Nick Saban

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Troy lets Nick Saban know they would still like to play Alabama

2 Comments

Alabama head coach Nick Saban went on a familiar rant about Alabama’s schedule after last weekend’s blowout victory over New Mexico State. Although Alabama has pioneered the art of playing a good (or at least an above-average) opponent form a power conference on a neutral field and are about to embark on some fun home-and-home series in the coming years, sometimes Alabama gets picked on for some of the lesser opponents they face on the football field (as do many other power conference programs).

After drubbing New Mexico State by 52 points in Week 2, Saban was asked after the game how playing a team like New Mexico State helps prepare his team for the SEC schedule.

“We’re playing the best teams that we can get to play us,” replied Saban in his signature style anytime someone challenges him on the schedule. Saban then asked the reporter to “start calling around and see you can get somebody else to play us?”

“We’ll play anybody you can get to play us,” Saban proclaimed.

Anybody, you say? While many teams may shy away from facing Alabama, there is one school in the same state ready and willing to reserve a date. It’s Troy.

Troy has never faced Alabama or Auburn. They are not alone in being snubbed by Alabama and Auburn. Alabama has not played an in-state opponent in non-conference play since 1944. Auburn has been a bit more open to in-state opponents in recent years, but not quite to the degree where a team like Troy enters the mix. Auburn will host Samford later this season and hosted Alabama State in 2018, Alabama A&M in 2017, and Jacksonville State in 2015. Auburn played Samford previously in 2014. These have all been games against FCS opponents, while schools like Troy, UAB, and South Alabama can’t get a call back.

“I think we have a very good model that’s worked well for us and I don’t see that changing,” Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne said at the SEC meetings in 2017.

Troy has made an effort to start a scheduling dialogue though, although it has come up empty for years.

“Nothing would please us more than to be able to go play,” former Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said in 2013. “Take our program and take our people to Bryant-Denny or Jordan-Hare. I think it would be good for college football. It certainly will be good for the conferences and all the schools involved, would probably make more and spend less. I don’t think either coach at either place now or before is worried about losing, maybe it will happen one day. Maybe it will happen. I hope it will. I don’t know that it will happen in my tenure.”

Well, it didn’t happen in his tenure, obviously. But it didn’t happen in Neal Brown‘s tenure either, and Chip Lindsey‘s tenure is off on the same trend with Alabama and Auburn not getting Troy on the schedule.

Saban doesn’t make the schedules, and he has said repeatedly the decisions about that are not in his hands despite his comments about his desire to play tougher schedules (credit him for that at least). But until Alabama actually will play anyone who wants to play them, maybe Saban should scale back that response a bit.

Alabama self-reported two NCAA recruiting violations by football team

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
6 Comments

The Alabama Crimson Tide have been dominating the recruiting scene under the leadership of head coach Nick Saban. While there have never been any significant recruiting violations discovered that could bring down the entire program, there are a few mishaps here and there that have occurred. In the past year, Alabama reported a pair of minor recruiting violations from within the football program.

According to a report from Al.com, Alabama reported a total of 16 violations to the NCAA in the past fiscal year. Two of those were within the football program. One unnamed assistant coach called a recruit twice outside of the allowed contact period. Another unnamed assistant was found to have contacted a recruit outside of a contact period as well, and that staffer was prohibited from recruiting off campus for 30 days.

Similar violations were found within Alabama’s other athletic programs; softball, volleyball, golf, and gymnastics. The men’s basketball program was also at fault for some minor violations, including granting access to players for a special seating area at a football game. None of the violations are expected to lead to any serious reaction from the NCAA. A mere slap on the wrist at the most should be received from the NCAA since the potential violations appear to have been handled appropriately from within the Alabama program.

So don’t think for one second those phone calls to recruits is about to bring an unceremonious end to the Saban era in Tuscaloosa. It would take a lot more for that to even be a possibility.

What college football coaches are attending the 2019 NFL Draft?

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
5 Comments

The NFL draft is rapidly approaching on the football offseason calendar. The time when college football fans and NFL fans can come together in one single football event is always a fun time of the year for a variety of reasons. For college football fans, the bragging rights about having more players drafted than your rivals is something that is given close attention, and don’t think the coaches aren’t eager to cash in on the NFL draft buzz either.

