Leave it to Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh to come to the rescue of college football and their timing couldn’t be more perfect.
With all the depressing news coming out of Waco and the potential for something equally as dark in Knoxville with eight plaintiffs going after Tennessee in what could be a devastating Title IX lawsuit, we need something to take away the edge and for the moment, at least, Saban and Harbaugh have stolen the headlines.
The potential war of words that is festering between Saban and Harbaugh is quite juicy. On one hand we have Saban, whose four national championships in six years at Alabama has people talking about him in the same sentence as Bear Bryant as perhaps the best there ever was roaming the sidelines. On the other hand we have Harbaugh, who, now that Steve Spurrier has retired, seems determined to become the game’s most consistent irritant. Spurrier was witty and charming. Harbaugh lacks a sense of humor and has the demeanor of a charm school dropout, but just like Spurrier, he always pushes the envelope and has a way of making people uncomfortable.
Tuesday as the SEC Spring Meetings kicked off in Destin, Saban made several salient points about the potential problems that can arise with satellite camps. Like a number of coaches and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Saban sees the satellite camps becoming college football’s version of AAU basketball, a running sore for which there seems to be no antibiotic strong enough to cure. In stating his case for disliking satellite camps, Saban never once mentioned Harbaugh or Michigan.
But did he have to?
And Harbaugh, being the perpetual candidate for jerk of the year, had to respond. The moment Saban’s words hit the internet it was only a matter of time before Harbaugh shot back. On Twitter. Where he seems to think he does the most damage.
Harbaugh tweeted, “'Amazing' to me - Alabama broke NCAA rules & now their HC is lecturing us on the possibility of rules being broken at camps. Truly 'amazing.'”
Wednesday morning, Saban shot back, “That's his business. I don't really care what he thinks or tweets. I say what I think is best for college football and say what I think is best for the players and the kids. As I said, it's not about him or anybody else."
Sensing a feud that he can perpetuate, Fox Sports radio host Colin Cowherd, whose personality probably resembles that of Harbaugh, stated that Saban “should be worried” about Harbaugh, going so far to say, “Jim Harbaugh didn’t fail in the NFL … Saban did.”
There is always the possibility that Saban will go the arrogant route and act like Harbaugh is nothing more than a pimple on the butt of the Red Elephants (that’s what Alabama was before it became the Crimson Tide). He could. He probably will. For awhile.
But since he’s holding a couple of satellite camps of his own in Detroit, of all places, you know that at some point, Nick will break his silence and he’ll say something. It’s unlike that he will call Harbaugh out by name but you can almost count on him insinuating something and letting everyone’s imagination run wild. Nick Saban is at such a point in his career that he isn’t required to call anyone by name to get his message out there.
As for Harbaugh, he will continue to push the envelope. That’s part of his DNA. Maybe his wife, kids and dog love him. That’s always a possibility.
I don’t think for one second that Nick Saban likes or respects Harbaugh nor do I think this skirmish will end anytime soon. The folks in Waco and Knoxville probably would like to see it escalate and keep them out of the headlines. I think most college football fans would, too.
FOLEY TALKS FACILITIES
Jeremy Foley says UF is six months into the process of a master plan for facilities, calling it “a high agenda item,” but don’t expect plans to be released anytime soon. “We’ll look at that over the course of the summer, “ Foley said in Destin Wednesday.
Foley also said he is “Trying to figure out again exactly what coach Mac needs. Certainly there’s some team area needs. There’s a lot of things we want to do there but I want to get the master plan in and see what works. Doing something for football is the highest thing on our agenda. Doing something for softball is right up there with it. Obviously there are some things we need to do with baseball, too.”
ANDREA ADELSON OF ESPN.COM ALSO TALKS FACILITIES
“Under (Jimbo) Fisher, Florida State has built an indoor practice facility and completely redone the coaches offices, locker room, weight room and vast swaths of Doak Campbell Stadium, giving the Seminoles the best football facility in the state by a wide margin.”
CALIPARI SUGGESTS MOVING SEC TOURNAMENT TO NOVEMBER
Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari held court in Destin Wednesday. As usual, he will have his usual roster loaded with potential NBA first rounders when the season kicks off in November. Kentucky’s spot in the NCAA Tournament is guaranteed and wherever the Wildcats play, it’s a guaranteed sellout.
There are no guarantees elsewhere in the SEC. Now that Billy Donovan is gone, the league is pretty much Kentucky and the 13 dwarves. Calipari has an idea about how to spark interest in SEC basketball but it would require the conference to make a couple of bold moves that probably won’t rate too high on the feasibility scale.
In explaining what went on in the basketball meetings in Destin, Cal said, "I said let's not have a postseason tournament. Let's have a preseason tournament where you're guaranteed three games. We go somewhere and all the fans come in and we celebrate our league. We'll have great games to start the year and we'll do it prior to the year."
He means before the non-conference season, not the league schedule in January.
"You have to do it in November," Calipari said. "Play a game or two and then out of the gate, you have a conference tournament. You know you have it for one week. Maybe you have two sites in the same city. Maybe it's in Atlanta. You're doing it every year. Let's all (have) our fans go to Atlanta and everything is geared for the SEC."
It is an interesting idea but there are two serious problems. First, playing in November would interfere with football and unless hell freezes over the league is always going to be football first. That might not be true at Kentucky where an announcement that Midnight Madness tickets are on sale immediately following the football game can practically empty the stands at Commonwealth Stadium, but for the rest of the league, football was, is and always will be first. Second, the SEC Basketball Tournament might not fill the arena every night and make the same amount of money as the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 tournaments, but it is still a very solid moneymaker and commands decent revenues from the networks. And because there is always that hope that the clock won’t strike midnight, there are 13 teams in the league that dream of being Cinderella.
