(USA Today Sports Images)
Finalists for the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year award were announced Thursday, but there were two glaring omissions – the two coaches in the national championship game.
Neither Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly nor Alabama’s Nick Saban were among the coaches up for one of the nation’s most prestigious coaching awards even though they’re dueling for college football's ultimate prize next month.
The finalists included James Franklin of Vanderbilt; Urban Meyer of Ohio State; Bill O'Brien of Penn State; David Shaw of Stanford; Bill Snyder of Kansas State; and Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M.
Saban’s name being omitted might not be that big of a surprise. Many thought his team would get to the national championship unscathed and had to crawl its way back into the title game after a loss to Texas A&M.
But keeping Kelly off the list is strange. The Irish were coming off their second consecutive eight-win season, were unranked in the AP poll and facing arguably the toughest schedule of any team in the country. Despite all that, Notre Dame was one of just two teams to finish the season undefeated, was ranked No. 1 for the first time in more than a decade and will play for a national title for the first time since 1988.
If that doesn’t warrant at least a finalist spot for Coach of the Year, not sure what does.
That’s not to say the coaches on the current list, which is chosen by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, aren’t deserving of the award. Each coach on the list did something unexpected. Vanderbilt is going to its second consecutive bowl game, Ohio State went undefeated despite NCAA sanctions that kept the program out of the postseason. Penn State was hit with major sanctions and defections right before fall camp and still managed to be one of the best teams in the Big Ten. Stanford made it to a BCS bowl despite losing star quarterback Andrew Luck. Bill Snyder made Kansas State relevant again. And Kevin Sumlin exceeded expectations in his first season as a Big Six head coach.
But none of those coaches exceeded expectations and got their team into the national championship.
All awards are subjective and I doubt Kelly even cares. He already won the Home Depot Award, which is another award given to the nation’s best coach. But let's be honest, if he’s raising the crystal football on Jan. 7, no other award will matter.
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