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Roll Bucky: Alabama, Wisconsin announce home-and-home for 2024-25

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Alabama and Wisconsin on Monday announced a home-and-home series to be played in 2024 and ’25. The initial game will be played Sept. 14, 2024 at Camp Randall Stadium, with the return game slated for Sept. 13, 2025 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“We’re happy to have added another quality non-conference opponent for a home-and-home series in Wisconsin,” Alabama AD Greg Byrne said. “Traveling to Camp Randall, one of the nation’s oldest stadiums, will make for a great road contest early in the 2024 season. Having them return the trip in 2025 to Bryant-Denny Stadium will also certainly provide a boost to our home slate, and we look forward to the opportunity.”

The Badgers and Crimson Tide have met just twice previously. Wisconsin took the inaugural meeting, 15-0, way back in 1928, while Alabama earned long-awaited revenge to open the 2015 season at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. It will be Alabama’s first game inside a Big Ten stadium since a 27-11 win at Penn State in 2011.

Speaking of neutral-site openers, Monday’s announcement was yet another data point in how the program that popularized the modern day neutral site opener is now going back to traditional home-and-homes. The Tide will open this season against Duke in Atlanta, begin 2020 versus USC in Dallas and then opens 2021 in Atlanta against Miami, but after that Alabama’s future schedules return to campus.

Alabama Power 5 Opponents, 2022 and Beyond:
2022: at Texas
2023: vs. Texas
2024: at Wisconsin
2025: vs. Wisconsin
2026: at West Virginia
2027: vs. West Virginia
2028: at Notre Dame
2029: vs. Notre Dame
2030: TBD
2031: TBD
2032: at Oklahoma
2033: vs. Oklahoma

Each of those home-and-home arrangements have been announced within the past year or so. In fact, the Wisconsin announcement is the fourth of 2019 alone.

Said Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez: 

“It’s exciting and healthy for everyone,” enthused Alvarez, the UW director of athletics and Hall of Fame coach. “When we were contacted to see if we would be interested in a home-and-home with Alabama, I told them, ‘Let me check first with (head coach) Paul (Chryst).’

“Naturally, I would be interested.

“So, I asked Paul and he said, ‘Absolutely.’

“And we both really liked the fact that the first game is going to be here.”

To make room for Alabama, Wisconsin pushed a previously-scheduled home-and-home with Virginia Tech back to 2031-32. The Badgers also have future home-and-homes with Washington State (2022-23), Pittsburgh (2026-27) and UCLA (2029-30). Wisconsin will also play a de facto NFC North neutral site/home-and-home series with Notre Dame in 2020-21; the 2020 game will be at Lambeau Field and the 2021 tilt at Soldier Field.

Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer says he could have coached Vols again but it “didn’t appeal” to him

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Could Tennessee have had Phillip Fulmer back on the sidelines at Neyland Stadium coaching again?

There was speculation that he could have done just that from the moment he took over as athletic director at the school. Actually having it happen in Knoxville though? It apparently was not on the table due more to the necessity of Jimmy and Joe’s as opposed to X’s and O’s.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Tennessean about his on-going tenure as AD, Fulmer was asked if he ever considered putting the whistle back on for the team he led to the national title over two decades ago. Though it crossed the minds of many at the school, it didn’t for the man himself thanks largely to the rigors of the profession changing from 2008 to now.

“No. I mean, that energy level that it takes to do that. Could have coached and wanted to coach, that’s two different things, right?” Fulmer told the paper. “I certainly could have come coached the team or whatever, but the recruiting and the staffing and all those things, I’ve done my time, and I had a great run. That didn’t appeal to me, nor did I ever lose confidence that Jeremy (Pruitt) was going to do it.”

While that latter line is notable for the team’s current head coach after a historically bad start to the 2019 season, don’t gloss over his earlier comments. In fact, it says plenty about the situation on Rocky Top in recent years that Fulmer directly confirms that he “could have” come down from the AD box to the sidelines.

The only thing that stopped him? Not optics, but just the time a head coach has to devote to things like recruiting. While there’s no doubt that is pretty much a 24/7 operation nowadays at SEC schools like Tennessee, it’s interesting that was one of the few things preventing a move many in orange and white clamored (or at least expected) to see at some point.

Instead, Fulmer will have to make do with his 152–52 overall record at the school and a national title in the 1998 season. That forever cemented his status in Knoxville as one of the program’s greats and it appears he’s content to let things end there despite not having the ending he wanted back in the day.

