Nick Saban

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A reminder Nick Saban is a perfect 17-0 against former assistants as No. 1 Alabama heads to No. 24 Texas A&M

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It’s that time of the year again when we are regularly reminded that Alabama head coach Nick Saban has never lost to an assistant coach during his coaching career. That perfect streak will once again be put on the line this weekend when the top-ranked Crimson Tide make their way to College Station, Texas to face the No. 24 Texas A&M Aggies. Texas A&M, of course, is coached by Jimbo Fisher. You guessed it. Fisher is a former assistant to Saban.

Fisher has gone 0-2 against his former boss, including last season’s loss in SEC play. Last season marked the first time Fisher faced Saban as a coach of an SEC West Division foe. His previous loss to Saban came while coaching at Florida State when the No. 3 Seminoles opened the 2017 season with a 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama in the season opener in Atlanta, Georgia. The most-hyped Week 1 game in quite some time ended up being far from able to match the preseason hype. Florida State hasn’t exactly been the same since and may still be trying to recover from that game.

The odds always seem to be in Saban’s favor, as he generally has the best team in every matchup against his former assistants, and that should once again be the case this weekend. Is Saban due for a loss against an assistant? Perhaps. It’s hard to win so many games before taking a mild hit somewhere along the way, even if by a fluke. Fisher may have Texas A&M working to be a viable threat to Alabama, and maybe playing at home helps, but the Aggies have already lost one game at home to Auburn so it doesn’t seem like this may be a difficult destination for Alabama.

Brett McMurphy of Stadium notes Saban has lost to just nine active coaches. Active coaches with victories against Saban are Les Miles (Kansas; 3), Hugh Freeze (Liberty; 2), Gus Malzahn (Auburn; 2), Dabo Swinney (Clemson; 2), Mack Brown (UNC; 2), David Cutcliffe (Duke; 1), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa; 1), Kevin Sumlin (Arizona; 1) and Kyle Whittingham (1; Utah). Only four of those coaches (Malzahn, Swinney, Ferentz, Whittingham) are at the same program today as they were when they topped Saban. Swinney and Brown, of course, have victories against Saban in the national championship game (Brown in the BCS and Swinney twice in the College Football Playoff).

Is Fisher going to be the first former Saban assistant to beat his old boss? We’ll find out this week. If not, we may be waiting for Kirby Smart to get another crack in the SEC Championship Game.

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

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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

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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?

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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

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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.