Nick Saban: Alabama players topped $3 million in NIL money

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ATLANTA — Nick Saban has been vocal about his issues with the status quo in name, image and likeness deals and their use in recruiting.

But it’s not like Alabama’s coach and his players haven’t benefited, too. Saban said Crimson Tide players have made more than $3 million in NIL money.

“The biggest concern is how does this impact and affect recruiting?” he said Tuesday at the Southeastern Conference Media Days. “On the recruiting trail right now, there’s a lot of people using this as inducements to go to their school by making promises they may or may not be able to keep in terms of what players are doing.

“I think that is what can create a competitive balance issue between the haves and have-nots. We’re one of the haves. Don’t think that what I’m saying is a concern that we have at Alabama because we’re one of the haves.”

The touchy topic boiled over in the offseason after Saban singled out Texas A&M and other schools for using the NIL deals in recruiting. Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher fired back at his former boss and denied any wrongdoing in his program, which landed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

“I think they both kind of illustrate the frustration of how things are right now,” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said. “It’s not sustainable, so something’s going to change.”

Leach says as things stand “college athletes have more privileges than anybody at any other professional level.”

“Go up to your next favorite NFL guy, say: `Hey, I heard in the NFL they’re going to have unmitigated free agency, 365, 24/7. And, by the way, there’s not going to be any salary cap or draft, you’re just going to have bidding wars,”‘ Leach said. “Just watch the expression on their face. Don’t look at anything else or write down any notes because the expression on their face will be well worth it.”

YOUNG’S APPROACH

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young says he can’t afford to rest coming off his Heisman Trophy-winning season. That is, after all, old news.

“I don’t feel like I’m a finished product by any means,” Young said. “I have a lot of stuff I want to keep getting better at.

“The way I look at it, it’s an award that celebrates the past, which is an honor, but it doesn’t entitle me to anything in the future.”

Young is trying to join Archie Griffin (1964 and 1965) as the only two-time Heisman winner.

SHANE’S STYLE

Shane Beamer didn’t let any of his fellow SEC coaches upstage him at media days, not even Alabama’s Saban.

South Carolina released a hype video on social media of Beamer ahead of his appearance at the podium. It showed Beamer swaggering into a team meeting room to Soulja Boy’s “Turn My Swag On” earlier Tuesday in Columbia. Players wiped his brow, handed him a Gamecocks cap (which he placed on backward) and some shades.

Beamer showed off a few moves while players held up lights in the background.

“Walked in, changed clothes, knocked it out in three takes,” he said later in Atlanta. “Had a lot of fun doing it as well. I was a little bit taken aback because one of our players thought I needed to hear the song so I knew what the song was and I knew what the words were. I’m not that old. I know who Soulja Boy is. I know some of the words to that song. It was an easy ask.”

VANDY’S WRIGHT MOVE

Mike Wright enters preseason camp as Vanderbilt’s starting quarterback.

Coach Clark Lea said he informed Wright and former starter Ken Seals of that decision after spring practices.

“It’s all about moving the ball,” Lea said. “One way to do that is with a mobile quarterback. MIke Wright is one of the best in the country in that respect.

“We want him to develop as a total quarterback, which he is. He’s demonstrated leadership abilities, too. We’re excited for him to enter the fall as our starting quarterback. He knows that he has to earn that every day. That’s part of our covenant.”

Wright flashed his personality and sartorial style, enthusiastically discussing his suit purchased in Atlanta and sporting a red carnation.

“I’m a big fashion guy,” he said, giving a shout-out to his suit guy.

 

Lane Kiffin staying at Ole Miss with ‘a lot of work left to do’

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Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin says he has informed school officials he will be staying at Ole Miss, putting an end to speculation that he was the leading candidate to fill the head coaching vacancy at Auburn.

“Same as I said last week: I’m staying here and we have a lot of work left to do,” Kiffin told The Associated Press in a voice message.

Kiffin added he has not signed a contract extension with the school.

The 47-year-old Kiffin is 23-12 in three seasons as Rebels coach. No. 20 Mississippi finished its regular season 8-4, losing four of its last five, including a 24-22 loss to Mississippi State.

