New book details Nick Saban’s (agent’s) flirtation with Texas

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I promise, this will be the last time I make reference to the old Nick Saban-to-Texas speculation.  Probably.

During the 2013 season, it was an open secret that Texas, even as Mack Brown was technically in place as head coach, was in lust with Nick Saban, with the Alabama coach’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, playing point man in at least a couple of meetings with those connected to the Longhorns football programs.  Even as Saban, and perhaps more importantly his wife, publicly stated on a couple of occasions that he was staying put, there was significant angst in Tuscaloosa as UA officials were “getting nervous about the lack of a response” from Saban on a new contract proposal.

In an unauthorized biography set to be released early next month titled “Saban, the Making of a Coach, Forbes writer Monte Burke devotes an entire 17-page chapter of his book to the Saban-Texas saga — deftly titled “Texas Hold ‘Em.”  While there’s not a whole lot of new information in the clips that have come out thus far, there are a couple of little nuggets that are worth noting.

From excerpts obtained by al.com:

  • Sexton reportedly told UT boosters that his client fancied himself as more of “a turnaround artist than a long-term CEO,” meaning Saban didn’t like to stay in one place for too long, even as Saban stated publicly amidst the rumors that he’s “just too damn old to start over.” That ultimately, at least thus far, proved to agent-speak on Sexton’s part as Saban is now entering his ninth season at ‘Bama, four years longer than his five-year stints at both LSU and Michigan State.
  • Sexton also reportedly told the same boosters that Texas was the only school that for which Saban would consider leaving Alabama.  That matches up with an outstanding Associated Press report from November of 2013, which quoted a UT regent from documents obtained by the AP.
  • “But a number of factors kept Texas in play during a rough 2013 for Saban,” al.com wrote. “The exploding expectations of Alabama fans and boosters after three titles in four years were agitating Saban. There was also the spring death of AD Mal Moore who brought Saban to Alabama. Then in the fall, Saban’s coaching mentor Don James passed away. There was also the lawsuit involving Saban’s daughter Kristen and a former sorority sister she allegedly assaulted.”
  • Then-new UT athletic director Steve Patterson warned Sexton in November of 2013 that he’d better not be using his school to get a better deal from Saban’s current one, with the agent taking offense to the suggestion.  One month later, a new contract between Saban and UA was announced that would ultimately pay the coach nearly $7 million annually on average.
  • Perhaps most importantly, at least to Tide Nation, Patterson confirmed to Burke that he never spoke to Saban during the months of speculation and that no contract was ever offered.  It had been reported in another book, this one from Paul Finebaum in July of last year, that “the Longhorns were prepared to give Saban somewhere between a $12 and $15 million signing bonus and a salary package worth $100 million (plus performances).”  Additionally, Saban, per the book, never had any direct conversations with anyone connected to the university about taking over for Brown.

All’s well that ends well, despite the constant speculation leading up to the new contract extension.

I never considered going to Texas. That wasn’t even a conversation,” Saban said after the new deal was announced. “I knew that if Mack stepped down, there would probably be an opportunity, but it wasn’t something I was interested in doing, not at this stage in my career.”

Florida Gulf Coast says someone was extending football offers for club program

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Florida Gulf Coast University does not have a football program, nor does the school have any plans to add a football program to its sports department. So when some football players started receiving offers to come play football at FGCU, there was bound to be some confusion.

According to a statement released by Florida Gulf Coast University on Wednesday, a non-employee was extending offers to for a club team at FGCU. So anyone receiving an offer could have potentially thought the university itself was looking to recruit that player to the university to play for an NCAA football program.

“Unfortunately, we have been notified that a non-employee, volunteer with the football sport club has extended “offers” to come to FGCU and play football to more than 100 individuals across the country,” the statement said. “This has been done without FGCU’s knowledge or sanction, and has caused a great deal of confusion to not only the individuals receiving the “offers” but to others reading accounts on social media.”

