Those who have been around Alabama head coach Nick Saban know he’s a little bit of a jokester behind the scenes but that wee bit of personality seemed to come out a little at Thursday’s press conference for the four College Football Playoff-bound head coaches. That’s because Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was asked about his Coaches Poll final ballot.
While you normally might roll your eyes about how a coach votes in such a poll, the order Dabo had the teams in was a bit eyebrow raising — namely he had Ohio State at No. 4 and his next opponent (and alma mater) Alabama at No. 5 in the ballot he submitted last Saturday after the close of the regular season.
“Literally it was 3:00 in the morning. Man, I got to do this poll. Looking at it, you know, they won 11 games. Alabama won 11 games. They won the Big Ten championship,” said Swinney. “Obviously the committee has a lot of things to look at, a lot of data. They’re going to pick the four best teams however they see it. At that moment, that’s the way I voted. They’re all great teams, man.”
To which Saban followed up, complete with a giant grin: “He was just respecting his alma mater, that’s all.”
“I’m trying to get rid of him, but I can’t shake him,” Swinney retorted.
For what it’s worth, Saban voted the Tigers No. 1 and the Tide No. 4.
The Clemson-Alabama rubber match is going to be fantastic fun down at the Sugar Bowl and especially so since the two head coaches love to have a little bit of fun with each other in press conferences after three postseason meetings.
It seems like it’s becoming routine at Alabama nowadays: take a head coaching job, stick around for the College Football Playoff.
Speaking to reporters at the College Football Hall of Fame on Thursday evening ahead of ESPN’s annual awards show, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban confirmed new Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt will remain with the team as defensive coordinator throughout the team’s playoff run.
“Yes, Jeremy is going to finish the season with us,” said Saban. “He’s going to go do some things to get his program started at Tennessee. When we’re ready to practice, he’ll be back with us, be a part of the Playoff.
“I really appreciate the fact that Kirby did a great job of doing that a couple years ago when he had an opportunity. I think it shows a lot of respect for the players on our team who worked hard to help us all have success this season.”
Kirby Smart accepted the head-coaching job at Georgia but remained on staff through the team’s title run. Lane Kiffin infamously coached as the Tide’s offensive coordinator during last year’s Peach Bowl semifinal after taking the Florida Atlantic job but missed out on the national title game.
While he will be wearing crimson the next few weeks, Pruitt will still be recruiting and assembling his staff with Tennessee while in Tuscaloosa and, eventually, New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. That makes things slightly more interesting than the time Smart did the same given that the Vols’ biggest annual rival is, you guessed it, Alabama and the two will meet at Neyland Stadium on the third Saturday in October.
The move will also make life a little easier for semifinal opponent Clemson when it comes to game planning too, as the Tigers won the national title in January against Saban and Pruitt down in Tampa.
It pays to be a college football coach, even if you don’t occupy the big chair at a school.
USA Today has released their annual database of assistant coach salaries and revealed that LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda takes home the biggest paycheck at a whopping $1.8 million in 2017, just edging out Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables for the top spot.
When factoring in offensive coordinator Matt Canada‘s $1.505 million salary, LSU is home to two of the four highest paid assistants in the country. Not surprisingly, the SEC in general leads the way in terms of assistant pay and has nine coaches making over $1 million for the season. In contrast, the Big 12 and Pac-12 have only one seven-figure assistant and the Big Ten manages to have three — all at Michigan. Private schools such as USC, Stanford and Vanderbilt did not release salary figures.
Perhaps most interesting is that just three schools who had a $1 million coordinator made a New Year’s Six bowl game and only one of them won their conference (Clemson). Interestingly, four coordinators making seven-figures were also on a staff where the head coach was fired this season.
You can view the full list here and do a deep dive on all the numbers from around the country.
Another, though, gets the endorsement of fellow finalist Lane Kiffin.
Along with the Florida Atlantic head coach, the Football Writers Association of America announced a total of eight finalists for the 2017 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award. In addition to Kiffin, those finalists are Bill Clark, UAB; Scott Frost, UCF (now at Nebraska); Jeff Monken, Army; Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma; Kirby Smart, Georgia; Dabo Swinney, Clemson; and Jeff Tedford, Fresno State.
Riley, Smart and Swinney will be coaching in the College Football Playoff; the fourth semifinalist, two-time Robinson winner Nick Saban of Alabama, is the only playoff head coach not included this year.
Saban’s former offensive coordinator, meanwhile, took to (surprise!) Twitter to voice his opinion as to who he feels is deserving of claiming this year’s honor.
Swinney is the only one of the eight who has ever been a finalist for the award named in honor of the legendary Grambling State head coach Eddie Robinson. None of the coaching octet has ever won the honor.
The Robinson Award has been given out annually since 1957, with Ohio State’s Woody Hayes winning that first trophy. Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre won the most recent edition.
For the second year in a row, a coach from Clemson has claimed the most prestigious honor an assistant can win.
One of five finalists for this year’s award, Tony Elliott was named the 2017 Broyles Award winner as the nation’s top assistant coach. The Tigers’ co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach earned the award over the likes of Oklahoma offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and Central Florida offensive coordinator Troy Walters.
The 38-year-old Elliott, who played his college football with the Tigers, is in the 12th season of his coaching career. After starting off at South Carolina State (2006-07) and Furman (2008-10), Elliott moved on to Clemson in 2011 as running backs coach. He added the co-coordinator title in 2015.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables won the 2016 Broyles Award. Florida State’s Mickey Andrews won the first award in 1996.