TUSCALOOSA | The end of the regular season in college football marks the start of the search season for coaching job openings, and University of Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has become a near-automatic mention as a strong candidate for head coaching vacancies. For the moment, however, it appears Smart is not being recruited just yet. UA coach Nick Saban said he has not been contacted for permission to speak with Smart by another school.
"No one has called me to ask permission to talk to him, and if they do, we'll deal with it when they do. But that's where it's at," Saban. "There's so much stuff on the internet now, so much stuff out there that people just throw out there to see what sticks. I don't know how anybody knows, really, what's happening for sure."
One of the biggest openings was filled this week when former Florida coach Urban Meyer accepted an offer to take over the program at Ohio State. Other current openings include Arizona State, UCLA and Ole Miss. Smart has not been reported as a candidate for any of those positions, but as coach of the nation's top-ranked defense and as a former winner of the Frank Broyles Award (nation's top assistant coach), it could be only a matter of time before interest in Smart resurfaces. Alabama is ranked No. 2 in the nation and is expected on Sunday to receive a bid to the BCS National Championship Game for the second time in three years. Coaching staffs with similarly successful track records are typically targeted for hires, particularly coordinators such as Smart.
Saban, for one, has said for years that Smart is ready to take on a head coaching role.
"Leadership is really an important part of being the head of anything, a business or whatever it is. I think Kirby is a great leader, he's done a great job with what he's been responsible for, which I think is also a big indication," Saban said. "You have to have leadership qualities and the ability to confront and demand that people do things the right way. And you have to gain their respect to be able to do it. He's done a fantastic job of that."
Saban has dealt with turnover on his coaching staff in each of his four off-seasons at the Capstone.
"When our people in our organization do a great job for us, and what they're working for is to become a head coach, and they have an opportunity to do that, we want to be very, very supportive in helping them do that," Saban added. "I don't want anybody to leave. But the only way people are going to be motivated to do a good job is if they have a chance to fulfill their goals and aspirations because that's part of the motivation for them to do a good job. That helps everybody in the organization, too see that people have success and sort of fulfill their goals and aspirations. We're going to be very supportive. He's done a great job for us and I'm sure he'll continue to do a great job."
The Heisman Trophy Trust announced Monday that former UA defensive lineman Marty Lyons will receive the Heisman Humanitarian Award for community service, and will present the award at the annual Heisman Memorial Trophy Dinner on Dec. 12 in New York, where UA running back Trent Richardson is expected to be among five candidates for the 2011 Heisman Trophy. While still an active player with the NFL's New York Jets, Lyons established the Marty Lyons Foundation to fulfill the special wishes of children who have been diagnosed as having a terminal or life threatening illness by providing and arranging special wish requests. Since 1982, more than six thousand wishes have been granted to children suffering life threatening or terminal illnesses.
"The Trust is honored to name Marty Lyons as the 2011 Heisman Humanitarian," said William J. Dockery, Heisman Trophy Trust President. "Marty has made a difference in many young people's lives. He has given thousands of children and their families a temporary respite from their illnesses and the ability to create positive memories with their families."
UA linebackers coach Sal Sunseri was named one of five finalists for the Frank Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach, along with LSU's John Chavis, Arkansas' Garrick McGee, Wisconsin's Paul Chryst and Michigan's Greg Mattison. Sunseri was the only assistant who is not a coordinator to make the finalist cut. ... UA running back Trent Richardson was named the Southeastern Conference co-Offensive Player of the Week after gaining a career-high 203 yards against Auburn Saturday. He shared the honor with South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, who threw for 210 yards and rushed for 107 in a win over Clemson. ... UA center William Vlachos was named SEC co-Offensive Lineman of the Week along with Vanderbilt's Kyle Fischer. ... The UA coaching staff named eight players of the week following the win over Auburn. Along with Richardson and Vlachos, tight end Brad Smelley was honored after a career-best six catches. Defensive players of the week were linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower and cornerback Dee Milliner, while Milliner, punter Cody Mandell and Alex Watkins were named on special teams.
Reach Chase Goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.