Nick Saban's Testy Press Conference Indicates D.J. Fluker Issue Is a Distraction

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 12, 2013

College football coaches are control freaks.

They want to control the tempo of the game, the personnel on the roster, the systems they run and, most importantly, the message.

That last part is exactly why Alabama head coach Nick Saban was so angry on Wednesday.

A normal post-practice press conference took a swift turn Wednesday afternoon, after Rand Getlin and Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports released an in-depth story on one current and four former SEC players accepting money and extra benefits from agents through an intermediary—former Alabama defensive end Luther Davis.

One of those players was former Crimson Tide offensive lineman D.J. Fluker.

Saban claims that he hadn't read the report prior to stepping into the press conference, but that didn't put the subject off-limits.

"It hasn't been distracting for me because I don't even read about it," Saban said. "I'm focused on what we need to do to play a game. That's what's fair to our players, and that's what we owe our current players. This has not been a distraction for me. We have really good people who will manage this."

Six uncomfortable minutes after the press conference began—and countless questions regarding Fluker later—Saban abruptly ended the press conference in the most sarcastic manner possible.

"I appreciate your interest in the game."

The irony is thick in that one statement.

After months of Saban not wanting to talk about the Texas A&M game and keep the focus on the process of building the team, now—during game week—there's something bigger than the game to discuss.

This is a distraction for the Crimson Tide, and Saban's actions speak much louder than his words. He no longer is controlling the message, and that bothers him.

Instead of talking about the game, Saban's attention is being drawn off the field much like Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin's was at times in August when quarterback Johnny Manziel was embroiled in his autograph scandal.

That was different, though.

A&M's issue was in the offseason and had to do with the eligibility of one current player, who could always be pulled off the field for the program to avoid games being vacated. This has to do with a former player's eligibility during a time period in which the program won back-to-back BCS National Championships.

In other words, a dynasty could be vacated, and there's nothing Saban can do to prevent people from discussing it. Despite knowing that, it won't prevent him from trying.

The message is now out of his control, and while there's not much he can do to prevent it, he's still going to try by mandating that media focus on "the game."

Saban always preaches the importance of limiting outside distractions, and no matter how much the coaching staff works this week to keep players focused, they know what's going on.

It's impossible to avoid.

Could that work in Alabama's favor? Absolutely.

An angry Saban is a dangerous Saban, and it's clear from Wednesday's press conference that he's angry. If he takes out that aggression on the Aggies in College Station, it could get ugly.

But while Saban's words on Wednesday indicated that he is compartmentalizing the issue for himself and his team, his actions contradicted those words.



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