Mike Locksley just the latest assistant to succeed as Nick Saban rehabilitation project

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Mike Locksley had told his coaching friends for years and years that Maryland was the program he’d like to one day run. But when he left there at the end of the 2015 season, having coached six forgettable games as the interim after Randy Edsall’s firing, there was little reason to believe he’d ever make his way back. 

Though Locksley was still in his early 40s with a reputation as a strong recruiter, the idea he would become a head coach again in the Football Bowl Subdivision — much less at a Power Five program — seemed unlikely. Coaches with a winning percentage in the single digits and managerial red flags in their background generally don’t get too many more chances.

But here was Locksley Wednesday at a media availability for the College Football Playoff, wearing a pressed white shirt with “Locks” embroidered on the left cuff, talking about the record-setting offense he has guided at Alabama this season and balancing the responsibilities of trying to add another national championship ring to his collection while making arrangements for the job he always coveted and now has. 

When the final chapter of the Nick Saban era is written, few will consider his rehabilitation of coaching careers among his greatest accomplishments. And yet for sheer improbability, turning Locksley into a viable candidate for his dream job at Maryland may be right at the top.

“I probably would not have been given this opportunity had it not been for the Alabama experience,” Locksley said Wednesday. 

It would be an understatement to say there were skeptics in the college athletics industry when Maryland officially hired Locksley on Dec. 4, three days after Alabama won the SEC title. Despite Locksley’s obvious ties to the job from two separate stints as an assistant and lifelong roots in the Washington, D.C., area that will help Maryland punch above its traditional weight in recruiting, influential people who are plugged into the coaching industry still define him by 2 1/2 miserable seasons at New Mexico in which he went 2-26, was suspended for punching an assistant and was the subject of a sex and age discrimination complaint by an administrative assistant before it was resolved and withdrawn months later.

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