HS coach: Sims lost Tide QB battle because ‘he was the out-of-state guy’

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That sound you might hear off in the distance?  It could very well be the blood of a certain Crimson & White head coach beginning to boil.

A quarterback battle between Alabama native AJ McCarron and Virginia native Phillip Sims that began in the spring of 2011 and extended into the early part of the regular season ended with McCarron playing a significant role in Alabama’s second BcS title in three years this past January.  Seeing the very clear writing on the wall, Sims announced after spring practice this year that he was transferring from the Tide.

In an interview with the Virginian-Pilot shortly after Sims’ transfer decision was confirmed, the player’s former head coach at Oscar Smith High School, Richard Morgan, claimed there was one reason and one reason only why McCarron received the nod over Sims.

“If it’s a close competition between an in-state guy and an out-of-state guy, the in-state guy is getting the job,” he said. “Phillip was in a situation where I thought he was the better quarterback, but he was the out-of-state guy. That’s just the way it works in college

As my six-year-old daughter is wont to say, what a crock of poo.  Say what you want about Nick Saban — and I’m quite certain many, many things will be said in the comments section below this post — but his singular focus when it comes to on-field matters is getting the best players into both huddles in order to give his team the best opportunity to win on any given Saturday.  It would be literally impossible, I believe, for the three-time BcS champion coach to care less from what city/state/country/continent/planet/universe a player hailed.

If Saban and/or his coaching staff thought Sims gave the Tide the best opportunity for a win, it would’ve been Sims under center when UA’s offense stepped onto the field for the season-opening series against Kent State last September.  Or the next week or the week after that or the week after that etc.

Right or wrong, Saban rolled the dice with McCarron — and said roll had nothing to do with the fact that McCarron played his high school football four hours from Tuscaloosa.

Third in the SEC in QB rating and a BcS title in his first year as a starter at the collegiate level?  Yeah, I’d say the coaching staff’s decision was more right than wrong, regardless of one outsider’s sour grapes over his former player getting geographically hosed.

The local-boy-makes-good story may be a consideration on a lot of campuses around the country, but not at any place where Saban is in charge, and not at arguably the most important position on the field.

In addition to placing one foot squarely in his mouth on the Tide’s personnel front, Morgan took his other one and crammed it into the same neighborhood when discussing the reason behind Sims’ transfer.

While it seemed obvious to most that the player decided to transfer because he had little chance of supplanting McCarron the next couple of years, Sims said in a parting statement that his decision was “nothing more than a personal matter” and that he “just need[s] to be closer to home to support my family at this time and that needs to be my priority right now.”  Such a public statement was likely the precursor to an appeal for a waiver from the NCAA that would allow the quarterback to play immediately, likely in his home state of Virginia with the ACC’s Cavaliers.

According to the coach, the move instead had a lot to do with personnel instead of something personal.

“McCarron still has two years of eligibility,” Morgan said. “If it was the case where (McCarron) was a senior and Phillip had to sit one more year and then have two years, he wouldn’t leave. Let’s face it, they did win the national championship. So you’re not going to bench the quarterback who won the national title. And (Sims) doesn’t want to sit because he feels he’s just as good. So he has to go somewhere where he can play.”

Sims and his new school will have a hard time arguing the hardship angle to the NCAA with public comments like the above from somebody that close to the player.

(Tip O’ the Cap: al.com)

Ex-UCLA OC helped convince Wilton Speight to transfer to Westwood

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When Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight announced he was going to graduate and transfer to UCLA, many were caught by surprise given that the 6-foot-6 pro-style passer is not your typical fit for Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. While the new Bruins’ head coach brought up how Sam Bradford and Nick Foles ran his system to convince the quarterback to pick the school for the 2018 season, it was a former assistant at the program who appears to have been just as convincing in bringing the big QB to Westwood.

That would be Jedd Fisch, who was Speight’s coach in Ann Arbor for two years before he left to take the offensive coordinator job with the Bruins when Jim Mora was still in charge last season. The veteran coach returned to the NFL as an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams shortly after Kelly was hired but he reconnected with his old pupil to give him an honest assessment of how he’d fit in with a school sporting a different shade of blue.

“As a coach, you can kind of sniff out the B.S.,” Speight told the LA Times, “and he was able to do that and say, ‘Look, you’re getting what you see at UCLA and I think it’s the right fit,’ and I couldn’t have agreed more.”

