BCS Championship coaches took different routes to Pasadena

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Jimbo Fisher and Gus Malzahn were each hired to do one thing; restore the pride in their respective programs. Each wasted little time in building a national championship contender, although they took different paths to getting to Pasadena, California for the chance to bring their programs t the top of the college football world.

Fisher is a branch off of the Nick Saban coaching tree. He served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU under the current Alabama head coach, but he remained in Baton Rouge when Saban decided to answer a call from the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Now under Les Miles, Fisher made a name for himself as LSU’s offensive guru and helping to make quarterback JaMarcus Russell a top NFL draft pick (kindly forget how that all played out). As Fisher built up his resume at LSU, it was becoming clear Fisher was going to be given a chance to serve as head coach one day.

That path to becoming a head coach hit a road block in 2006. Fisher interviewed for an opening at the UAB, but his contract offer was vetoed by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees. Saban, now back in the SEC after flaking out with the Dolphins, wanted to bring Fisher back on to his staff at Alabama. Fisher instead took an offer from Florida State to perform the same coaching duties, but this was more than a simple lateral move. Florida State went the extra yard to name Fisher the coach-in-waiting under Bobby Bowden. Bowden announced his resignation at the end fo the 2009 season. Fisher got to work right away by re-energizing a sleeping giant of a program. Fisher’s leadership in recruiting efforts showed immediate results and Florida State started building the foundation for long-term dominance in the ACC that had long been absent in Tallahassee.

The results of that first recruiting class under Fisher will now get a chance to demonstrate how far the program has come. Six starters for the Seminoles on Monday night were a part of the first recruiting class under Fisher as head coach. that includes strong safety Terrence Brooks, linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith as well as wide receiver Kenny Shaw and fullback Chad Abram.

In Fisher’s first year on the job at Florida State, Auburn was making a run for the first BCS championship in school history. Gene Chizik had surprised many by building a championship caliber program at Auburn, but the biggest asset on the sidelines was perceived to be offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who had served his time as a high school coach and college assistant coach at multiple stops. Malzahn quickly became a hot commodity as Cam Newton was playing his way to a Heisman Trophy in Malzahn’s offensive system. During that championship season for Auburn, Malzahn was named the top assistant coach in college football with the Broyles Award. Now a highly attractive option as a head coach, Auburn offered Malzahn a nice raise to keep him around.

Over time it was clear Malzahn was not going to be sticking around for long as an assistant coach. Whether it was a conflict of power or just a matter of getting out and giving head coaching a shot, Malzahn jumped at the opportunity to coach Arkansas State in 2012. It worked out extremely well for Malzahn, leading the Red Wolves to a  9-3 record and a Sun Belt Conference championship. As Auburn continued to falter the pressure was on Auburn to make a coaching change. That meant the end of the line for Chizik, leaving the door wide open for the assistant who was adored for his work within the program.

Malzahn was named the head coach of Auburn in December 2012, and he quickly went to work to put together a staff he felt comfortable working with. Although the optimism was high for the new Malzahn era at Auburn, few could have imagined how rapid the turnaround would be. Auburn was 3-9 in 2012 and immediately turned in a 13-1 season under Malzahn, knocking off rival and top-ranked Alabama in unbelievable fashion, running away with the sEC championship against Missouri and getting a chance to lay claim to one last BCS title on behalf of the time SEC.

On Monday night, the two paths will cross in what could easily be an epic showdown between two of college football’s top coaches today.

New Miami QB Tate Martell’s eligibility wavier reportedly received Ohio State support

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This normally dreary stretch of the offseason in college football was perked up quite a bit on Tuesday when Miami announced that Ohio State transfer Tate Martell’s waiver with the NCAA to play immediately was granted and that he would suit up for the Hurricanes in 2019. While many though this was a great example of free agency coming to the sport, that’s not truly the case given the byzantine process the NCAA typically goes through in cases like this.

However, there were some unique factors that went into the decision according to the Miami Herald and that included some serious weight given to the fact that the Buckeyes were not standing in the way of Martell leaving nor becoming eligible in South Florida right away.

“I think what you had here is a situation where the request was made in a way that Ohio State did not oppose what we put in our request and they were cooperative with Miami,” attorney Travis Leach told the paper. “That ultimately was helpful to us.”

While Miami sources did describe things as a bit of a divorce between signal-caller and OSU after ex-Georgia QB Justin Fields transferred in, it’s interesting that the story noted that the change from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day at head coach didn’t really play a factor. That was something that a lot of folks seemed to hang their hats on in this case but it seems that the NCAA listened closer to the circumstances surrounding Martell leaving Columbus and what the football program was doing in terms of roster management and not who was doing the managing.

