As SEC Media Days headed toward a close, the overwhelming theme of the three-day period was off-field distractions and discipline.
Led, of course, by Johnny Manziel's weekend incident, furthered by Mike Slive's opening comments and pushed by the media, discipline and player conduct were a major player at 2013's SEC Media Days.
Every coach had to touch on discipline. James Franklin, who recently dismissed four players, curtly stated, "It's about giving them the right tools to be successful," after reminding people that he would not discuss the dismissals during ESPNU's SEC Media Day coverage.
Alabama's Nick Saban went a step further: Not only did he also state that setting kids up for success was the goal, but he hit on consequences and accountability, as Mr. SEC reported. Saban's most central theme of discipline, accountability, was best captured by WSFA Assistant Sports Director Derek Steyer:
Saban: We can be the moral compass for our players, but we can not drive the ship. (re: aaron hernandez)— Derek Steyer (@DerekSteyer) July 18, 2013
This point is one that people continuously fail to grasp. As Ohio State's Urban Meyer is forced to defend himself with respect to the Aaron Hernandez arrest, looking for a way to blame the coach has become commonplace.
Speaking Wednesday to the Alabama High School Athletic Directors and Coaches Association, Saban made his point very clear: In the end, the players have to make the right decisions:
But at the end of the day, they have to make the right decisions and choices. They have to do it. We have to provide the guidance for that. We have to set an example for that. We have to provide leadership that will help them, and we got to care about them.
That, folks, is the truth. Coaches have to provide positive examples, set their players up to understand good from bad and then trust the players to do the right thing. That being said, players will make mistakes, and the key is to use those as teachable moments. Not just for the individual player, but for the team as a whole.
Through those mistakes and the resulting lessons, players grow into what the coaches expect them to be. Certainly, some offenses do not warrant a second chance, but the bulk of the mistakes made at the collegiate level, from being late to meetings or missing a workout to underage drinking or failed drug tests, do leave second opportunities on the table.
Between the life-skills seminars, teachable moments, disciplinary action and the maturation process, most players get things right. Saban, along with most other coaches, has a sound philosophy when it comes to discipline, and not nearly enough credit is given to these guys for the things they do right, in that regard.
Nick Saban spelled it out well for people during SEC Media Days. It was a moment that the football-observing public certainly should have noticed. Saban, like his peers, has a very solid philosophy.