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#pounditTuesday, December 7, 2021

College Football

Manny Diaz fired by Miami, paving way for Mario Cristobal

Manny Diaz adjusts his headset

The University of Miami got one step closer to hiring Mario Cristobal as head football coach on Monday, as Manny Diaz has been fired.

Diaz has been informed by Miami that he is being let go, according to multiple reports.

The move was widely expected, as Miami has been working to hire Cristobal away from Oregon. The Hurricanes have reportedly offered Cristobal a sizable contract, and there was talk that they had given the coach a deadline of midday on Monday to make his decision.

Diaz finishes with a record of 25-15 at Miami. The 7-5 Hurricanes got off to a slow start this season before winning five of their last six regular-season games. They have been invited to the Sun Bowl, where they will play Washington State on New Year’s Eve.

Cristobal is a Miami native and was an all-conference player at Miami from 1989-1992. The 51-year-old was a graduate assistant there from 1998-2000 and an offensive position coach from 2004-2006. He has been viewed by many as a perfect fit, so the latest development with Diaz is hardly a surprise.

Photo: Oct 30, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz puts his headset on against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Tedford reportedly returning to Fresno State, could bring transfer QB

Jeff Tedford wearing a headset

Fresno State is turning to a familiar face to run the program.

The Bulldogs are finalizing a deal with Jeff Tedford to make him their head football coach, Yahoo’s Pete Thamel reported on Tuesday.

Tedford was an assistant at Fresno State from 1992-1997. He later went on to have tremendous success as Cal’s head coach from 2002-2012 before being fired by the school. He returned to Fresno State from 2017-2019 before burning out and stepping down due to health issues. Now the 60-year-old has apparently recovered from his health matters and is ready for round two.

One report says Tedford could attract former Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez, who entered the transfer portal.

Fresno State lost Kalen DeBoer to Washington, which led them to search for a new coach. Tedford went 26-14 over three seasons at Fresno State during his first stint as Bulldogs head coach, including a 12-2 year in 2018.

Photo: Sep 9, 2017; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs head coach Jeff Tedford during the game against Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Saban shares why he was surprisingly grateful for media’s ‘rat poison’

Nick Saban on the sidelines

There are few things Nick Saban hates more than “rat poison” from the media. But this week, he actually appreciated the rat poison.

Why? Because it finally worked in Alabama’s favor.

Alabama entered Saturday’s SEC Championship Game as a 6 or 7-point underdog against Georgia. The Crimson Tide’s offense struggled the week before against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, while Georgia’s defense has looked invincible.

All the talk that Bama was inferior to Georgia worked in Saban’s favor because it helped motivate his team. Saban said the rat poison from the media was “yummy.”

Is Saban saying things couldn’t have worked out better for his team? Maybe so.

The Tide will not necessarily be the favorites in the College Football Playoff either, which should work in Saban’s favor. Maybe the underdog status was all Saban needed.

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mario Cristobal informs Oregon he has accepted Miami job

Mario Cristobal in an Oregon shirt

Mario Cristobal is headed home to Miami.

Cristobal will be introduced as the next head football coach at the University of Miami in the very near future. After days of negotiating with Cristobal, Miami fired head coach Manny Diaz on Monday morning. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reports that Cristobal held a players-only meeting at around the same time to inform his Oregon team he is leaving. Several of Cristobal’s staff members were on the road and learned of the official decision shortly thereafter.

The news is hardly a surprise. Cristobal has deep ties to Miami and has been viewed as almost too perfect of a fit. He a Miami native and was an all-conference player for the Hurricanes from 1989-1992. The 51-year-old was a graduate assistant at Miami from 1998-2000 and an offensive position coach from 2004-2006.

Cristobal will reportedly be getting a significant raise with Miami, though it’s unclear if he gave Oregon a chance to match the offer. He may have simply been set on coaching at his alma mater in the city where he grew up.

Oregon will now have to find a replacement for Cristobal, and one report claims they could reach out to someone very familiar.

Photo: Nov 23, 2019; Tempe, AZ, USA; Oregon Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Akron makes big hire with new football head coach

Joe Moorhead speaking

The Akron Zips aren’t known for their pulling power in college football circles. That makes their new head football coach even more exciting.

On Saturday, Akron officially announced the hire of Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead as its new head coach. Moorhead is one of the sport’s most respected offensive minds, and has power conference experience in a two-year stint as Mississippi State head coach.

Moorhead replaces Tom Arth, who was fired by Akron in November.

Moorhead does have Akron ties, having spent five years there as an assistant from 2004 to 2008. He put himself on the map with his highly successful two-year tenure as Penn State offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017. He went 14-12 as head coach at Mississippi State, and lost his job there largely due to off-field issues. The 48-year-old still comes with a big reputation and that makes this a coup for Akron, a team coming off a 2-10 season in the MAC.

The timing of Moorhead’s decision to leave his role at Oregon will certainly raise eyebrows. There appears to be some uncertainty hanging over the Ducks’ head coach, and it could have been a consideration for Moorhead when deciding to join the Zips.

Photo: Jul 18, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Joe Moorhead speaks to the media during SEC football media day at College Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Video: Kenny Pickett scores touchdown on what should be illegal play

Kenny Pickett fakes a slide

Kenny Pickett scored a touchdown to open the ACC Championship Game for Pitt against Wake Forest on Saturday night, and he scored using a move that should be illegal.

Pitt had a 3rd-and-5 at their 42 just a few minutes into the game when Pickett felt some pressure and took off running. He saw some defenders converging on him as he approached the Wake Forest 40 and began to go into a slide motion. He started to slow down and tuck his right leg like he was giving himself up to slide.

