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Archive for Sunday, January 11, 2004

Saban sticking with national champions

New Nebraska head coach trying to make up for lost time on recruiting trail

January 11, 2004

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— Coach Nick Saban announced Saturday he would stay at LSU, one day after talking to the Chicago Bears about their job.

"That's not something I'm interested in doing right now. I'm very happy to be the coach here," Saban said. "We're looking forward to the challenges of making LSU a dominant program in the future."

Saban led the Tigers to a share of their first national title since 1958, triggering a clause in his contract that guarantees him becoming the highest-paid coach in college football.

Saban, the AP coach of the year, made $1.5 million last year and is in line for a raise to at least $1 more than Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, who makes $2.3 million a year.

Saban has not yet signed a contract extension with LSU, but he said he was pleased with the progress of negotiations.

The Tigers beat Stoops' Sooners, 21-14, in the Sugar Bowl Sunday to win the Bowl Championship Series title. LSU finished second to Southern California in the final Associated Press poll.

Saban's name had been linked to NFL openings because of his success at LSU and his experience as an assistant in the pros. He met Friday with Bears general manager Jerry Angelo -- a longtime friend -- but did not say whether he was offered an NFL job.

"This was just a conversation about would I be interested or not," Saban said, adding that he had hoped word of the meeting with Angelo would not get out so soon.

Since it had, Saban asked LSU to set up a hastily called media conference to ease the concerns of his players and potential recruits.

"I didn't want it to be rumor and innuendo out there," he said. "I didn't want it to affect recruiting or our players on our team. I wanted to be proactive getting the information out to everyone."

Saban took over a team that had gone 3-8 in 1999 and in his first season went 8-4 with a Peach Bowl victory. LSU has been in bowl games all four of his seasons, winning two Southeastern Conference titles and two Sugar Bowls. The Tigers are 39-13 under Saban overall.

"We worked hard for four years to get here and I really enjoy it, quite frankly, and wasn't really anxious just to walk away from it," Saban said.

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Nebraska recruiting: With letter-of-intent signing day less than four weeks away, recruiting is the top priority for new Nebraska coach Bill Callahan.

Callahan's first act was to meet with NU recruiting coordinator Scott Downing to assess where the Cornhuskers stand in the race for players.

He was on the phone late Friday putting together a list of prospective recruits from fellow Chicago native Tom Lemming -- one of the nation's prominent college football recruiting analysts.

Lemming had said three weeks ago that Nebraska must hire a well-known coach in order to secure a decent recruiting class. Callahan led Oakland to the Super Bowl last season but was fired after a 4-12 campaign this year.

"He's a big name," Lemming said Saturday. "They're not going to have a top-10 year, but they could salvage something. All they need to do is have a mediocre year this year and leapfrog into a top-10 year next year. They can't get a top-10 class this year with so little time left."

The Huskers have secured 11 verbal commitments. They can sign a maximum of 25 players Feb. 4.

Callahan said he needs to make a connection with the players who already have orally committed to the Huskers under the Frank Solich regime. Callahan said he will honor those scholarship offers.

The Huskers secured 13 oral commitments through mid-November but none since.

The number of commitments dropped to 11 this week when Papillion-La Vista quarterback Allan Evridge and wide receiver Terrence Nunn of Cypress, Texas, rescinded. Evridge is headed for Kansas State and Nunn for Wisconsin.

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FSU receiver leaving: Florida State receiver P.K. Sam surprised his coaches by declaring his intention to pass up his senior year and make himself available for the NFL draft.

Sam made the game-winning, 52-yard touchdown catch with 55 seconds left when Florida State beat Florida 38-34 at Gainesville.

Sam caught 50 passes for 735 yards and five touchdowns in his junior year for the Atlantic Coast Conference champions.

"I hope that the decision turns out to be the right one for him," offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said.

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