University of Alabama
Press Conference Transcript
January 4, 2006
I first wish to thank our chancellor, Dr. Malcolm Portera, our president, Dr. Witt, and the Board of Trustees for their steady support and competence throughout this process. We could not have been successful without their support.
When we began the process of hiring the head coach for the University of Alabama, I stated the express goal was to hire a coach with champion credentials. While a number of outstanding individuals expressed interest in becoming the coach of the Crimson Tide, one person who always stood out was Nick Saban, a man who has coached a team to the pinnacle of college football. His teams always play with confidence and pride. And I know in order to win a national championship, a team has to be mentally as well as physically tough. Coach Saban's teams have always possessed those qualities.
Alabama has a long, storied football history, complete with memorable moments and time honored play. Importantly there have been legendary head coaches who inspired those players to achieve those moments in time.
Today we move forward, move toward our future with a new coach who will write his own chapter in Crimson Tide history. There will be more of these moments that will never be forgotten.
As an old football coach, I can tell you Nick Saban is a man who I have admired because of the way his teams play the game. He is a man filled with relentless energy to excel and he exerts it in shaping his players to being better individuals as well as the best athletes they can be on the football field. This is a great moment for the University of Alabama.
Before I introduce the coach, I would like to take just a moment and introduce his family. Certainly introducing Terry to you, I can state to you how important she was in the decision that was made by the coach. She loves college football and longed to be back in it. So does Coach Saban. But Terry Saban was the one that made me feel good when I called her.
Terry, would you please stand.
MAL MOORE: They have a son, Nick Jr., that is not here, he is in college, and their daughter Kristen, and a friend of Kristen's Nicole. Welcome to the University of Alabama.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce the next coach of the Crimson Tide, Nick Saban.
COACH SABAN: Thank you very much. I can't tell you how pleased and honored I am to be your coach at the University of Alabama. The spirit and enthusiasm that has been demonstrated to myself and my family has been phenomenal since we arrived here yesterday afternoon. It certainly is appreciated.
I want you to know that it will be our goal to give you the kind of football program, the kind of football team that you can be proud of, that will complement the tradition that this institution has been so proud of through the years. That's going to be our goal with the football program.
I'd like to thank Dr. Witt and Mal for extending the wonderful opportunity to my family to be your head coach at the University of Alabama.
To the fans and supporters, the boosters, everybody that is here that loves this program, loves Alabama football, I want everybody to know that we need a lot of positive energy for everybody to make a difference in how we go about what we try to do to have the best football team in the Southeastern Conference, the best football program in the Southeastern Conference. I think everybody should take the attitude that we're working to be a champion, that we want to be a champion in everything that we do. Every choice, every decision, everything that we do every day, we want to be a champion. Everyone take ownership for what they need to do relative to their role, whatever it is, whether it's being a fan, a booster, be a good one. Any kind of supporter that you are for this team, everyone take ownership that we support each other so we can have the best possible football program that Alabama has ever had. There have been some great ones through the years. The tradition here is phenomenal. That is a standard of excellence that we want to work for and make our football program a part of.
Our mission statement here is to create an atmosphere and environment for everyone to be able to succeed, first of all as a person. We want players to be more successful in life because they were involved in our program, by the principles and values that we're able to develop with them so that they can be successful relative to the character and attitude they have as a football player here at this institution.
The second thing is we want to be successful as students. I always tell players in recruiting, there's two things that we want you to do here, you’ve got two careers: one on the field, one off the field. The one off the field means you got to graduate from college. That's the one that's going to have the greatest impact on the quality of your life forever. We want to have a great academic support program. We want our players to succeed as students.
The third thing is, we want them to be the best possible football players they can be. We want every guy to reach their full potential as a football player, play together as a team, know how important it is to be a part of a team and fulfilling your role to that team.
The last thing is to use all the resources this institution has to help everyone launch their career when they have represented this institution, when they leave this institution, so they can be most successful in their life because of their association with this university and the people that have made this university great. That's what we want to try to accomplish as a football coach here.
Now, expectations. I know there's tremendous expectations here for what you would like to accomplish with this football program. I can tell you that however you feel about it, I have even higher expectations for what we want to accomplish. I want to win every game we play. I've never gone out to play a game, we've never gone out to play a game, where we didn't want to win and it wasn't important to win and we didn't focus on winning, put all our energy into winning. I think it's more important that you're able to take your expectations and bridge them into the process of what it takes to be successful.
I want to use this as an example.
