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Notre Dame fined $5K, placed on one-year probation

Notre Dame fined $5K, placed on one-year probation

The NCAA put Notre Dame on probation and fined the Fighting Irish $5,000 for multiple minor recruiting violations, the Committee on Infractions announced Thursday.

The NCAA also handed out a few minor recruiting restrictions as well.

"Any violation of NCAA rules is unacceptable and Notre Dame takes full responsibility for its actions in this regard," Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. "While we made clear to the NCAA that our view that the agreed-upon penalties exceeded the nature of the infractions, we accept the final outcome of the case."

The penalties stem from a former assistant coach's impermissible off-campus contact with a high school player in 2019 and his impermissible text messages to a different 2021 recruit, and coach Brian Kelly's impermissible contact with a recruit in October 2019. In that case, Kelly posed with the player for a photo in Pickerington, Ohio.

Notre Dame and the committee agreed to the penalties through the NCAA's negotiated resolution process.

The former assistant, who also sent the impermissible texts, was fired by ND in January 2020. He was given a show-cause through July 2021.

The assistant, per the ruling, "met privately with the prospect at his high school before July 1 after the completion of his junior year of high school. During that meeting, the former assistant coach expressed the school's interest in recruiting the prospect. The former assistant football coach also had exchanged impermissible text messages with another prospect on 10 occasions."

According to the report, the assistant mistakenly thought the recipient of his text messages was a 2020 recruit instead of an actual 2021 prospect.

The recruiting restrictions meted out include reduced football official visits for the 2020-21 academic year by one, reduced football unofficial visits by 14 days for the 2020-21 academic year, and a seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for the entire football staff during the 2020-21 academic year.

Tennessee hires UCF's Danny White as athletic director

Tennessee hires UCF's Danny White as athletic director

Tennessee hired Danny White as its new athletic director on Thursday.

White has been serving in the same role at UCF for the past five-plus years. He also was the AD at Buffalo for 3 1/2 years before taking over the Knights' athletic program in November of 2015.

"Danny White is an innovative leader in college athletics with a strong track record in recruiting and developing leaders," Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman said in a statement. "He brings the combination of winning attitude, competitive drive, and dedication to integrity and academics that we are looking for."

White replaces Philip Fulmer, who said earlier this week that he would retire once the new hire is in place.

"I am thrilled to be headed to Knoxville and to a university with a great competitive tradition and a spirited and devoted fan base," White said. "Volunteer fans have an expectation to win, and my first task will be taking on the search for a new head football coach. But I want all Vols to know that I am deeply committed to excellence in all of our athletic programs."

Tennessee fired football coach Jeremy Pruitt on Monday following an internal investigation into the program's recruiting violations.

The Volunteers have fallen on hard times as a football program with eight losing seasons in the past 13 campaigns.

White helped lead a turnaround at UCF. The Orlando school went 0-12 in 2015 and but it later went 13-0 in 2017 and 12-1 in 2018.

UCF billed itself as national champions following the 2017 season under coach Scott Frost when it wasn't seriously considered for a College Football Playoff spot.

When Frost left for Nebraska, White promoted Josh Heupel to head coach and the latter was a combined 22-4 over his first two seasons.

White signed a five-year extension reportedly worth more than $1 million annually with UCF in March of 2020.

White is the son of Duke athletic director Kevin White and the brother of Florida basketball coach Mike White.

Reports: Mizzou hiring Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator

Reports: Mizzou hiring Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator

Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks has agreed to become the defensive coordinator at Missouri, multiple outlets reported Thursday.

Wilks, 51, went 3-13 during his lone season in charge in Arizona in 2018.

He was the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator in 2019 and took the season off in 2020.

Wilks last coached in the collegiate ranks in 2005 as the secondary coach at Washington. He also had stops at his alma mater Appalachian State, Illinois State, Savannah State, East Tennessee State, Bowling Green and Notre Dame before moving to the NFL and coaching with the Chicago Bears, then-San Diego Chargers, Carolina Panthers, Cardinals and Browns.

Missouri hired head coach Eliah Drinkwitz last month to replace Barry Odom, who was fired after compiling a 25-25 record in four seasons with the Tigers.

Wilks replaces Ryan Walters, who left Columbia to become the Illinois defensive coordinator under Bret Bielema.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott set to exit June 30

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott set to exit June 30

After an 11-year run as Pac-12 commissioner, Larry Scott will leave his post on June 30.