So, nice idea Cal, but don’t hold your breath and expect it to become part of the SEC basketball landscape in your lifetime.
FOUR GATORS MAKE SOFTBALL ALL-AMERICA
One night after she was named national Freshman of the Year, Amanda Lorenz was named first team All-America by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. Joining Lorenz on the first team were Gator teammates Delanie Gourley and Aleshia Ocasio. Kayli Kvistad was named to the second team.
Lorenz hit .403, best batting average by a freshman in UF softball history, and slugged 8 home runs with 48 RBI. She started every game for the Gators this season and didn’t commit a single error in the outfield.
Gourley finished the season with a 19-4 record and an 0.80 ERA. She finished second in the SEC in strikeouts with 224. She also recorded 5 saves and pitched 2 no-hitters. Gourley was a first team All-SEC selection.
Ocasio, who was a finalist for national Player of the Year and a first team All-SEC selection, finished the season 22-2 with an SEC-best 0.77 ERA. She also recorded 6 saves and struck out 147 batters.
Kvistad, who also made first team Academic All-America, hit .370 with 11 homers and 60 RBI. She was also selected first team All-SEC.
SOME SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Helmet mikes: Helmet mikes that allow communication from the sideline to the QB aren’t going to happen this year, but they are being discussed in Destin. It’s only a matter of if, not when it will happen.
Alabama: Alabama AD Bill Battle addressed a question about fired D-line coach Bo Davis, who committed NCAA violations, stating, "It's one of our staff members, so whether or not the action that we took ... again, all we can do is respond to what we find. If there are things that happened, we responded as quickly as we knew how and it will be up the NCAA to decide what they think about our response."
Auburn: HBC Gus Malzahn says there has been zero discussion in Destin about Auburn switching to the SEC East. In explaining how he was involved a couple of months ago in a conversation about Auburn changing divisions, Malzahn said, “I had a conversation with a reporter. It was kind of, real casual.” Auburn AD Jay Jacobs says that while Auburn’s demographics make it a better fit for the SEC East, the advantage is to stay in the West. “We’ve got some great rivalries going on in the West and if you can win the West, you can win the whole thing. So it’s great competitively.” … Jacobs also told the media that Malzahn will be Auburn’s coach “for a long, long time.
LSU: Asked if he could keep satellite camps out of Louisiana, Les Miles replied, “If I could, we’d hoist small-caliber weapons.”
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen says the school will decide the status of defensive end recruit Jeffery Simmons sometime later this week. Simmons was charged with simple assault after a video surfaced showing him standing over and striking a woman who was on the ground.
Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze is catching it from all sides after the NCAA listed 13 violations that have occurred on his watch. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn isn’t buying all the talk that Freeze is a cheater. “I’ve known Hugh since 1991 and he’s always been a man of integrity,” Malzahn said Wednesday.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CANDIDATES
Steve Spurrier is already a member of the College Football Hall of Fame as a player, but with his retirement, he is immediately eligible for membership as a coach. He should be a no-brainer when the votes are tallied for the 2017 induction class. On the player ballot for the first time are former Gators Lomas Brown (OT) and Brad Culpepper (DT).
Some other notable players on the ballot are Peyton Manning (QB, Tennessee), Terrell Buckley (DB, Florida State), Larry Burton (WR, Purdue, father of former Gator Trey Burton), Tim Couch (QB, Kentucky), Eric Dickerson (RB, SMU), Marshall Faulk (RB, San Diego State), Bobby Humphrey (RB, Alabama), Ray Lewis (LB, Miami), Larry Sievers (WR, Tennessee), Matt Stinchcomb (OT, Georgia) and Jackie Walker (LB, Tennessee).
The fallout from the Baylor scandal is going to have a serious effect on the Big 12 Conference. The league missed the boat on expansion and contraction to 10 teams hasn’t been kind as the Big 12 lags behind in national perception and money. The scandal that is going to essentially nuke the Baylor program takes out one of the league’s most visible and (recently) successful programs, particularly at a time when Texas is down on its luck. Do you think for one second expansion that would add a school such as Houston, UCF, BYU, Memphis or Cincinnati would add anything positive to the national perception? And just wait until the SEC announces in October a payout of $40 million or more to its 14 members.
And speaking of the Big 12, West Virginia will finally get a full paycheck from the league. That will help balance the budget in Morgantown because travel expenses have spiked by $3 million a year since WVU joined the league.
Jordan Matthews, a shooting guard who has averaged 13.5 points during the past two seasons at California, has graduated and will transfer to play his final season. There is a lot of interest on the east coast, but his likely landing place is Gonzaga, which has to make up for the scoring loss of Kyle Wiltjer and Damontas Sabonis.
The French Open is being played in Paris. How many of you are paying attention?
Alabama is looking for a new baseball coach following the resignation of Mitch Gaspard. AD Bill Battle has indicated that the compensation package – it was $300,000 for Gaspard – will be increased to a more competitive level.
The NBA Finals begin tonight with the Cleveland Cavaliers facing the Golden State Warriors in Oakland. Will you watch?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
The PGA Tour pulled its event at Doral, which is owned by Donald Trump, and put it in Mexico City. PGA commissioner Tim Finchen says the move was not politically motivated. Do you believe him?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Bocagator went to the Carole King Musical at the Fox Theater in Atlanta earlier in the week and was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the show and of course, the great music. In her day, she was incredible both as a performer and song writer. Today’s music is her 1971 concert at Carnegie Hall.