7 months ago

Who’s next in Bama’s line of succession?

The Alabama Crimson Tide start a new decade under head coach Nick Saban when they take the field to play Michigan in the Citrus Bowl on Wednesday. For the Tide, the previous 10 years amount to one of the greatest runs in the history of college football.

Saban will be gunning for his 157th overall win at the helm in Tuscaloosa. That is averaging more than 12 wins per season to go along with five national championships in the toughest version of the SEC in its storied existence.

The turn of the calendar to 2020 got us thinking: who will be leading the Tide at the conclusion of the next decade?

It is not out of the realm of possibility that Saban is coaching the Tide in 2029. His energy and will to succeed has never diminished at any point in his tenure. It is doubtful those traits will change.

If he were to retire in the 2020s, who’s next in the line of succession? Saban has built a kingdom so close to perfect that it is tantalizing to ponder who might eventually get handed the keys.

We look at some potential coaches-in-waiting using three criteria: record of success, availability and fit. “Availability” might be the toughest one for Tide fans to wrap their minds around. It goes something like this: Bill Belichick is not leaving the Patriots to coach at Alabama. Neither is a head coach at Ohio State, USC or Texas.

“Fit” considers culture or some previous connection to the university or Saban.

Let’s dive in.

DABO SWINNEY

Record of success: Swinney has won national championships two out of the last three years and has appeared in the final game four out of the last five years. Check.

Availability: Timing may be everything here. Swinney has two sons currently on the roster at Clemson with a third on the way. As someone who has emphasized family throughout his career, it would be difficult to see him leaving them behind. The further Saban coaches into the decade, the less availability becomes an issue for Swinney.

Fit: #NeverDabo has become a popular meme on social media in recent years among Tide faithful. This seems to be a reaction to a style which is markedly different than that which has brought Saban unprecedented success. Nevertheless, the connections to the program run deep. Swinney bled Crimson from an early age growing up in Pelham. He was a member of the 1992 national championship team, and he was a position coach under Gene Stallings and Mike Dubose.

Bottom line: Swinney has to be the first call. It seems more likely, though, that he is the guy who replaces the guy who replaced the legend.

MARIO CRISTOBAL

Record of success: Cristobal now has two years under his belt as head coach for the Oregon Ducks, and things continue to trend upward. His team went 11-2 this year while claiming the PAC-12 championship. He has recruited notable upgrades in talent during that time, as well.

Availability: With roots in the Southeast, it would be tough to see him remaining anchored in the Northwest should an opportunity in Tuscaloosa open up for him.

Fit: Cristobal spent four seasons as Saban’s offensive line coach at Alabama. He has also sought to emulate Saban’s style in the Oregon program with a more physical brand of football, particularly along the line of scrimmage. Cristobal has held tight to his Tide lineage to the point that he has testimonials from Saban and three former Alabama players on his Oregon Ducks biography page.

Bottom line: Should his success continue, Cristobal may very well edge his way to the front of the line of succession.

JOSH MCDANIELS

Record of success: McDaniels has spent 11 seasons as offensive coordinator in the midst of the New England Patriots’ run to six Super Bowl titles. He had a brief stint as head coach of the Denver Broncos in the middle. He is regarded as Tom Brady’s favorite position coach. The football credentials are there with McDaniels.

Availability: There has long been speculation that McDaniels is hanging around to succeed Belichick in New England. Another line of thinking has McDaniels accepting an NFL head coaching gig within the next few weeks. It’s tough to know what his availability and interest in the Alabama job would look like a few (or several) years from now.

Fit: McDaniels is a Belichick disciple. And after watching HBO’s “The Art of Coaching” documentary featuring Belichick and Saban, it is hard not to think McDaniels would pattern a program based on what he has learned as part of that coaching tree. McDaniels also served one year as a graduate assistant for Saban at Michigan State.

Bottom line: Saban has transformed the Crimson Tide program into one that has the look and feel of an NFL team. McDaniels could provide some continuity to that approach. Even though he would be an instantly credible choice and bring stature befitting the job, McDaniels has never shown outward interest in the college game.

BILLY NAPIER

Record of success: Trending up. In his second season as head coach of the Louisian Ragin’ Cajuns, Napier led the program to a 10-3 season and a runner-up finish in the Sun Belt. This after a 7-7 finish in his first season.

Availability: Look for Napier to quickly climb the coaching ladder. A Power 5 conference job should be in the mix for him in the first half of the decade. From there, who knows.

Fit: This would be a really good fit. Napier was an assistant coach on Alabama’s 2011 and 2015 national championship teams. In all, he spent five seasons on the staff in Tuscaloosa. Not only that, his demeanor, work ethic, organizational skills and recruiting prowess are all cut from the Saban mold.

Bottom line: Napier is not going from Louisiana to Alabama. However, with several more years likely left in the Saban administration, he should be in a position by then to be in the mix for a big job like this. If you are looking for the best longshot bet to become the next head coach at Alabama, put something down on Napier — and find a safe place to keep the ticket.