The conference announced Tuesday that Scott, the governing executive committee and school presidents reached a mutual agreement not to pursue a new contract. Scott had been under contract until June 2022, but he will exit a year early after aiding in the transition to his successor.

Executive committee chairman Michael Schill, the University of Oregon president, as well as committee members Kirk H. Schulz, Washington State University president; and Ana Mari Cauce, president of the University of Washington; will begin the search for a new commissioner.

Schill said in a statement, "We appreciate Larry's pioneering efforts in growing the conference by adding new competitive university programs and accelerating the Pac-12 to television network parity with the other conferences. At one point, our television agreement was the most lucrative in the nation and the debut of the Pac-12 Network helped deliver our championship brand to US and global markets on traditional and digital platforms.

"That said, the intercollegiate athletics marketplace doesn't remain static and now is a good time to bring in a new leader who will help us develop our go-forward strategy."

Scott said in a statement, "I was in pro sports for 20 years, I've now been in college athletics for more than 10 years, and now is a great time in my life to pursue other exciting opportunities. This moment, when college athletics are moving in a new direction and with the Conference soon commencing the next round of media negotiations, it seems the right time to make a change.

"It is important that the conference be able to put in place the person who will negotiate and carry out that next agreement.

"Based on the recent robust valuation and marketplace interest we've received from traditional and nontraditional media organizations, I am confident the conference is well-positioned for continued success. I appreciate the support of the Pac-12 member institutions and a very talented staff, with whom it has been my privilege to work."

According to multiple media reports, the Pac-12's television contracts with ESPN and Fox will expire after the 2023-24 season.

Led by Henry To'o To'o, four Vols starters enter transfer portal

Led by Henry To'o To'o, four Vols starters enter transfer portal

Four Tennessee starters, the team's top and third-leading tacklers, a standout running back and a key offensive lineman, are entering the NCAA's transfer portal, indicating they will be playing elsewhere next season.

The decisions by linebackers Henry To'o To'o and Quavaris Crouch, running back Eric Gray and offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson come two days after head coach Jeremy Pruitt was fired amid an investigation into what Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman said were "serious NCAA rules violations."

To'o To'o, a sophomore, made a team-high 76 tackles, including 10 behind the line of scrimmage. He arrived in Knoxville from California as a four-star recruit having chosen the Vols over Alabama, Utah, Southern California and Washington.

Crouch, a sophomore and former four-star recruit from North Carolina, started every game in 2020 and finished with 57 tackles.

Gray, also a sophomore, was primed to take over next season after finishing sixth in the SEC in rushing yards per game (85.8) and sixth in yards from scrimmage per game (114). In two seasons at Tennessee, he ran for 1,311 yards and eight touchdowns on 258 carries, in addition to making 43 receptions for 369 yards and three TDs.

Johnson, a senior, started five games at left tackle this season and could have returned after the NCAA granted players a free year in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wanya Morris, a sophomore and former five-star recruit who split time with Johnson, announced earlier this month he was transferring to Oklahoma.

Tennessee was already reeling after the departures of quarterbacks Jarrett Guarantano (Washington State) and J.T. Shrout (Colorado), running back Ty Chandler (North Carolina), wide receiver Brandon Johnson (UCF) and linebacker Deandre Johnson (Miami), who departed after the Vols went 3-7.

The losing record preceded the school releasing the findings of internal investigation into recruiting violations and improper benefits that resulted in Pruitt's ousting.

Assistant coaches Shelton Felton and Brian Niedermeyer were ousted this week, too, as were four staffers involved with on-campus football recruiting, the director and assistant director of football player personnel and a quality control assistant coach.

Kevin Steele, the former defensive coordinator at Auburn who was hired as an assistant coach on Jan. 12, was named the Volunteers' interim coach after Pruitt was let go.

Report: Alabama to hire Doug Marrone to coach OL

Report: Alabama to hire Doug Marrone to coach OL

Former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone is joining Nick Saban's staff at Alabama, AL.com reported Wednesday.

Marrone will serve as offensive line coach, becoming the second former NFL head coach on the offensive staff. The Crimson Tide's new offensive coordinator reportedly is former Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien, although his hiring has not been announced officially.

Marrone was fired in Jacksonville on Jan. 4 after the Jaguars finished the 2020 season with a 1-15 record.

The Jaguars went 23-43 in four-plus seasons under Marrone.