Speight will join a very competitive race to be the starter for the opener against Cincinnati when fall camp rolls around. Devon Modster is the incumbent having gotten experience last year when Josh Rosen was held out of several games while incoming freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson is considered the future at the position and figures to see early playing time.

It remains to be seen just how good UCLA will be in their first season with Kelly in charge but the head coach will certainly have a variety of options to choose from at the most important position on the field this year.

Proposed California amendment would cap coaches salaries at $200,000

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Some states do everything they can to help out athletics programs in their borders, that is something that California has never really been accused of doing. A state-wide travel ban has already caused some ripples with regards to scheduling for some teams and it seems lawmakers in Sacramento are back with a new constitutional amendment that could hamper schools ability to pay their coaches.

UCLA student paper The Daily Bruin passes along news that a new constitutional amendment was announced last week “that aims to restrict the University of California’s autonomy by reducing staff salaries, the length of regents’ terms and the authority of the UC president.” That first item is the biggest to take note of, which would institute a cap on non-faculty salaries to $200,000 per year — something that would affect everybody from coaches to the athletic director and everybody in between.

The University of California (UC) system most notably includes Pac-12 schools like UCLA and Cal, which means coaches like Chip Kelly and Justin Wilcox could be affected. To take Kelly as an example, he signed a five-year contract worth a total of $23.3 million when he was hired by the Bruins this offseason.

Head football coaches salaries are not typically paid completely by a school directly however, so there is some wiggle room should this amendment wind up passing. Often a separate athletics organization will foot most of the bill using funds raised from donors while other outside companies sometimes also get involved. Things might be a little more interesting when it comes to assistant’s salaries or non-football/men’s basketball head coaches and support staffers however, who could fall under the purview of the cap.

In other words, some creative accounting practices might have to be implemented by schools like UCLA or Cal or else they’ll be at a significant disadvantage compared to their private school peers like USC or Stanford as well as conference rivals like Arizona or Oregon.

It’s far from certain the amendment will pass given that it requires a two-thirds vote in the state legislature as well as passing muster on a state-wide ballot measure during a general election. We don’t typically see college coaches wade too far into political waters but, in this case, they might be forced to because its one that directly affects their wallets.

Arkansas moving back to natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019

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It’s a new era at Arkansas with Chad Morris and a new athletic director in charge and not even the turf will be spared from seeing changes.

Per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the school will be moving to a natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium instead of replacing their current artificial turf again as it nears the end of its lifespan.

“Let me say my preference is I love natural grass,” Morris told the paper a few months ago. “That’s just me. Maybe that’s just the high school coach in me.

“Worrying about what the next surface out here looks like is irrelevant to me. I just want to get through a practice and get better today. But I prefer, I’m a natural grass type of guy. I love being on a grass field. There’s nothing better than that in college football, or football period.”

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek confirmed this weekend that the change was being made in Fayetteville after the 2018 season concludes. The current turf was put in back in the Bobby Petrino era in 2009 and will need to be replaced after a decade or so of heavy use.

This will not be the end of Razorbacks playing on turf however, as they will not only see the stuff for games at neutral sites and at other SEC opponents but also when they make their annual trek to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock — which had turf installed a dozen years ago.

West Virginia President on old Big 12 expansion craze: ‘Little bit messy’

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E. Gordon Gee is one of college athletics’ most recognizable figures, which isn’t exactly what you typically say about school leaders like him. The West Virginia President known for his trademark bow tie (and who has never shied away from an interview or a quip he didn’t like) is on the cusp of his first set of spring meetings in the conference as the new chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News about a range of issues around the league prior to meeting in Dallas, Gee seems to have come around on conference expansion from a few years ago and thinks it not only could have been handled better, but it probably shouldn’t be done in the first place because being the smallest Power Five league has its advantages too.

“I’m not certain it was the best way to do it,” Gee told the paper. “It was a little bit messy — and I was part of the mess.

“Intimacy gives us an opportunity to do something that a lot of other places can’t do… We’ll play to our strengths. We’re small, but we can be very aggressive in positioning ourselves uniquely.”

I’m sure the folks at places like Houston and BYU would agree the entire process was messy but will certainly disagree with Gee about the Big 12 sticking with just 10 members. It certainly sounds as though the issue has been put to bed for the foreseeable future but if the merry-go-round gets going once again, at least we know that the process everybody goes through will be a lot different.