Nick Saban: ‘I don’t have any unfinished business in the NFL’

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First, let’s get this out of the way right up front:

“I’m not going to be the Alabama head coach.” — Nick Saban, two weeks before he became the Alabama head coach.

So, with that matter taken care of, down to the business at hand.

For well over a month, Nick Saban has, once again, been connected to various openings around the NFL.  Specifically and most vociferously, the Tide head coach’s name has been bandied about as a possibility for the opening with the Cleveland Browns.  Hell, as late as this week, and even as Cleveland had seemingly set their sights on another head coach from the collegiate level, a Northeast Ohio scribe was penning a piece headlined “Browns’ Haslam seems poised to make run at Alabama’s Saban.”

All the while, Saban has steadfastly denied an interest in returning to the scene of his only coaching crime, although the denials rang hollow in many an ear thanks to the bungled public handling of the Miami Dolphins situation just over six years ago.  Even attempts by Saban’s wife Terry to quash the speculation — “as far as I’m concerned, this is it” — failed to reach its intended target as the rumors connecting her husband to the professional ranks continued.

Just two days before the Tide takes the field against Notre Dame for a shot at a third BCS title in four seasons, Saban was once again asked about a possible future in the NFL.  And, once again, the future Hall of Fame coach attempted to tamp out whatever embers of a move to the NFL may still be smoldering.

“I don’t have any unfinished business in the NFL,” Saban told reporters during the BCS title game media day in Miami Saturday morning. “It’s not something I’m concerned about. It’s not even anything I want to do.”

Saban’s choice of words to kick off his latest denial is interesting to say the least.  Purveyors of the annual Saban-to-the-NFL rumors like to point to his 15-17 mark in the brief two-year stay with the Dolphins as the main reason he would return to the professional ranks, that easily the worst stop in his otherwise highly successful coaching career has left an itch that he will eventually scratch.  That his drive to excel at everything and anything he puts his hands on would eventually lead him back to the NFL to redeem the lone blemish on his coaching résumé, his steadfast public commitment to the Tide be damned.

Saban’s a smart individual, though, and must realize that his very public butchering of his Dolphins departure makes it impossible for most to accept at face value his myriad declarations of love for his current job.  The only thing he can do to put the rumor wolves at bay?  Nothing really, other than continue on with the job at hand at Alabama.  And continue building a powerhouse FBS program that’s the envy of all but a handful of schools across the country, one that has a chance at BCS history in South Beach Monday night.

LaDainian Tomlinson creates endowment fund for TCU student-athletes

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One of the most famous players in TCU football history is giving back to his alma mater in a big way. LaDainian Tomlinson, former TCU running back, College Football and Pro Football Hall of Famer, has teamed up with TCU to roll out the Tomlinson Student-Athlete Development Endowment Fund to benefit student-athletes at TCU across all 21 sponsored sports.

“LaDainian Tomlinson epitomizes the values we hold dear to TCU and we could not be more proud to strengthen our relationship with him and his team in this joint venture,” TCU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Jeremiah Donati said in a released statement. “We both understand how critically important student-athlete development programming can be in positively shaping the lives of young men and women long after their athletic careers are over.”

“Since retirement, I have been working with my team to find the very best opportunities to serve,” Tomlinson said in a released statement. “One of the greatest opportunities afforded me is certainly being a Trustee. As I’m already engaged in year-round leadership development in other sectors, we are in perfect alignment with TCU’s student-athlete development programs and ultimately support TCU’s Lead On initiative. I look forward to our teams working closely to help build elite citizens year-round. We have to train these young leaders how to do what we are asking them to do. Leadership is developed year-round, not in retreats or semesters. We have the opportunity to lead the nation, and I intend to help ensure we do just that through this partnership.”

According to TCU, the fund will collect funds through private donations and go toward helping to support TCU student-athletes in preparing them for life and careers after graduating from the university. In short, Tomlinson is leading the charge to help make sure a TCU student-athlete has a successful path to a career after playing their last games for the university. For a program that has continued to grow as TCU has from the days of playing in the WAC, Conference USA, and the Mountain West Conference and now in the Big 12, this is a noble effort to help those who suit up in a TCU sports uniform that continue to be a part of the growing program.

