Look, when I get a chance to lob a few grenades in the direction of Nick Saban, I’m certainly not going to hold back. I can’t take issue with his coaching, his coaching staff, or his teams; Alabama football is the most successful program in the nation, year and year out. Saban deserves his spot in the pantheon of great collegiate coaches, right up there with Rockne, Bryant, Yost, Robinson, Gagliardi, Leahy, Stagg, and Camp.
But, securely atop the national polls, standing 4-0 with a good chance of running the table unless Georgia gets frisky, Saban delivered an ill-tempered screed aimed at Alabama’s students, essentially calling out the undergraduates who did not attend home games in the number he expected and who did not make enough noise when (if) they did attend. This was not the first time Saban had railed against what he sees as an unresponsive student population, and his language in speaking to and about them has been consistently dismissive.
Here’s an open letter to Coach Saban –
Sorry to hear that you live with disappointment, Nick. You mashed Louisiana Lafayette, retain the top spot in every poll, and have the respect of friends and foes. You are clearly top dog. And yet … this is where you go in post-game interviews:
“I can honestly say I was a little disappointed there weren’t more students at the last game, I think we’re trying to address that. I don’t think they’re entitled to anything, either.”
Well, Nick, actually, you see, they are the university. You are a hired gun.
When I say hired, what I mean is you pull down $7,000,000.00 per year in salary and another $4,000,000.00 in assorted other job related income. Oh, and you get a $700,000.00 incentive bonus if Alabama reaches the college football championship. To give your salary a bit of perspective, Nick, the governor of your state earns $119,950.00 a year and the President of your university gets by with $717,000.00
But, go ahead, knock the kids who pay tuition, do the classroom thing, get up on a Saturday morning in order to watch ‘Bama rock the snot out of Louisiana-Lafayette. Let’s take a moment to remember that more than 100,000 fans packed the stadium as Alabama played the Ragin’ Cajuns, coasting to a 56-14 easy victory, playing the third team for much of the second half. Up 28-0 at the end of the first quarter.
This was clearly a blowout, and, Nick, not a lot of fun to watch.
“When I first came here, you used to play that tradition thing up there and everybody was cheering and excited and happy and there was great spirit,. Now, they don’t even cheer. They introduce our players, and nobody even cheers.”
I saw the same movies you did, Nick – “…that tradition video thing”? I’m pretty sure none of the coaches who inspired us counted on “that tradition video thing” to animate the crowd. No, the coaches with whom you would like to be compared were actually more than executive mechanics. They knew that their team was an important part of something larger. They knew that coaching is in its own way a calling. Coach shows up on Friday night by the bonfire, Rockne crouches by the Gipper’s bedside, Herman Boone literally pulls the Titans together, Coach Lengyel meets Marshall’s grief head on, Burt Cotton listens to Sandra Bullock, Molly McGrath pulls the Wildcats from obscurity.
You are miffed when students don’t show up, so you made the university end block seating. You really don’t like spectators who leave halfway through your team’s performance. Your point is that the players put in 60 minutes of gut busting play on the field; spectators should be expected to invest the time it takes for the team to do its work.
“Everybody else should have the same sort of commitment. You don’t have to do the work all week, you don’t have to practice, you don’t have to come in at 7 in the morning and leave at 11 at night, you don’t have to do any of that stuff.”
Nick, you do understand how these institutions of higher learning actually work, right? You and your guys do football. You get the eleven million and your players attend the university for free. The best of your players are showcased, ending up as well compensated athletes in the NFL. The students join the band or the cheer squad, or they get involved with any number of other activities, and may take the opportunity to sit in the stands as you do your thing.
Some of them might be playing volleyball or basketball in Foster Hall, the university’s auditorium, capable of seating 3,800 vocal fans. Your spring game attracted more than 70,000 fans. In searching for information about athletics at Alabama, I found that virtually every article was about football. You’re the main attraction. How’d you like to coach football at Duke, where basketball is king?
Or, since we’re discussing school spirit … well … not school spirit so much as vocal enthusiasm for your team, perhaps you’d like to coach at Kent State, your alma mater? Coaching salaries are on the rise in the MAC; newly appointed coach, Sean Lewis, will earn $440,000.00 this year for coaching your Golden Flashes. Dix Stadium holds just over 29,000 spectators in its three grandstands, but averages about 13,000 per game. Of course, the big bucks for Kent State football come when the Flashes travel to Clemson (56-3) or Penn State (63-10).
That might be fun.
I’m not sure they have a tradition video thing, but I’ve seen the footage of Sean Lewis and the Kent State coaching staff for all sports at the Welcome Week Pep Rally. Looked like a great event, the stands were packed, all 6,362 seats at the MAC Center were filled.
And nobody left halfway through.