Saban: We are family

Nick Saban defended his family at a Tuesday press conference, where he covered a wide-range of issues including discipline.

Saban explained his philosophy of discipline—it isn’t chastisement qua chastisement, but a process of purification—improvement.

“Rashad Johnson does not deserve to be suspended from the team,” Saban said. “We’re not going to throw the baby out with the bath water, regardless of what our fans think.”
I wrote about this last summer during that round of arrests. He said then, and said today that he doesn’t discipline players just to exact retribution, but to improve the person.

Saban’s theory of punishment is philosophically reminiscent of Plato’s theory detailed in the Gorgias—that punishment purifies the soul.

To Saban’s way of thinking, you punish to improve the person, not just to satisfy blood lust. We should also note, Saban wants punishment proportionate to the problem.

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While it would be easy to kick ass, Saban wants to reach out and improve lives. That might be hard for someone to understand. However, if we take Saban at face value, and don’t attribute to him heinous motivations, this whole system makes sense.

In many instances, football players come to the University and are the first in their families to attend college. Many of these players also come from broken families, and face severe economic difficulties. If you listen to what Saban is saying, college and football are opportunities for these individuals to improve their position in life.

He hesitates to take this opportunity away unless it is necessary. It would be easier on him to just terminate someone who violates a rule, but Saban wants to run the program his own way.

I would say Saban’s system is refreshing, and at the same time it is frustrating.

Will this system work? Saban deserves the benefit of the doubt. He has won conference titles, and a national crown. He deserves to run the program his own way. So, fans should just shut up because: “We’re not going to throw the baby out with the bath water, regardless of what our fans think.”

Hallelujah! Someone is in charge. For all the irritation over the arrests, it is Saban’s way or the highway. And that is refreshing.

Just like last summer when Saban defended Simeon Castille, there was a vigorous defense of Rashad Johnson. Saban said Johnson didn’t deserve to be suspended, and should be given the presumption of innocence, because last time Saban checked, this was America.

“Rashad Johnson is a fine person…He has affected more players on this team in a positive way. He’ a fine student, over a 3-point g.p.a. and I would be very pleased if my children had the character of Rashad.

Saban’s praise for Johnson compared with a suspension for standout linebacker Prince Hall. Saban suspended Hall indefinitely. He’s out for the off-season conditioning program, spring practice, and who knows how much longer. Hall’s status would be reevaluated in the fall.

It doesn’t sound good for Hall.

Dealing with discipline crisis
There are different ways to handle discipline issues on a football team. I’ve watched this issue in college and high school teams, and I’ve seen other examples of a coach looking weak to outsiders. There are two examples, which come to mind quickly: David Palmer’s problems with Gene Stallings, and a local high school quarterback who got into a scuffle with another student, was arrested, but was retained on the team after serving a suspension (and doing lots of gassers).

Both coaches cut a player slack, and both coaches caught hell for it. Stallings much less so than the high school coach. But the coaches put their pride aside, and tried to help the players.

Was it right or wrong?

Palmer was able to go on to a pro career, and earn a decent income for himself.

The high school quarterback returned for his senior season, and posted impressive numbers. I was told, that being able to play sports probably kept this player in high school.

Was it worth it?

Is Saban’s system worth it?

Let’s give it some time, and evaluate the coach on the results measured in victories, and in the positive impact he has on players.

I’m still betting Saban’s way works.