LANE KIFFIN

Record of success: Kiffin can coach some offense. The jury is still out on him as a head coach. For all the hype surrounding the Lane Train, he has only recorded one season with double-digit wins. His head coaching record is 66-49 (61-34 in college). Yet, it feels like his record does not come close to telling the whole story.

Availability: Something tells us Kiffin is always available.

Fit: Alabama fans undoubtedly look fondly upon the success of the 2015 offense and the resulting national championship. He is also a relentless recruiter. But there is a lot of other stuff. Whether it is a burner social media account under the name “Joey Freshwater” or constant needling of opponents and conference officials, his act does not come without risk.

Bottom line: Things would really have to hit the fan in Tuscaloosa for Lane Kiffin to get hired as head coach.

MATT RHULE

Record of success: Rhule is one of college football’s hottest commodities for good reason. He took over a Baylor program that was a disaster and led them to an 11-2 record and a date with Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in only his third season. Previous to Baylor, Rhule led Temple to back-to-back 10-win seasons.

Availability: His name is frequently placed on lists of potential NFL hires. Maybe he sees an NFL job in his future. It is also possible he continues to build at Baylor. A devout Christian, Rhule has spoken often about how he and his wife felt called to be part of Baylor University, one of the largest Baptist-affiliated colleges in the nation. As the next decade moves along, it will be interesting to watch how open Rhule is to new opportunities.

Fit: Rhule is a driven individual and top-shelf coach. He will thrive wherever he ultimately lands.

Bottom line: If he is gettable in whatever year the job comes open, Rhule would be worthy of an offer which will close the deal.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

Ledbetter: Alabama’s teachers are standing tall with return to classroom instruction

All of the personality traits, values and life lessons that we carry with us as adults were shaped and instilled in us by the people we encountered in childhood. For many, the strongest influences came from our schoolteachers, who opened new worlds of knowledge and taught us skills that remain with us today.

Consider for a moment the music teacher who taught you to play an instrument, the math teacher who led you to a love of numbers, the history teacher who brought to life the stories of our nation’s past, or the English teacher who inspired you to love great literature.

Teaching is one of the few professions whose impact continues to last for decades after the individual who does the job retires.

As many children across Alabama are preparing to return to school even while the coronavirus pandemic continues, teachers have never been more important or vital or deserving of our deepest appreciation.

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Returning to brick-and-mortar school instruction will, hopefully, restore a sense of normalcy to our children’s lives in these decidedly abnormal times.

A return to the classroom and even resuming the online instruction that some are adopting will also help our students maintain their education progress and continue the important social and emotional development that interaction with their peers and instructors allows.

Our English second language learners will receive the communication skills they need in order to better assimilate, and many low-income students will receive the healthy nourishment from the school lunch program that might be denied them at home.

Given the current circumstances and environment, I recognize that some of our public school employees may have a sense of trepidation about returning to school, and that is certainly understandable. Wearing a face mask to do something as simple as shopping for groceries, paying for gas or walking into a restaurant offers all of us a constant reminder that COVID-19 is a very contagious virus.

But our teachers and educators are setting their concerns aside and answering the call to duty.

I know that Gov. Kay Ivey, State Superintendent Eric Mackey and the staff of the Alabama Department of Education took great care in developing the “Roadmap to Reopening Alabama Schools,” and local school boards are being equally diligent in creating and implementing their own safety guidelines.

The importance of sanitization will be stressed more than ever before, and billions of dollars made available to Alabama through the federal CARES Act will help ensure that any resources that are needed to reopen schools safely will be readily available.

As the majority leader of the Alabama House, I can also offer assurances that the legislature stands ready to pass legislation or make appropriations that are necessary to ease the return to classroom instruction once we are in session.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an even deeper appreciation of the frontline heroes who have remained on the job and provided the most essential services throughout the crisis.

Doctors and nurses in our hospitals and health clinics; grocery store and other retail employees; law enforcement officers, emergency workers and firefighters; postal workers; sanitation workers; restaurant personnel; and those in dozens of other professions are among those who continued working even when times were their toughest.

I am proud to say that the teachers, school nurses, administrators and support personnel in Alabama’s schools also rank high upon the list of those who have stood tall, and their already invaluable service to our state is even more important to students and parents in each of our cities, towns and crossroads today.

Helen Keller, one of Alabama’s most inspirational figures, once said, “It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made it so pleasant and acceptable to me.”

As I close by wishing everyone a safe, happy and healthy school year, we would all do well to keep Helen Keller’s words in mind.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) serves as majority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives

5 hours ago

Alabama Ag Commissioner Pate gives update on unsolicited seed packages from China, urges public to stay ‘vigilant’

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Commissioner Rick Pate gave an update Monday afternoon on the spate of seed packets from China that people across Alabama have received in recent weeks despite never having ordered anything.

Pate said that after the state seed labs had performed tests on the packets they had collected from individuals across Alabama, and none of them proved to be dangerous.

“Right at 50% of them proved be some kind of weed flower … 41% were vegetables, and 9% were herbs … we found no noxious compounds, no dangerous compounds,” said Pate at the event.

However, he warned, “They might send out the first seeds that weren’t treated with anything, have a sense of security come about, and then later send something out that could be harmful.”

