Saban's Peculiar Reputation

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There are no American soldiers in the Baghdad Airport.  They have been overrun by Iraqi forces, who are beating them back to the Kuwait line.

I know a lot of LSU fans are really hung up on this Nick Saban thing, and I admit I found it very peculiar that he ended up in Alabama, and I promise this will not be a Nick Saban-bashing blog, though I will give you my honest take on him.  

And why am I giving you any take on him?  I am an LSU Tiger fan and a football geek living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  I can't help but have my own perspective on the Nick Saban issue.  I have a lot of thoughts on him, but going into all of them is beyond the scope of this particular blog entry.  Today, I'm going to talk about his reputation as a disciplinarian.

When Saban first got here, a lot of Bama fans identified team discipline as an area of concern for the team, and were excited to have a guy like Saban come in and turn these things around.  My immediate thought was, "Why do they think Saban will turn around a discipline problems?"  What in his history suggests that Saban is a strict disciplinarian who can get everyone on a team acting right?

When Saban arrived at LSU, discipline was not really among LSU's biggest problems.  We had a problem with fractured team social dynamics, but not really a problem with lawlessness, any more than any other school.  Saban didn't really do all that much about the fractured social dynamics, but the problem went away as soon as Josh Booty left (not that it was necessarily his fault, but his leaving helped).

My understanding is that Saban's approach to discipline was two-fold:

 

  1. Let the position coaches handle it, and
  2. If they're staying academically eligible, staying out of jail, and getting to practice on time, I really don't care.

 

Under Saban, LSU was not exactly an undisciplined team, but we had our fair share of problems.  One that comes to mind is when former LSU defensive end Melvin Oliver was arrested for domestic violence for allegedly beating up his girlfriend.  He remained with the team and went on to have a productive career.

While Saban was at LSU, there were a lot of rumors that he tolerated a lot of casual drug use.  Now, none of this is a deal-breaker for me.  I personally think his approach to discipline worked really well at LSU, because there wasn't really a big discipline problem that had to be solved.  After all, what business is it of a football coach isn't an angel off the field, so long as he stays academically eligible, stays out of jail, and gets to practice on time.  Saban felt that outside of those things, a player's life was his own, and I can't criticize that.

Then of course Saban left LSU for the Miami Dolphins, where he embraced Ricky Williams.  Then he came here to Alabama, and I heard all this stuff about how tough and strict Saban was.  It confused me.  I didn't know where it came from.

Finally, I figured it out.  Saban is an unfriendly guy.  He frowns a lot.  He yells a lot.  He's not very pleasant to be around (though I have heard that in his private life away from football, he is quite a nice guy and good to be around, but when it comes to football, he is all business).  Fans saw the frowning and the yelling, and concluded from that that Saban is a strict disciplinarian.  It just isn't true.

This is in no way to suggest that the problems that have plagued the Bama team in the last year and a half are his fault.  They aren't, but I think fans have unreasonable expectations of him, because they have misjudged his character, and that is leading him to some problems and leading them to some disappointments.

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