POSTCARD FROM PARADISE
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — Well, I’m still in paradise, and we still haven’t gotten to the big game yet.
Believe me, I’m not complaining. This would be a great place to live, and a lot of folks have indeed moved out this way and/or retired here. I was talking to a fellow scribe on the media shuttle the other day, Greg Logan of Newsday, and he was telling me he worked out here in the 1970s and this was really kind of the wild, wild west out this way back then — especially in Glendale, where tonight’s game between Alabama and Clemson is being played.
What I’m really talking about is how long the College Football Playoff has made the season now. That was a big subject at the head coaches’ joint press conference Sunday morning at the J.W. Marriott’s Camelback Inn.
Granted, all but two teams in the FBS have wrapped up their seasons and moved on to the next thing. But the fact is, the college season’s not over yet and a lot of other stuff can’t start yet as a result. And these 160 or so football players have been going at it for a long time now.
“We finished the season playing 10 (games) in a row,” said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. “And that last stretch was a challenge because this is obviously a physical game and it’s mentally taxing, and the balance of school and all those things, you know, mount up. But our guys did as good a job as they could handling that.”
Said Alabama’s Nick Saban: “Well, I think as a coach you have to acknowledge the fact that your players are going into the 15th game of the season and you have to respect that in every way. You try to get people not to focus necessarily on how they feel but to make decisions about what they need to do to continue to play well. … I do think it’s a long season for them. They are young players.”
Of course, for Georgia fans, the season can’t get over quick enough. There is a lot of anticipation over getting their new coach to town.
Tonight is the last time Kirby Smart will don the crimson of Alabama. Well, at least as the defensive coordinator. And actually he hasn’t worn the Tide’s colors as much of late. If you’ve noticed, Smart has been wearing neutral clothes whenever he has to make public appearances, such as at the CFP championship media day this past Saturday.
Smart told me then he’ll report to Athens as the Bulldogs’ new head coach as soon as logistically possible on Tuesday. He’s scheduled to fly back to Tuscaloosa with the team Tuesday morning, then will head on to Georgia from there.
But Smart remains adamant he has gotten in plenty of good work as the Bulldogs’ head coach. Last week, I reported that Saban had dedicated an Alabama secretary to help him with his UGA work. When I asked him about that this past weekend, he said “secretary” probably wasn’t the right word for it.
“I would say an assistant to help out. But to be honest, the only secretary I need is this phone,” Smart said, tapping the smart phone in his front right pocket. “That’s what I use.”
Judging from Georgia’s recent recruiting successes, Smart’s presence here doesn’t appear to have held back the Bulldogs too much. And with all the attention that Smart has attracted out here in the desert — and that he and Mel Tucker will garner during tonight’s national broadcast — it certainly could be argued it has only helped UGA.
But the wait ends for everybody tonight. And whether Alabama or Clemson wins, Smart’s mission with regard to Georgia will have been accomplished.