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No, Paul Finebaum isn’t going to the Big Ten Network

Florida Football Insiders

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Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

We are still a couple of months away from the drama of SEC football. And, that would include whether the Gators under new boss, Dan Mullen, can get their act together in 2018.

But this week there is word that one of the premier “talking heads” of SEC Football, and there are many, is having trouble getting his deal renewed with ESPN/SEC Network. And, there is definitely some fascinating drama around Paul Finebaum’s status.

Some quick background, Finebaum is former long time newspaper writer and columnist covering Alabama, Auburn and the SEC in that state. He hosted a successful state wide afternoon radio show for years in Alabama. And, as the popularity of SEC Football rocketed with both Bama and Auburn enjoying fantastic success in the 2000’s, Finebaum made the evolving transition to television.

So, when the SEC Network debuted three years ago, Finebaum was a natural to anchor the weekday lineup of “TV talk” and his television/radio simulcast is tremendously popular.

And that brings us to the current negotiations between Finebaum, his agent and ESPN.

First, in about two weeks hundreds of SEC media will gather in the new home of SEC Media Days (four of them) in it’s new home, Atlanta.

Coaches, players, former players, and prominent media from all 14 schools are there revving up everyone for September and the SEC.

And for the SEC Network this is known as, “offseason gold.”

And, don’t think for a second that Paul Finebaum and his representation aren’t looking to capitalize on that deadline in his contract talks.

That’s when, the first “warning shot” from Finebaum’s camp was leaked to fellow SEC national radio host and “talking TV head,” Clay Travis and he wrote about it last week:

Now, there’s no doubt that Finebaum was/is exerting leverage on ESPN with that leaked threat.

Well, then things went five levels higher on the absurdity of the negotiations, when again, Finebaum and his agent, let it be known that he might be interested in ……. jumping to the Big Ten Network?!?

Yes, that’s the latest in the “rumor mill”from Sporting News earlier this week:

First, we at F.F.I. would love to know if Finebaum can name the 14 Big Ten Stadiums that the schools play in, much less, if he has even been in half of them to cover/watch a game.

And, we’d be further impressed, if without looking at anything, including Google on his phone, if Finebaum could name half of the Big Ten’s current football coaches, too.

So, the stratosphere level of silliness that he would seriously consider leaving the fan bases, teams, coaches, legacies, etc. of the SEC just doesn’t make any sense.

It again, wreaks of his trying to leverage ESPN anyway possible to get a better deal.

Now, for example, if Finebaum were to seriously talk to CBS and CBS Sports Network, which has been TV home to the SEC Game of the Week for over 20 years now, that would be logical and make some sense. Finebaum would bring serious credibility and audience to their cable channel, and more with his five day a week show.

And maybe, that is actually happening on a quieter level of discussion. We don’t know.

The best guess is that Finebaum re-ups with ESPN/SEC Network,

But if he doesn’t?

He’s not going to a conference/channel to broadcast, where he doesn’t know a Boilermaker from a salt shaker.

Big Ten Network.

Please.

CFB

Coaches and rosters finalized for East-West Shrine Bowl

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL and the newly-renamed East-West Shrine Bowl are finalizing not only their player rosters, but their coaching staffs for next Saturday’s game in St Petersburg, FL.

Late this week, the longest running college all-star game, the East West Shrine Bowl, named its head coaches, both of whom have ties to the Tampa Bay Area.

Bucs inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell will coach one of the teams, while former Buccaneers and current Falcons tight end coach, Ben Steele will be in charge of the other.

Caldwell, who came to the Buccaneers in Bruce Arians’ first season has been in the NFL for a total of 11 years and had previously served as the assistant head coach and linebackers coach for the New York Jets under Todd Bowles for 4 seasons.

Steele, who has coached in the NFL for seven seasons reunited with Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter  in Atlanta after previously having been his tight end coach in Tampa Bay last year.

Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl, said in a statement about the coaching selections,

 “We’re very excited to have Mike Caldwell and Ben Steele as head coaches for our East-West Shrine Bowl all-stars,” said Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl. “Ben was a coordinator for our 2019 game and both coaches have ties to the Tampa/St. Pete area. They will lead two strong staffs of NFL assistant coaches that will be invaluable to our players as they begin their own journey to the NFL”

Meanwhile, the rosters do have some Florida flair, as several noteworthy names will be on the East team. That’s led by speedy UCF running back Adrian Killins, Gators wide receiver Freddie Swain and USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox. On the East defensive squad, FAU linebacker Rashad Smith, Miami linebacker Shaq quarterman and UCF defensive back Neville Clark are part of the roster.

This will be the 95th playing of the East-West Shrine Bowl and it boasts 71 Pro Football Hall of Famers that have played in their game. And, they also had more than 300 players who were on an NFL roster for Week 1 last year that have played in the East-West Shrine Bowl.

The game also announced that there will be four legendary mentors working with the players in practices later this week in St Pete. Those include: Hall of Fame offensive lineman Will Shields, Super Bowl Champion defensive end Willie McGinest, as well as, long time safety Bobby Taylor and long time wide receiver Amani Toomer.

The game will be played at Tropicana Field, the home of Major League Baseball Tampa Bay Rays and televised nationally on the NFL Network at 3 p.m., Eastern Time next Saturday.

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CFB

New Year’s Day has prominent teams in Florida Bowls

Florida Football Insiders

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As the new year begins, traditional college football bowl games will be taking place. And even though there are no Florida teams battling on New Year’s Day, there are two prominent bowl games in the state.

First, two of college football’s “Blue Bloods” play Wednesday afternoon, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan Wolverines will do battle in the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Both programs come off of disappointing end to their regular-season, as they both lost to their rivals. Alabama dropping a wild 48 – 45 game in the Iron Bowl to Auburn and Michigan losing badly 56-27 to Ohio State and their finale at home.

The Tide are without All American caliber quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who suffered a fractured hip late in the year. However, Nick Saban has arguably the best wide receiving corps in all of college football to compensate for Tagovailoa’s absence.

Michigan has perennially under-achieved under coach Jim Harbaugh, but would love nothing better than to score a head-to-head win against Bama in this one.

Meanwhile across I-4 in Tampa, the 25th playing of the Outback Bowl will take place and it’s a first-time matchup between the SEC Auburn Tigers and the big Ten’s Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The Gophers were Darlings of the Big Ten late in the year that they got to 9 – 0 for only the second time in program history before faltering with losses to Iowa and Wisconsin which knock them out of the Big Ten championship game. Their coach P.J. Fleck is the Big Ten coach of the year and has done an amazing job of making Minnesota nationally relevant.

As for the Tigers, we mentioned the victory over Alabama which was particularly sweet for Coach Gus Malzahn, who has been under fire in recent years for not living up to success earlier in the 2010s. Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix, the son of the former Auburn star Patrick Nix, leads a high-powered attack that will look to finish the season on a winning note. The Tigers lost their three biggest games of the year to Florida, LSU, and Georgia, but wins over Alabama and Minnesota will help.

The Gophers have had their most important season since they played in the Rose Bowl in 1962 and would love nothing better than to upset the Tigers in this one.

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