Sports Outside the Beltway

Alabama’s Saban Courtship About to Heat Up Again

The University of Alabama will make one final push to lure Nick Saban away from the Miami Dolphins after their final game this afternoon.

Mobile Register reporter Thomas Murphy reports,

The University of Alabama’s Nick Saban watch, on slow burn for the past month, could flare up in earnest today. Alabama officials could offer the coach a contract as early as this evening after Saban’s Miami Dolphins wrap up their season on the road at the Indianapolis Colts. The game kicks off at 3:15 p.m.


Saban, 55, has issued a series of denials of interest in the Alabama job since the position became vacant. But when ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser asked him if he could say unequivocally he would not listen to an offer from Alabama, Saban could not make that assertion.


Saban, who has a 15-16 record in Miami after leading LSU to two SEC titles, the 2003 BCS national championship and a 48-16 record in five years, has taken a “no comment” approach to questions about the Alabama job this week.

Meanwhile, Moore has remained mum about the search virtually since it started. He did not discuss it with reporters during Alabama’s trip to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. A source close to Moore descibed him as “at peace” during the holidays, as compared to the anxiety Moore was experiencing during his search in 2003 that led to the hiring of Mike Price. The source added, however, that Moore’s demeanor indicates he is satisfied a conclusion to his search is immediately at hand. The Tide coaching search has had one anticlimax already, after West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez passed on an offer of more than $2 million dollars per year on Dec. 8.


Meanwhile, if Saban were to pass on the expected offer from Alabama, it is believed Moore has been working on backup plans. Who remains on Moore’s list is a subject of speculation. ESPN analysts have thrown out the names of several NFL head coaches in recent days, such as Tom Coughlin of the New York Jets, Jim Mora Jr. of the Atlanta Falcons and Jon Gruden of the Tampa Bay Bucs. Mark May of ESPN suggested on Saturday that Alabama look into Bill Cowher, who led Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl championship last season, but whom many expect to resign early next week. Navy’s Paul Johnson, whose Midshipmen dropped a 25-24 decision against Boston College in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Saturday, is also considered a candidate, along with Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe.

Huntsville Times reporter Paul Gattis adds:

Industry sources have indicated that they expect Saban to take the Tide job.

But Alabama is proceeding with obvious caution after missing on Rodriguez and athletic director Mal Moore – who is in charge of the search – has kept a tight grip on any details of the search.

The Miami Herald also reported Saturday that Alabama is expected to come after Saban as early as tonight or Monday. Saban would receive an annual salary of about $4 million annually and a signing bonus of about $7 million, according to the Herald. The salary would make Saban the highest paid coach in college football – a distinction currently held by Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, who makes just more than $3 million per year. A $4 million salary, while maybe on the fringe of possibility, appears to be a little high. The $7 million signing bonus, however, would be unprecedented in college football.

Whoever the new coach is, he figures to have some talent at his disposal. Alabama will return nine starters on offense, including quarterback John Parker Wilson and receivers DJ Hall and Keith Brown. Wilson, who had already set a single-season school record for passing yards, set the mark for touchdown passes with his scoring strike to Matt Caddell in the Independence Bowl. The offensive line returns intact along with tight end Travis McCall. The losses are heavier on defense. The Tide loses six starters, including leading tacklers Juwan Simpson and safety Jeffrey Dukes as well as three-year starter Ramzee Robinson at cornerback.

Ian Rapoport of the Birmingham News continues that theme, noting that, “Five years of NCAA-induced probation ends Feb. 1. Barring an unforeseen incident, the next time the Crimson Tide play football, it will begin anew.”

The next coach will be in position to make significant progress toward the yearly goal of winning a Southeastern Conference championship, even after a 6-7 season. That was so obvious that interim coach Joe Kines made a point after Alabama’s 34-31 PetroSun Independence Bowl loss to Oklahoma State Thursday to reinforce the expectations for 2007. “There is a champion in that (locker) room,” Kines said. “They are good young players, and they are going to work hard. … We don’t settle for average at Alabama.”


Reinforcing the optimism is the fact that four of Alabama’s tough SEC losses came on the road, and UA had a second-half lead in three of them.

The irony is that the team would likely be quite a bit better next year even under Shula, yet his successor will get the credit, all the while using offensive starters he recruited. Not fair, but then life–let alone big time coaching–seldom is. Shula can take some comfort, though, in his multi-million dollar parting gift.


Weekly Miami Dolphins prediction

Miami(6-9) plays at Indianapolis(11-4) this afternoon. A season of much hope for Miami, including some predicting the team going to The Super Bowl, could end in ignominy of a 6-10 season.

I don’t have much to say about today’s game. Indianapolis still has the possibility of a bye week to play for. Miami will be giving Cleo Lemon his first career start. Indy’s run defense is terrible and Ronnie Brown could have a field day today. That said, I don’t see Miami wining. My prediction- Colts 27, Dolphins 17.

Update- I’m 10-5 in predicting the winner of Dolphin games this year but only 4-4 over the last eight games.

