Let me start by saying that I have always respected Nick Saban as a coach. I have voiced my displeasure in his recruiting habits and I have mentioned that with only two Top Five career finishes he is not yet one of the all-time great coaches. At the same time, I have given him credit for being one of the greatest program restorers of all time and praised his respect for the tradition of the game.
However, in his recent interview with ESPN entitled “Alabama’s Nick Saban Unplugged” he crossed a line of professionalism that should never be crossed. In the interview, conducted by Chris Low, he stated the following:
The rules things that get blown up now used to be considered minor. Now, it’s like these things are the same as giving a guy $200,000 to come to your school. A couple of illegal phone calls or text messages, and it’s like you’re a criminal of all criminals if you do anything that’s wrong.
Inside that short answer, he took a clear and blatant shot at Auburn University and the recruitment of Cam Newton. One of the hottest topics, in all of sports, last year was the news that Cecil Newton had tried to receive $180,000 in return for his son attending the Mississippi State. These are the only facts that we know. However, rumors begin to surface that Auburn had paid $200,000 for his commitment to play football for the Tigers.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a little verbal exchange. Steve Spurrier is the king of insulting snippets. However, this was not a coach challenging another coach’s ability to coach up his players. This is a coach who is insinuating that another school is buying athletes.
Before Alabama fans start ranting that Newton was paid to play at Auburn University, consider two things. One, nothing has ever been proven. Two, and more importantly, a coach should never cross the line of insinuating that another school has cheated without any proof.
I guess I falsely assumed that Saban was above that.
With the information that we have available, it is fair for the media and fans to question the recruitment of Newton—although it has gotten tiring at this point. I have been vocal about it in the past and believed that the NCAA or Auburn should sit him because we knew his father shopped him around. However, the NCAA has cleared Auburn and Newton is in the NFL.
Making matters worse, the base of what Saban was saying is true. There are too many rules and regulations. However, that will be lost in his one-line cheap shot.
I guess someone should have reminded Coach Saban his team is currently on probation.