This year, as is typically the case, a handful of coaches from the college game will be heading to the draft to send off some of their most recent success stories. Among those attending the event this year in Nashville will be some familiar faces. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and Alabama head coach Nick Saban will be the headliners at the draft among the college football coaching fraternity. Other head coaches attending the event will include David Cutcliffe of Duke, Matt Luke of Ole Miss, Ed Orgeron of LSU, Mark Stoops of Kentucky, Willie Taggart of Florida State, Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State, and Lincoln Riley of Nebraska.

Although not a head coach, Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson will also reportedly be in attendance.

These are coaches of schools that are either well-represented at the NFL Draft on a regular basis and/or have some key players who may be going in the first round. Unfortunately, the NFL Draft being held in Nashville will not include either head coach from Tennessee or Vanderbilt unless there is a change in the plans.

For those keeping score at home, and there is unquestionably at least one of you doing so, that is five coaches from the SEC, three from the ACC, and one each from the Big Ten the Big 12.

The 2019 NFL Draft will run from April 25-27. The Arizona Cardinals currently own the top pick, which could end up being used for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, Kyler Murray.

Former Alabama player claps back at Nick Saban over NFL draft comment

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
18 Comments

A year ago, Ronnie Harrison opted to join the growing ensemble of underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft a year early, much to the chagrin of Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Harrison, who went on to become a third-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, squandered an opportunity to be a higher round draft pick in the 2019 NFL draft, according to Saban’s comments this weekend.

“If you’re a third-round draft pick, and we had one here last year, I’m not going to say any names, goes and starts for his team, so he’s making third-round money, which is not that great,” Saban said (per BamaOnLine) when asked about not having players around the program that could be contributing this spring instead of leaving for the NFL a year early. Saban’s comments were certainly alluding to Harrison, who was the only Alabama player drafted in the third round of the draft last year despite various draft analysts projecting him for the second round. “He’d be the first guy taken at his position this year, probably, and make $15-18 million more. So, the agent makes out, the club makes out, and now they’ve got a guy that’s going to play for that kind of money for three more years.”

Saban has always had some gripes with the NFL, so his comments here are not particularly groundbreaking. The number of players who continue to declare for the NFL early and fail to get drafted or find a stable landing spot in the league continues to be a concern. Then again, the realization that players are playing the game of football and risking themselves without a chance to be compensated is also a rising concern. But Saban essentially singling out one of his former players as a negative example of the draft process, though, is striking.

Harrison wasn’t about to back down.

Harrison responded on Sunday with a statement on his Twitter account, in which he questioned the motives of Saban and, by extension, any other coach who gets upset over losing players early for the NFL.

We’re not exactly sure if Saban is in Harrison’s head or vice-versa, but it’s also entirely possible that both points of view have some merit to consider. A large number of players likely make the wrong decision declaring for the NFL early, but coaches who take a shot at a player for his decision also need to realize and respect the player’s point of view.

Oregon coaches took field trip to Alabama, Georgia

Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images
2 Comments

The 2019 season is one that will see the bar raised for the Oregon Ducks. The second season under head coach Mario Cristobal could see the Ducks challenge for the Pac-12 title if things go according to plan in Eugene. With spring football in season, Cristobal took his entire coaching staff on a trip to see how some of the best coaching staffs in the SEC operate.

As reported by The Oregonian, Cristobal and the Oregon coaching staff paid a visit to Alabama and Georgia to meet up with the coaches of the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs. Cristobal is a former Alabama assistant under Nick Saban and worked under Kirby Smart, who is now the head coach at Georgia. It pays to have some good connections for Cristobal, it would seem.

A trip for a coaching staff like this is not at all uncommon in college football. But it is notable that Cristobal returned to the SEC to have his coaching staff take some notes from Saban’s and Smart’s. Alabama and Georgia are defending division champions in the SEC and met in the SEC Championship Game last season, a year after their national championship showdown in the College Football Playoff of the 2017 season. Of course, Alabama has been on the national championship level for a number of years now and Smart is looking to have Georgia in that same company on a regular basis.

It has been a few years since Oregon was considered a national title contender (their appearance in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship Game is already fading in the memory bank), but things are starting to look as though they are turning around for the Ducks. And if Cristobal can run his coaching staff the way Saban has over the years, then Oregon will certainly be in good hands in the years to come.