Shane: The Saban Effect

The “Saban effect” creates wave of desperate moves by opposing SEC schools
By Shane from Centerpoint

An unusual phenomenon occurred in the Southeastern Conference during the 2008 football season. Seems like Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide dominated and embarrassed some of their traditional opponents so badly on the field that those programs chose to fire their current coaches, and rebuild from the ground up. In fact, two of the schools – Auburn and Tennessee – were so shell-shocked by the talent Saban put on the field that they fired a couple of the most successful coaches in modern SEC history.

You’re welcome to say what you want about Thomas Hawley Tuberville, but he probably took Auburn University as high up the national ladder of respect as they will ever go. He also kept Tiger fans happy by beating their main rival Alabama and even piloted Auburn to an undefeated 13-0 season in 2004, which at least had them poised to play for a national championship.

However, none of the accomplishments he achieved during his 10-year career at Auburn seemed to matter the day after the Tide shellacked his Tigers 36-0 in the 2008 Iron Bowl. In the bitter end, all the blood, sweat, and tears he shed during those ten years meant nothing to those who signed his check.

Evidently, according to the Auburn family, everything about Nick Saban had to be counteracted and it had to be done right then, if they were going to save the program. Some Auburn people believe that there are a few men – who have no business running the football team (but they love their university!) – who are convinced that they can close the gap on Saban by totally revamping the system.

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Meanwhile, up in Knoxville, Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer never saw it coming. One would think that the 1998 national championship he delivered, his multiple appearances in the SEC title game, along with a winning record over arch-rival, Alabama, might allow Phil to survive a bad season.

Not a chance! Fulmer’s castle began to crumble when Alabama came into his house and pummeled his team for the second year in a row. That woodshed-whipping started a snowball effect that saw the Vols collapse down the stretch. The Tennessee moneymen decided it was time to wipe the slate clean and start over.

As for the men each school chose to lead them in their war against Saban, both are rather odd picks. Auburn picked a strange one for sure. Most people would expect a school of Auburn’s stature to hire a big-name coach who is at the top of his game. Instead, the Tiger search committee decided to bring in a guy who had a losing record at his last head-coaching stop. Gene Chizik was 5-19 overall at Iowa state, losing his last 10 in a row. Hey! It might be the hire of the century, but it doesn’t look good on paper.

The Alabama sports media and Auburn fans in general seem to believe that the new assistants Chizik has hired will improve recruiting and enable the Tigers to be more competitive in the future. Sounds like a radical move to me. There is no telling what will occur during the upcoming transitional period down on the Plains. Call me crazy, but some of Chizik’s hires make me wonder what additional recruiting techniques Auburn is planning to add to their menu?

Actually, in my opinion Tennessee’s hiring of Lane Kiffin is an even more bizarre choice than Auburn’s decision to bring in Chizik. This young, inexperienced coach, fresh off the cover of GQ magazine, is supposedly surrounding himself with a staff of great recruiters – who will deliver the “blue-chip” national talent. In fact, he boasted about “stealing” the top recruiters from several SEC schools – including Alabama.

The guys who run Volunteer football apparently forgot about the pathetic product that Kiffin put on the field while he was the head coach of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. Why is this clown bringing in his daddy to coach the defense? Face it Kiffin’s old man has been coaching in the NFL for the bulk of his career so how is he going to adapt his style to coaching college kids?

Additionally, with Kiffin’s hiring of Ed Orgeron to run recruiting, he’s made a statement to the rest of the SEC – Tennessee will do “what ever it takes” to win. I’m not sure if that is a good or bad move by the Vols, but that type of stuff will eventually come to light.

When you look through the smoke and mirrors, both Auburn and Tennessee – as well as Mississippi State and ACC member Clemson – all fell victim to the “Saban effect” because they were out-matched and overwhelmed on the field. The truth is that none of these knee-jerk, off-the-field maneuvers by any of these programs really mean anything until these new coaches, and their hotshot staffs, prove that they can produce victories on the field.