Saban faces the media
HOOVER, Ala. – Day 3 of SEC Media Days kicked off Wednesday with Alabama and head coach Nick Saban taking center stage.
The Crimson Tide head coach spent the first 10 minutes regaling reporters before fielding questions.
Topics ranged through a variety of subjects, from Covid-19 vaccines (Saban said 90 percent of his players are vaccinated) to his thoughts on the NIL.
Could you expand on the comments about Bryce Young approaching seven figures for NIL? Maybe the good and the bad of that, how that affects the locker room and the chance for any player who comes to Alabama maybe could earn that.
Saban: “I think, first of all, what I said before, anything that I say now, because there's no precedent for it, you don't really know how it's going to affect things. Players have always been able to work and earn money. That's something that you could do ten years ago, 20 years ago. It's something I did when I was a player.
“The college landscape changed to some degree when players got cost of attendance. We made rules that allowed them to go to summer school on scholarship, which we didn't used to have. So, most players with this additional money and the opportunity to advance their academic circumstance chose not to work.
“So, all we've done is create an opportunity for players to work. The only thing is, the question is because it's not going to be equal, and everything we've done in college athletics in the past has always been equal. Everybody's had equal scholarship, equal opportunity. Now that's probably not going to be the case. Some positions, some players will have more opportunities than others. And how that's going to impact your team, our team, the players on the team, I really can't answer, because we don't have any precedent for it.
“I know we're doing the best we can to try to get our players to understand the circumstance they're in, the opportunity they have, and how those opportunities are not going to be equal for everybody, and it will be opportunity for our team's success that people are not looking over their shoulder at what somebody else does or doesn't do. But any other comments I would make about this, with no precedent, no experience, would probably a year from now not be looked on or viewed on as very smart.”
I'm interested in how Bill O'Brien's NFL background might mesh into what you were just talking about, the kind of offense you want to run at Alabama. What principles that might help Bryce and what you want to do offensively.
Saban: “Bill has done a really, really good job, but everybody's got to remember Sark came from the NFL. Lane had coached in the NFL. I've coached in the NFL. So, I don't think systematically what happens in the NFL is all that much different than what happens in college when it comes to football itself.
“I think the difference is in the NFL, it's how you bring players to the team, you're coaching a different kind of guy, and the whole philosophy of developing players is not the same as it is in college. I think they want to develop players. They don't have the same opportunity to do it personally, academically, and athletically.
“It's a whole different dynamic, and the football part isn't all that different. We're not changing offenses. We've got a good offense. We've got a good system. We've got a good philosophy. Bill has certainly added to that in a positive way, and we'll probably continue to make some changes. But from a terminology standpoint, from a player standpoint in our building, our offense was very, very productive, and we want to continue to run the same type of offense and feature the players that we have who are playmakers who can make plays, and I think Bill will do a good job of that.”
For a lot of teams in the regular season, playing Alabama is as close as they're going to get to being in a national championship with some of them. With the roster turnover and the coaching turnover, what do you tell your coaches and your team week in and week out about playing bad teams versus playing good teams? Do you tell them something different? What's the mindset going into every game?
Saban: “I think the mindset for our players is to be the best player you can be. I always use the example with our players to understand, the scoreboard should not determine how you play in the game, whether you're 14 points behind or 14 points ahead.
“Who the opponent is should not determine the level that you play at, because if you're controlling what you control, you want to be the best player you can be, and you want to do that every single down because that's what creates value for you.
“I always use the example that, when I was in the NFL, they made me a cut-up of a player, so every player in the Draft, I'd look at a cut-up. I didn't know who you were playing against, whether it was a good guy, bad guy, good team, bad team. I didn't know what the score was, but I was evaluating how you played.
“If you didn't create value for yourself because you were ahead in the game or behind in the game, or you didn't play well against some opponent and others you got fired up to play against, then you're not creating the kind of value for yourself that you're capable of.
“So, consistency in performance usually defines success, and that means you can play down in, down out, at a high level, and you can sustain that level because you can persevere through good plays and bad plays and refocus and be able to play the next play, and that's the philosophy that we use with our players.
“We can't control what our opponent does, but we can control what we do. We want to control the outcome of the game by how we execute and what we do, so that's what we want to stay focused on.”