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CFT Previews: The Coaching Hot Seat

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We’re still days away from the kickoff of the 2019 college football season and further still from hot seat season, but it’s never too early to forecast what spots on the coaching carousel may come vacant later this fall.

Here are four jobs to watch, with one bonus pick at no extra charge:

Clay Helton, USC: This is the one plenty of people in college football consider as good as open — including Reggie Bush. Put it this way: winning the Rose Bowl and the Pac-12 in consecutive seasons could only get the USC fan base lukewarm on Helton, and every bit of those warm fuzzies washed away with last season’s 5-7 debacle. The 2019 Trojans have the most difficult opening half in college football, with games against ranked opponents Stanford, Oregon, Washington and Notre Dame and non-conference games at BYU and home against defending Mountain West champion Fresno State. If USC returns home from its Oct. 12 trip to Notre Dame at 2-4 or worse, it’s officially off to the races for the best job that could conceivably come on the market this winter.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn: We all know the drill by now. Auburn has a good season and wants to marry its coach. Then, on the honeymoon, it begins plotting how to get the thing annulled. This time around, Auburn handed Malzahn a 7-year, $49 million contract after winning the SEC West in 2017, then followed that up by going 3-5 and finishing in fifth place in that same division. Given Auburn’s yo-yo tendencies, War Eagle will probably shock the world and win the SEC this fall. But if Malzahn is under .500 in SEC play for a second straight season, Auburn may not be able to stop itself from cutting its current coach a massive check to go away so it can cut another huge check to a different coach and start the whole dance anew.

Lovie Smith, Illinois: This one is so obvious you probably forgot about it, right? This was a weird hire from the get go — he got the job in March!!! — and has never even flirted with success. Smith is 9-27 in three seasons and 4-23 in Big Ten play. Two of those four wins are against Rutgers. This isn’t hard. Right or wrong, if this wasn’t a pride play for AD Josh Whitman, who plucked Smith off the unemployment line and pulled him back to college football for the first time since 1994 weeks after getting the job, Smith would have been gone a year ago.

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: All 14 SEC head coaches return from a year ago. That type of continuity isn’t common in college football isn’t common and won’t happen again. If Auburn surprises and/or balks at the sticker price of replacing Malzahn (plus staff) and hiring a new head coach (plus staff), the next best bet is up the road in Nashville. The program hasn’t slid to near the depths it was pre-James Franklin, but it’s also not close to where it was with Franklin, either. Mason has been at Vandy five seasons; the Commodores have missed a bowl game three times and went 6-6 with a bowl loss in the other two, including 2018. He’s 9-31 in SEC play (though he has taken three straight from Tennessee). New AD Malcolm Turner has been on the job since December, which is plenty long enough to get his sea legs and marshal support to make a head coaching change if one becomes necessary.

And one bonus pick:

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: No, I don’t believe Harbaugh is anywhere near the danger zone at Michigan. He’s not even in danger of being close to the danger zone. Despite what his critics might tell you, he’s significantly elevated the level of football played by the maize and blue upon his homecoming.

But, still. Harbaugh is 1-9 against the AP Top 10 at Michigan. What if he loses to Ohio State… again? Failing to best Urban Meyer is one thing, but losing to Ryan Day is something different. And it’s not just the Ohio State game, either. If USC has the nation’s toughest first half, Michigan has the nation’s most daunting close: at No. 14 Penn State, vs. No. 9 Notre Dame, at Maryland, vs. No. 20 Michigan State, at Indiana, vs. No. 5 Ohio State. What if Michigan goes 3-3 in that stretch? That sound you’ll hear is the process of a fan base losing its collective mind as it realizes it wants to move on from its head coach but can’t because he’s Jim Harbaugh.

Colorado LB Jashua Allen tosses name into the transfer portal

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Colorado football has already seen one portal reversal this offseason.  They are now hoping for another change of heart.  Maybe?

Earlier this offseason, Sam Noyer took the first step in leaving the Colorado football team by placing his name into the NCAA transfer database.  In early April, the quarterback pulled his name from the portal and remained with the Buffaloes.

Three months later, 247Sports.com is reporting that Jash Allen has entered the portal as well.  While the linebacker didn’t confirm the news specifically, he did retweet reports of his impending departure.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Allen began his collegiate career at the JUCO level.  In 2019, he was a four-star member of the Colorado football recruiting class that cycle.

His first season with the Buffs, Allen played in 10 games.  Most of that action came on special teams, although he did appear in three games on defense.  In that limited action on the defensive side of the ball, he was credited with four tackles and two quarterback pressures.  His official CU profile also notes he had “four special teams points on the season, one tackle inside the 20, one first down field and one knockdown or springing block on kick return.”

Allen will be leaving the Pac-12 school as a graduate.

It cost Indiana $44,000 to lose to Tennessee in the Gator Bowl

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Talk about adding financial insult to on-field injury for the Indiana football program.