When we won the national championship at LSU in 2003, the players developed the goals for the team. I thought it was interesting that that was the first team that I ever coached that didn't have a goal that was result oriented, like go to a New Year's Day Bowl game, win the SEC championship, some goal that was result oriented. But this team, the five goals they had, had nothing to do with winning a game, didn't say anything about results.
The first one was to be a team. Together everybody can accomplish more. When I speak to you as fans, boosters, people who love this program, you're a part of that team, too. Together we can accomplish more.
It takes trust, respect for each other in what everyone's role is, what they need to do. That's the first thing that's important, is for us to work together, use all the resources we have to make this everything that it's capable of being.
The second thing was, work every day to dominate your opponent. You know, we have an opponent in this state that we work every day, 365 days a year, to dominate. That's our goal. That's what you get up every day to do, to dominate the people that you have to compete against and play against.
Everyone needs to be responsible for their own self determination. We don't want to point any fingers in any direction other than what we control what we can do. I would like for everybody that's associated with this team to do the same thing: be responsible for what your role is and what you need to do. Be positive to affect the team and your teammates. This is a team's goal. I'm trying to relate them a little bit to the whole big picture of what we're talking about here. Positively affect your teammates every day in the choices and decisions that you make.
The last one was, be a champion. This team did that, and they did what? Won the national championship. I think that's the kind of process that I think you can expect from us in terms of how we approach what we do. Not going to talk about what we're going to accomplish; we're going to talk about how we're going to do it.
What kind of football team do we want to have here? We want to be a big, physical, aggressive football team that is relentless in the competitive spirit we go out and play with week in and week out. What I would like for every football team to do that we play is to sit there and say, I hate playing against these guys. I hate playing them. Their effort, their toughness, relentless resiliency, go out every play and focus, play the next day, compete for 60 minutes in the game, I can't handle that.’ That's the kind of football team we want. Now, that takes a lot of conditioning, a lot of preparation, and it takes a mindset you're going to play for 60 minutes in the game regardless of what the scoreboard says. You're going to compete that way throughout the game.
I've learned a lot about myself in the last two years. I like the pro game. I like the pro players. I had some great relationships with the players that we had at the Miami Dolphins. Had a wonderful owner in Wayne Huizenga, who I truly respect, adore and love as a man as much as anybody except my own father that I've ever met in the world. He came and gave me that opportunity, came back on Christmas Eve, talked me into going to the Miami Dolphins when I was going to stay at LSU. He is a wonderful person, very supportive.
But what I realized in the last two years is that we love college coaching because of the ability that it gives you to affect people, young people in their development, their character, their attitude, as students, the importance of getting an education, the choices and decisions they make every day, seeing them develop their character, attitude, work ethic, overcoming adversity, pride in performance, all the things that are important for them to become good football players, also seeing them go out and be successful.
As I coached in the National Football League, almost every team we played had guys on it that played for us in college. We played New England, they would have two or three guys, Jarvis Green, whatever. Buffalo Bills, they had three or four guys, Josh Reed, Kyle Williams. The self gratification that gave me is that I helped those guys fulfill their dreams when I was a college coach. That was important to me. That's why I wanted to come back to college. My heart's here. I love it here. I like to affect people. That's why we're here. This obviously is one of the best places in the country to have an opportunity to do that.
Obviously what we want to do right now is, is hire a good staff. I think having good people is the most important thing you can do in having a successful program. There's a lot of good people here that we would like to get to know. We will have to hire a coaching staff. We'll interview the coaching staff that's here, see if there's anybody that has the characteristics we're looking for that would contribute to the kind of staff we want to have.
The second order of business will be to try to pull together the recruiting class in terms of where we are with the players that we're recruiting, those that are committed, and any other players that aren't committed that we might be able to get involved with in the very near future.
With that being said, any questions.
Q. You talked a little bit about the way you were received yesterday at the airport, here at the football complex. Have you ever experienced anything like that before? Did that solidify that you made the right choice?
COACH SABAN: Certainly there was a lot of positive self gratification for me that the people appreciated the fact I was going to be a coach here. When I went to LSU, I was at Michigan State, nobody knew much about me then. There was the equipment man, Jimmy over here, and me. That's it. That's who met the plane.
There was a lot more enthusiasm and energy out there yesterday. It was certainly welcomed. We appreciate it. I want the people that came out there and did that to know we appreciated it.
Q. A lot of rumors, even though you've been named the head coach, that rumor is done, but that Jimbo Fisher might return and once again be on your staff. Will he be on your staff once again or possibly others?
COACH SABAN: There's a lot of coaches out there that have coached with me before that we would be interested in having on our staff here that have a track record of being successful in whatever their responsibility has been. Jimbo certainly is one of those guys.
