Nick Saban: Alabama Not Defending Title, Only Looking at 2010
Actually, Saban's TV viewing habits and breakfast routine weren't the big stories at Wednesday's SEC Media Days. The overriding theme was the sudden effect agents are having on college football.
To sum it up: fire good, agents bad.
In other news: Alabama will not defend its national championship this year. No way, no how. Don't believe me? Well, that's what the head man at the University of Alabama said.
"Last year is basically over," Saban said from the Winfrey Hotel, which welcomed more than 1,000 media members and almost as many Alabama fans in the first-floor lobby. "You know, we're not really defending a championship. I'm sure somebody is going to ask me, 'how are you going to defend this championship?'
"The championship is a part of history and we're not going to defend anything."
In case someone forgot what year he was in, Saban made sure no one would be confused.
"The one thing I do want to get established here is I want to make sure I'm in the right year," Saban said. "I want to be in the moment here today. Is it 2010? Am I right about that?
"Because everything I kind of hear has always been about last year. So I'm going to make sure that we're going to talk about this year relative to our team."
Last year, Alabama finished 14-0 and defeated Texas in the BCS title game. Despite Saban's claims about leaving the past, well, in the past, the Crimson Tide are expected to remain atop The Associated Press and USA Today/Coaches' preseason polls when they are revealed next month.
"We're proud of what we accomplished last year," Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy said. "It was a great run, great memories that we'll have for the rest of our lives. If you look at us, none of us are wearing our rings. We understand that whatever happened last year isn't going to give us an advantage this year."
So not only what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but apparently what happens last year stays in last year?
Heisman Trophy running back Mark Ingram said the Crimson Tide knows what awaits this fall against the usual suspects in the SEC and a massive Sept. 11 home tilt against Penn State.
"We know we have a bull's-eye on our backs," Ingram said. "They're going to bring their best. We're focusing on ourselves. We are the only thing we can control."
Florida coach Urban Meyer doesn't necessarily agree.
"The bulls-eye is not on our back?" Meyer said. "I would say the bulls-eye is squarely on Florida's back."
While the Crimson Tide and Gators determine who has the bigger bulls-eye -- who said size doesn't matter? -- McElroy said Alabama will enter this fall with a different approach.
"We were told last year Florida was your motivating factor," McElroy said. "That's what we were gunning for. But I don't think that was the case. That thing got a little bit overused. We understand we had to navigate the SEC schedule to play those guys [in the SEC final].
"This year, the approach is different. We're motivated by what we accomplished last year. It not only gives us confidence going into this year. If you've been to the top, why would you settle for anything less? We're really gunning for the best situation possible. I think we have a very good opportunity to go out there and to do it again."
The Crimson Tide might very well repeat as national champions, but if so, it will because they were able to accomplish it with a different mix of players and attitudes. That's where Saban's fondness for cooking shows comes into play.
"Look, if we had all the same ingredients coming back, all the same ingredients, I watched a cooking show the other day with a guy on TV showing you how to cook," Saban said. "Let me just say, I put all the same ingredients in my pot as he put in his and what came out of the oven is not the same as what came out of his oven.
"Even if we had all the same ingredients back, it would be difficult to manufacture the same kind of team chemistry. That's one of the great things about college football is there's always a lot of new opportunity for a lot of new people because you have turnover on your team. And a realistic approach is, are we going to be able to do the things that we need to do with the young players that don't have as much experience, that are going to get some on-the-job training in terms of what they want to accomplish, what they need to do to do a good job?
"Are they going to be able to do those things with the right attitude, the right commitment, the right intensity, the right sort of ability to overcome adversity? Deal with success when they have success, and have the maturity to overcome some of the negatives that they'll surely go through in this season? It always comes down to how many shining lights do you have on your team and how many blinking lights do you have? Blinking lights are people who don't do what they're supposed to do, they don't do the right things.
"They don't have the right habits. They don't have the correct discipline to get the job done on a consistent basis. Those kinds of players usually affect your ability to be successful."
Saban, meanwhile, says all eyes are looking dead ahead – and not behind.
"You really can't look in the rear view mirror and be able to accomplish these things," Saban said. "You have to look forward and stay focused on the present moment in terms of what it takes to be successful, the work ethic that it takes, everybody's commitment to a standard of excellence, the respect and trust that we have to have for each other in the organization so we can be a good team with good team chemistry.
"Certainly everybody being responsible for their own self-determination, which is all about accountability to do your job. That's something that's always been a big part of what we've tried to get every team to do. That's going to be really important for this team."
Especially when you're defending a national championship – if you were going to do such a thing.
Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at firstname.lastname@example.org or please follow on Twitter @BrettmcmurphY