Marrone previously coached the Buffalo Bills (2013-14) and was head coach at Syracuse (2009-12). He had a 25-25 record with the Orange.

The openings on Alabama's staff came about when Texas hired Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian as its head coach. He took offensive line coach Kyle Flood with him.

Ex-South Carolina QB Ryan Hilinski transferring to Northwestern

Ex-South Carolina QB Ryan Hilinski transferring to Northwestern

Ryan Hilinski, South Carolina's starting quarterback as a freshman in 2019, is transferring to Northwestern, he announced Tuesday on Twitter.

He tweeted, "Life's journey has unexpected peaks and valleys. ... I'm excited to begin this next chapter at Northwestern University. Thank you coach (Pat) Fitzgerald and coach (Mike) Bajakian for giving me this incredible opportunity! Go cats!"

Hilinksi could have an opportunity to play right away with the Wildcats, as their 2020 quarterback, Peyton Ramsey, was a senior.

In 2019, Hilinski took over under center for the Gamecocks after they lost their opener to North Carolina, and he was the starter for the final 11 games that season. He threw for 2,357 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 58.1 percent of his passes.

Collin Hill, a senior transfer from Colorado State, and freshman Luke Doty passed Hilinski on the depth chart in 2020. Hilinski appeared in just two games, completing 4 of 6 passes for 34 yards.

Hilinski will have three years of eligibility remaining after transferring.

Alabama QB Mac Jones wins Manning Award

Alabama QB Mac Jones wins Manning Award

Alabama's Mac Jones on Tuesday was named the winner of the 2020 Manning Award, presented to the nation's top quarterback.

The redshirt junior guided the No. 1 Crimson Tide (13-0) to the College Football Playoff national championship, completing 77.4 percent of his passes for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Jones, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting (won by teammate DeVonta Smith), declared for the 2021 NFL Draft last week.

The Manning Award, presented annually since 2004 by the Sugar Bowl committee, was created to honor the college football accomplishments of Archie Manning and his sons, Peyton and Eli.

"It was quite a year for Mac Jones and the Alabama football team," Archie Manning said in a release. "We had a lot of outstanding quarterbacks around the country, but I don't think any player directed his offense as efficiently and as effectively as Mac."

The other finalists this year included Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State's Justin Fields, Notre Dame's Ian Book and Florida's Kyle Trask.

Jones is the first Alabama quarterback to win the award, which went to LSU's Joe Burrow in 2019.

Ohio State WR Chris Olave to return for senior season

Ohio State WR Chris Olave to return for senior season

Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave will return to school for his senior season rather than enter the NFL draft, he announced Monday.

Olave had 50 catches for 729 yards and seven touchdowns for the Buckeyes this season. In three seasons, he has 111 catches for 1,175 yards and 22 touchdowns.

"There are so many great memories but we're not done yet," Olave wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. "I'll be returning for my senior year at Ohio State."

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. had Olave rated as the seventh-best receiver in this spring's draft class if he had turned pro. The No. 7 wideout taken last year was Tee Higgins from Clemson at No. 33 overall.

Olave's teammate, quarterback Justin Fields, announced earlier in the day that he was declaring for the draft.

Reports: Tennessee to fire coach Jeremy Pruitt

Reports: Tennessee to fire coach Jeremy Pruitt

Tennessee will fire football coach Jeremy Pruitt, according to multiple reports Monday.

His dismissal will come amid an investigation into potential recruiting violations. Earlier this month, Tennessee put hiring on hold in the program and brought in prominent outside attorneys Michael Glazier and Kyle Skillman to assist in the investigation about alleged violations, including improper benefits.

There were also reports that athletic director Phillip Fulmer's job is in jeopardy.

Fulmer hired Pruitt, who was the defensive coordinator at Alabama, in 2017. In three seasons under Pruitt, the Volunteers are 16-19, including 3-7 in 2020.

The investigation into the program began in November, with one of the focuses being the recruitment of Amarius Mims, a five-star tackle in the Class of 2021 who signed with Georgia, ESPN reported earlier this month. The outlet also said that tailback Eric Gray didn't play in the Volunteers' season finale against Texas A&M because of the investigation.

Gray led the team with 772 rushing yards.

The investigation could provide ammunition for Tennessee to fire Pruitt with cause and either not pay his buyout or settle for a lesser amount. Fulmer gave Pruitt a contract extension and raise in September that increased his average annual salary to $4.2 million and kept him with the Volunteers through the 2025 season, saying at the time that the program had made "excellent progress" under Pruitt.

