This is Where the football season never ends! Bama News first, and foremost, interesting SEC news, and salient football news:
As the latest William V. Campbell Trophy winner, Alabama center Barrett Jones isn't merely college football's scholar-athlete of the year in 2012. "Barrett is perhaps one of the greatest scholar-athletes to have ever played the game, and we are so proud to honor him tonight," National Football Foundation President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell said Tuesday night during a dinner in New York. "The 2012 NFF National Scholar-Athlete class is one of the best ever, and for Barrett to stand above them all really says a lot about his accomplishments. He has a perfect 4.0 GPA and an All-American football career while still significantly giving back to the community -- he was the clear choice as the best scholar-athlete in college football."
At a press conference Thursday before the dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria, Jones first showed his gratitude and then his sense of humor. "First and foremost, I'd like to thank the National Football Foundation and their sponsors," he said. "This has truly been a first-class event, and being at Alabama, I am used to staying at nicer hotels than the Waldorf." But this was no laughing matter. "Seriously, this event has been more than the first-class amenities and the Rockettes and the nice dinners," Jones said. "Charles Barkley's famously said 'I'm not a role model.' I think the fact is, with all the exposure college athletes get today, we are role models. I think everyone sitting here are people that use that status in a positive way. I'm very grateful to be sitting on stage with 14 other worthy candidates."
Alabama center Barrett Jones won the Campbell Trophy, the "Academic Heisman," on Tuesday, and earned a $25,000 scholarship for postgraduate study. Jones won the 2011 Outland Trophy as a left tackle, and not only could repeat as Outland winner this season but also may win the Rimington Award as the best center. Itís safe to say that no player has ever won a national award for his play at two positions. And if one has, he didnít win the Campbell Trophy to boot. We wonít see the likes of Jones again anytime soon.
Alabama coach Nick Saban was in the audience at a ballroom in the Waldolf-Astoria Hotel. "One of his favorite things to do during recruiting season is to come to really long banquets," Jones quipped. "He loves it. He loves banquets. He loves traffic jams. He loves sitting in line. He loves sitting still, so weíre lucky to have him here tonight." Jones then turned serious. "I think a lot of people know how good of a football coach he is, but I donít think what he gets enough credit for is how good of a job he does developing young men," Jones said. "The principles he teaches us apply not only to football, but to our lives."
Our Long Inter-Regional Nightmare. The only streak that matters to Notre Dame is 24: That's the number of years since the Irish's last national championship in 1988, the longest title drought in school history. For the rest of the country, though, the number is six: The SEC's reign over the championship game stands at six years and counting since Florida's ambush of heavily-favored Ohio State in the 2007 edition, and it has no intention of letting the rest of the country forget it until someone else seizes the throne. Oregon came close two years ago, taking Auburn down to the final snap in the 2011 game, and Florida needed a fourth quarter rally to pull away from Oklahoma in 2009. But in the 14-year history of the BCS, the only team to vanquish an SEC contender with the title on the line is another SEC contender. Alabama throttled LSU in last year's much-lamented SEC-on-SEC rematch. Given the two defenses involved, this year's game may look a lot like that one, only with a lot more people watching.
"You know what? If I had been on the selection committee, I probably would have chosen Kirby," said Dye, the often-opinionated ex-coach. "But I wasn't on the committee and I don't know what went on with Kirby. ... Gus and Kirby, either one of them is fine with me. Some folks out there were wanting a campaign for someone I didn't want." Asked if he meant former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, Dye replied: "If I can't say something good about somebody, then I don't need to say anything at all. If he had been the guy at Auburn, they would have hired him two weeks ago. It's been an emotional thing for the Auburn people, and now just get behind Gus and let's develop a program."
