Wednesday, January 03, 2007


One cannot blame Nick Saban for being overwhelmed when the University of Alabama unloaded a dump truck full of money on his head. After all, there are few reading this who'd turn down the roughly $4M/year he's supposed to be making. That's solid middle reliever territory, after all, and not just for the Orioles.

But it is perhaps right and proper to blame Nick Saban for his miserable hypocrisy, for his insistence on berating and taking to task anyone who - rightfully - failed to believe him when he said "Gawrsh no, I'm staying right where I am." Having lied to and browbeaten the media, he has abandoned any claim he might have had to a fair shake from them. Nothing was gained by his transparent denials, by his behind-the-scenes hissy fits, except a loss of goodwill when Alabama finally cranked those Showcase Showdown numbers high enough.

I don't begrudge anyone the opportunity to jump to a better job. Having worked in outplacement, I even understand the need to, shall we say, conceal one's intentions from one's current employer. But the line gets drawn when your job hunt interferes with someone else's ability to do their job, and when you treat others unfairly in your pursuit of a little more filthy lucre. As grotesque as the job of head football coach is - and make no mistake, it is a freakish one - there are certain things that come with the title and hefty paycheck. One is the understanding that you are the public face of a school or of an organization, and in the latter case that organization claims to represent an entire city. (That is, after all, the basis of fandom - those are our guys out there. They represent us.) And to lie transparently, to bolt greedily, to money-grub relentlessly - all of those are qualities that might not be appropriate in someone whose duties include standing up for one's employer, and for those whose support you lay claim to.

One wonders why exactly a coach willing to do such things - and the list is long - is so appealing that someone would want to hire him away. The answer, I suppose is that they win games, but that's never a sure thing (see Spurrier, Steve). Besides, if they cheated with on their former employer with you, they just might do it again, but this time, the boosters who took such pride in luring the wayward coach to their school will raise holy hell about being jilted by the faithless, traitorous no-goodnik. Then, of course, they'll go poach someone else's coach and start the whole thing again.

So, in the end, I don't blame Saban for going, just as I don't blame Urban Meyer for jumping to Florida, or any other coach who jumped at the big money. There are only so many shots at that brass ring, after all, particularly when it's something shinier and more valuable than brass. But I do blame him for being a schmuck about it, and I think the damage from this is going to follow him far longer than he expects.
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