2 season under Jock Sutherland.

Reaching farther beyond the San Jose region, Pittsburgh also has a five-game series history with the Cal Bears. The Panthers own a 3-2 lead against the Bears, with the most recent meeting coming in 1966.

This has absolutely nothing to do with hockey or the series between the Penguins and Sharks, but now you know the college football history between the two regions.

Baylor hires Jim Grobe as acting head coach

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 29:  Head coach Jim Grobe of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons watches on during their game against the Connecticut Huskies at Bank of America Stadium on December 29, 2007 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Early indications were Baylor would ride the ship in 2016 with defensive coordinator Phil Bennett as their interim coach following the dismissal of Art Briles last week. Now, it appears there is a new option on the table; former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe.

According to multiple reports, Baylor is preparing to announce Jim Grobe will be hired as the interim head coach for the upcoming season. In addition, Baylor’s remaining coaching staff would stay in place for the upcoming football season. It is expected Baylor will hire a new permanent coach and add a new coaching staff in the next round on the coaching carousel. Grobe is simply a plug for the hole in the program on short notice.

Grobe spent 13 years at the helm of the Wake Forest program after six years as a head coach at Ohio. As a head coach, Grobe has gone 110-115-1, but it is unquestionably the first time he will have above average talent to work with on his roster. Grobe did win an ACC title with Wake Forest in 2006 and he went 3-2 in postseason bowl games. At Baylor, Grobe will be tasked with simply keeping the Bears focused and dialed in for a potential run at the Big 12 championship, and perhaps even a spot in the College Football Playoff. Although the program has been seeing a handful of incoming recruits and future recruits bolt elsewhere, Grobe will still take over a program situated well to win some football games in 2016.

The Huntington, West Virginia native resigned as Wake Forest’s head coach at the end of the 2013 season following a fifth consecutive losing season. He had three years remaining on his contract at the time, with the final year set to be the 2016 season.

UPDATE: Baylor has made the coaching hire official.

“Jim Grobe is the right leader at this time to move Baylor University and the football program forward,” said Baylor Vice President and Director of Athletics Ian McCaw. “He has successfully led two FBS programs during his career,” McCaw added. “Coach Grobe enjoys an impeccable reputation within the intercollegiate athletics community and is a man of great integrity and faith.”

“It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to join the Baylor football program during this important time,” Grobe said in the released statement. “I am looking forward to getting to know and working with the coaches and players in the coming days, and I have great respect for Baylor as an institution and its long-standing heritage.

“As a coach, winning is important. At the same time, I want to assure the Baylor family that every decision we will make in this football program will be made with Baylor University, her students and our student-athletes in mind.”