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Report: Tennessee O-Coordinator Bajakian On Bowling Green’s List

mike-bajakianThe coaching wheel is spinning at full speed these days and it’s not just head coaches who’re the subject of rumors.  Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian is reportedly on Bowling Green’s list of possible replacements for departed head coach Dave Clawson.

Ironically, Clawson served one miserable season in Knoxville as the Vols’ O-coordinator before he himself landed the Bowling Green gig.  His one season in the SEC resulted in a 5-7 season and Phillip Fulmer’s forced resignation.  Since landing in Ohio as head coach — which he’d been at Richmond prior to his Tennessee move — Clawson has improved he Falcons’ record from year to year.  Last week his team won the MAC Championship Game and handed Northern Illinois its first loss of the season.

Bajakian is a graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts (also like Clawson).  He has bounced around quite a bit in his coaching career.  Since 2007 he’s been the offensive coordinator for Butch Jones, first at Central Michigan (in the MAC like Bowling Green) and then at Cincinnati.  In other words, he knows the conference and he has recruiting contacts in Ohio.

Clawson accepted the head coaching job at Wake Forest this week, potentially opening the door for Bajakian to move up.

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Weep, College Fans… Gruden Wants To Coach In The Pros

JON-gruden-helmet-your-logoNewsflash: Jon Gruden isn’t coming to your school any time soon if Pat Haden is to be believed.  The Southern Cal athletic director said on “The Dan Patrick Show” yesterday that he contacted the coach-turned-announcer about the Trojans’ opening before hiring Steve Sarkisian from Washington.

“I talked with Jon a while back,” Haden said.  “He wants to coach in the pros.  If he’s a head coach, he wants to coach in the pros.”

Before anyone goes there — and someone will — that probably doesn’t mean he wants to be a coordinator or quarterbacks coach your alma mater, either.

Gruden has become the great white whale in collegiate searches.  One part Bigfoot — he’s “spotted” looking at schools and buying houses everywhere — the other part tease — he never states publicly that he’s not interested in college gigs — the ESPN broadcaster seems to just enjoy have his name kicked around.  Hey, who doesn’t want to be loved?

But the facts and Haden’s comments suggest Gruden won’t be taking any openings at Florida or Texas or Southern Cal.  He wouldn’t even take the Tennessee job where he coached and where his wife’s family resides (though you can be certain there are still one or two Vol fans who believe Butch Jones is just a ruse and that Gruden will eventually take over for him).

Time to nix Gruden from the list potential college coaches.  Ain’t happening.

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SEC Headlines 12/2/2013

headlines-monSEC Football

1. The BCS standings show Auburn will most likely need Florida State or Ohio State to lose for the Tigers to reach the BCS title game.

2. Alabama’s chance of returning to the BCS championship game is “highly improbably, but possible.”

3. A good sign: Many Alabama fans took to Facebook to show support for kicker Cade Foster.

4. Auburn and Missouri have sold out their allotment of tickets to the SEC championship game.

5. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has no time to relax as he and the Tigers prepare for Missouri.

6. Florida coach Will Muschamp fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease on Sunday. Offensive line coach Tim Davis was also let go.

7. Muschamp promised improvement as he plans to “evaluate himself” as well as the football program.

8. Georgia coach Mark Richt expects defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to return next year.

9. Grantham doesn’t seem to be phased by criticism. “I look at the body of work I’ve done and I’m fine,” he said.

10. The Cotton Bowl appears to be a likely destination for LSU. The Tigers thought they were headed there last year.

11. Kentucky won only two games this season. Fans will certainly expect more next year.

12. There were multiple incidents Saturday night involving South Carolina students and members of the Clemson football team.

13. For the third straight year, South Carolina defeated the winner of the SEC East.

14. Texas A&M’s season was filled with unmet expectations, writes Robert Cessna.

15. Departing senior Daniel Hood feels good about Tennessee’s future under coach Butch Jones.

16. Barrett Sallee writes that a 12-1 Auburn team being left out of the BCS title game would actually be “very American.”

17. Watch Auburn fans react to the Tigers’ win over Alabama.

SEC Basketball

18. LSU scored a key win against Butler on Sunday. The Tigers won 70-68 in overtime.

19. Center Willie Cauley-Stein blocked shots while helping Kentucky beat Providence 79-65.

20. “Their length is their strength,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said of Kentucky.