I am not going to specifically comment because of the circumstances that they're in right now in their job that would jeopardize a protocol that we would need to go through professionally to make it happen with any coach that we were interested in. I'm not going to make specific comments to individuals. When we hire somebody, we'll let you know. We'll announce it so you know first.
Q. Could you go over quickly the type of offense you plan to run, the type of defense you plan to run here?
COACH SABAN: First of all, being a defensive guy, we've always run the same scheme on defense. I don't think getting technically into it, anybody would understand. We play a 3 4, over and under, aggressive style. A lot of pressure, a lot of blitzing, a lot of man to man coverage in the secondary, try to play close coverage.
When I went to LSU the first time, they had a Bengal Bells group there, which was the women, the women's quarterback club. The first time I went to address that group, they were asking questions like this, what kind of offense, defense, all that.
But the first question, there was a lady that was about 70 years old, she was about this high, she was all the way in the back of room, reminded me of my grandmother. I'm thinking these ladies are going to ask me questions like, Anybody bake cookies for the guys on Thursday night before the game?’ This little lady gets up and says, Are we going to get up and play any close coverage on these people or are we going to be off and let them catch the ball in front like I've been seeing around here for the last four years?’ I said, We're in the right spot here now. We're getting coached up on the secondary’ (laughter). That's the style we'd like to play on defense.
Offensively, you know, we've always wanted to have balance in the offense. I think it's important to stop the run when you're playing defense, but I also think it's important to be able to run the football effectively, dominate the line of scrimmage, but having balance and being able to make explosive plays, passing efficiency really important on third down, really important in making explosive plays. Explosive plays are important in scoring points. Those are all things we want to try to create here in terms of the balance that we have on offense, running and throwing the football.
I also think it's very important that you use the players that you have; you utilize the players that you have. I hate to start telling stories up here. You're getting me wound up. When I was in high school in West Virginia, we played Masontown Valley, sophomore, 15 years old, playing quarterback. We were playing at Masontown Valley. The school was here. You had to walk through the graveyard. The lights were bad. Get to the field, go play. We're both third and fifth in the state. Whoever wins the game is getting in the playoffs. In those days only the top two teams got in.
We get behind 18 nothing. Walk through the graveyard, come out at halftime through the graveyard and it’s 18 12, 1 minute 27 to go in the game. We get the ball back. Coach Keener doesn't call any plays. He made coach of the year eight years, and I call every play as a 15 year old high school kid.
We get down to 4th and 12 at the 25 yard line. One timeout left. Take it. Everybody in the town where I grew up is at the game, every guy, every person. Last guy turned the lights out to go to the game. I'm saying, Thank goodness Coach Keener is going to call this play, then I won't get blamed for calling the wrong play.
I said, Coach, what do you want to run here?’
He says, What do you think?’
I said, I think you should call this one, last play of the game.’
He says, I tell you what. You have a three time all state split end, the left halfback, fastest guy in the state. I don't care what play you call, just make sure one of those two guys get the ball.’
I call 26 crossfire pass. Threw it to the left halfback, fake to him, post corner to the X, 25 yard touchdown, we won the game 19-18.
After the game he told me this, he says, It really doesn't make any difference what play you call sometimes; it's what players you have doing it.’ I remember that.
On offense I think sometimes that's important. I think it's important to have play makers and skill players who can make a difference in making explosive plays.
Q. In the past you've been quoted as saying the best way to disrespect someone is to just walk away from them. By your own definition, do you feel like you disrespected the Dolphins organization? Is there anything you'd like to say to them?
COACH SABAN: I think the two years I was in Miami that I affected the team in a positive way. I mean, we were a 4 12 team that was $17 million over the salary cap. I think even though the misfortunes of the season, whether it's Ricky Williams' suspension, Daunte Culpepper not being able to play because of his knee injury, Ronnie Brown getting hurt halfway through the season. Whatever those misfortunes were, we came up a little bit short in how many games we won.
But I think the team is closer to being successful now. I think that the salary cap is in much better condition. I think they have all their draft choices. They're better off now.
My commitment to that organization, and it was premature to not stay there, all right, but I knew, Wayne and I talked about this, that my heart was to go back to college. I think everybody should understand that I wasn't going to take this job. I called Wayne on December 23rd when I went to the Miami Dolphins and said, I don't think I can do this, it's too emotional. I'm a college coach. I want to stay in college.’ He came back on Christmas Eve the next morning and talked me into going.
I gave my best effort for two years to do that. I think the organization and the team is better for that. It was premature for me to leave. At the same time, if I knew that my heart was someplace else in terms of what I wanted to do, I don't think it would have been fair to the organization if I stayed. That's what Wayne and I talked about. We communicated. We both kind of agreed that would be the best thing we could do.