The Knoxville News Sentinel said Pruitt is owed a buyout of about $12.8 million. Firing his staff would cost an additional $6.2 million.

Ohio State QB Justin Fields declares for NFL draft

Ohio State QB Justin Fields declares for NFL draft

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields declared for the 2021 NFL Draft on Monday, a move that was expected.

Fields finishes his career with 5,701 yards passing and 67 touchdowns against nine interceptions. He also rushed for 1,133 yards and 19 touchdowns in 34 games with the Buckeyes and Georgia Bulldogs (2018).

Fields led Ohio State to the CFP playoffs in his two years at OSU. The Buckeyes lost to the Clemson Tigers in the semifinals in 2019 and lost to Alabama in the title game in 2020.

Fields was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019, compiling one of the greatest statistical seasons in Ohio State history. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 3,273 yards while accounting for 51 touchdowns (41 passing, 10 rushing). He became the first quarterback in Big Ten history with 40 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs in the same season.

Fields was named the Big Ten offensive player of the year for 2019 and 2020.

Ohio State running back Trey Sermon declared for the draft on Sunday.

Michigan hires Ravens assistant Mike Macdonald as DC

Michigan hires Ravens assistant Mike Macdonald as DC

Michigan announced the hiring Sunday of Mike Macdonald as Jim Harbaugh's new defensive coordinator.

Macdonald, 35, spent the past seven seasons with the Baltimore Ravens as an assistant coach under John Harbaugh, the last three as the linebackers coach.

The Ravens' season ended Saturday with a 17-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills in an AFC divisional round game.

"Mike is an excellent defensive mind who is highly respected across the NFL," Jim Harbaugh said in a news release. "He has been a valuable member of the Baltimore Ravens staff, and shown a passion for teaching, coaching and developing his players. We are excited about everything that Mike brings to our defense, team and university."

In Ann Arbor, Macdonald replaces Don Brown, who was dismissed in December after five seasons. The Wolverines went 2-4 in 2020 and surrendered 34.5 points per game.

"It is an honor to join Coach Harbaugh's staff at the University of Michigan," Macdonald said. "I firmly believe in his vision and am excited to get to work. Our staff will work tirelessly to develop our young men both on and off the field -- I cannot wait to meet and develop relationships with our players, staff, and community."

Before he started coaching Baltimore's linebackers in 2018, Macdonald was a defensive assistant for two seasons in 2015-16 and a coaching intern in 2014.

Prior to joining the Ravens, he worked for three seasons under head coach Mark Richt at his alma mater Georgia from 2011-13.

Ohio State RB Trey Sermon declares for NFL draft

Ohio State RB Trey Sermon declares for NFL draft

Ohio State running back Trey Sermon declared for the 2021 NFL Draft on Sunday.

Sermon rushed for a Big Ten title-game record 331 yards in a Dec. 19 win against Northwestern and ran for 193 yards in a victory against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal on New Year's Day in the Sugar Bowl.

In Monday's national championship game against No. 1 Alabama, Sermon was injured on his first carry and did not return. The No. 2 Buckeyes went on to lose, 52-24.

A transfer from Oklahoma, Sermon rushed 116 times for 870 yards and four touchdowns and added 12 catches for 95 yards in eight games for the Buckeyes this season.

He rushed for 2,076 yards and 22 scores and caught 36 passes for 391 yards and three TDs over three seasons with the Sooners (2017-19).

Reports: Marshall to hire Alabama assistant Charles Huff as coach

Reports: Marshall to hire Alabama assistant Charles Huff as coach

Marshall is in the process of hiring Alabama running backs coach Charles Huff as its new head coach, according to multiple reports.

Huff's hiring is expected to be discussed and approved by the university's board of governors on Monday. Huff also had the associate head coach label at Alabama and would become the 12th current Black head coach at the FBS level.

The 37-year-old Huff will replace Doc Holliday, who was let go after 11 seasons with the Thundering Herd.

Huff is the second Alabama assistant to land a head job in recent weeks. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is the new coach at Texas.

The Crimson Tide averaged 48.5 points while going 13-0 this season. Alabama rolled to a 52-24 victory over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff title game earlier this week.

