When Did Nick Saban Become Satan?
"How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways."
Somebody pass me a calculator, please.
Alabama's coach is one win away from becoming the first coach to win a national championship at two schools. That prospect more than doubles the anxiety level of the average college football fan.
Most think Saban has coached everywhere except the one place he should truly call home. I won't give you the GPS coordinates, but they don't call him Nick Satan for nothing.
Frankly, I don't know why they call him that at all.
Sure, Saban's made a career of out making career moves. And his idea of fun is to spend 18 straight hours in a film room, surfacing only to yell at assistants that they're not working hard enough.
Linebacker Corey Reamer looked around the plane on the fight out here. Sure enough, there was Saban with his face buried in a computer for five hours. It's safe to say he wasn't reading Hollywood restaurant reviews.
"He's always working," Reamer said.
For most that's not considered a black mark. In Saban's case it just confirms the workaholic nut-job image. I can't defend some his antics. It's just the devilish hatred is out of proportion to his actual sins.
What's Saban done that many in and out of his profession haven't? Let us count:
He bounced from Toledo to Michigan State to LSU to the Dolphins to Alabama. Each time, he left for a better job.
Wouldn't you? NFL.
"It's unbelievable. There were four or five statements that were blatant lies. That tells you a little bit about the guy," Shula said. "He has run away from the challenge."
There were probably a few Colts fans who felt that way about Shula in 1970. As for the lies, that's the one Saban haters really count.
"I'm not going to be the Alabama coach," he proclaimed throughout December of 2006. Three days into 2007, he was getting fitted for his starter-kit Houndstooth hat.
But is it a lie when you think you are telling the truth?
Saban said he didn't change his mind on the Tide's offer until the last minute. I don't know what really went on in his head, but at least there's room for debate.
A lot more room than there was when Butch Davis said he wasn't going from Miami to the Browns, or Bobby Petrino bolted from the Falcons to Arkansas, or Dennis Franchione left Alabama for Texas A&M, or Tommy Tuberville told Ole Miss he'd only leave the school "in a pine box."
A few days later he and his casket took the Auburn job.
Call it lying, call it misleading, call it dishonest. Just call the job-search dissembling a way of life in the coaching profession. That doesn't necessarily make it right, but it does make it unfair that Saban became the national poster boy for forked tongues.
Besides Nick Satan, he's been called Benenick Arnold and O'Saban bin Lying. And even on the Internet we can't print what Louisianans called him when he went to Alabama.
Hell hath no fury like an SEC fan jilted. But what did Saban actually do to LSU besides revive the program and deliver a national championship?
His real sin is threatening to do the same at Alabama, which gets back to Shula's comments. If Saban was the type to run from a challenge he would have headed almost anywhere before Tuscaloosa.
Of course, a $32 million contract didn't hurt. Being the first $4-million-a-year coach is another cause of Saban Hate.
Again, would you turn it down?
Not if you're Pete Carroll or Urban Meyer or Mack Brown or Charlie Weis or any of the other coaches who've broken the bank. Yet only Saban is regarded as the Gordon Gekko of college football.
Why does Alabama pay him so much? Let us count the ways.
He's 25-2 in the past two seasons. He runs a clean program. He doesn't demand of his players or coaches anything he doesn't demand of himself.
All that doesn't make him Satan.
It does make him a hell of a coach.