Dye admitted Tuesday what insiders have told us all along, that Smart was his first choice for the job. No surprise there. Like Smart, Dye grew up playing for Georgia and coaching at Alabama on the defensive side of the ball. Like Dye, Smart is hard-nosed and strong-willed. Those characteristics may have helped Smart with Dye, but they hurt him with the Auburn search committee. Smart asked for things during his interview that Auburn wasnít willing to give him, according to people close to the process. His demands included full disclosure of the state of the NCAAís current look-see at the Auburn program, full control of hiring and firing staffers and the opportunity to coordinate the Alabama defense in the BCS Championship Game against Notre Dame. Smartís demands are perfectly understandable. So is Auburnís unwillingness to grant them, which is part of the reason Auburn didnít offer Smart the job and turned toward Malzahn.
Mal Moore has been saluted for his achievements as Alabama's athletics director. On Tuesday night, Moore formally was presented the 2012 John L. Toner Award at the 55th Annual National Football Foundation (NFF) Awards Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The award is given annually to an athletics director who has demonstrated superior administrative abilities and shown outstanding dedication to college athletics and particularly college football.
Saban made it clear last week that he wants all of his assistant coaches to "fulfill the goals and aspirations that they have." Clearly, though, he's not going to push Smart out of the door anytime soon. "We speak the same language and have been on the same page for a long time," Saban said. "I have total faith, trust and confidence in what he's doing during the game in terms of calling the game as well as making adjustments. Smart, the 2009 Broyles Award winner, has the ability to be choosy. He makes a $950,000 salary, which is more than what 53 current FBS head coaches collect. It wouldn't be a shock to see him making $1 million or more if he returns next season.
Arkansas did not land Miles, who has a better gig in Baton Rouge, but for a program that coveted Miles, Bielema makes perfect sense. He has the same Big Ten roots as Miles (a self-proclaimed Michigan man). He has the same reputation for hard-nosed, smash-mouth grinding football as Miles. By hiring the Wisconsin coach, Arkansas is announcing that it is going to try to compete with Alabama and LSU at their own game. The Razorbacks are going to run and be physical under Bielema. That's his style. It will take a couple of recruiting classes, at least, to pull anywhere close to even in terms of talent, but it appears that Arkansas is committed to do so. And it is impossible to imagine that such a recruiting mission will not begin with an effort to flip Alabama commitment Altee Tenpenny, the star running back from North Little Rock. Sure, everyone remembers Bielema's tough words about Urban Meyer's ungentlemanly recruitment of previously committed players at Ohio State. But does anyone doubt that Bielema will do the exact same thing? Of course he will.
To put together the dream season, Notre Dame had to do two things better than it had in the previous two years: win close games and win at home. The Fighting Irish went 8-5 at home over Kelly's first two seasons and lost six games by four points or less. Winning at home was a priority going into the 2012 season. "It started in the offseason preparation," senior safety Zeke Motta said. "That was one of our main focuses and goals throughout the entire offseason is to be undefeated at home. We certainly did accomplish that, and we're proud of it." Winning close games was important to the upperclassmen. "I just think it's the attitude and we've got some great senior leadership on our squad," Lewis-Moore said. "Just everybody is kind of buying in, from freshmen to fifth-year seniors."
Dye admitted Tuesday what insiders have told us all along, that Smart was his first choice for the job. No surprise there. Like Smart, Dye grew up playing for Georgia and coaching at Alabama on the defensive side of the ball. Like Dye, Smart is hard-nosed and strong-willed. Those characteristics may have helped Smart with Dye, but they hurt him with the Auburn search committee. Smart asked for things during his interview that Auburn wasnít willing to give him, according to people close to the process. His demands included full disclosure of the state of the NCAAís current look-see at the Auburn program, full control of hiring and firing staffers and the opportunity to coordinate the Alabama defense in the BCS Championship Game against Notre Dame. Smartís demands are perfectlunderstandable. So is Auburnís unwillingness to grant them, which is part of the reason Auburn didnít offer Smart the job and turned toward Malzahn. That raises a question. Why would Auburn interview Smart in the first place? Did they not see that stalemate coming?