Why Nick Saban's Mindset Is the Real Concern with Alabama's Textbook Scandal

MrSEC DotComContributor IMarch 10, 2009

I wonder what Nick Saban is thinking right about now.

With Alabama embroiled in yet another NCAA scandal, is he starting to look around for the emergency exit signs?

When Saban took the job at Alabama, many non-Tide fans said that he was a mercenary and that he would leave before long. I disagreed. 

Where do you go from Alabama? That’s like leaving North Carolina in basketball. If you win, there’s no better gig in your field.

In the current situation, however, I have to wonder about Saban’s thought process.

As you know, several Alabama athletes—not just football players—took part in a scam to get extra free textbooks for their friends, significant others, etc. 

Alabama, still in a five-year “repeat offender” window for their last NCAA scrape, is now having to wait for an NCAA punishment on what they say could be “major violations.”

Not good.

To make folks worry more, Florida State just received word of their punishment from the NCAA for an academic scandal of their own. 

Interestingly, the Seminoles' punishment isn’t as bad as the buzz surrounding it. The loss of one or two scholarships per year for three years is hardly the NCAA hammer coming down on their football program. It’s not a program-destroyer.

Sure, they’ll probably have to vacate some wins, but that’s small fries. Fans will remember those wins as wins...and their opponents will remember those losses as losses.

(Side note: I’m no Bobby Bowden fan, but why is everyone saying that this is proof that he needs to go? Half the sports on the FSU campus were affected by this academic fraud scandal. I doubt Bowden was masterminding the situation for the basketball, baseball, track, and swimming teams.)

If anything, the Florida State situation should make Tide fans actually breathe a bit easier. On the surface, their scandal is a lot more serious than Alabama’s, and they escaped with their heads still attached to their shoulders.

So while it’s never wise to count on the NCAA to do the logical thing, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the penalties coming to Alabama for their textbook situation.

I, however, WOULD be worried about the five-year “repeat offender” window that will now remain open in Tuscaloosa through 2014.

I would be worried that any renegade booster could lead to my school getting back in trouble—much more serious trouble.

If a single rogue car dealer who likes to give hundred-dollar handshakes gets caught paying a player or two (and this goes on at EVERY university), the whole program could be in a very perilous situation.

Albert Means + textbook scandal + a single paid player = “lack of institutional control.”  And that would equal much larger punishments.

I would be worried that a man as smart and as controlling as Nick Saban might not be too happy with these recent developments.

Saban is one of the five hottest coaches in America. He’s paid like it. He’s earned it.

But would his name be tarnished if Bama—thanks to some rogue fan—got slapped with a big probation somewhere down the road? On his watch?

More importantly, would Saban feel like his name would be tarnished? Would other schools jump to hire a man whose program was smacked by the NCAA?

In Saban, we’re talking about a man who controls every level of his program. Every hire and every press release. Every wind sprint and every phone call. 

This is someone who at LSU would answer only to the president of the university.

A man that controlling might not like the fact that the fate of his program can now be controlled by some rogue booster. The penalties for any future problems will most assuredly be greater thanks to the current textbook scandal.

And while all schools have money men who take it upon themselves to “do a little something” for players, it’s Alabama that just allowed a textbook scam to go on for two years. 

No one caught it.

What does that say about Alabama’s oversight? What does that say about the institution’s control?

Who’s got Saban’s back?

I wonder if the coach is asking those same questions right now.

I wonder if this current textbook scandal—due to the problems it could lead to in the future—has him thinking, just thinking, about possible escape routes.

I don’t think Saban will be leaving Alabama anytime soon. 

But I bet he IS contemplating possible exit strategies for the future. Just in case. A man as buttoned-up as Saban would have to be doing just that.

Having a parachute doesn’t mean you’ll use it. But I’m guessing three months ago Saban wasn’t even thinking about parachutes.

That’s all changed now—thanks to Alabama officials allowing a textbook scandal to go on for two years.

That’s the real concern caused by the current mess: not the penalties that are coming, but the possible change in mood of the Tide’s current coach.


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