Reports: Steve Sarkisian staying at Alabama after flirting with Colorado

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Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian no longer appears headed West after all.

The Crimson Tide play-caller is reportedly staying in Tuscaloosa with a rich new contract after being heavily linked with the head coach opening at Colorado in the past 24 hours. ESPN’s Chris Low was the first to report the news, noting Sark’s new deal will include a pay raise.

Yahoo! Sports later confirmed the same.

The move is certainly a blow to the Buffs, whose coaching search has now extended past the weeklong mark in the wake of Mel Tucker being hired away by Michigan State. Sarkisian was among the more interesting names floated for the gig and made plenty of sense given his connections in the Pac-12 as the former head coach at both Washington and USC.

Former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and ex-Tennessee coach Butch Jones have also been mentioned in connection to the opening. Interim head coach Darrin Chiaverini is pegged as the top internal candidate.

As for Sark, the move is an interesting one. It says plenty that he even got an interview given the way things ended in Los Angeles but also speaks to the image rehabilitation he’s done under Nick Saban as well. Alabama missed out on the College Football Playoff for the first time last season but were among the most dangerous offenses in the country when starting QB Tua Tagovailoa was healthy.

Replacing the Heisman finalist under center will now be one of Sarkisian’s top priorities over the coming months but at least whoever winds up taking snaps against familiar foe USC will have the benefit of playing in an offense that features the likes of Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith.

Sarkisian’s new contract will also be interesting to see once it emerges from the university bureaucracy. He was already the highest paid offensive assistant coach in the country for the upcoming 2020 season at $1.6 million. He originally signed a three year deal to return to the program after a stint with the Atlanta Falcons.

 

Mel Tucker hires familiar faces Jay Johnson and Harlon Barnett to Michigan State staff

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What’s old is new again at Michigan State.

Continuing a theme of either having ties to the school or his stint at Colorado, new Spartans head coach Mel Tucker confirmed a pair of hires for the program with some familiar names. Announced a little earlier on Thursday, former Buffs offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson was taking the same role in East Lansing.

“Jay is an experienced play caller and an expert quarterbacks coach,” said Tucker in a release. “He has a very innovative offensive mind. I was with Jay when he was at Georgia and really got to know him well there. He’s had success in the Big Ten before, calling plays at Minnesota. He runs a multiple offense with an emphasis on physicality, and he’s an aggressive play caller.”

Johnson joins OL coach Chris Kapilovic in coming over from Boulder. The former previously was with Tucker as an off-field analyst at Georgia prior to going to CU and served as OC at Southern Miss, Louisiana and Minnesota in recent years.

Perhaps the bigger news for Michigan State fans is the return of another name: Harlon Barnett. A former MSU player, he was a mainstay defensive staff member under ex-head coach Mark Dantonio and was defensive backs coach at the school for over a decade starting in 2007. He was elevated to defensive coordinator from 2015-2017 before taking the same position on Willie Taggart’s staff at Florida State.

In addition to the three names mentioned above, Tucker has also retained Ron Burton and former interim head coach Mike Tressel. Additionally, another former Spartan player, Courtney Hawkins, was named the team’s receivers coach.

Marshall and ECU move 2020 season opener to Week 0 to honor anniversary of 1970 tragedy

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You can add Marshall and East Carolina to the list of upcoming ‘Week 0’ games for the 2020 season after the two schools announced a date change for their matchup this year.

While television played a small role in the shift, the two programs sought an NCAA waiver to play on Saturday, August 29 as a way of honoring the 50th anniversary of the tragic plane crash of Southern Airways Flight 932 that claimed the lives of 75 people. The majority of those killed were part of the Thundering Herd football program who were returning from a game against the Pirates.

“We are grateful to Jon Gilbert and everyone at East Carolina University for their efforts in making this schedule change come to fruition,” Marshall AD Mike Hamrick said in a release. “Our people, our universities and our football programs will forever be linked by the tragedy that occurred 50 years ago. This change will allow a national audience to join us in paying proper respect to the 75.”

The incident was famously recounted in the movie ‘We Are Marshall,’ starring noted football fan (and Texas’ Minister of Culture) Matthew McConaughey.

The two programs have met a total of 15 times over the years and have three additional non-conference games set between 2021 and 2025.