LaMichael James: We Need to Avoid the Hype, Stay Focused

Oregon running back LaMichael James made an appearance on ESPN in advance of the Heisman Trophy ceremony. His team plays Auburn in the National Championship Game on Monday, January 10th, and he was essentially asked for the key to victory. His response was one a coach would love to hear.

“Can’t believe the outside hype,” James said. “Can’t get caught up in the media watching ESPN everyday listening to people tell you that you’re all high and mighty and all great, so you have to stay focused and keep grinding each day. That hard work really pays off.”

James leads the country in rushing yards with 1,682 and touchdowns with 21, but he is expected to finish second in Heisman Trophy balloting behind Cam Newton. The good news is James says he’s more concerned with winning the national championship than the Heisman, something he has a better shot of taking home.

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Nick Saban, Mack Brown, Bob Stoops, Les Miles Highest Paid College Coaches

USA Today released its annual list of coaches salaries for all 120 FBS head coaches. As you can imagine, the coaches at the BCS conferences are well paid, and those in the SEC are truly making bank.

The Top 10 highest-paid coaches in the country (based on USA Today’s research) are the following:

    Nick Saban, Alabama – 5.997 million
    Mack Brown, Texas – 5.161 million
    Bob Stoops, Oklahoma – 4.375 million
    Les Miles, LSU – 3.905 million
    Jim Tressel, Ohio State – 3.888 million
    Kirk Ferentz, Iowa – 3.781
    Jim Grobe, Wake Forest – 2.939 million
    Mark Richt, Georgia – 2.937 million
    Bobby Petrino, Arkansas – 2.713 million
    Gary Pinkel, Missouri – 2.550 million

Note: data was not submitted by some private universities, so coaches like Lane Kiffin, Jim Harbaugh, and Brian Kelly are not on the list. Kiffin would be in the top five based on reports, and there’s no doubt Kelly would be in the top 10. Harbaugh probably isn’t in this group. Also, Urban Meyer was in the 4 million club but is not on the list because of his resignation.

If you want to look at the most overpaid coaches, you can start with

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Candidates to Replace Urban Meyer as Head Coach at Florida: Mullen, Strong,

With Urban Meyer announcing his surprise resignation from Florida, one of the prime coaching jobs in college football becomes available. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley will join Miami athletic director Kirby Holcutt chasing after some of the top coaches in football to see who will take over their programs. Here is a list of some of the top coaches in college football who may be considered for the position:

Dan Mullen, Head Coach, Mississippi State: Mullen was Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Bowling Green, Utah, and then followed him to Florida where they had tremendous success. Unlike other assistants who fail in head coaching jobs, Dan Mullen went 5-7 in his debut at Mississippi State and then led them to an 8-4 season this year, their best in a decade. Miami is also said to be targeting Mullen who stands to get a big pay raise.

Charlie Strong, Head Coach, Louisville: Was Urban Meyer’s defensive coordinator his entire time at Florida until this past season. Strong was actually on Ron Zook’s staff and retained by Meyer, so he has slightly less ties to Urban than Mullen. Left for Louisville and improved their record from 4-8 under Steve Kragthorpe last year to 6-6 in his head coaching debut. May need more seasoning before leading a huge program like Florida.

Bob Stoops, Head Coach, Oklahoma: When Urban Meyer stepped down for a brief period last year, Stoops was one of the first names mentioned. A former defensive coordinator at Florida under Steve Spurrier, Stoops has been extraordinarily successful at Oklahoma. He’s won a national title and reached seven BCS bowl games. He would be my first call, but he’s been at Oklahoma since 1999 and is not likely to leave.

Bobby Petrino, Head Coach, Arkansas: Never met a coaching offer he didn’t like. Petrino returned to Louisville after a stint as offensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars and turned the Cardinals into an offensive juggernaut. After leaving Louisville for the Atlanta Falcons, he tucked tail and ran to Arkansas which came calling after firing Houston Nutt. Petrino has led the Hogs to a BCS bowl and has proven himself as an outstanding coach. Florida will probably want a coach whom they figure will stay at the school longer than the unpredictable Petrino would.

Other potential candidates based purely on record of recent college success:

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Urban Meyer Stepping Down at Florida: Health Issues, Broncos or Family?

This is not a repeat from 2009 … this is actually happening in 2010 as well. Florida coach Urban Meyer, who stepped down from the job a year ago only to return to his position, will announce Wednesday afternoon that he is stepping down again.

Gator Updates says the announcement comes from the athletic department, and that Meyer also had some health issues after the Georgia game in late October.

Health issues were enough to convince Meyer he should step down a year ago, but after hearing names thrown around as his potential replacement (Bob Stoops anyone?), Urb apparently felt well enough to return to the job. He went 7-5 with Florida this season, his worst year on the job. For the first time he experienced a three-game losing streak at Florida, and a loss to rival Florida State.

The Gators have a bowl game on January 1st against Penn State and Meyer will coach the team. Gator Zone has more insight on the situation, saying Meyer approached athletic director Jeremy Foley to say he was contemplating resigning and the details were arranged Tuesday night. Foley also says the decision has to do with family:

“It was just time. He wants to spend more time with his family. He’s got daughters who play college volleyball; he’s got a son who is growing up. Urban loves his family. When all is said and done, he loves us, he loves the Gators, he loves football, he loves his players, but his world revolves around his family. I think more than anything else that was the impetus for this.’’

