Rumors, Rumors and more Rumors

For the last couple weeks, if not longer, there have been numerous rumors surrounding the Longhorns and Mack Brown. Obviously with lackluster seasons happening in consecutive years, the fan base is extremely unhappy with Mack. But it seems every day or so someone posts something on a message board or twitter with news from a “source” about some development on who the next coach will or will not be. The popular name among message board fodder is Nick Saban and everyone has had some story or information from a “source” that almost guarantees he will be at Texas. Continue reading

Is Nick Saban one of the greatest coaches ever?

Nick-Saban-TrophyNick Saban just recently won his fourth national championship as a head coach, and the third in four years at Alabama. Which has led me to wonder if Nick Saban will start needing to be named as one of the greatest of all time? I’m not quite ready to call him one of the greatest college coaches but he is slowly making his case with each passing season.

It is funny to think Nick Saban had no dreams or intentions of joining the coaching ranks coming out of College at Kent State. His Coach at Kent State Don James convinced Saban to become a graduate assistant while he waited for his wife to finish her degree.  Saban spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at Kent State and got promoted to a defensive assistant in 1975. This was just the beginning of Saban’s coaching career.

Nick Saban spent the better part of the next decade bouncing around jobs between Syracuse, West Virginia, Ohio State, Navy, and Michigan State in the college ranks as well as one stop in the NFL to be an assistant coach on the Houston Oilers. In 1990 Saban got his first opportunity to be a head coach when he accepted the Toledo Rockets job. In his first and only season as head coach he took the Rockets to a 9-2 record and the Rockets were co-champions of the Mid American Conference. Following the season Saban accepted the Defensive Coordinator job with the Cleveland Browns.

This one move has now labeled Saban under the Bill Belichick coaching tree; He stayed with the Browns from 1991-1994 and got another opportunity as a head coach when he took over the struggling Michigan State Spartans in 1995. Beginning with his first season in East Lansing, there was moderate improvement and mild success. It wasn’t until the 1999 season when he led the Spartans to a 9-2 record, which was the best season for the Spartans since 1965. Saban now had some interest from various jobs opening up, and he decided to head down to Baton Rouge to take the LSU head coaching job.

From the time he took over in 1999 it just seemed like it would be a matter of time before he helped get LSU over the top. That first flash of brilliance happened in 2001 when LSU won it’s first outright SEC championship since 1986. While the team took a slight step backwards in 2002, there was something special from the early going of 2003 as LSU went through the season with only one loss and won their 2nd SEC championship in three years and finishing the season at #2 in the BCS and getting a bid to play #1 Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. The Tigers took advantage of playing close to home winning their first national championship since 1958, and capturing Saban’s first title as a head coach.

2004 was a step backwards for the Tigers and after suffering a heartbreaking loss in the Capital One bowl, Nick Saban resigned to take a shot at the NFL and the Miami Dolphins head coaching job. This would be Saban’s third stint in the NFL, but his first opportunity as a head coach. It was short lived, after his first season and some surprising succsess, the team took a huge step backwards in his second season and Saban suffered his first losing season as a head coach. At this time the rumors started swirling around Saban and the newly vacant coaching position at Alabama.Saban

Even though Saban denied the reports repeatedly, he finally met with owner of the Dolphins on January 3rd 2007 and notified the owner of his intentions to take the Alabama job. He was announced on January 4th as the 27th head coach of the Alabama Crimson tide. His first season in Birmingham was a rocky one finishing the season at 6-6.  His second season is when things turned for the best, Saban helped the Crimson tide reach #1 in the polls during the regular season for the first time since 1980, and Nick Saban finally got his first undefeated season as a head coach, but the first loss would come to eventual national champion Florida Gators in the SEC championship game.  Then Saban’s Crimson tide suffered an embarrassing loss to Utah in the Sugar Bowl. But all of that didn’t stop the excitement for the next season as expectations were high.

2009 is when things really started to take off for Saban at Alabama, he had his second consecutive undefeated system and Alabama’s first back to back undefeated regular seasons since 1973-1974. The Crimson tide beat Florida in an SEC title game rematch against Florida, which now put Saban in rare company with Paul “Bear” Bryant as one of only two coaches to win an SEC championship at two schools. Saban and the Crimson tide carried that momentum into the National Championship game against the Texas Longhorns where Saban was able to capture his 2nd National championship as a head coach.

Saban now had the distinction as being the only coach who won National Championships at two different schools.  Don’t forget the fact he did it at Two SEC Schools. The 2010 season was another strong one for Saban and the Tide, but lost to eventual national champions Auburn in the Iron bowl. The past two seasons Saban was able to get his 3rd and 4th National championship, which now puts him in more rare company as the first coach since Tom Osborne to win three or more national titles and he is the first to do it in the BCS era.

