Why is Saban popular?

Let me start by saying I like Nick Saban. I don’t have to work with him, or cover him, so my opinion is one on the outside looking in. I think his toughness and prickly personality were just what the doctor ordered for an Alabama program in disarray. Like it or not, Saban knows how to set boundaries.

So, what makes him popular despite the dislike of the press? Jess Nicholas, editor of The Prattville Progress, took on that topic in his May 24 column.

Advertisement: Story continues below

What makes Saban popular with the fans is his ability to communicate — not just with his words, but the way he says them — with anyone who grew up either in or within shouting distance of a school of hard knocks. His success isn’t based on fancy schemes; it’s based on recruiting some­one bigger and badder than the guy across the line of scrimmage and convincing him to work hard. When he has enough of them on his side, he starts winning big.

What makes Saban popular with fans is that he is the head football coach at Alabama.

Mike Dubose was popular. Mike Shula was popular. Mike Price was popular.

You could take my dog or cat and make one of them coach, and they’d be popular too—until they lost a game or told off a former player.

It doesn’t hurt Saban that he arrived at Alabama at near­ly the height of fan discontent with the media, specifically sportswriters who were either quick to accept the NCAA’s judgment of the Alabama program in 2001 or those from outside the region who have been trying to knock the school down a notch ever since Paul Bryant retired in 1982.

Fan discontent with the media has little to do with the NCAA sanctions. Fans hate the media because they hate the media generally. Nobody trusts NBC or CNN, why should they trust the yahoo on the sports page?

Also, having buffoons like Josh Moon writing commentary creates even greater distrust.

The fact of the matter is the media will have little effect on whether Saban succeeds or fails. The fans don’t care, and Saban certainly doesn’t care.

I agree. To a point.

The media saved Tommy Tuberville’s job during Jetgate. However, Saban has no such good will. Saban’s job depends on winning. He knows that. But if there comes a time when opinion begins to turn on Saban, the media will exacerbate the turning tide.

Picking on the media worked during Watergate. But it didn’t save Nixon’s job. And picking on the media won’t save Saban’s job if he doesn’t win.

However, the media writes the first draft of history. And Saban’s prickly relationship has already created the impression among the rest of the nation that the Alabama coach is a jerk.

It doesn’t matter now. But if Saban doesn’t win, fans will point to his personality as a reason to fire him. Just like fans point to his personality as the best reason for him being there now.


Add Yours
  1. 1


    I believe you are being a little harsh in your review, I pretty much agreed with his article and am impressed that someone in the newspaper media feels this way.

  2. 2

    Added the A.

    I wasn’t trying to be harsh. I tend to agree with much of what he said. And it is refreshing what he wrote when compared with people like Josh Moon, etc.

    However, I think my point is that anyone is popular when they are the Alabama coach—until all hope is lost. That is a bad thing really. It should be a rebuke to Alabama fans who allowed the Mike Dubose problem. Fans should be alert to the problems, so we get a reformed Athletic Department.

    And I agree bad journalism makes fans dislike sports reporters, and that is another bad thing because we need accurate information that is reliable to fix problems in the University.

  3. 3

    Lying is also bait for the media as well.

    Tommy Tuberville was portrayed as a lying jerk after the pinebox incident.

    Dennis Franchione was as well.

    Now, the attention has shifted on Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino.

  4. 4

    ben cook said it best: “coaches lie. it’s what they do.”

    the fan worship of coaches, and especially alabama coaches is unfortunate. it led to the hiring of dubose. the recommendation of mike dubose by gene stallings was the straw that broke the camel’s back in my perception of him.

    gene stallings is obviously the most popular coach since bryant’s death. his word still carries a lot of weight in the alabama family. he’s also not stupid. he quit ‘bama over a feud with bob bockrath. he then publicly recommended dubose and woody mccorvey to replace him. he knew mccorvey had a snowballs chance in hell of being hired as alabama head coach. (and we all know why) i’ll always believe bockrath wanted frank beamer. but he’d been painted as the villain who “ran off” coach stallings and stallings tapped dumbose. the fax machine cranked up and the rest is history.

    i’ll always wonder how things might have turned out had bockrath had the guts to stand up to a disgruntled former coach and his fickle fanbase and hire the most qualified candidate at the time, beamer.

    the most qualified by a country mile.

  5. 5
    Coach Tony Franklin

    I dont know if Nick Saban is popular,But I know who is………………….. Tony Franklin. (Thats who.)
    I gotta tell you, sometimes its tough being Tony Franklin Damnit! I have had my hands full recently on the recruiting trail. That is because everyone loves Tony Franklin. You should read my testimonials. 750 yards a game, everygame, everytime!

    I recently did a seminar at a pre-school in Texas and I have already picked out my QB of the future. By the time he turns 12 he will be able to throw a perfect spiral through an F5 tornado.!! I’m Tony Franklin Damnit!
    Anyway this weeks special! When you by the TonyFranklinSystem at TonyFranklin.com (or attend one of my seminars.) You will get a free civil war historical re-enactment video called “JEB Stuart wins the War!” Starring me as JEB Stuart, winning the civil war through the use of the “TonyFranklinSystem” spread offense.
    I tried to pitch the idea to Speilberg (But he was busy that day.) So I just directed it myself and used Philip Marshall as the camera man.
    I also got a guy who sounds (sorta) like Don Lafontaine to narrarate the trailer.
    “In a world torn apart by civil war, One man had an offensive strategy that could save humanity…..Coach Tony Franklin is ….JEB Stuart……..schwong!
    Does anyone else smell an Oscar?

