Saban makes his priorities clear
Crimson Tide's coach more interested in winning than speaking
By John Zenor
Associated Press Writer
TUSCALOOSA — Alabama's Nick Saban is a football coach, not a pitch man. His domain is the football field and film room, not the podium and banquet circuit.
It's in his contract. Right there on page 11.
The Crimson Tide coach knows, after all, that he'll be judged on wins and titles rather than speeches and commercials, anyway.
"Here's what everybody needs to understand: Why did I get hired here? To do what? Coach football, right? I'm a coach," Saban said Friday in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press.
It's why his eight-year, $32 million contract, approved by university trustees Thursday, stipulates that he doesn't have to make more than 15 appearances a year at alumni gatherings and other such functions. Don't expect to see him in commercials or on billboards either.
Saban had a similar limit in place at LSU and other stops, he said. It's why he chose to recruit and hire a staff instead of saying yes to many of the 100 or so requests for appearances that poured in during his first two months on the job.
"It's a fulltime job to run this football program and the guys that are on this team and get them to all do what they're supposed to do," Saban said. "I think that's what people expect.
"How many public appearances can you do? How many commercials can you make?"
It's a tradeoff most Alabama fans will likely accept even if they'd love a little bigger slice of the $4 million-a-year coach's time.
"This is the way I've always done it," Saban said. "I do it because I know what my priorities are. I know what's important to being successful."
He also knows that his hiring in January raised expectations for instant success for a team that hasn't had sustained success in a decade.
Saban did, after all, lead LSU to a Southeastern Conference championship in his second season and a share of the national title two years later. He prefers to talk about "the process" of achieving those successes instead of predicting when (or if) they'll happen.
"You've got to be realistic about your expectations," he said. "Expectations can be a negative when you have high expectations and they're not realistic and they don't come to fruition and everybody gets a negative attitude."
When something bad happens along the way, he won't be among those surprised.
"Something's going to go wrong. Count on it," he said. "Everybody talks about the SEC championship that we won in the second year (at LSU) or the national championship we won in the fourth year. But we lost to UAB the first year."
Saban and his wife, Terry, have already had some highs and lows during their first six months since leaving the Dolphins.
The biggest high: More than 92,000 fans filling Bryant-Denny Stadium for a spring game, believed to be a national record for what essentially amounts to a scrimmage.
"Never was there a more heartfelt moment by the Sabans (than) to see that kind of support for what we're trying to do as what there was at the spring game, with all those people coming to support the team," Saban said.
"I want people to understand that and realize that, because we went through a lot to get here."
The lows: He was roundly criticized in Miami for leaving a couple of weeks after vowing, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."
He admits to making mistakes, but says he was just trying to stay focused on the team, not himself.
"I was forced to make statements that I shouldn't have made relative to our future, and I was criticized for it," Saban said. "And rightfully so. I did it. I don't want to have grudges and I do care what people think. But I don't criticize others.
"I've got to be responsible for my own self-determination when it comes to that stuff and do the best we can to do it the right way in the future."
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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