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Nick Saban is being criticized for denying interest in the Alabama head coaching position during the last weeks of the NFL season. Saban went 15-17 in two years as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and as recently as two weeks ago said he was not leaving South Florida for Tuscaloosa.
AP photo by Michelle Williams
Nick Saban is being criticized for denying interest in the Alabama head coaching position during the last weeks of the NFL season. Saban went 15-17 in two years as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and as recently as two weeks ago said he was not leaving South Florida for Tuscaloosa.

Constant denials put Saban's, others' credibility in danger

By Steven Wine
Associated Press Writer

MIAMI — There's no denying Nick Saban will be remembered in South Florida as a first-class fibber.

Saban misled his boss, players and fans, leaving the Miami Dolphins for Alabama when he said he wouldn't. In the wake of his departure, Saban was excoriated in newspaper columns and on talk shows as a loser and — almost as bad — a liar.

Dolphins receiver Wes Welker came to the defense of his former coach.

"It's one of those deals where you maybe tell the girl that she looks good when she really doesn't," Welker said. "It was kind of the same situation, where it's OK to tell that lie in order to get the results that he needed."

Welker accepts the notion that deception is part of the game — especially when coaches talk about job vacancies.

They deny interest in switching teams, then become annoyed when their words are met with skepticism, as happened repeatedly during Alabama's courtship of Saban. Charlie Weis' credibility has been questioned as he pledges allegiance to Notre Dame amid rumors he'll jump to the NFL.

"Every coach," Weis said, "is perceived to be a liar. `Well, Weis will say it, but we really shouldn't believe him because he's a liar.' I'm just using me as an example.

"Well, believe it or not, there are some people who aren't liars."

There are even some coaches who aren't liars. Former Dolphins coach Don Shula valued his integrity even more than his NFL-record 347 victories, and he found Saban's disingenuous denials unseemly.

"He made it sound as if he wanted to be here, and he ended up in Alabama," said Shula, whose son Mike was fired by Alabama.

Shula added: "You don't know what to believe."

In that regard, the new Crimson Tide coach is hardly alone. "Truthiness" was chosen word of the year in 2006, and that applied to football, too.

  • Boston College coach Tom O'Brien said, "I'm not a candidate for any job." The next day, word leaked out he was bound for North Carolina State.

  • Dennis Erickson, who has coached seven teams since 1982, signed a five-year contract with Idaho and said it would be his last stop. He lasted 10 months and one day before moving on to Arizona State in December.

    If their lips are moving, they may be leaving. And the trend is not new.

  • In 1999, Gary Barnett went to Colorado two days after sending an e-mail to his Northwestern players promising to lead them back to the Rose Bowl.

  • In 1998, Mississippi coach Tommy Tuberville told an alumni group, "They'll have to carry me out of here in a pine box." He departed unaided a few days later for Auburn — where he'll now coach against Saban.

  • Before the 1997 Super Bowl, Bill Parcells repeatedly denied he would leave the New England Patriots. Then he was gone, declining even to accompany the team back to Boston.

    To be honest, basketball coaches lie, too. Larry Brown has been notorious for verbal misdirection during his nomadic career. Roy Williams stressed the importance of loyalty when he pledged he would never leave Kansas for North Carolina, then did just that.

    But football coaches seem worse — or better, depending on whether guile is regarded as a virtue.

    Some see it as a job requirement. Aiming to deceive the opposition, coaches fudge facts about roster moves, lineup changes and injuries. Former Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis, an equivocator extraordinaire, once said his quarterback's leg had "a teeny, tiny crack" — in other words, it was broken.

    "Lies are like cockroaches," Miami Herald columnist Edwin Pope wrote for Thursday's paper. "Where there is one, there is always another, and another. Football head coaches will climb a tree to tell a lie. These are truths we see more clearly with the tail wind of Saban's jet whistling 'round our heads."

    Ah, Saban. He flirted with teams when he coached at Michigan State and LSU, and now, spurned Dolphins fans.

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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