That beats the Palm Beach Post’s three Dolphin prognosticators. None of them are better than 8-7. Maybe Cox Communications should hire me. Dream on, right?

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Soccer Goat?

This is gross

Palermo general manager Rino Foschi received a surprise in the mail for Christmas – the severed head of a young goat, covered in blood.

At least Mr. Foschi is taking it in stride.

“I don’t have anything to do with that stuff, those are things you see in films,” Foschi said. “I’ve lived in Palermo for five years and I’ve never received any threats. I feel safe in Palermo. I don’t have anything to fear.

“I really don’t have any explanation. I don’t have any suspects to signal. Maybe some idiot wanted to make an ugly Christmas joke … Maybe I’m disliked for some soccer market moves.”

Crossposted at Soccer Dad.


Colt McCoy Ties Record for Freshman TD Passes

Via McCoy ties freshman record; Texas takes Alamo

Colt McCoy was supposed be a placeholder for Texas at quarterback this season. Now, he’s a record holder.

The redshirt freshman who replaced Vince Young turned in another gritty performance with two touchdown passes to rally the No. 18 Longhorns to a 26-24 victory Saturday over Iowa in the Alamo Bowl.


McCoy finished 26-for-40 for 308 yards. His 29 touchdown passes this season tied the NCAA freshman record set by Nevada’s David Neill in 1998.

Indeed, McCoy has been a very pleasant surprise this year. His impact is underscored by the fact that Texas’ two loses this season came in games where McCoy was hurt and was unable to play the entire games in question.

[Cross-posted PoliBlog: Deportes]


Barber Carries Giants into the Postseason

Via Behind Barber’s career day, Giants top Skins

In his last regular-season game, Barber carried 23 times for 234 yards — a career high and franchise record — and three touchdowns Saturday night in a 34-28 victory over the Washington Redskins. The victory ended New York’s seven-week free fall just in time for the Giants to make the postseason as a .500 team.

Impressive. And quite the way to end his regular-season career.

Of course, since NFLN and Charter can’t get their act together, I didn’t get to see it.

[Cross-posted at PoliBlog: Deportes]


Huff inks 3yr $20M deal with O’s news services

The Orioles have reached agreement with free-agent utilityman Aubrey Huff, the Baltimore Sun reported Saturday, citing several industry sources.

The offer is believed to be for three years and $20 million, the newspaper reported.

Huff, a 30-year-old left-handed slugger, is expected to take a physical next week in Baltimore.

“All that is left is a physical and dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s,” one source familiar with the negotiations told the Sun.

The Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates also were believed to be pursuing Huff, the newspaper reported.

One factor the Orioles had to appreciate: Huff has a .285 career average at Camden Yards and has batted .297 against the Orioles over his seven seasons in the majors. He has more home runs (20) and RBI (63) against Baltimore than against any other team.

Huff hit a combined .267 in 2006 for Tampa Bay and Houston, with 21 home runs and 66 RBI. He was dealt to Houston on July 13 and hit .250 in 68 games for the Astros. He posted career highs in 2003 with a .311 average, 34 home runs and 107 RBI.

This is a great deal for the O’s. Huff brings a stable, power bat to the O’s lineup. Huff can play 3B, 1B, RF, LF, and DH. Although not know for his glove, he is adequate in the field. Huff also brings a great eye and improving patience to the plate, averaging almost a walk for every strikeout. He should slot nicely into the #5 spot, a spot where he flourished last year (41-G 145-AB 21-R 49-H 8-2B 1-3B 7-HR 26-RBI 18-BB 18-K .338 .417 .552).

Huff also knows the AL East very well and is in a left handed hitters haven. I expect him to hit between .280-.295 with 25-30 HR and 90+ RBI. The Orioles got a bargain for those numbers this offseason.


Tiger Woods and his wife expecting first child

Tiger announced in a message on his website.

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Tiger Woods celebrated his 31st birthday Saturday by sharing some of his biggest news of the year — his wife is expecting their first child this summer.

“Obviously, we couldn’t be happier and our families are thrilled,” Woods said on his Web site. “I have always wanted to be a dad. I just wish my father could be around to share the experience.”


Woods and Elin Nordegren of Sweden married in October 2004, and Woods has said that he wanted children sooner instead of later. He did not say when in the summer the baby is due, although it likely would be between the U.S. Open and British Open.


“I’m going to stick close to home for the next few weeks,” he said. Woods will start his ’07 season in the Buick Invitational at the end of January, “which will allow Elin and I to spend more time with our families during this very special time in our lives.”

Tiger will need more time after the baby is born. Unless fatherhood has gone to his head, I don’t think Tiger’s skipping the Mercedes-Benz is due to Elin’s pregnancy. Stuart Appleby won this same tournament in 2004 or 2005 and immediately flew home to Australia. His wife giving birth like three days after Stuart’s win. There isn’t much for a father to do this early on, plus the fact that Tiger was long rumored to be skipping this tournament.