Stan Van Gundy understands what Meyer is going through. After all, he stepped down from the Miami Heat job in 2005 to spend time with his family only to coach the Magic in 2007. That must be it.

As for the speculation that Urban Meyer rejoins Tim Tebow with the Broncos in the NFL, it’s certainly a possibility. However, one piece of information making me think the two items aren’t linked is that Foley says Meyer approached him about resigning on Saturday, two days before the Broncos job became available. It’s certainly possible owner Pat Bowlen told Meyer’s representatives that McDaniels would be gone if the team lost and that’s why Meyer is stepping down, but the timeline is somewhat shaky.

Backyard Brawl Debacle Likely Cost Dave Wannstedt His Job at Pitt

From the day he got hired by Pitt, I thought it was a bad decision by the Panthers to make Dave Wannstedt their head coach. Now, six years after I felt Pitt made a bad move, they have finally decided to fire the Wannstache.

Wannstedt seemed to get the benefit of the doubt everywhere based on his relationship with Jimmy Johnson, yet he failed in Chicago as a head coach and was fired after 1-8 start with the Dolphins in 2004 (he had winning seasons the previous four years). Regardless of his performances he seemed to consistently land jobs; Pitt hired him immediately and he began coaching in 2005.

The Panthers struggled in Wannstedt’s first three years on the job, going 5-6, 6-6, and 5-7. While I was convinced they had made a bad hire and should have fired him, the team turned the corner in 2008 going 9-4. Last year they went 10-3 and enjoyed their first double digit win season since 1981 when Jackie Sherrill was coach.

Pitt appeared poised to win the weak Big East this year entering their home game against West Virginia. They were 4-1 in conference play and hosting the Backyard Brawl against the Mountaineers, but they got embarrassed 35-10. Had they won the game and beaten Cincinnati as they ended up doing, they would have won the conference and received a BCS bowl berth. It wasn’t just losing a rivalry game that cost the team the conference title that hurt Wannstedt’s job status, but it was how they lost it.

Pitt put the ball on the ground six times and lost three fumbles, getting hammered by 25. Geno Smith went 9-12 for 212 yards and three touchdowns against the Panthers in the win.

After sticking by Wannstache for three mediocre seasons at the start of his tenure, it’s hard to believe they finally decided to can him during a 7-5 bowl season. I didn’t see this coming, and if they weren’t beat down at home by West Virginia it probably would not have. Who Pitt hires next is uncertain, but what is known is that Wannstedt will get another good head coaching job elsewhere. He always does.

San Diego St. Goes All Out to Keep Brady Hoke Thanks to Ron Fowler Donation

It’s been two years since the San Diego State football program was more known for its poor academic records than its success on the field, but that all has changed. The program fired Chuck Long and upgraded to Brady Hoke who rose to stardom at Ball State. After going 4-8 in Hoke’s first season on the job, the Aztecs improved to 8-4 this season, their best (and only winning) season since 1998.

San Diego State has been pathetic for so long many people don’t realize the great names that school has helped produce. John Madden, Joe Gibbs, Don Coryell, Herm Edwards, and John Fox, have all either played and/or coached for the Aztecs. Their most notable player is Marshall Faulk who was a Heisman finalist in 1992 and recognized as one of the best running backs all-time. Though the program has been dormant for over a decade, Hoke has revived things and made the Aztecs relevant again.

The school began to get worried when Hoke interviewed with Minnesota about their vacancy and it seemed likely he would move on to a bigger job before long. In order to try and keep Hoke and build up the program, a donor stepped up and pledged $5 million to the team. The donor’s identity was revealed as Ron Fowler, the CEO of Liquid Investments which makes most of its money through beer distribution. Fowler has been heavily involved in the San Diego sports scene and no doubt wants to continue seeing the program succeed.

The first million he pledged will come through early next year and it will help pay for a raise in Hoke’s salary (potentially $1 million with incentives), give more money to the assistant coaches, and upgrade the facilities. San Diego State may never be a powerhouse program, but they have the potential to be at the top of the Mountain West as long as Hoke stays. For now, his contract is scheduled to keep him there until 2015. I don’t think he lasts there that long even with the contract extension. Not unless another donor steps up and boosts his salary to $2 million per season.

BCS Bowl Game Projections: Auburn and Oregon to Meet in Championship Game

The main matchup is set: Auburn and Oregon will meet in the National Championship Game on January 10th in Glendale, Arizona. Oregon beat rival Oregon State to remain undefeated at 12-0 while Auburn won the SEC Championship Game against South Carolina to improve to 13-0. While that is the marquee matchup, there are also several other outstanding bowl games. Here’s what Larry Brown Sports is projecting for the BCS bowl games:

National Championship Game (Jan. 10th, Glendale, Az): Auburn vs. Oregon
Rose Bowl (Jan. 1st, Pasadena, CA): Wisconsin vs. TCU
Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1st, Glendale, AZ): Oklahoma vs. UConn
Orange Bowl (Jan. 3rd, Miami, FL): Virginia Tech vs. Stanford
Sugar Bowl (Jan. 4th, New Orleans, LA): Arkansas vs. Ohio State

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