21. Mississippi State needed overtime on Sunday to edge out Loyola Chicago 65-64.


22. There’s plenty of debate surrounding the BCS following an entertaining rivalry weekend.

23. Did the SEC keep itself from winning an eighth consecutive BCS championship?

24. Ohio State can’t “come close to matching the résumé” of Auburn or Missouri, writes John Feinstein.

25. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer won’t suspend offensive lineman Marcus Hall and running back Dontre Wilson for fighting against Michigan.

26. Here’s an early update on the coaching carousel. Will Southern California go after Vanderbilt’s James Franklin?

27. The No. 1 choice in this week’s Misery Index was easy to predict: it’s Alabama.

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Nitwit Fans At Arkansas, Tennessee Give Their Fellow Fans A Bad Name

redneckWhen it comes to sports, some fans — thankfully a very small percentage — take the games way too seriously.  And they behave like fools.  And cowards.

At Arkansas, sophomore quarterback Brandon Allen found his truck egged after the Razorbacks’ latest loss.  Allen was 10-of-17 passing for 114 yards and an interception in the overtime loss to Mississippi State.  He has played with injuries for much of the season.  When his leg was sliced open during the Auburn game, Allen had the wound “stapled together” and returned to action.  Good to see some fool (or fools) in the Hog fanbase appreciate his effort.

When Allen’s coach learned of the egged truck, he called his quarterback to check on him.  “I knew that I wanted to prevent anything from happening.  He assured me he wasn’t going to take any retaliation, you know… Unfortunately, (there is) a side to college football that is a little big ugly at times.”

Allen’s teammates weren’t so forgiving of the vandalism.  Tight end Austin Tate tweeted a photo of truck with the message: “Thanks for the support fans..really makes us want to keep going and change the situation we’re in!”  Robbie Neiswanger of says the tweet was later deleted.

Moving from the Ozarks to the Smokies, a buffoonish Tennessee fan reportedly made a death threat to freshman cornerback Cameron Sutton after the Vols 14-10 last-minute loss to Vanderbilt.  Mike Strange of The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that head coach Butch Jones joked that “he was glad he didn’t need a bullet-proof vest to speak to the Knoxville Quarterback Club on Monday.”

Jones then revealed that Sutton received a death threat, but he did not elaborate.  Sutton has been the most impressive freshman on the Volunteer roster this year.

A note to the fans at Arkansas, Tennessee and elsewhere — If you feel the urge to take any kind of action against a college athlete on your favorite football team, do everyone a favor and go see a mental health specialist.  We all get mad when the teams we follow lose.  During those games we often say things we don’t mean.  But it takes a complete, total, utter fool to vandalize someone’s property or make an anonymous threat.

It’s a shame the police in Fayetteville and Knoxville can’t find these twerps and give ‘em a little Harvey Updyke punishment.

Oh, and yes, here’s guessing anybody stupid enough to egg a car or make a threat probably looks a lot like the fellers at left.


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SEC Conference Call: Butch Jones Talks Vanderbilt

Tennessee coach Butch Jones talks Vanderbilt – week 13 SEC coaches conference call.

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Tennessee To Bust Out The Gray Uniforms Again

tennessee-grey-playingWhen Tennessee announced in the preseason that it would be breaking out a new all-gray uniform in 2013, the plan was to wear the ensemble once.  The Vols did where it once… in an overtime loss to Georgia.

Now they’re going with the “Smokey Gray” uni again and you can bet more than a few Volunteer fans will be upset.  Do it once, and it’s a change o’ pace recruiting ploy.  Do it twice and the hardliners will say that the school’s traditional colors (orange and white) are being left behind.

First-year Vol coach Butch Jones says his team made the call to bring back the uniforms for Senior Night against Vanderbilt this week.  “It was their decision.”  He also said that switching unis is not “a big deal,” which in and of itself will be seen as a big deal by the traditionalists in the UT fanbase.

We’ve said it before, but this whole craze toward multiple uniforms has gotten ridiculous.  It’s now impossible to flip past a game and know exactly who is playing.  From Tennessee’s gray to Duke’s black to Maryland’s comic book look to Northwestern’s bloody flag attire (ya know, the flag is not supposed to be part of a sports uniform) to Oregon’s… well, whatever the hell Oregon wears from week to week.