Once the defense stopped pursuing, Pickett decided to keep running and scored.

That 58-yard touchdown helped give Pitt a 7-0 lead. They won 45-21.

That touchdown should never have counted. As soon as a player begins to give himself up, the play should be dead. Both college and pro football are trying to protect quarterbacks by penalizing defenders who hit them when they’re giving themselves up. If you are penalizing the defenders and ejecting them from games to discourage them from hitting a quarterback who is giving himself up, you can’t also incentivize quarterbacks to fake the slides.

Think about it this way: as soon as a punt returner signals a fair catch, they can’t advance the ball. As soon as a quarterback begins to slide, the play should be blown dead, just the same as a fair catch. Otherwise, you are completely putting a defender in the unfair position of choosing between risking a penalty or risking a touchdown.

Eye-popping amount has been spent on college football coach buyouts

Ed Orgeron during a game

Several head coaches have been fired by top college football programs this season, and many of those dismissals have been quite costly. For the sport as a whole, the collective buyout amount is pushing toward a whopping nine figures.

Manny Diaz was officially fired by Miami on Monday, paving the way for the Hurricanes to hire Mario Cristobal away from Oregon. As Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated notes, Diaz’s buyout with Miami was valued at an estimated $4 million. You can add that amount to a nationwide total that is closing in on $100 million.

That’s an eye-popping figure, but it proves how deep the pockets are that are backing some of these programs. Coaches are under more pressure than ever to produce results quickly. Buyouts are supposed to discourage schools from firing coaches too quickly, but many programs have shown a willingness to eat the money in order to make a big change if things don’t work out in a few years or less.

Take LSU and USC, for example. Ed Orgeron’s buyout at LSU was $17 million. USC had to pay Clay Helton $10 million. The schools then shelled out roughly $100 million each when they hired Brian Kelly and Lincoln Riley, respectively. Money is basically no object, which shows you how much top schools are making from their football programs.

Photo: Sep 11, 2021; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron looks on during the first half against McNeese State Cowboys at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

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Nick Saban has interesting contract clause that could lead to big raise

Nick Saban in an Alabama shirt

The past month has seen college football coaches land a series of huge new contracts, several of which challenge Nick Saban’s status as the highest-paid coach in the sport. Fortunately for him, the Alabama coach has a clause in his current deal to ensure that he is in no danger of falling back among the chasing pack salary-wise.

Saban has a clause in his contract that effectively guarantees his salary can be adjusted as the coaching market changes, as noted by Paul Myerberg and Steve Berkowitz of USA Today. The specific language in Saban’s deal states that the Alabama coach and the university will meet annually on Feb. 1 “for so long as necessary to determine the marketplace trends regarding head football coach compensation.” Furthermore, Saban’s contract states that the Crimson Tide will be required to increase Saban’s “total guaranteed annual compensation” if it becomes less than the average of either the three highest-paid SEC coaches or the five highest-paid FBS coaches.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has a similar clause in his contract. Swinney’s deal states that the parties must annually “complete a good faith review and negotiation of aggregate compensation.” If Clemson fails to ensure that Swinney’s contract remains competitive with the biggest deals in college football, the school would have to waive the buyout clause in Swinney’s contract.

Saban is due to make $9.9 million at Alabama next season. As hefty a sum as that is, it’s only slightly more than the $9.5 million annual salary Brian Kelly will receive from LSU. Kelly could even surpass Saban depending on contract incentives. Michigan State coach Mel Tucker will also make that same sum annually, and his resume certainly does not compare to Saban’s.

Money isn’t the primary motivator for Saban, who has indicated that he plans to retire at Alabama. That doesn’t change the fact that he’ll want to be compensated in line with what he continues to accomplish at the school. If less-accomplished coaches like Kelly and Tucker are getting the kind of money Saban has been receiving, it’s only sensible that Saban will feel entitled to a raise of his own.

Photo: Sep 11, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan fans appropriately booed Archie Griffin

Archie Griffin smiles

Archie Griffin received a very fitting welcome from Michigan fans on Saturday night.

The MVP award for the Big Ten Championship Game is named after Griffin and Red Grange. Griffin is the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner in college football history. Of course, Griffin played for Ohio State from 1972-1975.

Michigan fans may have respect for what Griffin accomplished as a player, but they treated him like the rival he is. When FOX’s Joel Klatt called on Griffin to hand out the Big Ten Championship Game MVP trophy to Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan fans knew exactly what to do. They booed.

That is a healthy reception and one that probably pleased Griffin, who was smiling. It’s a much better reception than he got from Connor Cook years ago.

Deion Sanders reportedly received interest from 1 Group of Five school

Deion Sanders at a press conference

Deion Sanders’ exploits at Jackson State continue to garner attention from FBS schools across the country.

The latest evidence of that comes from Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated, who offered some inside information on the Colorado State Rams’ coaching search. Forde reported Monday that Colorado State inquired about Sanders before ultimately hiring Nevada coach Jay Norvell.

Sanders is a big name, which will inevitably help get him noticed by bigger schools. However, his accomplishment at Jackson State certainly warrant their own assessment. He just led the school to its first division title since 2013, and has led the Tigers to an 8-1 record on the year.

Coach Prime has also been linked to some other jobs that are even more prestigious than the Colorado State opportunity. As long as Sanders keeps the success coming, it sounds like he’ll have the opportunity to advance quickly in his coaching career if he wants to.

Photo: Jackson State University head football coach Deion Sanders speaks to media during a press conference at JSU’s Walter Payton Recreation and Wellness Center in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Eric Shelton/Clarion Ledger via Imagn Content Services, LLC