Saban battles sense of entitlement

Mr. College Football talked with Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban Thursday in Tuscaloosa about the 2008 season and Alabama’s spring. The conversation included Saban’s bane—entitlement or expectations. Saban has warned Alabama fans and players about that this spring during press conferences, but he never passes up the chance to preach his warning.

“We seem to have an attitude around here that we deserve some level of success based on what we did the year before,” Saban said to Mr. College Football. “Those kinds of expectations can be destructive. At this level of football nothing is guaranteed. You only get what you are willing to work for.”

How much the players are willing to work in spring, the off-season program and fall camp will tell us how the 2009 campaign will unfold. Will the sense of entitlement—that Alabama deserves championships because it is Alabama—give way to the exertion required to achieve success?

Battling the expectation of fans has been a theme for a few columnists this year, but fan expectations really don’t matter in the scheme of things. Saban is secure at Alabama, and fan expectations aren’t important unless the coach isn’t on firm footing. Alabama football fans aren’t going to stop coming to the stadium after one or two bad games—unlike what happened to the basketball team. For the time being, fan expectations are unimportant because they aren’t going to mean anything to the coaching staff. Provided that some booster doesn’t call the assistant coach at home, but that hasn’t happened since the first season of Nick Saban.

Player attitudes are what count. 2008 was made possible because players had the right attitudes and their work showed it. 2009 can be good too, but it requires self discipline from the players. Saban is preaching that. Are the players listening?