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How long will Nick Saban coach Alabama? What contract extension means for college football

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Alabama spring game: Time, TV coverage and a first look at the new QBs for 2021

Nick Saban agreed to a three-year extension at Alabama on Monday — a move that could keep the coach with the program until 2029.

Saban, 69, is the third-oldest coach in the FBS. According to the university, Saban’s base salary of $8.4 million will increase with each year through the length of the contract. 

If Saban coaches for the length of the extension, then he would be with Alabama for at least eight more seasons. That is bad news for the rest of the FBS. Alabama has been the most successful program in college football since Saban’s arrival in 2007. The Crimson Tide dynasty has stretched through the Bowl Championship Series and College Football Playoff eras.

How long will Saban coach at Alabama? What does that mean for college football? Sporting News takes a closer look. 

What are the terms of Saban’s contract extension? 

Nick Saban was the highest-paid coach in the FBS in 2020. According to USA Today, Saban made $9.1 million and had a buyout of $36.8 million. 

Saban’s new contract comes with an $8.4 base fee for the 2021 season and will increase each year through 2028. The contract runs through Feb. 28, 2029. 

How old will Nick Saban be in 2028? 

Saban will be 77 years old in 2028. He is the third-oldest coach in the FBS right now behind Ohio’s Frank Solich, 76, and North Carolina’s Mack Brown, who like Saban will turn 70 during the 2021 season. 

Who is the oldest coach in FBS history? 

Joe Paterno was the head coach at Penn State until he was 84 years old. Florida State’s Bobby Bowden coached at Florida State until 2009 and retired when he was 80 years old. 

Paterno has the most wins in FBS history with 409. Bowden is second at 377. Saban has 256 wins entering the 2021 season. 

Alabama coach Bear Bryant coached until he was 69 years old, and he finished with 323 wins in 38 seasons as a head coach. 

What is Saban’s record at Alabama? 

Alabama is 170-23 on the field under Saban since 2007, but five of those wins have been vacated for an adjusted record of 165-23. That winning percentage of .877 is the best among FBS schools in that stretch. 

The only other schools with a winning percentage better than 80 percent on the field in that stretch are Ohio State (.857), Boise State (.822) and Oklahoma (.801). 

How many more national titles will Saban win? 

Saban passed Bryant by leading Alabama to the national championship in 2020. That gave Saban a record seven national chamiponships as a FBS head coach. 

Saban has won six national championships in 14 seasons at Alabama. That included three BCS championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012. 

The Crimson Tide have been even more successful in the College Football Playoff era with six CFP appearances, five CFP championship appearances and CFP championships in 2015, 2017 and 2020. 

Alabama is ranked No. 1 in Sporting News Preseason Top 25 for 2021 and has the top incoming recruiting class according to 247Sports.com. 

Will anybody in the SEC stop Saban? 

The Crimson Tide is 108-16 in SEC play under Saban, and that includes seven conference championships. Saban is 7-1 in SEC championship games at Alabama, with the lone loss coming to Florida in 2007. 

There are seven SEC teams ranked in SN’s Preseason Top 25, but all of those programs are tasked with chasing Saban’s program for the rest of the 2020s. 

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USWNT legend Carli Lloyd defying Father Time in quest for soccer Olympics gold at age 39

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USWNT legend Carli Lloyd defying Father Time in quest for soccer Olympics gold at age 39

Had the Tokyo Olympics been contested in 2020, as scheduled, Carli Lloyd would have been a whole year younger. She’d have turned 38 immediately in advance of the Games, rather than 39 – which, to be frank, still is uncommonly old for a professional soccer player. So maybe those extra 12 months really don’t mean so much.

Or maybe they’ve made Lloyd even better at the sport in which she already is a legend.

“I actually feel better,” she told Sporting News, after the U.S. Women’s National team completed a 4-0 friendly victory Sunday night over Jamaica. “And I don’t think that, if it was played in 2020, a number of different things wouldn’t have happened.

“My family wouldn’t have been a part of it. I wouldn’t have had knee surgery. I changed up my strength program, started working with a guy back home. I have a new trainer that I do ball work with. So I feel like I went from thinking that I’m continuing to get better to just like a whole ‘nother level. I’ve never been this fit, fast, explosive.”