Auburn was playing at No. 8 Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and its coaching search figured to heat up soon after its season concluded.

Auburn fired coach Bryan Harsin earlier this month and has gone 2-1 since under interim coach Carnell Williams, the former star running back for the Tigers.

With Kiffin off the market, Auburn is eyeing a former Mississippi coach to be its next coach.

A person familiar with the search told the AP that Auburn is interested in Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Auburn was not making details of its search public.

Freeze coached at Ole Miss for five seasons before leaving in disgrace in 2017 after the school discovered he used a university cellphone to call an escort service.

He landed at Liberty and has gone 34-14 in four seasons with the Flames.

Nebraska signs Matt Rhule to 8-year deal

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After six straight losing seasons and more than 20 years removed from its 1990s heyday, Nebraska is turning to Matt Rhule to rebuild its program and make it competitive in the Big Ten Conference.

Rhule signed an eight-year contract to be the Cornhuskers’ next coach and will be introduced at a news conference, the school announced.

The 47-year-old Rhule quickly turned around downtrodden programs at Temple and Baylor before leaving for the NFL to coach the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers fired him in October after he started his third season with four losses in five games.

“It is a tremendous honor to be chosen to lead the Nebraska football program,” Rhule said in a statement. “When you think of great, tradition-rich programs in college football, Nebraska is right at the top of the list. The fan base is second to none, and I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to coach in Memorial Stadium on Tom Osborne Field. My family and I are so grateful to become a part of the Husker Family, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Rhule was 11-27 with Carolina and left with about $40 million remaining on the seven-year, guaranteed $62 million contract he signed in 2020. The contract made Rhule the sixth-highest paid coach in the NFL when he signed in 2020, according to Forbes.

Nebraska said it would release details of Rhule’s contract.

“It is a privilege to welcome Coach Matt Rhule, his wife, Julie, and their family to Nebraska,” athletic director Trev Alberts said. “Coach Rhule has created a winning culture throughout his coaching career, and he will provide great leadership for the young men in our football program.

“Matt is detail-oriented, his teams are disciplined and play a physical brand of football. Matt also has the personality and relationship-building skills to build a great staff and excel in recruiting.”

About an hour after Rhule’s hiring was announced, wide receiver Trey Palmer announced on Instagram that he would declare for the NFL draft. Palmer, who transferred from LSU after last season, had three 150-yard games this year and set the Huskers’ single-season record with 1,043 yards.

The Huskers are among eight Football Bowl Subdivision programs with at least 900 wins, and they have won or shared five national championships. The last one came in 1997 under Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne.

Five coaches have come and gone since then, most recently the quarterback of that ’97 team, Scott Frost.

Alberts fired Frost on Sept. 11 after the Huskers opened 1-2, with losses to Northwestern in Ireland and to Georgia Southern at home. They were 3-6 under interim coach Mickey Joseph and finished the season 4-8 following a 24-17 win at Iowa.

Nebraska was 16-31 in four-plus seasons under Frost, never finishing higher than fifth in the Big Ten West or going to a bowl.

In four seasons at Temple, Rhule coached the Owls to 28 wins. That included 26 from 2014-16. Temple was 10-4 in 2015 and reached the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural championship game. In 2016, Rhule led the Owls to a 10-3 record and an AAC championship. The conference title was the first in 49 seasons for the Temple program, and the Owls reached bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

Rhule was named Baylor’s coach in December 2016 in the wake of an investigation that found the private Baptist university had not responded adequately to allegations of sexual assault by players, resulting in the firing of Art Briles.

Rhule’s trajectory was similar at Baylor, where he went from 1-11 in 2017 to 7-6 with a bowl game the next season. In his third and final season, Baylor was ranked in the top 10, played in the Big 12 championship game and finished 11-3 after a Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia.

Rhule’s collegiate success provided him the opportunity to take over as the Carolina Panthers’ head coach in 2020. He guided the Panthers to five wins in each of his first two seasons before this year’s 1-4 start got him fired.

Rhule has ties to the Big Ten. He moved from New York City to State College, Pennsylvania, as a teenager. He played linebacker at Penn State from 1994-97 and began his coaching there as a volunteer assistant.