Nick Saban

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.

Amidst medical mystery, Georgia’s Trenton Thompson withdraws from spring semester classes

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 19: Anthony Jennings #11 of the Lousiana-Lafayette Rajin' Cajuns is pursued by Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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While the details are very hazy at the moment, a member of the Georgia football team has apparently suffered a health scare recently that calls into question his short-term future with the football program.

First reported by WSB-TV, defensive end Trent Thompson suffered an unspecified medical emergency very early Thursday morning and was rushed to an Athens hospital. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Thompson was released from the hospital Thursday morning, his mother confirmed to the television station. No specifics have been released publicly, although the Journal-Constitution, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, is reporting that no drugs or alcohol were involved. It’s also believed that the issue isn’t related to football.

In the wake of those reports as well as others that indicated he had a run-in with Athens police immediately prior to the hospitalization, UGA released the following statement, which reveals that Thompson will be withdrawing from classes this semester because of the unspecified medical issues:

Based upon recent events, Trenton Thompson’s family has authorized UGAAA to release the following information. Trenton has been dealing with a significant medical issue which required emergency hospitalization and extended hospital stay. Trenton was recently discharged from the hospital and remains under close medical care. With respect to last night’s incident, the physical appearance and behavior described in the UGA PD report is solely related to an adverse reaction to medications prescribed specifically for his medical condition. The adverse reaction required emergency transport to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released. Toxicology tests performed at the hospital were negative for OxyContin. We cannot release any further information at this time due to federal privacy laws. Due to the medical issues, Trenton is withdrawing from classes this semester, and his family requests privacy during this time.

As a sophomore last season, Thompson started seven of the 13 games in which he played. His 9.5 tackles for loss led the Bulldogs, while his five sacks were tied for the team lead and the 56 tackles with which he was credited were tops among linemen.

Capping off that breakout season, he was named MVP of UGA’s Liberty Bowl win over TCU.

Iowa State DB Mike Johnson suspended amid domestic violence arrest

AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 19: Wide receiver Keke Coutee #20 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders blocks defensive back Mike Johnson #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones as he rushed for yards in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Iowa State has suspended defensive back Mike Johnson after he was arrested Thursday on the accusation that he choked his girlfriend.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, Johnson and his girlfriend were fighting over social media posts and music playing over each other’s phones when each tried to reach for the other’s device. That escalated to the point where Johnson allegedly had both hands around the woman’s throat, to the point where told police she “saw stars” and had trouble breathing.

She also had, according to police, bite marks on her right cheek, on her neck and behind her left ear, a swollen upper lip and had what appeared to be dried blood on her. Johnson also said he was bitten during the altercation.

“We are aware of Mike Johnson’s arrest and allegations associated with his arrest,” head coach Matt Campbell told the paper in a statement. “Our program has zero tolerance for domestic violence. Mike has been suspended from all team activities, including practice, under the student-athlete code of conduct policy as we gather more information. His long-term status with the team will be determined once we gain more facts.”

Johnson posted 44 tackles, three pass breakups and 1.5 tackles for loss in 12 games last season.

Report: Former Pitt RB James Conner given clean bill of health

James Conner
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James Conner will head to next week’s Combine with a clean bill of health, according to a report Thursday from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“Pitt RB James Conner, who missed most of 2015 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, received a clean scan today, a week prior to combine, per source,” Schefter tweeted.

Conner led the ACC in rushing in 2014, rushing for 1,765 yards and 5.92 yards per carry with 26 touchdowns in 2014, before a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis caused him to miss all but one game of the 2015 campaign. (And in that one game, Conner still rushed for nearly 10 yards per carry and two touchdowns.)

He battled back to return to the field in 2016, again leading the Panthers with 216 carries for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns while finishing third on the club with 21 grabs for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

Conner will compete at the Combine for draft positioning with fellow running backs Leonard FournetteDalvin Cook and D'Onta Foreman, among others.

Willie Taggart no longer speaking with Oregon beat reporter

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head Coach Willie Taggart walks the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on September 28, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Oregon strength coach Irele Oderinde is now back at work after serving a 1-month, unpaid suspension resulting from three players being hospitalized after Oderinde’s first supervised workout with the Ducks, but the story is not over in Eugene.

According to Oregon’s student paper The Daily Emerald, Taggart is no longer speaking with the reporter who broke the story, The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

“When you’re not fair and honest, then to me that’s personal,” Taggart told the paper. “When you do something that’s negative and it’s going to be personal, then I won’t have shit to do with you.”

Greif, for his part, stands by the story and says the paper will not issue a retraction, as Taggart requested:

“Though the description of the workouts is understandably subjective, ultimately what has never been in doubt is that three UO players were hospitalized after the first week of offseason workouts and received treatment for several days,” Greif said in an email to the Emerald.

Complicating matters for Taggart is that the university commissioned faculty athletics rep Tim Gleason, a journalism professor, to review the report. In speaking with players, coaches, trainers and AD Rob Mullens, Gleason found the report not to be inaccurate.

“It’s not an unfair characterization; it’s just that the way it gets interpreted is regrettable,” Gleason said. “In the shorthand of journalism, it resulted in an impression that may not have been completely accurate.”

Also contradicting Taggart are members of his own staff, who said off-the-record that the workouts were “military-style.” Greif quoted them anonymously when inserting that phrase into the piece:

Players this week were required to finish the same workouts, which were described by multiple sources as akin to military basic training, with one said to include up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up-downs.

It’s not clear where the story goes from here, except that Taggart made clear twice in his interview with the Emerald he has no plans to answer questions from Greif in the future.