Say what you want about Nick Saban, but he has proven to turn programs into winners. He didn’t win great everywhere, but since he took over Alabama, he has won three championships and will probably have a team that is favored in 2013. Now the question I have, is Nick Saban one of the best coaches of all time? Or is he just the best of recent history? I am figuring he has to be close to being one of the best of all time, but that is my opinion, and I guess you could say “proof is in the pudding”.

Loss of Legendary figure: The passing of Joe Paterno

Upon hearing about the passing of Joe Paterno, I had to take some time to really get my thoughts and feelings into check. I have no association with Penn State or Joe Paterno in any way shape or form. But being a lifelong college football fan there have been very few figures that everyone could look up to and admire.  He was a true role model.

Joe Paterno, or “Joepa” as he has been affectionately called as long as anyone can remember, was the head coach at Penn State for 45 years. Some would occasionally say the game had passed him by and it was time for him to go. Then he would go out and have a stellar season and prove all the critics wrong. This season was supposed to be one of his best in over a decade and people wondered if he could win another championship.

Then the scandal broke in the media and it started a snow ball that even he couldn’t stop. It was unfortunate the scandal brought his coaching career to a tragic and unjust end. Joepa was a football coach first and foremost, and I doubt he truly understood the severity of what was happening at the school. He did what he felt was right. He followed the protocol he was supposed to. In the end, nobody really knows the truth except him and the administrators.

Not long after his firing, he was reported to have been stricken with cancer and it led to his passing. But much like the previous coaches who had long illustrious careers, it was only a short time before they passed on to the great coaching box in the sky. One of the finest coaches to ever coach has joined them to add his game plan to theirs.  It is entirely possible he died from a broken heart.

Joepa was a great coach, but it was the fact that he never got “famous”. Now what I mean by that is the simple fact that he didn’t buy a bigger house, or nicer cars. He didn’t wear flashy jewelry or try to make sure everyone knew how much money he had or how successful he was. He was one of the few coaches who did everything he could to improve the university, his players and bring more fame to the school and not just his football team.  He also leaves a legendary graduation rate of his players.  He showed time and time again his faith and support in his interactions with his players.

Joe Paterno was the last of a now dying breed. He coached football to change young men’s lives. He didn’t recruit players to help step them up to the NFL; he recruited players who wanted to win and wanted to obtain their degree. Maybe not all of them would earn it in their four years at the school, but many went back and completed it.

Joepa would donate most of his money back into the university over the later years of his career. I bet Nick Saban, Les Miles, Bob Stoops or Mack Brown wouldn’t do that. I am not saying those coaches aren’t great and change men’s lives, but they aren’t cut from the same mold as Joe Paterno. The world lost a great man, but college football lost a true legend. And for that, fans across the country will morn this loss.

Maybe I am just old school, and old fashioned.  I for one think College football needs more guys like Joe Paterno and a few less Nick Saban types.

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The Tussle in Tuscaloosa; LSU/Bama Preview

This weekend is going to be one of the biggest games of the season. It is being touted as “Armageddon in Alabama”, by news agencies and sports networks around the country. This is one of the rare, but very exciting “in season” matchups of a #1 team and a #2 team. This meeting though, will be an SEC battle between the LSU Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The LSU Tigers have easily looked like the best team in the country to this point of the season. They have rolled through their schedule to this point with no real major challenges. They had one game earlier in the season with Mississippi State that was probably closer than most would have expected; but this team with its dual quarterback threat has beaten highly ranked opponents like Oregon and West Virginia by double digit margins.

Les Miles will have his Tigers ready to play, and there will be thousands of fans in Bryant-Denny stadium, and a small few decked out in their purple and gold. This is going to be a big test for the Tigers as their foe, the Alabama Crimson Tide, coached by Nick Saban, will be the toughest opponent the Tigers have faced to date. This game is truly an irresistible force meeting an immoveable object.

The Alabama Crimson Tide have a chance to firmly plant their foot in the top spot and be an odds on favorite to play for the national championship if they beat LSU in Tuscaloosa. Much like the Tigers, Alabama has won most of their games this year with ease…having only one close call in Happy Valley in a game against Penn St. According to the “talking heads”, Alabama has been touted as the 2nd best team in the nation by most experts all season long. However, this will be their greatest challenge of the season.

Nick Saban coached the LSU Tigers to one of their earlier national championships before going to the NFL and ending up at Alabama. He has also coached Alabama to a national championship during his tenure there. No one really cares, but rest assured while most of the country won’t hold a grudge over all of this – the LSU Fan base will give Saban an ear full all day on Saturday if he gets within earshot. Other than this being a SEC conference game and probably the most important game of the year, there are many underlying stories to add to the drama.

Whether you have a rooting interest or not, this will be one of the biggest games of the season and it should live up to all the hype. Be prepared to watch the two best teams in the country battle it out, because whoever is victorious in this game will have a chance to stake their claim on a chance to play for a national championship.

I hope you’re ready America, because this will be the best 3 hours of television all weekend, or maybe even for the year. I don’t really know who to pick as a winner, but if you made me choose I would say LSU wins this game 17-14. It’s gonna be a donnybrook!

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