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Friday, July 27, 2012

The Bear, JoePa and Nick

Like many of you I am a fan of college football.  I have read and watched with fascination and then horror as the PSU scandal unfolded before my eyes.  I’m not sure if it's over yet, at least two participants will have their day in court and have to deal with Lady Justice.  I cannot believe anything good will come out of the trials and probably only more evil, deceit, and lies.
In many ways Joe Paterno is very much like and very different from another fan revered icon of the gridiron, Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant.  I look at Nick Saban and see the beginning of the same worship culture down in Alabama.  Let me explain.

I was living in Alabama when “The Bear” abruptly retired and then about four months later died of a massive heart attack.  His reason for retiring was that he did not believe he could deliver as a coach what was expected of him at Alabama.  Very truly humble and honest.  Compare that to JoePa who for the past 10-12 years was propped up and staked to the sidelines and injected with formaldehyde to present a picture of someone coaching the Nittany Lions.  All done in chasing the most winningest coach title for JoePa and PSU. 
In the state of Alabama you either root and die for the Tide or the Tigers.  Damn Yankees and Catholics are as rare as hen’s teeth and pretty much ignored and scorned anyway.  My next door neighbor was an Auburn fan and his wife an interloper transplanted Tennessee nut.  They took my wife and I tailgating to an Auburn/Tennessee game and our first big time college football experience.  Nice memories.  All our friends were dyed-in-the-wool Alabama types.  I swear they bled red and white when the Tide got beat.  Many were graduates and had season tickets.   You could not buy a box of Tide on gameday, then were all stuck of sticks and paraded around.

Early on, every time the Bear left the South to play someone he would get his butt-kicked because of the talent laden teams with African Americans on them.  Convincing UA to integrate the football team was not easy, however, winning football games was and the Bear won that one.  The Bear got a dorm built for football players only.  Same for a football only dining hall.  The Bear also got himself appointed Alabama athletic director, something neither JoePa nor Nick would dare even dream about in this day and age. 

He had an early Sunday morning show before church services that was mandatory viewing if you intended to hang out at the water cooler on Monday to rehash the game.  It was fun to watch and listen to his polite, homey southern accent, and his take on the previous day’s game.  The announcers and interviewers shamefully fawned over him. 
He never beat Notre Dame, however he did beat a heck of a lot of other teams.  You name the trinket or junk souvenir and he had his picture on it.  Ditto for the hounds tooth trademark hat.  They begged him to run for governor and what fool would have run against him?  In the end, he left on a high note, with dignity, grace, and on top.  Still he became more than a football coach and as I quoted in a previous post, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  Although different times, I think both The Bear and JoePa became too big for their britches.  I guess that’s why Roman generals had servants to whisper in their ears, “remember you are only human.”

Now Nick has an eight-year contract for a total of $32 million making him one of the highest paid football coaches, professional or college, in the United States at this time.  His total compensation this year is, $5,997,349.   He appeared on the September 1, 2008 cover of Forbes magazine as "The Most Powerful Coach in Sports".  Saban's career record as a collegiate head coach is 146–54–1.

Saban led LSU to the 2003 BCS National Championship and Alabama to the 2009 and 2011 BCS and AP National Championships, making him the first coach in college football history to win a national championship with two different Football Bowl Subdivision  schools Saban and Paul "Bear" Bryant are the only coaches to win an SEC championship at two different schools.  He is the first coach to win three BCS Championships and is the only active coach with three national titles.  Not a bad resume.

He is starting his fifth year and Alabama has already poured the bronze. 

Hey Nick, Psssss.  “remember you are only human.”

What about Notre Dame?  Could it happen at the Bend?  Did Lou Holtz try and fail to push the power envelope?  Try and lower admittance standards for football players?  Ask that ResLife back off in certain cases?  Try and sneak in Randy Moss?   Hmmm.  The rumors are out there.

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