Sometimes it does not take much to get Alabama head coach Nick Saban going off on a tangent about any issue on his mind. He did just that today when asked about the SEC’s new policy banning transfers previously disciplined for serious misconduct. Asked if he was in favor of the new rule, Saban voiced his concerns regarding the rule and the limits it has on he and other coaches while dropping the names Cam Newton and Nick Marshall and once again suggesting each power conference should abide by the same set of rules. Maybe he lost his train of thought while answering the question?
Let’s break down Saban’s response to the question, piece by piece because hoo boy there is much to digest. Quotes provided by Al.com;
“I understand what they’re trying to do, and I was really [looking] to clearly define exactly why — or what — I thought convicted and felonies should be involved in the rule, and I guess I got sort of misinterpreted. But one of the points that I tried to make was Cam Newton being in the SEC and Nick Marshall being in the SEC benefited the SEC, and it benefited those players.”
Correct, Newton and Marshall did benefit by playing in the SEC. The league’s notoriety surely helped elevate each player’s skills and prepared them for the next level in the NFL. And yes, each player had some issues in their past before landing at, that’s right, Alabama’s biggest rival in the SEC (Auburn). Except neither player was involved in a crime of the nature the new SEC rule was designed to address. No domestic violence or sexual assault issues followed either player that would, coincidentally, go on to defeat Saban’s Tide en route to an SEC championship during their respective runs as starting quarterback. But perhaps Saban was just using those random (or not so random) players as an example to address the theme of the policy. Saban’s larger sticking point is once again having each power conference play under the same rules, something that carries over from the satellite camp debate.
“What I’m most concerned about, I just think that we should have the same rules in the SEC as all the other Big 5 schools have because now we’re not just talking about the SEC. We’re talking about having a playoff — no different than the NFL. One division in the NFL doesn’t have different rules, different salary caps, different anything because the league knows that parity is the best competitive balance that you can create.”
This statement in particular will be what many latch on to, although it leaves room for interpretation. Is Saban saying every conference should adopt the SEC rules or merely saying each conference should use the same rules? In theory, and perhaps in an ideal world, Saban would have his way with everybody playing by the same set of rules, and this is one idea I happen to think Saban is right on the money about. However, who is to say the SEC rules should trump what the Big Ten plays by? Certainly not Saban.
Carry on Saban.
“So when we pass rules that other people that we have to compete against — and if that is really what’s best for the young people that we’re dealing with here, the student-athletes that we’re dealing with – then it should be best for everyone, or otherwise we shouldn’t do it. So I’m hopeful that some kind of way we’ll be able to get the Big 5 together — under the NCAA’s supervision — to try to create rules that we all see in the best interest of student-athletes, which I think we need to be thinking about here: Why do we do this? It is to benefit the student-athletes, to promote opportunities for the student-athletes.”
To his credit, Saban has established a track record of giving players second (or more) chances during his career. This has rubbed some the wrong way, but sometimes players do deserve another chance to thrive. This has gotten Saban into a sticky situation recently, but his overlaying theme is a good one. If we really are to believe these power conferences and programs have the best interests of the student-athletes and want to do everything possible to provide the best opportunities when they leave, then putting rules in place that allow for this to happen is needed, and preferably every conference would adopt the same rules. But we know this is not ultimately the case, which leaves Saban likely to stand alone with some of his opinions.
One more from Saban, again per Al.com…
“Now, they have a responsibility and obligation to do the right thing. But what I see happening a lot is people don’t get convicted of things. They’re condemned as soon as they get arrested, and I’m not sure that’s fair because I don’t think that’s what our country was really built on.”
You may not like Saban for one reason or another, but he does go to the defense of his players, even when it may not be the wisest decision. Does he have other interests at heart? Undoubtedly. He is not the highest-paid head coach in college football for no reason, but he does seem to want the best for his players and the players on other programs as well. If it helps him win some extra games, then great. He may have gone off the mark in his response to this particular subject, but his statements should not go completely without merit.