Look, the recruiting angle makes sense.  But taking it too far is a bad thing.  And it’s currently such a bad thing that you’d better believe fans of tomorrow will someday look back at the garish mix-and-match numbers of college football today in the same way we look back at the nonsensical designs sported by Major League Baseball teams in the 1970s.  Polyester pullovers with shorts, anyone?

This uniform silliness has become an epidemic.  It’s awful all over.

But in the case of Tennessee, specifically, take a good look at their grays this weekend.  If the Volunteers fall to 0-2 in those threads — including a home loss to Vanderbilt — you’ll never ever see them again.


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Hot Properties In The SEC: Which Coaches Might Be Targeted By Other Schools?

wanted-one-new-football-coach-posterAnything is possible.

You may think your team’s coach is a lock to stick around despite outside interest, but as Tennessee learned in 2010… anything is possible.  Lane Kiffin had been in Knoxville for just one season when Southern Cal came calling less than a month before signing day.  Fifteen other guys had to decline offers from the Trojans before Kiffin got his call, but when USC rang, he jumped.

Let’s also remember that an approach by another school doesn’t have to result in your school’s coach leaving to cause problems.  Agent Jimmy Sexton’s clients seem to get annual raises, extensions and inflated buyouts due to reported interest in them.  All it takes is another school sniffing around — or an agent bluffing that other schools are sniffing around — to bind your school to its coach with a bigger, stronger contract.

So who in the SEC might be hot properties at this season’s end?  Here’s our list…


Hot Properties

Nick Saban, Alabama — The only thing that might drive Saban from Tuscaloosa someday would be an NCAA investigation or some sort.  Still, rumors persist that Texas — if the Longhorns push Mack Brown out — will try to make Bama’s coach an offer he can’t refuse.  So keep an eye on Brown’s situation.  Just last week, Texas’ coach said, “Nick’s not trying to get my job, I mean, I know Nick… So I don’t have to worry about that.”  That’s called whistling past the graveyard.

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M — Sumlin is going to get paid.  Either by Texas A&M to fend off suitors or by Southern Cal, a school reportedly ready to pay up to $6 million per season for the right man.  Sumlin’s currently playing the game on the Trojan front and that will likely force A&M to pony up again to keep him.  Unless, of course, he’s just using Southern cal as a bluff and AD Eric Hyman knows it.  For all the talk of college interest, we still feel Sumlin’s most likely next step will be toward the NFL.  If Chip Kelly’s up-tempo Eagles make the playoffs, expect Sumlin to be a pretty hot NFL commodity.  The coach has already said that down the road the pro game might interest him.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn — Would he leave the Plains after just one season?  Well, he has proven to be opportunistic in the job market.  Five years as a high school coach in Springdale, Arkansas high school.  One year as Arkansas’ offensive coordinator.  Two years as offensive coordinator at Tulsa.  Three years as Auburn’s offensive coordinator.  One year as head coach at Arkansas State.  Now back at Auburn.  We feel it’s unlikely he would leave as he seems to be a perfect fit at AU, but his track record demands that schools with openings at least pick up the phone and gauge his interest.


Possible Interest

James Franklin, Vanderbilt — Three bowls in three years at Vandy.  A chance to win nine games in back-to-back years at Vandy.  So why the hell is Franklin not listed as a “hot property” when his name has been connected to the Southern Cal job?  Solely due to the fact that a rape case at Vanderbilt is still hanging over the coach’s head like black cloud.  It’s unlikely that he played any role whatsoever in the cover-up of said crime, but just last week defense attorneys for an ex-Commodore accused in the rape filed a motion in court requesting copies of all the text messages sent between VU’s coaches and the four players charged.  After the Penn State circus, schools might be a tad leery of hiring anyone with so much as a potential connection to a scandal, crime or cover-up.  This is very bad timing for Franklin (who has to be growing tired of seeing empty seats at Dudley Field).

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss — If Freeze manages to win eight or nine games this season and he puts together another top 15 signing class, someone might put Freeze on their list of job candidates.  We’re not saying he would leave as he appears to be UM man.  We just think some school might take a flier on a guy who’s had more early success than anyone ever dreamed.

