Saban Can Handle Coaching Carousel

It's difficult not to think about current college coaching searches these days, in part because there is always going to be interest in Nick Saban assistants and in part because there have been some bizarre decisions made in these parts recently.



Alabama Coach Nick Saban is a veteran of the coaching carousel. He hires good coaches, they improve their resumes under him, and they move on to better jobs. That may happen again this year. And when it has happened in the past, Saban did what he will do when (not if) it happens again. He will hire good replacements.

It has probably been noticed in the Sunshine State that the head coach at Florida State is former Saban Offensive Coordinator Jimbo Fisher and the newly hired head coach of the Florida Gators is former Saban Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp.

The wacko situation at Florida led to Auburn followers going into in a tizzy. Not over the Gators going after an Auburn assistant or anything like that. The Tigers were upset because of the timing of the announcement that Will Muschamp was leaving Texas, where he was "coach in waiting," to go to Florida as head coach. Auburn fans were convinced that the announcement was timed to distract from Cam Newton's acceptance speech as Heisman Award winner.

(No comment on the harm done by distraction from that speech.)

The complaint about the timing of the announcement was even heard from veteran reporters who should know better. Does anyone really believe that Florida could have hired Muschamp and then kept the announcement quiet until a time suitable to Auburn sensibilities could be arranged?

The other interesting coaching move regarding Auburn is that the offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, reportedly turned down the job as head coach at Vanderbilt, making $3 million per year, to stay at Auburn and get a raise to over $1 million per year. Understanding that a million a year is plenty, it still doesn't take a genius to do the math. The argument in support of Malzahn is that he'll get a better head coaching job offer later. We'll see. Four veteran offensive linemen are gone. Newton probably is gone (although Auburn fans are now convinced he didn't have as much to do with Auburn success as Auburn coaches did). Malzahn is good, but this may be an arrogant decision that doesn't get rewarded.

But enough about the outside.

The Florida faithful are convinced that Bama Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart is headed to Florida to be with his old Georgia teammate Muschamp. A year ago, his alma mater approached Smart. Saban invested $750,000 to keep Smart, and Saban said at the time that Smart's next move needed to be to a head coaching position.

Having seen some interesting coaching decisions over the years, the possibility of Smart to Florida can't be discounted, but it seems unlikely. Coach under Muschamp (in his first college head coaching job) to gain what?

The Gators seemed to think that a lateral move for less money would somehow be attractive to Smart.

There have also been reports of Florida going after Bama Defensive Line Coach Bo Davis. Every team needs a defensive line coach and Davis has proved to be outstanding, so it wouldn't be a big surprise to see him leave for the right deal.

There does not appear to be any smoke regarding Alabama Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain. His name surfaced as a possibility for the job as head coach at Colorado, but the Buffs went with one of their own, former Colorado player and pro coach Jon Embree.

There had also been reliable sources that New Orleans native Burton Burns, Bama's running backs coach, was in the running for head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, but that position went to Mark Hudspeth, a former head coach at North Alabama who had been at Mississippi State.

Following the resignation of Doug Martin as head coach at Kent State (about the time it was announced that Kent State would open the 2011 season in Tuscaloosa against Alabama), Tide Recruiting Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach Curt Cignetti was the hot name listed as the leading candidate for the Golden Flashes. Saban is one of Kent State's most high profile football alumni. Another name in the Kent State mix has been West Virginia Offensive Coordinator Jeff Mullen, but initial reports of Mullen getting an interview were later retracted. Ohio State Wide Receivers Coach Darrell Hazell and Texas Wide Receivers Coach Bobby Kennedy are other names involved at Kent. One problem with the most definitive story on the Cignetti candidacy was too many instances of "unclear" and "sources close to the situation" and "could not be confirmed" disclaimers.

Dave Wannstedt was out as PIttsburgh coach following this season. An early candidate was thought to be Bama Linebackers Coach Sal Sunseri, who played at Pitt and whose son Santino is quarterback of the Panthers. (His younger son, Vinnie, will be a linebacker at Alabama next year.) As of late, Sunseri does not appear to be in consideration. One of the rising candidates at Pittsburgh is the Panthers offensive coordinator, Frank Cignetti, Jr., the older brother of Bama's Curt.

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