NCAA

Nick Saban played a role in Jalen Hurts' decision to transfer to Oklahoma over Maryland

Nick Saban played a role in Jalen Hurts' decision to transfer to Oklahoma over Maryland

When Jalen Hurts announced that he would be transferring from the University of Alabam following the 2018 college football season, three main suitors rose to the top of his list: Oklahoma, Maryland and Miami.

Though the Sooners were having the most success of the three programs at the time, the decision was not that simple. As his former head coach Nick Saban explained in an interview with the Philadelphia Eagles, there were other factors impacting his decision.

The main appeal of Maryland and Miami were the connections Hurts would already have in place if he were to transfer to one of the schools. His offensive coordinator at Alabama, Mike Locksley, was heading to the Terrapins to be the head coach. Dan Enos, his quarterback coach, was assuming the offensive coordinator role for the Hurricanes. 

For either team, Hurts would have been able to play out his final collegiate season with a sense of familiarity from the start. Though that would be a plus, Saban knew there were other variables that needed to be considered. So when Hurts came to him for advice, he reminded the quarterback what really mattered.

“I said, ‘Jalen, where do they have the best players?’ He said, ‘Well, I think they got the best players at Oklahoma,'" Saban explained.

That simple question began to put things in perspective for Hurts. With only one season's worth of games to play to prove his worth to the NFL, Hurts and Saban agreed that he needed to be in the best situation to succeed.

Maryland and Miami may have given him some success and he could help turn the programs around, but Oklahoma had the best environment for quarterbacks. Lincoln Riley had shown that the prior two years with Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. If Hurts wanted to shine, he needed to go where that would be the easiest to do.

“I said, ‘I’ve always told you that quarterback is a hard position to play if you don’t have good players around you,'" Saban said about the conversation he had with Hurts. “‘So if I was you, to create the most value because you got one year to do it. If you know you can be the starter there, go where they have the best players.’”

Saban's advice was not a slight to Locksley or Enos. Both were exceptional at Alabama and would have helped Hurts continue to grow. It was more about making sure a quarterback that worked hard took advantage of his last chance to showcase his talents before venturing on to the NFL.

“It’s no disrespect to anyone else. The guys that worked here, they did a great job here. It’s what’s best for you," Saban recalled telling Hurts. "That’s how you got to make this decision right now.” 

In the end, Hurts did make the best decision. His one season as a Sooner allowed him to put together a season in which he compiled 3,851 yards and 32 touchdowns. That was enough to convince the Eagles to grab Hurts in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

The revelation by Saban may sting for Maryland fans. If he hadn't given that advice, maybe Hurts does head to College Park. But the head coach was looking out for a player he cared for and wanted to see succeed. By giving him the full scope of the decision, he did just that. 

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How Lamelo Ball playing in Australia factored into 5-star recruit Makur Maker’s decision to choose Howard

How Lamelo Ball playing in Australia factored into 5-star recruit Makur Maker’s decision to choose Howard

When 2020 five-star recruit Makur Maker committed to Howard University in D.C., he sent shockwaves through the entire landscape of the basketball world, becoming the first top recruit to announce his intent to play at a historically Black college or university (HBCU) since Earl Jones played for the University of the District of Columbia in 1980.

While the decision was intricate and monumental on a multitude of levels, Maker revealed an interesting layer of his decision-making process:

He thought of future NBA lottery pick LaMelo Ball.

"I figured if LaMelo Ball could go to Australia, play in facilities like that, and still be considered a top NBA prospect, why not Howard?" Maker said.

Ball's path to the draft very well may be one of the most remarkable in sports history. Fast-forwarding to his final season at SPIRE, Ball was not eligible to attend college, therefore he agreed to a deal with the Illawarra Hawks in Australia to play in the NBL. 

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The decision was heavily scrutinized nationally with many believing it would drastically decrease his draft stock -- one disclosed scout told USA Today “the untraditional route (NBL) will almost certainly cost him (LaMelo) once draft night approaches."

After averaging 17.0 points, 6.8 assists, and 7.4 rebounds in the NBL and having his season cut short due to a bone bruise in his left foot, Ball is in the conversation to go the number one overall in the upcoming draft.

Point made. 

"People also sleep on the competitive nature of the MEAC [Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference]," Maker said. "The pace and open flow style of play of the MEAC is more similar to the NBA, in my opinion. It’s a read-and-react league, so it will definitely help me get ready for the NBA."

Former head coach and NBC Sports Washington basketball analyst Jimmy Patsos, believes in Makers' decision and thinks it could spark a huge movement within college basketball. 

"If one person can lead a revolution, one person can lead a movement, this could be the guy," Patsos said on Friday. "Why not him changing the landscape of college basketball?"

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Big Ten to have a conference-only schedule for all fall sports if played

Big Ten to have a conference-only schedule for all fall sports if played

The Big Ten Conference announced that the league will only play in-conference matchups for the fall 2020 season if games are able to be held. 

The news was first reported by The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach and then confirmed by other outlets.

While this is a gigantic step for the conference as they navigate the coronavirus pandemic, this is most noteworthy to college football. 

Typically, the Big Ten holds nine in-conference contests for each school out of a 13-game schedule. It is unclear if the league will expand its conference schedule to accommodate or continue with nine games. ESPN is reporting that many schools would like a 10-game schedule. 

It is also possible the league will move around current schedules to prepare for potential interruptions, according to ESPN's Adam Rittenburg.

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Removing those nonconference games will limit the student-athletes chance at exposure to the virus. There will be less travel, less hotel stays and fewer individuals that could create a mass-spread of the virus. 

However, with no out-of-conference contests for the upcoming season, the league will not be able to elevate itself as a whole across the college football landscape. It will cancel marquee matchups such as Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, Ohio State at Oregon, Penn State at Virginia Tech and Miami at Michigan State.

For the Maryland Terrapins, they lose a big road contest with West Virginia. Additionally, they had home games scheduled against Towson and Northern Illinois.

As one of the biggest leagues in the country (14 teams), the Big Ten does have the flexibility to expand its schedule with each team playing a full season. However, it could drastically affect how the league is perceived in the scope of the College Football Playoff, especially if other leagues do not follow suit. A one or two-loss league champion does not have any national measuring sticks.

The Big Ten has had a team in the Playoff four of the seven seasons it has been in effect. 

This decision comes on the heels of the Ivy League canceling all of their fall sports for the upcoming semester. The Ivy was the first league across the country to make a move so drastic. It should be noted that the Ivy was also the first league to cancel all spring sports at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 

This move does not guarantee that the Big Ten will still have football games this fall. It merely serves as a simpler attempt to safely have a season. Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren isn't even convinced there will be a season. 

The conference also will allow student-athletes to choose not to play for the 2020-21 academic year to maintain their scholarship.

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