Thursday, January 1, 2009

Saban stresses discipline in light of Smith situation

NEW ORLEANS — There was nothing new out of Alabama regarding suspended left tackle Andre Smith for alleged improper contact with an agent. On Wednesday, Tide coach Nick Saban said Smith’s situation was an institutional matter and not an NCAA matter. On Thursday Saban was asked whether the Smith situation had tarnished the season for him.
“I think it’s disappointing any time you have a circumstance like this,” Saban said. “It’s unfortunate that we have circumstances like this. But it goes right back to the same thing. You know, everybody has a responsibility to do what’s right. Any time anybody violates their Code of Conduct, their principles and values of what is right — and that supersedes nobody, including me — there can be consequences for that.”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he has people talk to his players about the dangers of agents both before and after the season.
“I think every coach in the country does that,” Whittingham said. “I don’t think there’s anybody at the Division I level that doesn’t have some conversation with their guys about that. I don’t think we’re unique or ahead of the curve in that respect. But we certainly do address it.”
• WITTINGHAM TALKS FUTURE: Whittingham made some interesting comments when asked whether he wanted to stay at Utah for the same length that Lavelle Edwards coached at Brigham Young University. Edwards coached at BYU from 1972-2000.
“I mean, he was there 30-some odd years,” Whittingham said. “I’m not sure that’s me. I’m not sure that’s my master plan. I love Utah. I’m just not sure I want — you talk about I’ve been doing it four years, 26 more years would put me 70-something. No, I can tell you right now, I’m not going to go that far.”
Just imagine if Saban said that about Alabama.
• PEEK OUT FOR SUGAR BOWL: Tight end Colin Peek’s injury in his foot will prevent him from playing in today’s Sugar Bowl.
The redshirt junior tight end, who transferred from Georgia Tech and was held out this year per NCAA transfer rules, was permitted to play in the game, but will not because of the injury.
• SABAN PROVIDES BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL: Coaches hate it when their players give an opponent bulletin board material, but Alabama coach Nick Saban didn’t do his players any favors with a statement following the Tide’s loss to Florida in the SEC Championship.
Saban’s statement was geared toward emphasizing his team’s regular-season accomplishments after Alabama suffered its first loss of the season.
“First of all, I’m very proud of what our football team was able to accomplish this year,” Saban said to open his postgame news conference. “The only team that plays in a real BCS conference that went 12-0 — which is very difficult to do — and I’m very proud of the way our players played, with consistency all year, the way they competed.”
Alabama’s bowl match-up had not been announced, though it was anticipated that the Tide would play Utah in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. That match-up was announced the following day, meaning the Tide would play a 12-0 team from a non-BCS conference.
Utah has won a BCS bowl, which Alabama has not since the BCS started in 1998.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, asked Thursday to react to Saban’s quote, shrugged it off … sort of.
“You know, our guys are excited about this game regardless of external circumstances,” he said. “But they’re not oblivious to things. They hear things. They read things.
“You can’t worry about that, but I think that they’re very motivated to go out and play well.”
• BOWL GAMES GIVE IT ALL AWAY: Getting paid to play is a big no-no with NCAA. However, playing a bowl is an exception.
The NCAA allows bowls to give 125 players per team gifts that cannot exceed $500.
Some bowls have begun to follow today’s gift-giving society and just hand out gift cards, but the Sugar Bowl still buys for its athletes.
This year, players got a Sony MP3 Walkman, Sony Blu-Ray player, Timely Watch Co. watch and a New Era cap.
Not surprisingly, the bigger the bowl the better the gift. For Mobile’s GMAC bowl, players from Ball State and Tulsa got a Timely Watch Co. watch, a Jostens ring and a hat.
Guess we know where that bailout money didn’t go.
• THIS T-SHIRT IS PRETTY WAC: Just as at any at bowl, merchants take advantage of the opportunity to make a buck when football fans pour into town with hats, shirts and various other things adorned with the bowl and team’s logos.
One thing in New Orleans, however, might be a tough sell.
One street vendor was selling t-shirts with the Alabama and Utah helmets on them. Above each helmet, the team’s conference was written.
Or at least the conference the shirt maker thought the schools belonged to — above Utah was WAC instead of Mountain West.
— Josh Cooper, Joe Medley and Bran Strickland

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