Tuberville, Saban & the press

Loving the press won’t stop them from doing their job. Hating the press won’t stop them from doing their job. Just ask Tommy Tuberville and Nick Saban.

When Tuberville wanted the DeRon Furr situation to disappear, his friendliness didn’t stop the professionals from asking the tough question. It irritated Tuberville so much, he snapped “Next question.”

It was a different sounding Tuberville.

He was almost annoyed.

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He didn’t want to answer, and even his affability with the press didn’t prevent three or four days of attention on the Furr problem. The press is the press, like a proctologist they poke around where nobody wants them.

Even when you treat them nice.

Ray Melick explored the issue in his column, asking was Furr bullied?

It’s one thing when two players go at each other in a drill, with tempers flaring and they stay after each other after the whistle. But if a player or group of players decides to physically pick on a freshman because they don’t like the way he does things, that is not fighting; that’s bullying…
Picking on someone because he’s weak is just being a bully.

That will look great when it is handed to recruits.

And don’t think for a minute that negative press reports aren’t pushed by rivals. Everyone knows it happens. Steve Spurrier recently complained about fan websites sending South Carolina recruits negative press clippings.

As Tuberville went through his little storm, Saban lectured the Alabama press on writing about depth charts. Saban called such depth chart reports unprofessional and mean. He said these depth charts weren’t official, and were disrespectful to his players. He asked the press why they would write such things without asking him first.

Saban made good points. And what the talking heads on talk radio forgot, is that these are 18 and 19 year olds, not NFL players. They might be adults, but they are still kids.

Furthermore, Saban and his staff are walking a tightrope. A tightrope fully reported by one of the few exceptional members of the press, Mr. College Football.

In a lot of positions at Alabama a good, solid veteran player is going to be pushed by a younger, more talented player. Coaches have to walk a tightrope when dealing with this kind of situation. Even if the younger player has more talent, the timing of moving him into the starting lineup is very tricky.

If you make the move too soon the young player struggles because he’s not completely prepared. Then he loses confidence. Also, the veteran player who loses his job may go in the tank because he’s no longer the starter.

But if you make the decision to move the kid up too late that’s not fair to the team. You’re not giving your team every opportunity to get better.

This is not like the NFL where you put the best player in the position, period, and cut the other guy if he doesn’t like it. In college these things have to be handled with a certain amount of finesse because you don’t cut guys or trade guys or pick up guys on the waiver wire.

Here is the trick, one of the coaches told me. You hope that over time the younger player makes it abundantly clear to everybody—even the veteran player that he’s challenging—that he has earned the position. Then you make the move and hope that the veteran player will remain engaged. If he’s a team guy the veteran will keep playing. If he’s not, then there could be a problem.

What do these early depth chart reports do? It makes the tightrope that much harder to walk.

Of course a moron talking head isn’t interested in why Saban might get irritated; someone like the host of the Round Table on WJOX is only interested in filling airtime. At least Ian was talking about football instead of the usual misogynistic nonsense.

Saban’s lecture had another element. By repudiating any speculation about the younger players moving into the starting rotation, Saban helps temper fan expectations.

Alabama fans are prone to irrational exuberance. The slightest positive news causes expectations to explode. If Saban wants to keep fans from putting unrealistic burdens on the freshmen, some warning was prudent.

However, you can’t help but feel uncomfortable as Saban tells reporters they are unprofessional. You catch more flies with honey. Even I know that. If nothing else, treating members of the press with some respect would prevent a day or two of chatter on sports radio.

It is a balancing act for coaches. You need the media, but they press their own agenda. Some of those agendas coincide with the coach, many are at loggerheads.

You have to coexist with the press, but no amount of cultivating relationships can prevent negative reports. Just ask media savant Tuberville.

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