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If it seems unlikely there could be another level beyond excellence for an athlete encountering middle age, you have not been paying attention to the sporting world in 2021. Tom Brady, already the owner of six Super Bowl rings, won his seventh as a 43-year-old quarterback. Golfer Phil Mickelson earned a sixth major title with a PGA Championship triumph at age 50. Helio Castroneves, essentially discarded by his race team as he entered his mid-40s, won a fourth Indianapolis 500 at age 46.

Lloyd may not appear to belong in this age group at first glance, but understand the nature of the sport and the constant, year-round grind tends to age soccer players more rapidly. Mia Hamm played her last game for the USWNT at 32. Abby Wambach was done at 35. Landon Donovan, the greatest USMNT player, was cut from the 2014 World Cup team at age 32. Zinedine Zidane ended his career with a World Cup triumph shortly after turning 34.

Lloyd will reach her 39th birthday July 16, and it’ll be a full celebration if that occurs in Japan while preparing to open the Games five days later against nemesis Sweden. She has won two World Cups and two Olympic gold medals. She has earned 303 caps, third in world soccer history, and scored 125 international goals, which ranks sixth. Against Jamaica, she became the oldest player ever to score for the USWNT, and she bagged that goal 23 seconds into the match, as though it were essential to get it done before time caught up with her (video below).

It still might. Had the COVID-19 pandemic not postponed the Olympics into this summer, making the U.S. squad might have been a slightly less brutal challenge. Veteran striker Alex Morgan would have been only two months past the birth of her daughter, Charlie, and Lloyd had excelled in the position while Morgan was absent. Lynn Williams had only just returned to the national team, although she performed well and scored the game-winner in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying final against Canada. Promising Midge Purce had barely a cap to her name.

Unlike the World Cup, which allows teams to bring 23 players to what can become a seven-game tournament for the winner and runner-up, the Olympics only accommodates 18 players per team for the six games required to claim a gold medal. For his first tournament as USWNT head coach, Vlatko Andonovski will have to make some excruciating decisions because of the abundance of talented players. He must balance any desire to get essential international tournament experience for younger players with the understanding the primary goal is to field the team most likely to claim the gold medal.

“It is extremely difficult, but at the same time, the closer we get, I think, the easier it gets,” Andonovski told Sporting News. “It gets clearer with the analysis we’re able to do, and the evaluation. If we had 23, it was going to be difficult to cut players number 24, 25 and 26. It is always difficult.

“We have a very deep roster … regardless of what the number is, it will always be difficult.”

Perhaps because there was not a national team schedule to consume her, Lloyd took the opportunity to make some massive changes in her life during 2020. She parted ways with her longtime trainer, James Galanis, who had become a sort of personal “guru” for the player who scored the winning goals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games and won the 2015 FIFA World Player of the Year award.

The work with Galanis had been a factor in Lloyd’s enduring rift with her family, which lasted more than a decade. Upon ending that affiliation, Lloyd called her parents and began working to repair that relationship.

She now hopes to win one last gold medal, insisting her desire to experience life beyond professional sports – not her advancing age – will end her career. The only concession to competing in such proximity to her 40th birthday has been the transition to center forward, a position that typically does not require covering as much ground as midfielder.

As is typical of Lloyd, though, she has worked ferociously to master the position, including film study of the game’s best strikers to learn their tricks and techniques. She had made the transition in advance of the USWNT’s triumph at the 2019 World Cup, appearing in all seven games and scoring three goals for coach Jill Ellis, but the arrival of Andonovski meant relearning how to play as a center forward.

“The way the No. 9 position was played was a bit different with Jill,” Lloyd said. “We didn’t high press, we didn’t do certain things. I feel like the way that Vlatko wants our team to play kind of just fits me. I love high pressing. I love putting the defenders and opponents under pressure. From the time that Vlatko came on board to now, I’ve literally just been a sponge trying to continuously get better and evolve my game.”

Lloyd is famous for the personal slights she seized upon for motivation, starting with her benching in advance of the 2012 Olympics that ended with her scoring twice in the gold-medal match. Before the 2019 World Cup, she bristled at the suggestion she had embraced the role of “super-sub”, emphasizing to SN she still was fighting for a starting spot every day.

In the early hours Monday, Lloyd made sure to tell The Philadelphia Inquirer’s excellent soccer writer, Jonathan Tannenwald, she was bothered to have him predict she would not make the Olympic roster, and that she was particularly annoyed because the Inquirer was essentially a hometown paper for someone who grew up 14 miles away in Delran, N.J. Tannenwald, though, only had suggested Lloyd was “on the bubble”, as they say, for selection.

