Saban also asks for relief on schedule
By MICHAEL CASAGRANDE
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
Spring football is over. Let the off-the-field debating begin.
Topics ranging from conference expansion to assistant coaches’ pay and Steve Spurrier’s 65th birthday celebration were discussed on Thursday’s Southeastern Conference teleconference.
For Alabama, no issue is greater than the scheduling dilemma it faces with six conference opponents coming off a bye week before meeting the Crimson Tide. It is a problem that the conference office said it is trying to resolve.
Nick Saban said he couldn’t make any excuses based on the scheduling but still would like help in the matter.
“The thing I’m most concerned about is playing Auburn on a short week when they have a bye week and we play Friday,” Saban said. “So hopefully we can do something to fix that.
“But I think everyone makes the assumption that having a bye week is an advantage. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. It just depends on how your team is playing and the condition that your squad is in.”
Six days before the Tigers come to Tuscaloosa, the Tide plays Georgia State, a Football Championship Subdivision program in its first year of existence and led by former Alabama coach Bill Curry. The situation is similar to the one in 2009 with Alabama playing Chattanooga — also of the FCS — six days before traveling to Auburn to face the Tigers, who had a bye week to prepare.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik was not asked about the scheduling controversy Thursday, but Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen was. The second-year coach said he is open to a discussion.
“If (the league) feels one team has an advantage, or disadvantage, we always want to keep everyone on the same playing field,” Mullen said.
The growing buzz around a possible expansion of the Big 10 and its effect on the SEC drew the most discussion but not the strongest opinions. Most coaches said they aren’t paying much attention to the talk but placed faith in SEC commissioner Mike Slive’s ability to make the right decision.
LSU coach Les Miles, a former assistant in the Big 10, said he isn’t sure the SEC needs to make any changes.
“What team are you going to bring in that will bring with it a financial package and a strength of following that will add to the conference?” Miles said. “Really, you’re looking at at least two teams that you need to bring in. So I think that’s going to be a difficult order for the SEC.”
Georgia’s Mark Richt isn’t expecting a major shuffle.
“I think, in my mind, it’s doubtful,” he said. “I haven’t really read real closely to what’s going on or how real the possibility is, if it is just a discussion or if there is some kind of movement that seems pretty serious. I’d be surprised if that happened anytime soon.”
The ever-rising salaries for assistant coaches and coordinators in the league was another frequently asked question Thursday. Not surprisingly, the head coaches were unanimously in support of allowing the market to dictate pay.
That comes just months after Alabama signed defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to a new deal worth $750,000 a year, the same salary new Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham receives after the Bulldogs tried to woo Smart with the same figure.
“Our guys do a great job, and they should be compensated for it,” Saban said. “I’m pleased that we’re in a position that we can pay them what they’re worth.”
Chizik isn’t arguing with the kind of money assistants are making either.
“In the position that the assistant coaches are in, there is a higher demand for success,” he said. “There is a lot of pressure on them. And I think, at the end, with that pressure and that demand of the job, the salaries that are being paid right now … it’s supply and demand.”
— Michael Casagrande is an independent correspondent.