Huff just finished his second season with the Crimson Tide. Among his college assistant stops was Penn State (2014-17), where he was the position coach of All-American back Saquon Barkley. He also was the assistant running backs coach for the NFL's Buffalo Bills in 2012.

Huff has drawn rave reviews for his recruiting throughout a college coaching career that began in 2006. He played college football at Hampton and was the team's starting center in 2005.

Holliday compiled an 85-54 record after taking over the Huntington, W.Va., program in 2010, including a 6-2 record in bowl games and three straight 10-win seasons from 2013-15.

This season, the Thundering Herd went 7-3 and were ranked as high as No. 15. Holliday was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year for the second time.

Maryland, McNair family reach $3.5M settlement

Maryland, McNair family reach $3.5M settlement

The University of Maryland reached a $3.5 million settlement with the family of Jordan McNair, who died in June 2018 after suffering from heatstroke during a team workout.

The Maryland Board of Public Works must approve the settlement when it meets Jan. 27, The Washington Post reported.

McNair was a 19-year-old offensive lineman for the Terrapins from Randallstown, Md. An independent investigation showed McNair wasn't treated appropriately or with urgency by the program's medical and training staff after he showed signs of heatstroke during the workout on May 29, 2018. He died 15 days later.

McNair's parents, Martin McNair and Tonya Wilson, filed a claim against the university, as did McNair's estate.

"Marty and Tonya are relieved that this fight is over and to put this behind them as they continue to mourn Jordan's death," Hassan Murphy, the family's attorney, said in a statement. "They are committed to channeling their grief and loss into the work that remains to protect the lives of student-athletes around the world by educating them about the signs and risks of exertional heat stroke."

In August 2018, then-president Wallace D. Loh said the university accepted "legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on the fateful workout day of May 29."

Following McNair's death, head coach DJ Durkin was fired, strength and conditioning coach Rick Court reached a settlement to leave the university, and two members of the training staff were dismissed.

An ESPN report from 2018 also detailed allegations made by players and others that Durkin led the program through fear and intimidation.

Clemson's Travis Etienne to enter draft; WR Justyn Ross to return

Clemson's Travis Etienne to enter draft; WR Justyn Ross to return

Clemson All-American running back Travis Etienne announced Friday that he will enter the 2021 NFL Draft.

He leaves Clemson as the program's all-time leading scorer and the holder of the Atlantic Coast Conference record for career rushing yards. He also joined former Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne as the only player in FBS history to run for at least 13 touchdowns in four seasons.

A four-star recruit in the Class of 2017, Etienne had one year of eligibility remaining because of NCAA rules granting an extra year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"My 4 years spent in South Carolina have been nothing short of spectacular," Etienne posted on social media. "Who would have ever imagined a young kid from Jennings, LA would become a National Champion with the Clemson Tigers. My time here has allowed me to experience many accolates that some kids only dream of."

In 55 games, Etienne rushed for 4,952 yards and caught 102 passes for another 1,155. He scored 78 touchdowns, and his career was highlighted by back-to-back 1,600-yard seasons in 2018 and '19. He posted 24 rushing touchdowns in 2018 and 19 the following season, with both campaigns culminating in an appearance in the College Football Playoff championship game.

Despite Etienne's expected departure, Clemson got good news when wide receiver Justyn Ross said he will return to the Tigers after a spinal condition sidelined him in 2020.

Ross underwent a congenital fusion procedure in June. After being injured in spring drills in March, diagnostic tests revealed the 6-foot-4 Ross had a bulging disk as well as the spinal fusion.

Before the surgery, Ross was projected as a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Ross caught 112 passes for 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first two college seasons while starting 14 of 29 games played.

He burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2018, catching 46 passes -- nine for touchdowns -- and leading the Tigers with 1,000 receiving yards.

Report: Texas will hire Alabama's Kyle Flood as OC

Report: Texas will hire Alabama's Kyle Flood as OC

Kyle Flood reportedly is following Steve Sarkisian from Alabama to Texas.

Flood, the offensive line coach for the national champion Crimson Tide, will join Sarkisian's staff in Austin as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, ESPN reported Wednesday night.

Sarkisian was hired by Texas to be its new head coach earlier this month, but he didn't leave his job as Alabama's offensive coordinator until after the Crimson Tide routed Ohio State 52-24 on Monday in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Miami Garden, Fla.

Per ESPN, Sarkisian is expected to call the plays for the Longhorns.

