Redemption. Nick Saban Four Years Later

Wayne SmithCorrespondent IMay 10, 2010

In November of 2006, after Alabama dismissed head coach Mike Shula, A.D. Mal Moore set about the task of finding a proven coach to lead Alabama into a "new era of Crimson Tide football."

Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio quickly squashed rumors that he would be Alabama's 27th head coach. "Let me put it to bed," Del Rio said when asked. "I'm very happy with the work that we have here in Jacksonville. I love working for Wayne Weaver and I'm not interested."

West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez was offered the job but declined.

"There weren't many reasons not to go. It's all about the reasons for staying," Rodriguez said. "I'm biased, this is my school. I think it's a great place to raise a family. We've always had a great athletic tradition."

Mal Moore wasn't giving up the search, saying in a written statement, "I want to remind everyone of what I said at the outset of this process: My only objective is to get the best person available to lead the Alabama football program.  I remain determined to bring to our program a proven head coach with impressive credentials."

Through out the month of December 2006 Miami Dolphins head coach Nick Saban was hounded by the media, asking if he was going to take the Alabama job.  During his weekly press conferences Saban denied the rumors.  On December 21 he said, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."

But after the Dolphins' season ended on January 1, 2007, Saban met with Mal Moore.  On January 3 he accepted Moore's offer to become the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

What followed next can best be described as a feeding frenzy.

The blogosphere was the first to chum the waters. put Alabama in its "loser" column, stating: "The UA mystique took a hit in the hiring process.  Well publicized "no's" don't do much for the image.  AD Mal Moore has earned a ticket out of town." 

Ryan Wilson of NFL Fanhouse wrote, "Yeah, I don't think there's any way for Saban to come out of this looking like anything other than a big ass."

One anonymous blogger wrote, "A failure in the professional game, Saban understands his future is about winning big at Alabama for a future payday. Always the fair-haired lad, Saban will now contend with a hostile media, fans that see him as a liar and moral vacuum, and coaches who will use all of it to recruit against him. Despite that, Saban will win because the college game is much simpler than the NFL."

"Sadly, the parents of his players, blind in their allegiance to the Alabama myth, will sacrifice their sons for Saban’s glory."

Smelling blood, it didn't take long for the "respected" national media to take up the anti-Saban cause. 
Jonah Freedman, writing for, ran a story where he judged the character of 10 coaches, most of whom have won a championship in their respective sports.  Each was scored on Freedman's own "creep factor" scale.  I know, it sounds like something a middle school cheerleader would come up with.  Nick Saban was the only coach to score a perfect 10 on his "creep" scale.
Leonard Shapiro of the Washington Post wrote: "Over the past seven days it has been about as ugly as it gets in the papers and on the local airwaves after the slippery, slimy Saban slithered off to Tuscaloosa last Wednesday to accept an eight-year, $32 million deal to coach Alabama."
The most insulting example of yellow journalism came from ESPN's Pat Forde.  He wrote:  "With Nick Saban en route to a coronation in Tuscaloosa, it's officially time to change the vocabulary used to describe college coaches."Integrity" is out. "Character" is out. "Teacher" is out. "Leader of men" is out.  "Liar" is in." 

"Yet they won't be able to introduce Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa simply as the best winner money can buy. The hyperbole will go far beyond that, until he is inevitably hailed as a "man of great character."  I'll simply hail him as the richest member of the Liar's Club."

The number of media outlets that dragged Nick Saban through the mud are almost too numerous to count.  Time, USA Today, SI, ESPN, CBS Sports, Bloomberg (huh?) and countless others.  All without one single interview with Nick Saban.

Even former Dolphins coach Don Shula jumped on the bandwagon.  He came up with a conspiracy theory that Nick Saban was plotting to get his son's (Mike Shula) job while Mike Shula was still coaching at Alabama.

"He (Saban) was here for two years. He was 15-17 in those two years so he didn't fulfill the promises that he made when he left LSU to come here. And then his agent and the people that were talking to Alabama on the sly when my son Mike was up there. I found out a lot about that also, so there aren't a lot of good thoughts I have about Saban."

I guess crazy old Don Shula had forgotten that Rich Rodriguez was offered the job first.  If Rodriguez had said "yes" then Saban's whole plan would have been out the window.

Many journalist and sports writers who have never met Nick Saban called him "mercenary" despite the fact that Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga had this to say about Saban's departure from Miami: "It is what it is.  I'm not upset, because it's more involved than what you think."

"This was never about money.  On the subject of money, the numbers I hear on the radio talk shows, it is no where near that number. Nick never talked to me about money or an extension. He never made it an issue, where he could've asked for this or could've asked for that. That never happened ."

"I've been through this with Nick for quite some time now, and I feel the pain and so forth and so on of Nick and Terry, and it's not a very simple thing.  I think Nick's great. I'll be Nick's biggest fan. I'll be cheering for him to win that bowl game."

What has been written about Nick Saban in the past flies in the face of everything that former and present players have said about their coach.  Every one of them credits Nick Saban for their success in football and in life. 

Without Nick Saban Alabama would not have won last season's BCS Championship.  Without Nick Saban there wouldn't have been two Crimson Tide defensive players going in the first round of the draft.  What Nick Saban has done for his players cannot be measured in dollar amounts.  It can only be measured in their success in life.

Alabama will always be grateful for what Saban has done in Tuscaloosa.  He will always be a part of the Crimson Tide.  Unlike fans of other schools Alabama will always sing his praises for the job he has done here.

Although I put the word Redemption in my title, Nick Saban never needed redemption for coming to Alabama.  What was a hard and agonizing decision for a great coach was trivialized and portrayed as demeaning by certain media outlets.

In truth, it's the Pat Forde's and the Jonah Freedman's of this world that should look for redemption.

Is it any wonder Nick Saban doesn't trust the press?

Roll Tide Forever Nick Saban!




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