Nick Saban officially becomes the $7 million* man

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(*almost)

Nearly six months after originally agreeing to a new deal — and thanks in large part to Texas’ purported interestNick Saban has officially become an even richer head football coach.

As expected, Alabama’s Board of Trustees Tuesday approved a new contract for Saban that includes both an extension and a significant raise.  The head coach is now signed through the 2022 season; his old contract was set to run through the 2020 season.

If he fulfills all the years remaining on his contract, Saban would be 70 years old at the end of the deal.

Salary-wise, and while not the $7 million to $7.5 million average as previously reported, al.com reports that Saban will be paid an average of $6.5 million annually in base compensation.  Additionally, the Associated Press reports, Saban will receive an additional $400,000 per year for what’s described as a “completion fee.”

Last season, Saban earned in the neighborhood of $5.6 million.

“We are pleased to announce that Coach Saban’s contract extension has been approved and that he’ll be our head football coach for many years to come,” said UA athletic director Bill Battle. “He is the best coach in the country and he’s brought Alabama back to the pinnacle of college football. His success on the field is obviously second to none, but Coach Saban’s influence on academics and all the other areas of our athletic programs are equally impressive to me.”

Not only is Saban easily the highest-paid coach in the game — Mack Brown made a little over $5.4 million at Texas before stepping down — but he’s one of the highest-paid of any coach in any sport in the United States.

Sean Peyton of the New Orleans Saints tops all coaches with his $8 million salary. Other NFL head coaches like Bill Belichick (New England Patriots, and Saban’s former boss) and Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs) earn roughly $7.5 million, while still other NFL coaches — Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks), Jeff Fisher (St. Louis Rams) — as well as an NBA coach – Doc Rivers (formerly of the Los Angeles Clippers) — pull in $7 million a year.

The only college coach who will make more than Saban moving forward? Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.

The lofty compensation package, however, is most certainly worth it to the university in general and athletic department specifically.

In his seven years in Tuscaloosa, the Tide has gone 74-15, They’ve won at least 10 games six years, and of course have added three BCS titles to the trophy case.  Add in the utter dominance on the recruiting trail, and UA has locked down the man who most feel is the best coach at the collegiate level.

“We are honored by the commitment the University of Alabama has made to us with this new contract.” said Saban. “It is certainly a mutual agreement in terms of our commitment to the University of Alabama. We will continue to work hard to keep our football program among the nation’s elite. My passion has always been to develop young men to their full potential as student-athletes. We’ve had great success in that area at Alabama and I’m appreciative of all the support and the resources we receive from the administration in order to make that happen. Our graduation rates are among the best in the country and that means as much or more than the victories on the field. We want our players to be more successful in life because they were involved with our program and I think we’ve been able do that.

“Terry and I are also proud to continue to contribute to the growth at the University of Alabama, this community, and the state of Alabama. We’ve been able to do some outstanding things through Nick’s Kids, the First Generation Scholarship Fund and we’re proud to help build the new St. Francis University Student Center. The past eight years have been productive in so many ways and we are grateful to call Alabama our home.”

In addition to Saban’s contract, new contracts for all of the coach’s assistants were announced as well.  New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin signed a three-year deal that will pay him $680,000 in 2014 and 2015, then jump to $714,000 in 2016.  Based on the rapidly escalating coordinator salaries, the Tide got Kiffin for a relative pittance, although that arose from the coach receiving his buyout after being fired by USC.

All of the returning assistants on Saban’s coaching staff received raises ranging from $20,000 to $75,000, with the exception being Kirby Smart.  The defensive coordinator will make the same $1.35 million the next two years as previously called for, although he did have a year tacked on to his contract.

Report: Navy’s football stadium will host NHL outdoor game between Caps and Leafs

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The NHL has enjoyed the success of their growing number of outdoor games. What started out as an attempt to steal the New Years Day spotlight from the college football bowl season has grown to include additional outdoor games around the country in February and March as part of the league’s Stadium Series. With an abundance of outdoor games, finding new venues to host the outdoor games offers new opportunities to showcase a wide range of stadiums. Navy is now set to get in on the NHL outdoor fun.

The Associated Press reports Navy’s Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium will be used for one game in the NHL’s Stadium Series on March 3, 2018. The Washington Capitals will “host” the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 34,000-seat venue in Annapolis, Maryland. A formal announcement is expected to be made on Monday, Memorial Day. It’s also the same day the NHL kicks off the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators and commissioner Gary Bettman gives his annual state of the league address.

The New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres were previously slated to play in the NHL Winter Classic in Citi Field, home of baseball’s New York Mets.

Heinz Field, the home of the Pitt Panthers, was used to host the 2011 Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, becoming the first college football stadium to host an outdoor NHL game. Of course, Heinz Field is also home to the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, so this college stadium host came with an asterisk. Heinz Field hosted a Stadium Series game this past February between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

Michigan’s Michigan Stadium hosted the Winter Classic in 2014 between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, hosted a game in the NHL’s Stadium Series in 2016 between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks.

