Blackhawks

A new contract extension for Nick Saban

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A new contract extension for Nick Saban

From Comcast SportsNet
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama coach Nick Saban said he received overtures for other jobs after claiming the second national title in three years. Instead of bolting, he has received a raise and contract extension worth 5.62 million a year that he said represents his intention to finish his career in Tuscaloosa. "From my standpoint, the acceptance of this extension represents our commitment ... to the University of Alabama for the rest of our career," Saban said. "We made that decision after the season when other people were interested." The university's board of trustees approved a two-year extension for Saban on Monday that will run through Jan. 31, 2020. He'll receive 5.32 million in 2012 with a 50,000 raise next year and 100,000 annually after that. Under the deal, he'll make 5.97 million in 2019. Saban will make nearly 45 million over eight years in base salary (245,000) and what Alabama calls "talent fees." The contract represents a 500,000 raise in talent fees plus longevity pay and the built-in raises. The former Miami Dolphins coach declined to say who made the overtures. "It doesn't really matter," Saban said. "We wanted to stay at Alabama. We're staying at Alabama and we're not interested in going anyplace else. We weren't interested in going anyplace else at the end of the season, so it really doesn't matter." Saban remains among college football's highest paid coaches, along with Mack Brown of Texas (5.2 million) and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops (4.875 million), dwarfing the eye-catching eight-year, 32 million deal he received after leaving the Miami Dolphins. He made at least 5.170 million last year in salary, talent fee and bonuses, including 400,000 for winning the national title. The new deal represents a 500,000 raise to his talent fee, plus longevity pay, which totals 5 million over the duration, and a 5 million life insurance policy. The Tide is 48-6 over the past four seasons. Saban has restored the program to the point that a 10-3 title follow-up in 2010 was viewed as a big disappointment. He has had Alabama at its best in the biggest games, particularly the powerhouse defense. The Tide claimed the 2009 title with a 37-21 win over Texas and blanked LSU 21-0 in New Orleans for the national championship two years later. Before his arrival, Alabama hadn't won a national title since the 1992 season. The deal states that if he's fired without cause he gets the lesser amount between four years of pay or the balance of his contract. Saban said he "really wasn't involved in the negotiations." "To me, this all happened a long time ago right after the (LSU) game," said Saban, whose agent is Jimmy Sexton. "I really think they sort of decide what they want to do and you decide if it's good enough and it's certainly good enough for me." His coaching staff was rewarded, too. The trustees' compensation committee also approved a 100,000 raise for defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, up to 950,000. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will make 590,000. Both have three-year deals. Smart is the only assistant coach who doesn't owe a 20 percent buyout if he leaves early, but will owe 72,000 if he leaves for any position other than head coach. He also got a 100,000 raise in January 2011. New outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson will make 355,000 in a two-year deal. The assistant coaches will receive 4 percent bonuses for an appearance in the SEC championship game, 8 percent for a bowl game, 12 percent for one of the SEC's top 5 bowl tie-ins and 16 percent for a BCS game. "I think there's a very competitive market out there when it comes to assistant coaches," Saban said. "I think it's imperative that we keep continuity and that we had the opportunity to be competitive salary-wise with other schools who are trying to hire our coaches. "It doesn't really matter what my opinion is or anyone else's opinion. The market is what it is, and if we're not willing to pay that to the best people that we have, they're not going to be here." Most of the other assistant coaches got raises and one-year extensions through Feb. 28, 2014: -- Bobby Williams, who coaches tight ends and special teams, received a 35,000 raise, to 350,000. -- Strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran got a raise from 310,000-325,000. -- Defensive line coach Chris Rumph goes from 288,750 to 310,000 -- Running backs coach Burton Burns got a 10,000 hike, up to 290,000. -- Receivers coach Mike Groh's pay went up from 250,000 to 280,000. -- Secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt is now making 260,000, up from 225,000. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was the only on-the-field assistant to not get a raise. Saban said that was related to his alleged involvement in rules violations while with the University of Miami. Saban has said the university uncovered no compliance "red flags" on either Stoutland or director of football operations Joe Pannunzio from their tenures at Miami. Both former Hurricanes coaches were named in a report alleging that they steered recruits to a jailed booster who says he supplied Miami players with prostitutes, cars and other gifts over the past decade. "As a university, we make decisions to do things because we think it's the right thing to do," Saban said. "In the future, I think Jeff Stoutland deserves to get a raise based on the merit of the work that he's done here, but I also think that it wouldn't be smart on our part of ignore other things that have happened."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

There hasn't been a more dynamic duo in the NHL so far this season than Kucherov and Stamkos, who have combined for 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) through 20 games, and sit first and second in the scoring race.