On the one hand, it is deceptive to pose “offers” to come play football at a university that doesn’t field a football program and those responsible should pay whatever consequences there may be for such a deception. On the other hand, that is one savvy way to try and recruit actual football talent to improve the skill on a club team. What’s next, boosters for club teams? Well, actually, let’s not give anyone any bad ideas.

Texas A&M linebacker entering transfer portal

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One member of the Teas A&M football program will begin evaluating his options to play elsewhere. Linebacker Brian Johnson has reportedly entered the NCAA transfer portal. News of Johnson entering the transfer portal was first reported by Matt Zenitz of Al.com, via Twitter.

By entering the transfer portal, Johnson is free to communicate with any other college football program interested in recruiting him. Johnson can always return to Texas A&M too by pulling his name out of the portal at any time. While not unprecedented, it seems most players that enter the transfer portal do eventually move on to a new home.

As noted by Zenitz, Johnson appeared in just four games this season. According to the NCAA redshirt rules, Johnson will be able to use a redshirt year for the 2019 season and preserve one year of eligibility. Having played as a true freshman in 2018, Johnson still will have three years of eligibility remaining. However, one of those years will be burned while Johnson sits out the 2020 season if he transfers to another FBS program. That will leave Johnson with two years of eligibility at his disposal beginning in 2021 at any other FBS program.

Big Ten and SEC each land two Bronko Nagurski finalists

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The final list of players left in the running for the Bronko Nagurski Award for the 2019 season has been released by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club. Two players from the Big Ten and two from the SEC are joined by one player from the ACC.

Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, Georgia safety J.R. Reed, Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, Minnesota defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr., and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young are the five finalists for the award for best defensive player in college football.

The winner for this year’s Nagurski Award will be announced at a banquet on Dec. 9. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day is the keynote speaker for the banquet this year and former UCLA linebacker Jerry Robinson will be honored as this year’s Bronko Nagurski Legends Award winner.

Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen won the Nagurski Award last season. Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State all have had one player win the Naruski Award before. Champ Bailey won the award for Georgia in 1998. Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis won the award in 2006. Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers won the award in 2010. Auburn and Minnesota have never had a Bronko Nagurski Award winner and hope to add their first this season. Other past winners include Pitt’s Aaron Donald, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Boston College’s Luke Kuechley, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh, Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs, Michigan’s Charles Woodson, and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald. The current head coach of the Northwestern Wildcats is the only two-time winner of the award, having done so in 1995 and 1996.

The Belk Bowl will be no more

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Get your last bit of Belk Bowl goodness this upcoming bowl season, because one of the quirkiest bowl games is about to have a new name.

According to a Joe Person of The Athletic, via Twitter, Belk will not be renewing its contract to be the corporate sponsor for the bowl game and early season kickoff game organized by the Charlotte Sports Foundation.

The Belk Bowl has been one of the more entertaining and fun bowl games to follow on Twitter due to the social media handler’s ability to be witty and charismatic with the college football Twittersphere, but the Belk Bowl has seen its share of good games over the course of the corporate sponsorship as well. While last year’s game was a dud (Virginia beat South Carolina 28-0), the previous season’s meeting between Wake Forest and Texas A&M was a 55-52 shootout won by the Demon Deacons.

The Belk Bowl was previously named the Meineke Car Care Bowl from 2005 through 2010, and before that was the Continental Tire Bowl from 2002 through 2004. The Belk Bowl certainly is not going to be dropping off the bowl schedule given how well it generally does with attendance with its partnership with the ACC and SEC (the Big Ten will begin alternating appearances with the SEC from 2020 through 2025), but now a new sponsor will have to take over the lead.

The Belk Kickoff Game, first played in 2015, still has three upcoming matchups locked in the schedule. So the kickoff game will live on, at least for the next three seasons, just with a new sponsor. It is expected the new sponsor of the bowl game will take on the sponsorship of the kickoff game as well. Wake Forest will meet Notre Dame in the 2020 game, followed by East Carolina and Appalachian State in 2021 and South Carolina and North Carolina in 2023. No game is currently booked for 2022. UNC topped the Gamecocks in this season’s opener in the Belk College Kickoff, 24-20.

This season’s Belk Bowl is scheduled for Dec. 31.