News, Notes & Quotes - Jan. 9

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Monday January 09, 2017

- My national championship game pick:

Alabama 28, Clemson 24

- Why did Cal dismiss Sonny Dykes now? AD Mike Williams said there was no single factor.

However, it’s clear Dykes interviewing for other head coaching jobs in recent years didn’t sit well.

“We want somebody who’s committed to the university long-term, someone who really wants to be at Cal and build a winning program here,” Williams said.

But why now and not five weeks ago when the season ended? USA Today reported Dykes would have been interested in Louisiana Tech and thought about coordinator jobs. Asked directly if Dykes’ interest in other jobs was a role, this is what Williams said:

“Just part of the overall evaluation. We want to make sure we do have a coach who wants to be here. We have brilliant students, brilliant faculty, engaged alums, tremendous donors. We want a football coach who understands that and wants to be a part of that.”

- Nick Saban says he didn’t hire Steve Sarkisian as an analyst until after the opener against USC, because he knows how it would have looked.

“Sark came in during fall camp just to visit and stayed with us for a week,” Saban said. “We spent some time together during that time. He watched practice. I asked for his observations. Before he left, he said he was supposed to do some TV work or something, but he would really like to get involved in a program someplace, and if there was any opportunity for him to do it here, and I liked him in the week that he spent with us.

“I told him there may be some opportunity for you to do that here, but since we play USC first, I'd rather wait until after that game until we sort of do it, because I wouldn't want people to think that we're trying to bring you in to create some advantage or whatever."

Alabama won that game 52-6, and now Sark is calling plays in the national title game tonight.

- It wasn’t national-championship-or-bust for Clemson entering this year.

Asked about the goal of a national championship, Swinney replied to a reporter, “Everything you just said is not even close to reality. We've never had a goal of winning a national championship on our board. Our goal is to win the opener. Our goal is to win the division, win the state championship, win the ACC and win the closer. That's our goals. If we can hit those, we've always said, if we hit all five, we've got a chance to win it all.”

He pointed to teams that don’t win the national title but finish the season strong and with success. Maybe that’s winning a random bowl game.

“There's a lot of teams that ended their season with a win that have built great momentum going into next year. There's a lot that goes into getting here. You've got to stay healthy. … Success is about being the best and being the very best you can be. We knew we had a chance to be a good team, but we lost seven, eight guys to the NFL on defense, and we had a lot to replace. We had a lot of work to do.”

He added, “If I wasn't sitting here right now, I would not feel like that our team was a bunch of failures.”

- You can stop the talk of a Group of 5 playoff. That’s not happening.

Several prominent G5 AD’s have come out against it after Northern Illinois AD Sean Frazier brought up the idea. The MAC likely won’t make the playoff, but Western Michigan made the Cotton Bowl, and that was a big deal for WMU AD Kathy Beauregard.

“There are some people that feel the Group of 5 should have their own (playoff). I am not in favor of that,” she said. “I’m the AD chair for the MAC group. We did have an individual colleague speak up and say it’s time for our own championship. That’s absolutely wrong. On behalf of the MAC AD’s, I’m speaking that that is wrong.

“We do belong, and we showed we belong. That easily could have been a Western Michigan win (in the Cotton Bowl). Are those chances going to be difficult and hard to come by? Yes. But the College Football Playoff continues to enhance all our programs.”

- Mike Houston won the FCS championship in his first year at James Madison. He inherited a talented program from Everett Withers, but he didn’t see this coming. He thought it was a few years out.

The Dukes finished the year 14-1, with the lone loss to North Carolina. They beat NDSU on the road in the playoff. It wasn’t until November he felt this team was special.

“In the beginning I felt like we had talent, but you saw so many flaws in the way the team had played the last few years, just from not having a sound defense, not being great on special teams, not having great unity in the locker room,” he said. “All of the tangibles that I really think are critical to championship football teams. …

“You go into that Richmond game against a team that's a top 5 team in the country, and to win that game the way we won it in the end and have a big stand by our defense coming off their goal line … then turn around next week and win at Villanova without Bryan Schor and see the toughness displayed by our team as a whole. At that moment, I really thought we had done in one year what I thought would take several years to do.

“So when we got the No. 1 that we got and we got home-field advantage in the early part of the playoffs, I thought we had a shot.”

- Here was P.J. Fleck’s introduction to Minnesota fans at halftime of Sunday’s basketball game.

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to