They've each recorded a point in every game except three — which coincidentally have been the same games — and they've lost all three of those contests. Kucherov has also scored a goal in 15 of 20 games this season. That's absurd when you consider he's scoring on a consistent basis; it's not like they're coming in spurts.

To put all that into perspective, he reached the 17-goal mark in his 36th game last year and still finished second in the league with 40 goals. He hit the 17-goal mark in 16 fewer games this season. How many can he realistically finish with? 60?

2. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Tampa Bay knows how dangerous Chicago's dynamic duo can be as well, as evidenced in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks' superstars know how to get up for a big game.

In 13 career regular-season games against the Lightning, Kane has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists). Toews has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 14 games.

They're both producing at or above a point-per-game pace, and they're going to need more of that against this powerhouse Lightning team.

3. Something's gotta give.

Tampa Bay's offensive prowess is off the charts up and down the lineup. It has four lines that can come at you at waves, and a strong, active blue line led by potential Norris Trophy finalist Viktor Hedman and Calder Trophy candidate Mikhail Sergachev.

Although Chicago allows the fourth-most shots per game (34.0), it actually hasn't been bad at preventing goals — a large reason for that is Corey Crawford. 

The Lightning rank first in goals per game (3.95) and first in power play percentage (28.0) while the Blackhawks rank sixth in goals against per game (2.65) and four in penalty kill percentage (84.9).

Who's going to crack first?

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

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USA TODAY

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

The news on Tuesday wasn’t really any sort of surprise: Brian Urlacher being selected as a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Some of the immediate thoughts were, however, for one writer who covered Brian from the day he was drafted on through the unpleasant end of his 13-year career as a Bear.

Good thoughts, though. Definitely good.

The first was a flashback, to a Tuesday in late August 2000 when the ninth-overall pick of the draft, who’d been anointed the starting strong-side linebacker by coach Dick Jauron on draft day, was benched.

It happened up at Halas Hall when Urlacher all of a sudden wasn’t running with the 1’s. Rosie Colvin was in Urlacher’s spot with the starters and would be for a few games into the 2000 season. I caught up with Brian before he walked, in a daze, into Halas Hall after practice and asked about what I’d just seen.

"I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing and I'm sure they are, too," Urlacher said. "I don't think I've been playing very well so that's probably the cause for it right there. I just don't have any technique. I need to work on my technique, hands and feet mostly. I've got to get those down, figure out what I'm doing. I know the defense pretty good now, just don't know how to use my hands and feet."

Urlacher, an All-American safety at New Mexico but MVP of the Senior Bowl in his first game at middle linebacker, had been starting at strong side, over the tight end, because coaches considered it a simpler position for Urlacher to master. But he was not always correctly aligned before the snap, did not use his hands against blockers effectively and occasionally led with his head on tackles. His benching cost him the chance to be the first Bears rookie linebacker since Dick Butkus to start an Opening Day.

It also was the first time in his football life that Urlacher could remember being demoted.

"It's not a good feeling," he said. "I definitely don't like getting demoted but I know why I am. I just have to get better."

Coaches understood what they were really attempting, subsequently acknowledged privately that the SLB experiment was a mistake. While the strong-side slot may have been simpler than the other two principally because of coverage duties, "we're trying to force-feed the kid an elephant," then-defensive coordinator Greg Blache said.

"So you see him gag and what do you do? You give him the Heimlich maneuver, you take some of it out of his mouth, try to chop it up into smaller pieces. He's going to devour it and be a great football player. But he wouldn't be if we choked him to death."

Urlacher didn’t choke and eventually became the starter, not outside, but at middle linebacker when Barry Minter was injured week two at Tampa Bay.

We sometimes don’t fully know the import or significance at the time we’re witnessing something. Urlacher stepping in at middle linebacker was not one of those times – you knew, watching him pick up four tackles in basically just the fourth quarter of a 41-0 blowout by the Bucs.

That was the beginning. Over the years came moments like Urlacher scooping up a Michael Vick fumble in the 2001 Atlanta game and going 90 yards with Vick giving chase but not catching him. Lots of those kinds of moments.

And then cutting to the ending, in 2013, when he and the organization came to an acrimonious parting after GM Phil Emery managed to alienate the face of the franchise both with the one-year contract offer and the way it was handled. Butkus had a nasty separation at the end of his Bears years, too, and Bill George finished his career as a Los Angeles Ram after creating the middle linebacker position as a Bear. Maybe that’s just how Bears and some of their linebackers wind up their relationships.

In any case, while there is no cheering in the pressbox, the hope here is that Brian goes into the Hall in a class with Ray Lewis in their first years of eligibility. Somehow that just seems like it all should close out for that confused kid from New Mexico who lost his first job out of college, but responded to that by becoming one of the all-time greats in his sport.