There are still a good handful of stadiums worth considering for future NHL outdoor games, especially in the Big Ten. Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has long been suspected of being a potential target for an outdoor game, but any plans involving Beaver Stadium may have to wait until after the stadium’s facilities are upgraded as part of the school’s upcoming athletics department renovation. Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium could also be an attractive candidate for an outdoor game in the future as well.

A couple other venues for possible Stadium Series game sin the future should include the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Rose Bowl. The NHL has already played an outdoor game in Dodger Stadium, back in 2014, so the league is not afraid to play outside in LA (and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara hosted a game in 2015). If they return, playing in either historic stadium would seem to make sense, although it is possible the NHL would prefer to wait until the new home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers is completed before making a trip to LA again.

Alabama DB Tony Brown has chance to prove he’s fastest NCAA athlete in nation

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Forget the 40-yard dash. Alabama defensive back Tony Brown is setting his focus on the 100-meter dash.

Brown, a track star in addition to being a fixture on the Alabama defense, qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 100-meter dash after finishing in the top 10 at the NCAA East Regional at Kentucky. Brown is a two-time All-American on the track.

Let this serve as another example of the caliber of athletes Nick Saban is bringing in to his program. Recruiting analysts have been noting for years the importance of recruiting athletes with skills in more than one sport, and Alabama has that with Brown. Brown was one of the nation’s top hurdlers in high school, and that success on the track has continued in Tuscaloosa.

Brown brings the pain on the football field too, of course. Just ask former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams what kind of damage Brown can bring.

Helmet sticker to Gridiron Now.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey still not a fan of early signing period

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The SEC will gather in Destin, Florida this week for the annual spring meetings. This will be the first time the conference has come together since the adoption of an early signing period in college football, which is something that has not been well-received by some in the SEC. Among the dissenters in the early signing period conversation has been SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who says he is still no fan of the new recruiting calendar.

I still don’t think that’s best,” Sankey said in an interview with the Associated Press last week.

“I think the early signing date has an impact on high school football,” Sankey said. “I think moving the recruiting calendar has an impact on high school football. I think we all have to be concerned about football and its strength and health at every level. Whether it’s a minority voice or a singular voice, I think those are important issues to consider.”

The stance by some around the SEC against the idea of the early signing period is notably different compared to just a few years ago. At the spring meetings in 2014, the SEC football coaches voted unanimously in favor of an early signing period starting on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Former SEC commissioner Mike Slive, however, expressed his preference to keep the only signing day in February.

As far as the voice coming from the commissioner’s office in the SEC is concerned, the narrative has not changed following the changing of the guard.

College football world will watch as SEC reviews graduate transfer rules at spring meetings

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Among a handful of items on the agenda for this week’s SEC spring meetings will be a review and discussion about the league’s graduate transfer rules. Specifically, the SEC is expected to address the current restrictions on accepting players as graduate transfers if a previous graduate transfer fails to meet that school’s academic requirements.

“This will be the first meaningful conversation that we’ve had since the proliferation of graduate transfers has happened nationally,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said to the Associated Press. ”I expect our membership to have a pretty meaningful conversation about the right perspective on graduate transfers entering the SEC from outside and then the topic of inter-conference transfers.”

Sankey has promised the topic of graduate transfer rules will be reviewed at the SEC spring meetings, and it will be a bit overdue. Better later than never, right?

Like the early signing period, this is a topic the SEC has found themselves standing in the minority crowd. The SEC has had a complicated relationship to graduate transfers since the NCAA opened the door for graduate transfers in 2006. The conference banned all graduate transfers in 2011 after Ole Miss had added former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli as a graduate transfer. The Masoli transfer was one scrutinized by the NCAA and critics before officially being cleared following an appeal. In 2014, the ban was lifted, but with provisions in place to ensure SEC schools were not adding graduate transfers with no intention of pursuing a graduate degree.

One person who may be watching this development this week with great interest is likely former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire. Zaire is suspected to be down to deciding whether to transfer to Florida or Texas, and he has already pushed back his decision seemingly to wait and see if the Gators will be an actual option. For that to happen, the SEC will have to amend its graduate transfer policy or allow Florida an exemption.

Florida is unable to add a graduate transfer like Zaire because two previous graduate transfers (former Georgia Tech linebacker Anthony Harrell and former Fordham offensive lineman Mason Halter) failed to meet the academic requirements after transferring to Florida. That put Florida on a three-year ban from adding any graduate transfers through 2018.

But if the SEC is the one lagging behind the competition when it comes to its graduate transfer policies, why would the college football world be watching? That’s easy. If the sEC amends its graduate transfer policies, then makes the conference that already typically dominates in talent acquisition through recruiting has a chance to become even stronger and more desirable. Graduate transfers who may be blocked from enrolling at an SEC school and have been forced to evaluate other options in the Big 12 or Big Ten and so on, could have a chance to transfer to the SEC. For example, Florida could add Zaire to their roster, which leaves Texas hoping Tom Herman really works his QB magic in Austin.

There is a ripple effect that could potentially play out, even in a conference that is in need of catching up in this particular issue. That’s how important the decisions made in the SEC could be for the entire sport.