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.

NCAA President Mark Emmert received nearly $500,000 raise in 2016

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Being everybody’s favorite punching bag in college athletics at least pays well.

USA Today is reporting that NCAA President Mark Emmert received a nearly half million dollar raise in 2016 and take home pay in line with LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

NCAA President Mark Emmert’s total compensation grew by nearly $500,000 during the 2016 calendar year to more than $2.4 million, according to the association’s new federal tax return.

Emmert’s base salary of $2,078,075 represented a 42% increase over his base salary for 2015, or just over $615,000.

Emmert’s contract runs through 2020 and also contains a one-year option. He made around $1.9 million in 2015 with a base salary of just over $1.4 million.

“The Board of Governors’ Executive Committee determines NCAA executive salaries,” association spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said in a statement to the paper. “Members of the committee are university and college presidents from all three divisions. To assist its efforts, the Executive Committee uses an independent third party. This third party undertakes market surveys to ensure salaries of NCAA executives are similar to other comparable executive positions.”

Indeed, Emmert’s salary is somewhat in line with what the Power Five commissioners make but trails all the SEC’s Greg Sankey when it comes to the total. We’re guessing a similar story will play out next year around this time given how revenues for the association continue to shoot up.

USA Today also says that the NCAA’s tax return list a whopping nine executives who had total compensation of more than $450,000 in 2016.

Washington State coach Mike Leach not going quietly after Twitter spat, continues to blast reporter

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Washington State head coach Mike Leach has apparently never heard the old saying that you never argue with somebody who buys ink by the barrel. Of course, going the conventional route has never really been the coach’s M.O. so it probably isn’t too surprising to see him keep up with war of words with USA Today columnist Dan Wolken on Friday either.

First, some background. Leach originally shared a video of a President Obama speech on Sunday that was misleadingly edited under the ruse of creating discussion about the government and proceeded to argue with people about it for several hours on Twitter. While he eventually removed the tweet in question, the fact that a head coach at a public university would share such a doctored video caused many to wonder what he was thinking in the first place. One of those people was Wolken, who penned a column the next day that was critical of Leach and noted that incidents just like this one is a good reason why despite plenty of wins, bigger schools won’t come close to hiring him.

That, apparently, touched a bit of a nerve.

Speaking to the Seattle Times on Friday, Leach didn’t exactly back down or try to calm the waters. Here’s just a taste from a lengthy Q&A he did with Times columnist Matt Calkins:

Yeah, they expect less bias because I think he’s 100 percent biased. Anyway, I think he does a horrible job and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It doesn’t matter what anybody says, he’s just gonna distort the thing. He’ll probably be selling Big Gulps here in a couple years. I don’t know. As I think about it, I ought to let all that take its course.

Calkins: Who did you talk to about Dan (a sixth-year USA Today veteran whose response can be found here)? You said people don’t respect him; is that something someone just told you?

Leach: I just randomly … we’ve already talked about that guy more than he deserves. But I don’t know, maybe you know him, maybe you like him a lot. You might have gone to high school together. Maybe you had slumber parties as children and watched superhero films. I don’t know, but that’s my general impression. And his work certainly measures up to some of those unlofty expectations.

Let’s just say there’s a lot more in that Times piece that you can unpack as well.

While saying Wolken would be working at a 7-11 in the future is a funny line, this entire spat seems to further prove the original column’s point. While Leach’s quirky personality has plenty of endearing qualities, somebody at Washington State should probably tell the coach that this thing has gone on long enough and this is not how the Cougs want to be making headlines in what has otherwise been a quiet offseason.

Still, let’s all hope Wolken makes his way out to Los Angeles next month for Pac-12 Media Days because fireworks might be just one of the few things we can all expect.

Previously ruled out, Trey Woods could play for Wyoming in 2018

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Hold the phone on at least one purported personnel loss for Wyoming.

In late May, it was reported that Cowboys running back Trey Woods would miss the entire 2018 season because of an unspecified shoulder injury. A little over three weeks later, the prognosis from Craig Bohl has gotten significantly more optimistic.

“There’s an opportunity he may be back,” the head coach told the Casper Star-Tribune. “Initially, we thought that he for sure would be out for the year, and he may be back. …

“He has had surgery, and so we’re just waiting on his recovery. He’s a little bit ahead of where we thought he’d be. He certainly won’t be ready the first game, but as the season goes along, we feel like he’ll be ready to go.”

Wyoming kicks off the 2018 season at New Mexico State Aug. 25, then follows that opener up by hosting Washington State (Sept. 1) and Wofford (Sept. 15) in between a trip to Missouri (Sept. 8). Coming off a bye, Wyoming will then open up Mountain West Conference play Sept. 29 with a home game against defending conference champion Boise State.

As a true freshman last season, Woods, a two-star 2017 signee, led the Cowboys in rushing with 474 yards. he ran for a career-high 135 yards in a late-September win over Hawaii.

Oklahoma first school to have Top-10 picks in NFL, MLB, NBA drafts in same year since… Texas in 2006

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It’s déjà vu all over again for the Big 12.

In late April, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was selected first-overall in the 2018 NFL draft. In early June, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray was taken with the No. 9 pick of the 2018 Major League Baseball draft. Thursday night, Oklahoma basketball quarterback Trae Young — some people call his position in that sport a point guard, but whatever — was selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the No. 5 pick of the 2018 NBA draft.

All of that draft action over the last two months gives the Sooners three Top-10 picks in those three sports in the same calendar year, the first time that’s happened since… OU’s Red River Shootout rivals pulled off the exact same draft trifecta more than a decade ago.

Young was the third player taken by the Tennessee Titans in that year’s draft, while Huff was grabbed at No. 7 overall by the Oakland Raiders. Stubbs, meanwhile, was the No. 8 pick of the Cincinnati Reds while the Chicago Bulls used the No. 2 overall pick on Aldridge.

So there’s that do-it-again for the Big 12, which is nice.