“I don’t think if I’ll be able to answer directly about any player, not just Carli, any player on this team until I really have to,” Andonovski told Tannenwald. “I will say that I was happy with her performance: comes in, scores the goal, sets the pace for the team and does well overall, not just in this game but in the previous games and in training. So I think she’s in a really good place.”

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With 12-team playoff, college coaches on hot seat may have higher survival rate

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With 12-team playoff, college coaches on hot seat may have higher survival rate

A College Football Playoff subcommittee revealed a proposal for 12-team expansion last week, a move that became the leading topic of the offseason. 

Soon enough, we will be back to the hot-seat coaches. That chatter never goes away. 

While that expansion won’t impact the futures of head coaches for the next few seasons, the potential ripple effects on the coaching carousel will be intriguing. Just wait until the 12-team playoff and hot-seat talk mix. 

MORE: How a 12-team College Football Playoff works 

That will lead to some interesting questions about the definition of coaching success. 

Is it a trip to the 12-team CFP? Would winning a Playoff game save a coach’s job — similar to a Sweet 16 run in the NCAA tournament? Which coaches would have different temperatures now if the 12-team Playoff started in 2014? Will fewer coaches be fired as a result?

Those are legitimate questions when you consider past results. Here is a look at the schools that would have multiple CFP appearances if the 12-team format started in 2014:

If CFP had 12 teams since 2014 … 

SCHOOL PLAYOFF APP.
Ohio State 7
Alabama 6
Clemson 6
Oklahoma 6
Georgia 4
Notre Dame 4
Penn State 4
Florida 3
Florida State 3
Washington 3
Wisconsin 3
Baylor 2
LSU 2
Michigan 2
Michigan State 2
Oregon 2
TCU 2
UCF 2
USC 2

Now, here is how it would have changed the outlook on some programs and coaches in that time frame: 

Which programs would have benefitted with 12 teams?

Penn State, Georgia and TCU stand out.

The Nittany Lions have yet to make a Playoff appearance, and James Franklin is coming off a miserable 4-5 season in 2020. Franklin is on shakier ground than usual heading into 2021, but it would be a different story in a 12-team setup. 

Penn State would have made four at-large appearances from 2016-19. Imagine the impact that would have had on recruiting and how that would have helped make up ground with Ohio State — the only school that would have made the CFP all seven seasons. Over time, that would make the Big Ten East race more compelling than it is in the present day.  

Sound familiar, Georgia? The Bulldogs would have made the CFP each of the last four seasons, which is better than the one appearance Georgia has under Kirby Smart. Georgia has recruited at an elite level under Smart, but the program continues to chase its first national championship since 1980. For all the success, the Bulldogs are still operating in Alabama’s shadow. 

Perhaps in one of those seasons the Bulldogs would have made that run, but Smart’s success in Athens — and even Mark Richt before him — would be perceived with more appreciation.

Imagine what back-to-back Playoff appearances in 2014-15 would have done for Gary Patterson at TCU in the Big 12. Those misses stalled the program’s momentum. Patterson is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the FBS and has enjoyed steady success, but the Horned Frogs are 18-17 the last three seasons.

Which coaches would have cooler seats now?

Clay Helton and Jim Harbaugh have been on the hot seat the past few seasons. Those two coaches are talked about more than anybody else on any given offseason.

Helton would have led the Trojans to back-to-back CFP appearances in 2016-17 with Sam Darnold, and perhaps that would have helped the program avoid a two-year decline from 2018-19. Helton bounced back with a Pac-12 South championship in 2020, but USC might be further along on that road to true national championship contention.

Harbaugh is 0-5 against Ohio State and has failed to break through to a Big Ten championship game since his arrival in 2015. Yet Michigan would have two CFP appearances under this setup, including that 2016 team that lost the double-overtime thriller to the Buckeyes on “The Spot.” The 2018 team also was Harbaugh’s last true Big Ten contender.

Perhaps those teams win a Playoff game or two. The Ohio State question still looms, but it isn’t the only talking point with Harbaugh. 

Which coaches might have stayed put? 

Chris Peterson retired after the 2019 season, but the Huskies would have been a three-time Playoff team in a 12-team setup from 2016-18. Would that have attracted the necessary talent for Peterson to make that national championship run?

Would Scott Frost still be at UCF? It’s worth asking knowing the Knights would have been a playoff team in 2017 and 2018. The Group of 5 inclusion might prompt more coaches to stay put (think Tom Herman at Houston). Frost is 12-20 the last three seasons at Nebraska.

