Nick Saban claims Bowden Coach of the Year honors

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Two of the past three years, and coinciding with a BCS championship, Alabama’s Nick Saban has been lauded with an award honoring one of the game’s greatest coaches.

Coming off a third BCS title with the Tide, Saban has added yet another piece of that particular hardware.

The Birmingham Touchdown Club Wednesday named Saban as the recipient of this year’s Bobby Bowden National Collegiate Coach of the Year award.  Named in honor of the former Florida State coaching great, the award has been handed out annually since 2009, with Saban claiming three of the four trophies.

In accepting the award, Saban was effusive in his praise for Bowden.

“This is a very special honor to me because it has Coach Bowden’s name on it,” Saban said in a statement. “”Everyone knows about his accomplishments as a coach on the field and we may not see that again in college football in terms of the success he had at one place for such a long period of time.

“More than anything else, receiving the Bobby Bowden Coach of the Year Award means a lot to me personally because of the man that he is, the person that he is, and the number of people he positively impacted and continues to positively influence today.  He has always done it with such class and dignity in every way. As a coach, you hope maybe someday to be thought of in the way Coach Bowden is, not only in terms of what he accomplished, but the way he did it.”

In addition to Saban, the other finalists for this year’s Bowden award were Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Kansas State’s Bill Snyder.  Kelly and Penn State’s Bill O'Brien had taken home the lion’s share of major coaching awards for the 2012 season.

The only other coach to claim the Bowden award was Auburn’s Gene Chizik for the 2010 season, meaning this particular honor has yet to leave the state of Alabama.

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.