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The commissioner further urged members of the public to refrain from planting any unsolicited seeds and continue to report them to the Department.

“At the very least something criminal has gone on here,” stated Pate, referencing laws that prevent seeds from being moved across state lines without being inspected by the relevant agencies.

Pate said his department had collected 252 seed samples as of Monday morning.

A total of 385 individuals in all but 11 of Alabama’s 67 counties have received one of the packets, according to information relayed at the press conference. State workers will be collecting the remaining samples soon.

(AL. Dept. of Ag/Contributed)

“Because we’ve got such a good food and drug lab, because we’ve got such a good seed lab, we knew this was inside of our comfort zone,” Pate said of the decision to conduct the seed tests in-house as opposed to shipping them to the federal government.

Andy Tipton, division director of Food Safety and Ag Compliance, said that 25 states had reported similar seed packets showing up at consumers’ doorsteps. He added that the ADAI was turning over all relevant info to the FBI, who were monitoring the situation.

Pate further told Yellowhammer News that one of the prevailing theories remained that the cause was an internet seller running a scam to artificially inflate their customer numbers and create opportunities for fake reviews.

He ended his press conference saying, “We have no idea the reason for this happening, but it doesn’t mean we can stop being vigilant.”

Any Alabamian still receiving one of the packets can report it here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

5 hours ago

Alabama basketball star John Petty returning for senior season

University of Alabama star forward John Petty, Jr. will return for his senior season, the player announced on Monday.

The Huntsville native was a second-team All-SEC honoree this past season, after leading the Southeastern Conference in three-point percentage.

Petty was considering entering the 2020 NBA Draft, however he decided to return for a final season in Tuscaloosa after evaluating his prospects. Another college season could see Petty lock down his chance at being a first-round pick.

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Tide head coach Nate Oats released a statement on Monday afternoon celebrating Petty’s return.

“It’s great to have John back for his senior year,” Oats said. “He is certainly one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country which is extremely important to us with how we play.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal. Let’s get to work!” the coach concluded.

Follow along with the Bama men’s basketball program here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

State of Alabama, University of Alabama System officials unveil GuideSafe app aiming to keep schools virus-free

Key figures from Alabama’s government and university systems joined to announced the new GuideSafe platform that bills itself as the key for students to safely return to college campuses amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The GuideSafe platform will help the state fulfill its promise to test every single college student before they return to campus, and the platform will provide a space for ongoing health monitoring throughout the semester.

The unveiling took place over videoconference, where State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John and other key players detailed the importance of GuideSafe to the upcoming semester.

GuideSafe was developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and tech company MotionMobs. It will be provided to any educational institution in the state that wishes to use it.

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Governor Kay Ivey apportioned some of Alabama’s CARES Act funds for the development of GuideSafe and the universal free testing for college students.

St. John on Monday praised Ivey’s “decisive action to provide funding” for the testing initiative and other campus reopening measures.

(Click for higher resolution version that will open in new tab)

GuideSafe will be accessible via app on smartphones and tablets and via web browser on any computer. Students will be invited to join the platform in the coming weeks.

One of the key features of the GuideSafe app is that it will track the location of students via smartphone and then inform them if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This new app – using Google- and Apple-led technology and created by UAB faculty, staff and MotionMobs for the people of Alabama – is a necessary tool in our effort to return to college campuses safely this fall,” said UAB President Ray Watts.

The app also allows students and faculty to report symptoms as they experience them, and get directed to a nearby testing site if necessary.

“The combination of these tools enables every participating college, university and K-12 school to engage faculty, students and staff regarding on-going monitoring of symptoms, exposure and risks of acquiring COVID-19,” said Sue Feldman, professor and director of graduate programs in health informatics at UAB.

A general factsheet on GuideSafe is available here.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

6 hours ago

Trump fires TVA board chair after outsourcing uproar

President Donald Trump on Monday announced that he was removing the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board chairman, Skip Thompson, an Alabamian.

Thompson, a resident of Decatur, is the president and CEO of Corporate Billing, a subsidiary of Birmingham-based National Bank of Commerce. He previously served as the president and CEO of both First American Bank in Decatur and First Commercial Bank in Huntsville, as well as serving on the board of Decatur Utilities.

Trump appointed Thompson to the TVA board in 2018. He was elected chairman of the board last year.

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The president on Monday cited TVA’s plan to outsource information technology jobs overseas as the reason for firing Thompson and one other board member. Trump warned the other board members that they would be next if the outsourcing continued. The president also called on them to replace the organization’s CEO, who Trump said was making far too much money.

The president added, “Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired.’”

The TVA is the electricity provider for much of North Alabama. Self-described as “a corporate agency of the United States,” it is regulated at the federal level and not under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) applauded Trump’s move on Monday.

“TVA fires AMERICANS & hires cheap foreign labor,” the North Alabama congressman tweeted. “TVA executive salaries EXORBITANT. TVA=NO competition, unlike private sector execs who compete to earn profits to earn pay… WAY TO GO [President Trump]!”

RELATED: Doug Jones: ‘The TVA has lost its way’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn