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Nick Saban: coaches are ‘moral compass’ for players, but can’t ‘drive the ship’

Nick Saban AP

With the Aaron Hernandez story still very much on the minds of reporters this week, coaches have been getting questions during SEC Media Days about their thoughts on the subject of player behavior. Florida’s Will Muschamp said Tuesday that coaches are “100 percent responsible” for their players, but stopped short of saying they can know what their players are doing 24/7.

Similarly, Alabama’s Nick Saban explained Thursday that a coach can only provide guidance to a player; what the player does with that guidance is up to them.

“We can be the moral compass for our young people but we cannot always be there to drive the ship,” Saban said during his Q&A with media.

The opinions on the responsibility of coaches when it comes to player behavior vary quite a bit. Some think a coach is there solely to win games and graduate their players. Others think it’s a coach’s place to be a role model. As with most things, it falls somewhere in between.

Coaches can give players every opportunity to be successful in football and in life, but ultimately, the athlete has to decide for himself if that’s what he wants. Will coaches take a risk on certain players or give them more chances because of talent? Of course. They still have a job to do.

But it should be considered that, for some of these players, football is more of an escape than a privilege. Sometimes, a coach has to consider if the alternative — a life without the structure of football — is actually worse for the athlete. Not every light bulb turns on at the same time for everyone.

There are obvious exceptions — murder, rape and the like — and each coach handles their personnel differently. But when it comes to player behavior, there is no easy answer.

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20 Responses to “Nick Saban: coaches are ‘moral compass’ for players, but can’t ‘drive the ship’”
  1. kiopta1 says: Jul 18, 2013 8:00 PM


  2. southernpatriots says: Jul 18, 2013 8:04 PM

    Coach Nick Saban made many pertinent and wise statements concerning the leadership, example, mentorship, guidance, opportunity, and purpose of college football coaches here and in the past. As Coach Saban knows well, most players did not have their father at home as they grew up. This affects young men most especially as recent research has confirmed.

    Being a major college football coach is a most difficult profession. Certainly success fuels farther success, with heightened expectation of success along with all the trappings–expanded stadiums, stratospheric salaries and perks, and all else.

    Most coaches I know, wish they had more time with their players and less time in press conferences and appearances. When a head coach cannot spend the time with an individual student, there are myriad of assistant coaches, student coaches, assistants, and others who can and do.

    Sooner or later the college football player will be on his own in the middle of the night and if he is not where he should be, with those who would help him avoid trouble, he will often fall into trouble. An old saying, “What good happens after midnight” is usually appropriate. It happens every year on just about every team.

  3. jimbo75025 says: Jul 18, 2013 8:10 PM

    “Coaches are the moral compass,” Saban opined while pausing to bite the head off a small kitten.

    I keed, I keed. He is a great college coach.

  4. classyjacklambert says: Jul 18, 2013 8:17 PM

    I hate when Saban makes sense.

  5. thermanmerman99 says: Jul 18, 2013 8:19 PM

    how can college football players take saban seriously anyway? most of these college football players were bigger than saban is when they were in 1st grade, how they dont break down laughing when this overcompensating little man syndrome having dwarf is in their face barking orders is beyond me. saban spends most of his free time in tanning and hair salons getting tanned and his hair dyed every week, he is like a 63 year old justin beiber, although beiber is probably bigger than he is.

  6. alligatorsnapper says: Jul 18, 2013 9:13 PM

    Saban is right. Now I said it. Bama fans? I said it.

    Like southernpatriots said and knows well, most of these players did not fathers at home. Most are still boys that don’t quite know how to be men.

  7. jayquintana says: Jul 18, 2013 10:50 PM

    It’s not a football coaches responsibility to instill values in players. Can we stop pretending it is?

    And enough with the student-athlete bit, already.

  8. dryzzt23 says: Jul 18, 2013 10:54 PM

    Ok so every person is is responsible for another persons actions now?
    What happened to personal accountability?

    College athletes are adult males who should know right from wrong regardless of their race/background. Football coaches are NOT responsible for what the athletes do during their off time. The players are adults and should conduct themselves as such, and when they screw up they should suffer the consequences of their actions/choices.

  9. suprmous says: Jul 18, 2013 11:46 PM

    southernpatriots, I hear what you’re sayin but I still remember the things Saban said he wouldn’t do while he was at our beloved LSU and then we had just the opposite thrown in our faces. Then there’s the attitude he had at Miami with the players down there. From all of what I’ve seen he hasn’t changed very much, except he’s stayed put a bit longer than what I expected but then again nobody has come up with enough of the bait to entice him to leave. At least he got one thing right when he said he wasn’t of the caliber of Coach Bryant. Actually very few can make that claim. Maybe I’m livin in the past too much but Saban’s attitude could stand a bit of an adjustment but then again I realize a lot of folks could stand to have their’s done as well. Too, the players need to realize they’re not in grammar school anymore but on their way to further into Adulthood. They should be actin like adults and takin the responsibilities of adults and not playin with fire like kids do.

  10. thermanmerman99 says: Jul 19, 2013 12:03 AM

    I think saban is extremely overrated for many reasons, but I will name a few. the last 2 seasons, it took major FLUKES for alabama to even make the national title game. people forget they didnt even win the SEC 2 years ago, yet they are supposedly a dynasty? and lets go back to 2009, when they played texas for the national title game, and saban went for a fake punt in his own 30 yard line or so at the beginning of the gameand failed he was being obviously outcoached, until mccoy got injured, and they still barely held on to beat a redshirt freshman qb. im not convinced alabama is anywhere near a “dynasty” and saban is as overrated as it gets.

  11. jjohnb5393 says: Jul 19, 2013 12:08 AM

    A Fluke that Alabama won national championship? Also, a fluke SEC has won last 7 …….who was better than Alabama last year?

  12. thraiderskin says: Jul 19, 2013 12:09 AM

    Coaches can only do so much… These players are adults… nothing more, nothing less. The excuses must end, or else we will only perpetuate an idea that society will contradict. Saban can’t be more right in saying they (the coaches) are moral compasses, but they can not force these “men” to act their age. Sometimes life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean those special individuals are beyond what the law states they deserve. I grew up with a father, but he didn’t teach me everything, that isn’t possible, in those situations i was unfamiliar with, I had to use common sense and logic to overcome impulse, many, many, many times.

  13. polegojim says: Jul 19, 2013 12:18 AM

    Saban is an awesome Coach and Alabama’s football program is incredible… period.

    I struggle with how much responsibility coaches have towards players personal lives…. they’re NOT their family and they’re not ‘raising’ them… nor SHOULD they be.

    Are they teaching these young men some ‘life lessons’… ok, yes… absolutely… but in actuality, they’re teaching them how to play football and be the best they can at the game. That’s their responsibility and ‘job’.

    Within that football responsibility then comes discipline and accountability to the program, school, and team mates. They should not wink at or tolerate foolishness or destructive behavior within that venue. I believe that’s where a Coaches responsibility rests, begins, and ends.

    During the process, they get ‘close’ to some young men… but certainly not all of them. There are limits on what they can do… and what we should expect.

  14. jimbo75025 says: Jul 19, 2013 1:32 AM


    I am confused why you say that Saban is held in too high of a regard? I am not an Alabama fan, but he has won 4 NCs as a head coach. In these days one will pretty much get you a lifetime pass unless you really screw the pooch like Chizik.

    Flukes/luck are what you make of them and Alabama has capitalized on it. Nothing wrong with that.

    You do not have to like something to repect it.

  15. alligatorsnapper says: Jul 19, 2013 6:43 AM


    I agree. I know many LSU fans do not share my posting, nor even any good feelings about Saban. I understand them, they have many reasons.

    But when he is right, he is right. A huge entourage of media follows him around, especially during media days. His words have great impact and are reported around the world.

    The final day of SEC Media Days the huge entourage followed Coach Les Miles around and he gave them many quotes, as he usually does.

    It is past time to begin college football. A lot of this stuff would not be happening if play was commencing.

    I am going to borrow from Florida727 since I don’t see him on here….John Taylor, we thought you were going to end this off season stuff!

  16. florida727 says: Jul 19, 2013 8:10 AM

    Lot of directions this discussion can go…

    Ultimately, a person is (and has to be) responsible for their own acts, regardless of their age. All a coach can do or be is an influential factor in a young man’s life, and quite frankly, in this regard, head coaches are vastly overrated.

    Players, with the possible exception of the QB, spend far more time with their position coaches than they do directly interacting with the head coach. From purely a character-building perspective, I believe the position coach can play a far more critical role in developing or shaping a player’s character. It just so happens Media Days wasn’t created to have pressers for the assistant coaches. They’re not paid as much.

    At the end of the day though, a player’s upbringing at home, with or without a dad, with or without a mom, is what will likely determine how they act as an adult. If you don’t want to take my word for it, take God’s. Proverbs 22:6… “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Having a child is not a “right”, it’s a privilege. If parents treated it accordingly, a lot of these kids wouldn’t have police records longer than their academic ones.

  17. 8to80texansblog says: Jul 19, 2013 10:16 AM

    First off these are kids… lets get that straight. You may be able to vote and eligible for selective service at 18, but you can’t buy a beer, you’re still a teenager, and by most standards, you’re still a kid at 18.

    As many have pointed out, many of these kids come up from single parent households without a strong male role model. Young men crave that strong male in their life and will find it one way or another. Whether it’s a coach or a social delinquent with a strong personality, they will find it.

    I agree that it is a responsibility of coaches to take an active role these kids lives. On the high school and collegiate level, I believe it should be just as much about character building as it is football. I can’t comment on Saban’s record in that area but I agree with his comments wholeheartedly.

  18. mountaineer50415 says: Jul 19, 2013 2:11 PM

    There are people who are not going to listen to other people no matter who they are. It does not matter if they are football players or CPAs they think they know everything.
    In fact if people are honest they believe the world would not be able to get along without them. They believe the world just came in with a big bang and it stays here because they were born.
    When you come right down to it many do not care if you are a coach, a parent, a preacher or even God. They are going to do it there way.
    We are supposed to be here for others but that does not mean others are going to listen. If Hernandez did not listen when God said “Thou shalt not kill”, what makes anyone think he would have listened to his football coach. Get real.
    By the way when is someone going to step up and wonder if maybe Zimmerman’s rights were messed with by Trayvon. He was found to be not guilty. Leave him alone. No one has the right to knock someone down and bang his head on the pavement. People have the right to life, that means we have a right to protect ourselves.

  19. onbucky96 says: Jul 19, 2013 6:54 PM

    Moral Compasses only suspend trouble making star players against Our Lady of the Poor Orphan, University of the Custodial Arts, Minnesota, etc.

  20. cardmagnet says: Jul 19, 2013 10:51 PM

    Nick Saban should not be the moral compass for anyone. He has not an ounce of integrity in his whole body. If your compass is heading in his direction, run the other way.

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