Let me start by saying I like Nick Saban. I donâ€™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.
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 someÂone 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 theyâ€™d be popular tooâ€”until they lost a game or told off a former player.
It doesn’t hurt Saban that he arrived at Alabama at nearÂly 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 Tubervilleâ€™s job during Jetgate. However, Saban has no such good will. Sabanâ€™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 didnâ€™t save Nixonâ€™s job. And picking on the media wonâ€™t save Sabanâ€™s job if he doesnâ€™t win.
However, the media writes the first draft of history. And Sabanâ€™s prickly relationship has already created the impression among the rest of the nation that the Alabama coach is a jerk.
It doesnâ€™t matter now. But if Saban doesnâ€™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.