  6. 6
    Ed O.

    Growl, snarl! yaw yaw yaw YAWYAW! Yaw, yaw yaw JEB Stuart yaw. YAWYAWYAWYAW! Tony Franklin! yaw yaw yaw yaw yaw humina humia yaw yaw…..

  7. 8

    uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Dinky satan and popular do not belong in the same sentence. Nobody and i mean nobody outside of bammernecks like him. LSU fans hate him, Michigan state fans hate him,Miami dolphin fans hate him. He jumps from job to job like a hot potato, and the country pretty much views him as a self centered,arrogant prick who compares losing to ULM to peril harbor, and 9/11. I wanted to kick his little 5’6″ a$$ when he said that! seems like a perfect fit for Alerbammer!

  8. 9

    Uhhhh…. revisionist history at work.

    LSU fans loved him, but he’s at a rival now, so you can understand some resentment.

  9. 10

    Have you ever left the state of Alabama?
    Maybe a few people dislike Nick. But outside of the Southeast no one knows, (or cares) about Tommy Tuberville. By the way, if you werent such an ignorant pile of Aubbo dung, you would know that Nick and Tommy are the same size. (when Tommy isnt wearing his pumps.)
    So why dont you and cousin Donna Lou stop “fornykatin” and try to get some kind of education before the government kicks in the door for Moonshine/incest related charges.

  10. 12

    Yup. And in a sense he’s right. Saban talks to fans in a unique way. He goes over the heads of the press. Usually, Saban speaks passionately when he has a real message to carry.

    I go back to the week of the ULM game. He was going crazy on his coaches show; he passionately talked about how players need to finish. It was the best coach-speak I’ve ever heard.

  11. 13

    Oddly, I agree with the overwhelming majority of your column. Saban is wildy popular with the Bama nation right now, but his goodwill will be gone if he goes 7-5 and loses to Auburn in Tuscaloosa this year. And you’re right, the media will absolutely eat him alive if he’s not winning this year. He’s got no one to blame but himself for that. The only comment I take issue with is your last response where you continue to try and justify the ULM loss on Saban’s part by saying that he was making comments about “finishing” the week before the game. Read my lips: Good SEC coaches do not lose to ULM, period. I don’t give a damn how lazy Bama’s attitude was the week before, Bama literally has three times the talent on their roster that ULM has. A good coach will find a way to exploit that advantage enough to at least win the game, even if their team is sleepwalking. That loss was solely Saban’s fault, and it’s not a minor issue.

  12. 14

    Ok Julio that was a much more reasonable post.

    I think you have to look into the ULM situation. We could say the same thing about Michigan’s loss to Appalachian. Good teams don’t lose to XYZ.

    In theory, I agree.

    However, you have to dig deeper into the Alabama situation. The Tide had a lot of problem players—thugs—who should’ve been kicked off the team.

    Saban made an error not doing that (which would’ve hurt Alabama two ways: 1. On the field because the Tide was already thin and undermanned. 2. With scholarships due to Academic Progress requirements.

    Saban probably made a mistake not kicking the troublemakers off the team. The bad attitudes, etc. were a cancer that made the ULM loss a reality.

    The loss that concerns me the most was the SEC loss to MSU. It showed serious problems not only with the team, but with the game plan.

    Now, did Saban fix the game plan/offensive issues with the off season change? Or will it still be there?

    If it is still there this season then we can really talk about the problems. Unless the loss is replicated, then it is a fluke related to the regime change.

  13. 15

    One other thing…

    I do believe the coaching staff and team underachieved last year. I predicted losses to Georgia, LSU and Auburn. I got those right….but the additional losses were bad.

    I also believe if we go back to 1990, and look at Gene Stallings first team. It was also a disaster for most of the season. He lost to teams he should have beaten—but didn’t. Granted none were ULM, but still.

    He needed time to get his people and style in place.

    Saban needs the same leeway. But he needs to make real progress this year.

  14. 16

    There was no shame in losing to MSU last year. I was furious with Auburn’s loss to them also, but you have to give Croom credit for a couple of things. He finally has a little talent in Starkville, and he coaches his teams to capitalize on good breaks to the maximum. He won the Auburn, Bama, and Ole Miss games last year by taking full advantage of turnovers. Once is a fluke, three times tells you that somebody is doing something right.

    The ULM game just isn’t on the same planet. That is inconceivable that Saban allowed that game to be lost. Bama’s offensive line outweighs ULM’s D line by 70 lbs or more. Bama’s receivers can run circles around every member of the ULM secondary. At some point, you’ve got to forget the “process” garbage and be a game day coach. He couldn’t find a way to outscore them by 1 freakin point with that lopsided talent advantage? That’s a permanent blight on his record that can never be forgotten.

    Finally, I hope you’re not comparing Saban to Lloyd Carr at Michigan. That Appy State loss was the single most humiliating embarrasment in the history of college football, and that is no exageration. All you’re doing is putting Saban on par with that shining testament to complete and utter failure by even bringing it up.

  15. 18

    Moon’s rankings are under the media review category. Looks like it is also at the bottom of the front page too. It’ll scroll off soon, but can easily be found under the Media Review category or under the May archives…or via search.

Comments are closed.