It’s always cool seeing star players find ways to give back to their universities. TCU has certainly grown as a program since Tomlinson last took a handoff for the Horned Frogs in the WAC in 2000. The two-time WAC Offensive Player of the Year has wasted no time in cementing his spot in the TCU family since his departure for a hall of fame NFL career by serving on the TCU board of trustees.

LSU to approve Ed Orgeron’s contract extension and raise this week

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Coming off his best season as a head coach, Ed Orgeron will officially get a nice new raise from LSU this year. According to a report from The Advocate, citing information gathered from the agenda for an upcoming board meeting, Orgeron is set to officially receive a two-year extension with a $4 million contract.

The new contract would extend Orgeron through the 2023 season and increase his buyout price tag to $10 million this year, with a reduction in buyout cost of $250,000 each month until it drops to $4 million in 2021.

Naturally, the new contract will come with plenty of incentives for Orgeron for various milestones and achievements during any season. The contracts for new assistant coaches will also be on the agenda for the board. It is expected the board will approve all football contracts on the agenda without hassle. These votes are merely formalities in many cases, including this one for LSU.

According to a database of coaching salaries compiled by USA Today last year, Orgeron was paid $3.5 million by LSU, which ranked him 36th among coaches active last season and 10th among SEC coaches. After coming off his third year as head coach of the program and with a contract that was set to expire in 2021, the time to work out a new deal feels about right for LSU and Orgeron. Tacking on two more years now provides job security and allows Orgeron and his staff to sell recruits on the commitment the program has in Orgeron moving forward for the bulk of their college football career in the years to come.

Since taking over as head coach following Les Miles, Orgeron has a record of 25-9 in the past three seasons in Baton Rouge. That is highlighted by a 2-1 bowl record that includes last season’s Fiesta Bowl victory over UCF. It is easily Orgeron’s best run as ahead coach in his career, which includes a 10-25 mark at Ole Miss and a brief 6-2 stint at USC before he left the program after learning he had no chance to become the next head coach of the Trojans.

Michigan DL Reuben Jones announces plan to transfer from Wolverines

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Michigan senior defensive lineman Reuben Jones will play out the final year of his eligibility someplace other than Ann Arbor. On Monday, Jones announced he will move on from the Wolverines as a graduate transfer after the spring semester wraps up.

“After this semester, I will be graduating and also leaving the University of Michigan while becoming the best me on and off the field,” Jones said in a statement shared on his Twitter account Monday afternoon.

Jones appeared in four games for the Wolverines in 2018. The former three-star recruit in Michigan’s Class of 2015 has only played in two seasons and continues to be buried on the depth chart. As a graduate transfer, however, he will have the opportunity to play immediately this fall for any college football program that welcomes him. It will be the final year of his eligibility, however, so he will certainly be hoping to find a place that can afford to give him more of a crack at a meaningful role as he closes out his college football career.

Players-skipping-bowl-games trend hits college basketball

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In just two years, players skipping minor bowl games has become an accepted practice in college football. In part, the tradition, for lack of a better word, has now reached a point where future first-round picks are now announcing that, yes, they will play in their team’s New Year’s Six game before ultimately turning pro.

And now it’s spread to basketball.

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson on Monday revealed Hogs small forward Daniel Gafford will skip his team’s bid in the NIT to prepare for this summer’s NBA draft.

A sophomore from El Dorado, Ark., Gafford averaged 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds in just under 29 minutes per game this season. He’s viewed as a fringe first-round pick, and, clearly, he thinks getting a jumpstart on the Combine process will help him secure the guaranteed contract that comes with such a selection.

This is the second trend to jump from college football to basketball in recent years. Following the relative success of ESPN’s Tuesday night College Football Playoff ranking shows, the NCAA’s started revealing its top-16 seeds for the men’s and women’s tournaments in-season recently as well.