Flood has worked under Sarkisian in each of the past four years. In 2017 and '18, Sarkisian was the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator and Flood was the club's assistant offensive line coach. The past two years, Flood handled offensive line duties for Sarkisian and head coach Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa.

Flood, 49, was the head coach at Rutgers from 2012-15. He produced a 27-24 record and three bowl appearances in his four seasons.

Before leading the Scarlet Knights, Flood was a Rutgers assistant coach from 2005-11 following assistant-coaching stints at C.W. Post, Hofstra and Delaware.

The Longhorns went 7-3 in the just-concluded season, including a 55-23 rout of Colorado in the Alamo Bowl. Tom Herman, who went 32-18 as Texas' head coach, including a 4-0 bowl record in his four seasons on the job, was fired Jan. 2.

Michigan hires rushing leader Mike Hart as RB coach

Michigan hires rushing leader Mike Hart as RB coach

Mike Hart, Michigan's all-time rushing leader, is returning to Ann Arbor.

Hart will take over as the running backs coach on Jim Harbaugh's staff, the school announced Wednesday. He held the same position at Indiana the past four years.

"Michigan has always held a special place in my heart," Hart said in a statement. "It is a place that always believed in me and a place that I have always believed in. I am excited to join Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan staff, and can't wait to get to work with a talented running back group."

Harbaugh added in a statement, "I am excited about the addition of Mike Hart to our offensive coaching staff. Mike is a great coach and Michigan Man who has shown the ability to develop and elevate the performance of the running backs that he has mentored."

Hart starred for Michigan from 2004-07, racking up a program-best 5,040 yards on 1,015 carries and running for 41 touchdowns. He was the 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and made three All-Big Ten first teams.

A sixth-round draft pick of the Colts in 2008, Hart appeared in 21 games over three seasons in Indianapolis, making one start. He produced 264 yards and two touchdowns on 71 carries.

Hart, 34, subsequently served as an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Syracuse before landing at Indiana.

Report: Alabama to hire Bill O'Brien as OC

Report: Alabama to hire Bill O'Brien as OC

Bill O'Brien, fired as head coach and general manager of the Houston Texans in October, apparently landed an impressive new gig.

Reigning national champion Alabama was finalizing a deal to make O'Brien the offensive coordinator on head coach Nick Saban's staff, ESPN reported Wednesday night.

O'Brien would replace Steve Sarkisian, who exited Tuscaloosa to become the head coach at Texas. O'Brien would take over an offense that manhandled Ohio State on Monday as the Crimson Tide won 52-24 in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Miami Gardens, Fla.

Alabama finished second in the nation in scoring at 48.5 points per game, fourth in total offense with an average of 541.6 yards per game, and third in passing offense at 358.2 yards per game.

However, Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith, quarterback Mac Jones and running back Najee Harris are projected to be first-round NFL draft picks.

O'Brien was successful for most of his run as the Texans' head coach, which started in 2014. He produced five winning seasons and four playoff appearances in his first six seasons, compiling a 52-44 record in that span.

He added general manager duties in January 2020, and he came under fire two months later when he dealt All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. Critics blasted the Texans' return in the deal as being far too little.

Prior to his time in Houston, O'Brien was the head coach at Penn State in 2012 and 2013, producing a 15-9 record with the team serving a bowl ban tied to the Jerry Sandusky child-sex-abuse scandal.

O'Brien was an assistant coach with the New England Patriots from 2007-11, serving as offensive coordinator in his final season there. He earlier had stints as an assistant coach for Brown, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke.

Alabama-Ohio State (18.7M) lowest-watched finale in 16 years

Alabama-Ohio State (18.7M) lowest-watched finale in 16 years

The Alabama-Ohio State College Football Playoff finale Monday averaged 18.7 million viewers across the ESPN networks, making it the least-watched title game since 2005.

The ratings declined 27 percent from LSU-Clemson (25.6 million) last year and 26 percent from Clemson-Alabama in 2019 (25.3 million), according to Sports Media Watch. The Crimson Tide won 52-24.

The previous low (21.4 million) for a national title game was USC-Oklahoma at the Orange Bowl in 2005, a blowout win by the Trojans, 55-19.

The Bama-OSU finale drew fewer viewers than the two semifinal games, the first time that's occurred in CFP/Bowl Championship Series history. Ohio State-Clemson garnered 19.2 million viewers and Alabama-Notre Dame drew 18.9 million on New Year's Day.


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