As to when the baby is due, AP is guessing with their between the British and US Open statement. The Woods could have the child any time next summer from June to August. Without specifics, the reporter is just guessing. The golf media probably knows as much about pregnancy as they do about fact checking.

Hee Won Han, one of the top 10 LPGA players, is also expecting a child next summer. (2007 is the year of the Pig in Korea and that is supposed to be a good time for having a baby. Can the recently wed Gloria Park be far behind?) Congrats to Hee Won and her husband Sonny who I once met, plus Tiger and Elin.

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Looking for Wild Card Scenarios?

Look no further.

The fact that Tennessee goes into the final week with a shot at the playoffs should mean two things:

1) Vince Young has to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year.


2) The Titans would be nuts not to give Jeff Fischer a massive contract extension.

[Cross-posted at OTB Sports]


Successful Head Coaches Have Varying Backgrounds

Birmingham News writer Jon Solomon, apropos Alabama’s obsession with landing “a proven head coach with impressive credentials,” observes that there are a lot of paths to greatness.

Five years ago, Jim Tressel was the head coach at Division I-AA Youngstown State and Urban Meyer was the first-year head coach at Bowling Green. They meet in this season’s national championship game between Ohio State and Florida.

Bob Stoops returned Oklahoma to national prominence after serving as Florida’s defensive coordinator. Mark Richt went from Florida State’s offensive coordinator to Georgia’s head coach, where he is considered among the elite.

“You can find good football coaches in lots of different places,” said Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. “There are plenty of examples of coordinators and lesser-known coaches who are ready for the next step.”

Check out the current Associated Press Top 25 poll. Fourteen of those 25 head coaches had assistant coaching positions immediately prior to taking their current jobs. For every coach in the top 10 who was a proven head coach in his previous job, such as Pete Carroll and Tommy Tuberville, there is a Bret Bielema or Bobby Petrino, who were up-and-coming coordinators immediately before their current jobs.

Breaking down the coaches in the AP Top 25 even further shows college offensive and defensive coordinators are the most common stepping-stone positions (six each). Almost half of today’s Top 25 coaches were coordinators immediately before their current job.

The next most common steppingstones in the current Top 25 were head coaching positions in a Bowl Championship Series conference (four) and other Division I-A head coaching positions (three). Two Top 25 coaches most recently were NFL head coaches, and two most recently were Division I-AA head coaches.

Similar results are evident when examining who has coached BCS games since the lucrative postseason format was created in 1998. Fifty-three percent of the BCS spots have been occupied by coaches who were one job removed from being an assistant.

This year, five of the 10 coaches in BCS games – Michigan’s Lloyd Carr, Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis, Boise State’s Chris Peterson, Stoops and Petrino – were assistants immediately prior to becoming head coaches.

Of the five who were previously head coaches, only LSU’s Les Miles came from a BCS conference. Tressel and Meyer made big jumps, Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe came from Ohio, and Southern Cal’s Carroll arrived after a one-year sabbatical following NFL head-coaching stints.

Of course, there are issues with hiring unproven coaches, as Alabama learned. Mike Shula was an NFL position coach and offensive coordinator before his hiring and firing. DuBose was a college assistant and ultimately didn’t last, either.

Certainly, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Tide hire an up-and-coming coordinator from the NFL or major college ranks. Troy’s Larry Blakeney would be an interesting choice, too, although he’ll turn 60 in September, so might be inclined to retire in the next few years. Ditto Norm Chow.

DuBose and Shula were odd hires in that nobody, anywhere was considering them for a head coaching job. Charlie Weis and Jim Tressel, conversely, were highly sought after.

I’d gladly take my chances with a Paul Johnson or any man between 45 and 55 who is at least a big time college or NFL level coordinator and is being seriously courted for promotion somewhere. But, please, not another DuBose or Shula. Alabama’s just too big a stage for a long shot candidate.


Michael Jordan and Wife File for Divorce

Michael Jordan and his wife of 17 years have filed for divorce.

Michael Jordan and his wife, Juanita, filed for divorce Friday after 17 years of marriage. “Michael and Juanita Jordan mutually and amicably decided to end their 17 year marriage,” the couple said in a statement issued through their lawyers. “A judgment for dissolution of their marriage was entered today. There will be no further statements.”

Michael Jordan and Wife Juanita Divorce Photo Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan, right, reacts to a reporters' question as his wife, Juanita, listens after he announced his retirement from basketball on Jan. 13, 1999, in Chicago. Jordan and his wife divorced Friday, Dec. 29, 2006, 17 years after the couple wed. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green,file) Juanita Jordan previously filed for divorce in January 2002, but withdrew her petition a month later when the couple announced they were attempting a reconciliation.

During her last divorce petition, Jordan said attempts to reconcile their marriage had failed and future ones “would be impractical and not in the best interests of the family.”

Truly a shame. Jordan’s lifestyle is not the most conducive to maintaining a stable marriage, unfortunately.


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