Either way, it seems like everybody — sans perhaps some Michigan and Florida State fans — came out a winner from this whole player shuffle. It’s probably a lot more encouraging for the next high-profile quarterback thinking about transferring out for greener pastures too.

WWE “scout” showed up at Penn State Pro Day for second straight year

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‘We are’ is really channelling their ‘Woooo’ now a days.

If you’re too young to get that reference or never did follow wrestling back in the day, don’t worry. Just know that some sort of pipeline is being apparently developed at Penn State by the WWE.

At least it seems that way judging by the organization’s Pro Day attendance.

You will notice that the school separates out the WWE from the WWE-backed XFL spring football league that is being launched next year. That’s a notable distinction given that the wrestling company has shown up to Happy Valley two years in a row now for Pro Day. While one wouldn’t have had a big issue with them turning up to see the Saquon Barkley freak show last year, it seems that this is now becoming a bit of a trend with James Franklin’s program.

While you can bet that this will be a nice recruiting tool for the Nittany Lions to connect with a few recruits down the road, things might get a little strange if the WWE decides to recreate a ‘White Out’ for the next Wrestlemania or plucks a few lineman from the school to form the next tag team at the event.

Mizzou reportedly tore less than 25,000 tickets per game in 2018

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The SEC is the home of the most fanatical college football fans in the sport, they tell us. It’s the place where they’d draw 80,000 fans to watch walk-ons practice catching punts. It really does just mean more.

So what does it say about the conference, and the sport as a whole, when one of its members tore less than 25,000 tickets per game?

That’s the case at Missouri, where, according to a report Tuesday from Columbia Missourian, the Tigers scanned an average of 24,377 tickets over the course of the team’s seven-game home schedule.

Now, there are some mitigating factors here. The school says the number is a far cry from the actual paid attendance because the stadium’s electronic ticket scanners did not work on a number of occasions, thereby allowing untold thousands of paying customers to enter the stadium without being counted. And, no doubt, that was a factor — though how big a factor, no one can say.

But it’s still a far cry from the 51,865 fans Missouri says attended each game, which itself is a far cry from Faurot Field’s listed capacity of 71,168.

Another mitigating factor: the home schedule. Tiger fans did get to see Georgia come to Faurot Field. Their other opponents, though: UT-Martin, Wyoming, Memphis, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Arkansas. Not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents Mizzou fans grew up learning to hate. And as the article says, weather and timing didn’t help the Arkansas gate.

However, it’s not as if a poor attendance number can be blamed on poor performance. Mizzou went 5-2 at home in 2018.

And then there’s this: the 2018 schedule is more or less Mizzou’s home schedule every year. In 2019, Missouri plays host to West Virginia, Southeast Missouri State, South Carolina, Troy, Ole Miss, Florida and Tennessee.

Let’s see if Missouri can tear more than 25,000 tickets per game this time around.

Report: American signs $1 billion TV deal with ESPN

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The American has signed a new TV deal with ESPN that will represent a massive raise for the conference, according to a report Tuesday from Sports Business Journal.

The new deal will pay the conference a sum of $1 billion over the next 12 years, a split of $83.3 million per year, or around $7 million per year per school. That’s pennies compared to the $50 million-plus doled out by the Big Ten, but it’s a windfall compared to the league’s current contract that pays less than $2 million per year per school.

The contract will run from the 2020 football season through 2031, according to the report.

It’s good news for the conference insofar that rates are still going up in light of the cord-cutting shift affecting the entire TV business, but it does come with some caveats.

First, AAC fans must now pony up for ESPN+ subscriptions if they’d like to see many of their school’s games. Marquee games will remain on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, but the rest will go to the paid, online streaming service — which, obviously, ESPN hopes will help recoup much of the money they’re giving the AAC in the first place. More games should make TV airwaves moving forward, depending on how you define TV airwaves.

The other bit of mixed-bag news is that, according to the report, ESPN did not require a Grant of Rights agreement to fork over the $1 billion contract. That’s good if you’re a UCF or a Connecticut; it allows you to hang on to your free agent status should the Big 12 or ever come calling. But it’s bad if you’re a Tulsa or an East Carolina fan, because it means your conference’s most valuable members — thus, your ticket to continued $1 billion deals — are (still) only in the AAC until they get a better offer and not one moment longer.