Alabama football notes: Saban mum on USC game to open 2016

Anniston StarMay 14, 2014 

SHOAL CREEK, Ala. -- Alabama coach Nick Saban said there's no update on the Crimson Tide's 2016 schedule when it comes to neutral site opponents.

Talk of Alabama playing USC to open the 2016 season began to swirl on Wednesday after Dan Patrick stated on his syndicated radio show that "someone important at USC" gave him a "heads up" about the matchup taking place in Arlington at Cowboy Stadium, but didn't say if it was a done deal.

"We're always looking, but not anything I can share with you right now," Saban said at the Regions Tradition. "I don't think we want to create speculation. We're playing Wisconsin in Dallas the next year (2015 opener), and we were supposed to play Penn State in 2016, they bailed out on us, so we're looking for an opponent to play somewhere in 2016 right now."

Alabama currently doesn't have an opponent for the 2016 opener. USC is scheduled to open with New Mexico on Sept. 3, but the Trojans could move or cancel the game. The two traditional powers haven't squared off since 1985.

With the Nittany Lions dumping the Tide, Alabama is left scrambling to comply with the SEC's upcoming scheduling requirements.

With the SEC remaining at eight conference games, at least one opponent from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 must be scheduled by each SEC school on an annual basis beginning in 2016.

Alabama is no stranger to scheduling high profile out of conference games. In fact, Alabama has played at least one opponent from the "Big 5" conferences every year during Saban's tenure. When Saban arrived in 2007, Alabama faced Florida State in Jacksonville. If Alabama does play USC in 2016, it will be their seventh season-opening neutral-site game with Saban at the helm. The Tide played Clemson in 2008, Virginia Tech in 2009 and 2014, and Michigan in 2012. Alabama is scheduled to open the 2014 season against West Virginia in Atlanta. In 2015, Alabama will open with Wisconsin in Arlington.

Saban: Respect, dignity vital for gays in athletics

Asked today how he thought his team and its fans would handle an openly gay player, Saban said he can't speak for everyone, but knows how he'd handle it.

"I would expect everybody to be very respectful of what is private for most people and treat that person with dignity and respect, and respect them for being a good teammate and being a part of our team and doing the things we expect of them to be a good person on our team," Saban said at the Regions Traditions golf tournament. "I can't speak for everybody, but that's what would be my expectation for the people that we control in our organization and on our team."

Ex-Missouri defensive end Michael Sam last week became the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL, going in the seventh round to the St. Louis Rams.

Earlier this year, NBA center Jason Collins signed with the Brooklyn Nets to become the first openly gay player in one of the four major sports leagues.

While 17 states currently allow gay marriage, the other 33 states have bans against gay marriage. Arkansas is the only state in the "Bible Belt" that has ruled a ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

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