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Butch Jones On Vanderbilt: “Very Good Football Team”

Tennessee coach Butch Jones discusses the bye week and looks ahead to the game against Vanderbilt

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Tennessee’s Jones: “We Have Absolutely Zero Depth”

gfx - they said itIt may have been stating the obvious, but first-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones called a spade a spade today during the SEC teleconference.  Speaking of the challenges facing his squad — after two blowout losses on the road at Alabama and Missouri — Jones had this to say:


“With us, it’s been a process.  It’s all about developing our football team and our mentality, and we want it right now… but we’re going through that learning curve, really, what it takes to play winning football…

I think the thing right now, in the realities of building our program, is we have absolutely zero depth.  That’s been extremely evident.”


Indeed it has.  And being cursed by the scheduling gods hasn’t helped matters.  With a team depleted by early NFL departures and the attrition associated with multiple coaching changes, Jones’ Vols have played six ranked teams (Oregon, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Missouri), four of them on the road (Oregon, Florida, Alabama and Missouri), four of them in the top 10 (Oregon, Georgia, Alabama and Missouri), including two teams that have been ranked #1 and #2 for most of the season (Alabama and Oregon).

Saturday, ninth-ranked Auburn makes a visit to Neyland Stadium.  The Tigers will be the seventh ranked team UT will have faced and the fifth ranked inside the top 10 at the time of the game.

That schedule would be daunting for a team with depth, much less one that’s in the rag-tag shape of Jones’ roster.

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USA Today’s Coaching Salary Database Not Quite What It Seems

bag of moneyBefore you get your dander up over the release of USA Today’s annual football coaching salaries database, know that the numbers aren’t necessarily what they seem to be.

According to the report, ten SEC coaches rank among the 25 highest paid coaches in the country:


1.  Nick Saban, Alabama — $5.3 million

3.  Bret Bielema, Arkansas — $5.1 million

4.  Butch Jones, Tennessee — $4.8 million

7.  Les Miles, LSU — $4.3 million

12.  Steve Spurrier, South Carolina – $3.3 million

13.  Mark Richt, Georgia — $3.2 million

17.  Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M — $3.1 million

20.  Gary Pinkel, Missouri — $2.8 million

22.  Will Muschamp, Florida — $2.7 million

23.  Dan Mullen, Mississippi State — $2.7 million

32.  Gus Malzahn, Auburn — $2.4 million

49.  Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss — $2.0 million

40.  Mark Stoops, Kentucky — $2.0 million

54.  James Franklin, Vanderbilt — $1.8 million


We know what you’re thinking: Bret Bielema and Butch Jones make about $5 million… ahead of Les Miles?

No.  They don’t.

In Jones’ case, USA Today has factored in the buyout that Tennessee paid to Cincinnati after landing Jones.  Jones actually makes about $3.4 million (including a first-year $500,000 signing bonus).  Toss in the $1.4 million buyout that UT paid the Bearcats and there’s your $4.8 million.

Bielema’s package at Arkansas is set to pay him $3.2 million.  USA Today also added in his buyout from Wisconsin stating: “The gross amount that athletics department said was required to produce an after-tax payment of $1 million; the gross amount remains subject to change, based on the completion of a review of Bielema’s final tax situation.”  So $1.9 plus $3.2, carry the one, and that’s $5.1.

Vanderbilt’s James Franklin is also listed at the bottom of the SEC ladder at $1.8 million.  It’s been reported numerous times that Franklin is making about $3 million.  Vandy’s private school status protects them from having to release exact contract details.

Two quick points:


1.  As we’ve stated in the past, it’s near impossible to make apples to apples comparisons when it comes to schools’ budgets and coaches’ salaries.

2.  It’s a bit misleading to list money paid to another school as a buyout as part of a coach’s “salary.”  For example, if Tennessee’s Jones is going to be credited with anything the school is paying out in connection with its head coaching job, he should also be saddled with Derek Dooley’s buyout.  But he’s not getting that money any more than he’s getting the money UT paid to Cincinnati.  Ditto Bielema at Arkansas.


Expect a flurry of press releases from SEC schools stating that USA Today’s database doesn’t accurately reflect what their coaches are actually being paid.

It’s a nice effort by USA Today.  It’s also an impossible one.

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