Indiana faced Tennessee in the Gator Bowl this past college football bowl season.  Midway through the fourth quarter, the Hoosiers held a 22-9 lead.  IU was on the verge of claiming its first postseason win since the 1991 Copper Bowl.  The Vols, though, scored a pair of touchdowns in less than a minute of game time to come away with a 23-22 win.

For participating in the bowl game, Indiana’s athletic department received $2.125 million from the Big Ten.  The expenses surrounding the trip to Jacksonville, though, were $2,169,416.  So, in other words, it cost IU a little over $44,000 to lose that heartbreaker of a game.

From HoosierSportsReport.com:

Nearly $2 million of those expenses were for the football team specifically, with the most costly line item being travel. Flights to Jacksonville, Fla., cost $690,333, plus there was another $145,406 in ground travel.

Meals were the next biggest expense at $337,236. Hotel costs amounted to $219,240. Uniforms and bowl apparel were a nearly quarter-of-a-million-dollar expense, at $249,150.

There was also a $110,930 expense for awards, which includes commemorative rings for players in the game.

IU’s band and cheerleading team accounted for a combined $174,262 in expenses, including $156,272 for IU’s Marching Hundred.

If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that the 15 extra practice sessions that came along with the bowl trip — especially since spring practice was gutted by the pandemic — helped ease the financial loss.  For the head coach, at least.

Name of Wake Forest’s football home will be Truist Field moving forward

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A banking merger has led to a name change for the home of Wake Forest football.

Since 2007, the Wake Forest football stadium has gone by the name BB&T Field.  In February of 2019, however, BB&T and SunTrust banks merged.  Eventually, the company’s name was changed to Truist.

As such, Wake Forest announced this past week that, moving forward, its football home will be known as Truist Field.

“Wake Forest University is proud of its affiliation with the people of Truist and grateful for their longtime support of Demon Deacon student-athletes,” said Wake athletic director John Currie said in a statement. “As Truist continues its climb as one of America’s leading financial institutions, we are excited that the 21st century’s best college football program in North Carolina will now call Truist Field its home.”

The facility that now goes by the name of Truist Field was built in 1968.  It has a seating capacity of 31,500, although the record attendance is 37,623 set in November of 2013.  For that game against North Carolina, temporary bleachers were installed.

Wake is scheduled to open the 2020 college football season Sept. 4 at Old Dominion.  They’ll face Appalachian State the following weekend in the home opener.

Wake Forest is coming off an 8-5 2019 campaign in Dave Clawson’s sixth season with the Demon Deacons.  Wake has played in four straight bowl games for the first time in school history.  Last April, Clawson signed a contract extension that would keep him at the ACC school through the 2026 season.

Forbes: Car dealership group part-owned by Nick Saban received millions in PPP loans

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This certainly won’t serve as fodder for the Nick Saban haters in the audience, will it?  Nah.  Of course it won’t.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has doled out in the neighborhood of five million loans to small businesses.  This facet of the stimulus package helps companies with 500 or fewer employees retain those workers by covering eight weeks worth of payroll expenses.

Which brings us to Nick Saban.

The Alabama head coach is part-owner of a string of car dealerships located in four states throughout the Southern U.S. called the Dream Motor Group.  This week, the United State Small Business Administration, which oversees the PPP, released data on the companies that applied for and received loans through the program.  And, according to Forbes.com, Dream Motor Group received between $5 million and $11 in PPP loans the past few months.

Before getting all bent out of shape, there’s more nuance to the story.  From the report:

Saban is a partner in Dream Motor Group, which is run by CEO Joe Agresti.

Agresti says that the loan money was used only for payroll purposes, and that it kept his and Saban’s 480 workers employed. They’ve also continued to pay the roughly 9% of high-risk employees who they instructed to stay home since the pandemic began, he says. Agresti adds he hasn’t taken a salary since March. Saban doesn’t take a salary but instead receives a percentage of profits, Agresti explains. Saban did not reply to a request for comment.

“I’m proud of the way we handled it,” Agresti says. “I don’t know that we would be bankrupt today [if we didn’t take the money]. But it would have been bad.

Saban, of course, has done quite well financially as a football coach.  In 2019, Saban’s $8.7 million salary was second in the country behind only the $9.3 million pulled in by Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.  In July of 2018, Alabama announced a revamped contract that would pay Saban in the neighborhood of $75 million over eight years.

Not surprisingly, Saban is far from the only one connected to the sport to benefit from the PPP program.  From SportsBusinessDaily.com:

In the college realm, Conference USA received a loan worth between $350,000 and $1M, which preserved 21 jobs. The National Football Foundation and College Football HOF, Ole Miss Athletics Foundation and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) also received loans in the same range.

And then you have Tom Brady and his TB12 company as well.  So there’s that.