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.

Mike Leach and Nick Saban together highlight 2020 SEC Media Days schedule

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Set your calendars for this summer because the SEC preseason bonanza is set to be even more anticipated than it usually is.

The conference office in Birmingham announced the schedule for their annual Media Days event and all eyes in the college football world will be on it in 2020 with the addition of new coaches at a handful of the league’s schools.

The College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will play host to the festivities, which annually mark the official end of the long offseason and the beginning of a new season for the sport.

2020 SEC FOOTBALL MEDIA DAYS SCHEDULE

MONDAY, July 13

Florida – Dan Mullen

LSU – Ed Orgeron

Missouri – Eliah Drinkwitz 

TUESDAY, July 14

Georgia – Kirby Smart

Kentucky – Mark Stoops

Ole Miss – Lane Kiffin

Vanderbilt – Derek Mason

WEDNESDAY, July 15

Alabama – Nick Saban

Arkansas –  Sam Pittman

Mississippi State – Mike Leach

Tennessee – Jeremy Pruitt

THURSDAY, July 16

Auburn – Gus Malzahn

South Carolina – Will Muschamp

Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher

The highlight this year has to be Wednesday’s session that includes Saban answering questions about missing out on the College Football Playoff last year and the arrival of Leach to the throngs of media in the South at his first major appearance for Mississippi State. Having new Arkansas coach Pittman separating the two makes for a real murderer’s row of coaches that can give some quotes.

Don’t discount the day prior either with both Smart and Kiffin headlining things. The latter is no stranger to the event from his brief time at Tennessee too. Reigning national champion LSU and their newly rich head coach will also help kick things off on Monday. Player names will be announced later as well.

SEC Media Days is always quite the event in its own right. Adding in these new personalties to the already established names should make things even more exciting.

July can’t get here fast enough.

NCAA cites Pat Narduzzi, Pitt football for violations

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The NCAA announced Thursday that they’ve hit Pitt with several penalties related to violations for both their football and men’s basketball programs.

While hoops is the primary focus of the case, head coach Pat Narduzzi and the folks on the gridiron were not left untouched. Though the Panthers were certainly not hammered, they did receive a little more than a slap on the wrist as a result of some minor violations.

At the heart of the matter? Some coaches who were coaching when they were not supposed to be:

According to the agreement, the head football coach instructed or was present at the practice facility when three former quality control staff members performed coaching duties, resulting in the program exceeding the allowable number of permissible coaches. The university conducted adequate spot checks of the program, but the agreement said the violations were undetected in part due to the program’s practice of playing music to indicate when outside parties were present at the practice facility. Football quality control staff members reported that they would make sure they were not near student-athletes when hearing the music.

We’re guessing the fact that they had a scheme sophisticated enough to be changing music when people came in to the building during practice is why there were Level II penalties in the case instead of something even more under the radar. 

As a result, Narduzzi was hit with a show-cause order that will see him miss two days of practices in during the team’s upcoming preseason camp in August. He also already missed one week of off-campus recruiting prior to the most recent signing day. 

The program is also being forced to cut the number of coaches they have for a few hours and days during the spring.

All in all, nothing that will hamper the upcoming 2020 campaign that much but still more than just sending the coaches to a compliance meeting as you often see in similar cases. Pitt holds their annual Blue-Gold spring game on April 11 and begins the season on Sept. 5 against Miami (OH) at Heinz Field.

USC ‘in final stages’ of canceling UC-Davis game, allowing them to rejoin Notre Dame, UCLA as only FBS teams to never play FCS school

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Fans of the USC football program, one source of pride has officially returned.

In July of last year, USC football angered a sizable portion of its fan base as well as former players by announcing that it had scheduled a 2021 game against UC-Davis.  The Trojans had been one of three FBS programs that had never scheduled a game against an FCS team.

Wednesday, however, new athletic director Mike Bohn confirmed that USC is on the verge of canceling that football game and replacing it with another.  Bohn revealed the development during a podcast appearance, as transcribed by 247Sports.com:

Well, I’m happy to tell you that we have informed UC Davis that we intended to cancel that game. We are in the final stages of formalizing an agreement with another FBS opponent to replace UC Davis, and I have to give our donors and fans a lot of the credit. When I arrived, I committed to listening and learning; and the feedback from our fans was clear. Preserving our history is critically important to us and to our fans, so we worked to make that happen.

Our fans didn’t like it and our fans recognize that we’re one of only three institutions to have never played a team at that level, and I think that says a lot about ‘SC and our commitment to wanting to make sure that our fans see viable games and ensure that they have a great experience watching those games. So, they were really clear about it and, to be honest with you, I think there were a lot of people on campus that encouraged us to ensure that we could fix that as well.

Unofficially, USC football rejoins Notre Dame and UCLA as the only FBS schools that have never played a game against an FCS team.

USC will reportedly be forced to pay UC-Davis for canceling the game.

Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian has reportedly interviewed for Colorado opening

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Very late in the churning of the 2019-20 coaching carousel, Nick Saban could find himself with a significant opening on his Alabama Crimson Tide football coaching staff.  Maybe.

When Mel Tucker left for the Michigan State head job earlier this month, it triggered an unexpected coaching search at Colorado.  Current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator and former Colorado running back Eric Bieniemy was immediately considered the front-runner, although it’s now expected that he’ll stay in the NFL.  Air Force’s Troy Calhoun has now taken that front-runner mantle in some corners — he interviewed for the CU job this week — while former Arkansas and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is in the mix as well.

Steve Sarkisian‘s name has been connected to the Colorado opening as well.  It was reported by CBS Sports that the Alabama Crimson Tide football assistant interviewed for the job Wednesday, with ESPN.com confirming that development Thursday morning.

Sarkisian, of course, has experience as a head coach in the Pac-12.  His unceremonious exit from his last job in the conference, though, could make him a hard sell to the Buff faithful.

In mid-October of 2015, USC announced that Sarkisian had been dismissed as the Trojans’ head football coach, one day after he was given an indefinite leave of absence because of alleged and ongoing alcohol issues.  It was alleged that USC had instituted a zero-tolerance policy when it came to Sarkisian and alcohol use.  Leading up to his dismissal, Sarkisian allegedly showed up to meetings intoxicated.

From 2009-15, Sarkisian was a head coach in the Pac-12 — at Washington (2009-13) and USC (2014-15).  He went 46-35 during his time in that league.  He also spent two separate stints totaling seven seasons (2001-03, 2005-08) as an assistant at USC.

Following his ugly exit from USC, Sarkisian joined the Alabama Crimson Tide football program as an offensive analyst for the 2016 season. When Lane Kiffin took the head job at FAU prior to the national championship game that year, Sarkisian served as the play-caller in the loss to Clemson.

Expected to take over as the Crimson Tide’s coordinator, and after reports that his relationship with Saban had deteriorated surfaced, Sarkisian instead left a month after the title game for a job in the NFL as the coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.  Sarkisian lasted two years in that job before he was fired in December of 2018.

A month later, he rejoined the Tide as offensive coordinator.