Will there be fewer coaching changes?

Frost is a good launching point for that discussion. Consider that UCF coach Josh Heupel is at Tennessee now, and former Auburn coach Gus Malzhan is now at UCF. 

Auburn would have made the CFP only one time under this format, and Malzahn was formerly a coach that was on the hot seat every year like Harbaugh and Helton. Maybe that changes Malzahn’s status. Maybe it doesn’t. 

There were 17 coaching changes in the FBS this offseason. That was the first time in the CFP era that the number was under 20. Perhaps the 12-15 number becomes the norm in the 12-team era knowing that the definition of success slides with more includied in the Playoff.

Here is betting that will happen, and it will be a welcome change. 

Hot seat talk will never stop, but we’re looking forward to see how those conversations change. 

 

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MLB All-Star voting 2021: How it works, updated vote totals for Midsummer Classic

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MLB All-Star voting 2021: How it works, updated vote totals for Midsummer Classic

The MLB All-Star Game is back, after the coronavirus pandemic necessitated the cancellation of the 2020 game during the shortened 60-game MLB season. The 2021 contest was moved from Atlanta to Denver in early April, a controversial move spurred by a controversial voting bill passed in Georgia. But that’s a topic for another column.

Today, let’s look at how the 2021 All-Star Game voting is happening; it’s easy to forget that MLB changed the voting format a bit before the 2019 game, which was held in Cleveland. A few things have happened in the world — baseball and otherwise — since that change. 

Let’s look at that, along with the first batch of voting results.

How does the MLB All-Star voting process work?

As a refresher, here’s how MLB’s relatively new voting process works, with dates for 2021: For Phase 1, teams submit player names, one per position and three outfielders. And the voting, which started June 3, rolled out as usual. Fans vote, in a number of ways, for their favorite players or the players they felt deserved the nod (it’s always been vague and that’s part of the charm of a fan vote, I guess). There will be a second vote-total reveal on June 21. 

Phase 1 voting ends at 4 p.m. ET on June 24. On June 27, during an MLB Network show, the top three vote-getters at each position (the top nine outfielders) will be revealed.

Then, vote totals for those players all go back to zero. A new ballot will go live at noon ET on June 28, with only those three players at each position (and nine outfielders). Phase 2 voting does not last long; it ends July 1 at 2 p.m. ET. That’s just 98 hours of voting time to determine the starters at each position. 

The starters will be revealed later in the day on July 1. Details for that broadcast will be revealed at a later date. The full teams — including pitchers and reserves — will be revealed on a July 4 broadcast (again, details to come). 

Key dates ahead for the MLB All-Star Game

All-Star Balloting Update No. 2: June 21st 

Phase 1 Balloting Ends: June 24 at 4 p.m. ET

2021 Google MLB All-Star Ballot Finalists Show: June 27 at noon ET on MLB Network

Phase 2 Voting Begins: June 28 at noon ET

Phase 2 Voting Ends: July 1 at 2 pm. ET

2021 Google MLB All-Star Starters Reveal: July 1 (details TBA)

2021 Google MLB All-Star Selection Show: July 4 (details TBA)

Futures Game: July 11, at 3 p.m. ET

MLB All-Star Celebrity Softball Game: July 11, at 6 p.m. ET

MLB Draft: July 11, at 7 p.m. ET

Home Run Derby: July 12, at 8 p.m. ET

MLB All-Star Game: July 13, at 7:30 p.m. ET

First 2021 All-Star ballot update 

American League

Position/player Team Votes
C Salvador Perez Royals 694,710
1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Blue Jays 857,956
2B Marcus Semien Blue Jays 561,326
3B Rafael Devers Red Sox 451,042
SS Xander Bogaerts Red Sox 502,629
OF Mike Trout Angels 706,503
OF Aaron Judge Yankees 538,448
OF Byron Buxton Twins 383,178
DH Shohei Ohtani Angels 526,608

National League

Position/player Team Votes
C Buster Posey Giants 511,221
1B Max Muncy Dodgers 405,609
2B Ozzie Albies Braves 295,478
3B Kris Bryant Cubs 502,970
SS Fernando Tatis Jr. Padres 701,251
OF Ronald Acuña Jr. Braves 834,287
OF Nick Castellanos Reds 568,758
OF Jesse Winker Reds 462,692

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