Saban takes issue with Bowlsby’s ‘cheating pays’ claim


In opening the Big 12 Media Days Monday, commissioner Bob Bowlsby created a bit of a firestorm when, in the midst of a diatribe against the current enforcement practices in the NCAA, stated “cheating pays” and “[r]ight now, if you wanna cheat you can do it and get away with it and that needs to change.”

Tuesday afternoon, the highest-paid coach in college football took exception to the broad strokes painted by one of the most respected commissioners in the sport.

In a sit-down interview with ESPN radio “personality” Colin Cowherd, Nick Saban questioned Bowlsby’s take on the current climate of enforcement while espousing how the commissioner of his conference has stressed compliance throughout his time in the league. In fact, in Saban’s mind, social media has forced all of college football to keep their collective hands clean on the recruiting front.

Here are some of Saban’s comments on the situation, as transcribed by

“I don’t see that. I don’t know where people get those opinions. Like I think the compliance in our league is actually better than it’s ever been. I think Mike Slive, that was one of his babies when he came in, he was going to make sure that we had a clean league and people did it the right things. When you don’t walk the walk in our league, you’re going to get called down by our conference offices as much as the NCAA.”

“But I don’t see players getting bought. I don’t see players getting extra benefits any place. I think recruiting is so transparent now, I think most people are scared to death that they would get caught publicly — not by the NCAA, not by the conference office.

“But even if you have illegal contact with a player, he tweets that you talked to him. So that’s a violation. I mean, it’s so transparent, you almost have to do things correctly because I don’t think anybody needs to catch you. I think the public would catch you.”

Saban also seemed to take a bit of a shot at Bowlsby’s “cheating” crutch, saying that “[y]ou’re always looking for a reason and one of the easiest excuses is to say the other guy did something illegal… which I don’t buy into that.”

The coach did allow though, that “[a]gents are a problem.” That is an understandable stance on Saban’s part.

Over the past couple of years, various Tide players, including D.J. Fluker, Marcell Dareus and HaHa Clinton-Dix, have been accused of and/or suspended for having illicit dealings with agents or their middlemen.

The NCAA’s Enforcement Committee hasn’t met in over a year according to Bowlsby, which seems to be an indicator to the commish that the game of college football has become akin to the Wild West. According to Saban, though, there’s too much at stake for coaches and their staff to go rogue.

“The No. 1 thing that blows up my future and any coaches’ future is if you violate NCAA rules,” Saban said. “That’s a big risk to be taking over winning a football game when you’re talking about your family, your future and your career and all the hard work you’ve done professionally to get where you are.”

North Carolina formally announces hiring of ex-Tennessee RBs coach Robert Gillespie

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The latest addition to Larry Fedora‘s North Carolina coaching staff has been confirmed.

Following up on reports that surfaced earlier this month. UNC announced Wednesday that Fedora has hired Robert Gillespie. While not confirmed by the football program in the release, it’s expected Gillespie will serve as the Tar Heels running backs coach, a position he’s held for most of his coaching career.

“We are excited to welcome Robert and his family to Chapel Hill,” Fedora said in a statement. “He has a well-earned reputation as a great offensive coach and recruiter, and he has a wealth of experience working with running backs at a very high level. We are happy to have him join our staff as we get into the bulk of spring practice.”

Gillespie fills the hole created by the departure of Gunter Brewer, who left as the Tar Heels’ wide receivers coach for a job with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this month. It’s expected that Luke Paschall, currently the running backs coach, will assume Brewer’s role with receivers.

Gillespie, a former Florida running back, spent the past five seasons as the running backs coach at Tennessee. He was originally retained by new UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt before parting ways with the football program shortly after National Signing Day.

In addition to UT, Gillespie has spent time on coaching staffs at South Carolina (2006-08), Oklahoma State (2009-10) and West Virginia (2011-12). He was the running backs coach at each of those stops.

Report: Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa’s thumb injury ‘just a sprain’

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It appears Alabama can breathe a sigh of relief on the injury front.

Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his LEFT (throwing) hand.  It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.

While there’s been nothing official yet from the football program or head coach,, citing unnamed sources, writes that the injury “is believed to just be a sprain and he should be able to return to practice in at least a limited capacity at some point soon.”

Until then, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.

The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are engaged in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp.  That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.

John Calipari takes page out of Nick Saban’s playbook by warning of (rat) poison

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One’s a dot, two’s a line and three’s a trend as the old adage go and it appears rat poison for college players is now a burgeoning trend.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday ahead of Kentucky’s NCAA tournament game against Kansas State, Wildcats coach John Calipari took a page straight out of Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin’s playbook by warning his team of drinking the media “poison” the past few days.

“My challenge is making sure these kids don’t drink that poison. That poison being we have an easy road. There are no easy roads in this tournament,” said Calipari. “If they drink that poison, we’ll be done Thursday. If they don’t drink the poison, it’ll be a dog fight Thursday — let’s see what happens. Sometimes you wonder why they’re (the media) trying to paint that picture with my team — probably because they’re young and they know they don’t know better.”

Ok then.

At least the term Calipari is using isn’t out of thin air given that Saban infamously ranted on his team buying into the media’s discussion of being a good team as “rat poison” last season. For the record though, the rant by the basketball coach was prompted by a question that didn’t at all involve Kentucky having an easy path to the Final Four but was rather about team and individual goals.

It’s not often you think of Saban as a trendsetter but it seems he was certainly ahead of the curve when it came to labeling media talk as poison.

Harbaugh hits primetime again as Michigan announces spring game under the lights

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Jim Harbaugh is already getting a series on Amazon Prime but now the Michigan head coach is also getting the primetime treatment.

The Wolverines announced on Tuesday that the annual spring game would take place under the lights at Michigan Stadium this year and would be televised live in primetime on the Big Ten Network.

Gates will open to the game two hours prior to kickoff and the maize and blue faithful may try to do their best to get to Ann Arbor early because the school is going to screen an episode of the Amazon series  “All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines” prior to the game. This will be the second time in three years that the school will go under the lights to play their spring game at night but obviously the first time there’s a documentary series that will be screened prior to the Wolverines taking the field.

The game may be worth tuning in for to see Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson in action with his new team after arriving in the offseason. The NCAA still has not ruled on whether he will be immediately eligible in 2018 but he is expected to go through spring drills with the team either way, starting this week when practices begin on Friday.