Q. (Question regarding staffing.)
COACH SABAN: I want to hire the best staff we possibly can. We've already started to hire some people. We've got some other people coming in. I don't think hiring a staff is something that you really put a timetable on. When you're trying to get the best people, there's a process and procedure you have to go through. We're not going to take shortcuts to hire somebody 'cause once you get married to them, they're here, you're with them. I'd rather get the best people, do the due diligence we have to do to get the best people, end up having the best quality of staff, recruiting staff, coaching staff, teaching staff we possibly can.
We want to do it as quickly as possible, but we also want to do it as efficiently and effectively as possible to get the best product.
Q. When did you initially become aware that there was an opportunity at Alabama? What was your initial emotional reaction upon hearing that?
COACH SABAN: Obviously the timetable for me was there was interest after Coach Shula was dismissed. I was in the season. I said I was not interested because my commitment and focus was to our team and our players to give them the best opportunity to win each week. Somebody else got hired. That was fine.
Then for a long time nothing happened. The assumption was made there was some interest on my part. But I stayed focused to our team, what we needed to do each week to give our team the best chance to be successful. I'm quite frankly proud that our team beat New England and played two really good football games against the Jets and Indianapolis, even though we came up short during that time. That was my focus. That was the process I went through.
Not until after the Indianapolis game did Jimmy tell me there was an opportunity here that people were interested in me here specifically and the possibility of me being the coach here did exist. Not until about 6:00 on Monday, after the Indianapolis game, did I decide to talk to Mal, talk to him on the phone. Never had a meeting with him. I just talked to him on the phone.
That's kind of the sequence of events, the timetable. Terry and I decided after talking to Mal that we would think about this. We thought about it for a day, made a decision that this is where our heart was, this is what we wanted to do. It's a great challenge, a great institution. We're certainly happy to be here.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH SABAN: Let me just say this. My next stop, you know where Lake Burton is, in north Georgia, right on the North Carolina border, Rabun County, it's a lake, where they made Deliverance, if you ever saw the movie. That's where I go in the summertime. That's where I like it. That's my next stop.
As long as the people here are committed to trying to win, I'm going to want to be the coach here. At some point in time maybe somebody else can do it better and then that's where I'm going. Lake Burton. They don't have a football team there. They have a pontoon boat, though, a good one (laughter).
Q. Did you have any conversations with any previous Alabama head coaches? If so, could you share any of that?
COACH SABAN: Yes, I talked to Gene Stallings. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Stallings. I know I've had a few stops along the way, but when I was head coach at Michigan State, he spoke at our clinic. I knew him when he was in the professional ranks as a secondary coach at Dallas as well as a head coach at Arizona Cardinals. Then when I was at LSU, we had him speak at our clinic at LSU. We had a history of talking ball, being around each other. When I got the Bear Bryant Award for coach of the year, Coach Stallings was there. We sat together with Kenny Stabler. There was some storytelling going on in that bunch.
I did think, after I talked to Mal on Monday or Tuesday, I don't know which day it was, I did talk to Coach Stallings and just ask his opinion of what he thought about this coaching opportunity. He was very candid. We had a great discussion. He obviously had a tremendous amount of success here, won the national championship. It was helpful to myself and Terry in making this decision.
Q. You've had some heated battles against Alabama in your past at LSU. I recall the postgame 2002, Baton Rouge. What are your impressions of Alabama when you were there and since then?
COACH SABAN: How come you only bring up the game you won (laughter)? We won four.
You know, that was a very good football team that Alabama had that year. You know, like always, it's unfortunate when things get posted that aren't true. I never said anything bad about the University of Alabama after the Kentucky game or anything like that. That was the motivating factor for their team. I think they had a better team than us. They certainly played well that day and beat us. I think Coach Fran is an outstanding coach and did an outstanding job here to win 10 games with that team.
But it's unfortunate that things that are rumor and innuendo and maybe aren't true, once they get out, you can't control them even if they aren't true and it affects people's relationships. I think that's unfortunate.
Q. What do you know about the team that you're about to start coaching, the program? Are you going to be making any sort of changes to practices?
COACH SABAN: We have a way that we do things. That's the way we'll do them. I got the practice schedules that we use on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. That's the way we'll do it. It's worked in the past. We've been successful in the past. We have an off season program. We have a strength and conditioning program. We're going to do things that we think we need to do to get the players the best opportunity to be successful.
I have not been able to evaluate the team. I did not see this team play in the Bowl game. We were either practicing or playing someplace or whatever. I have not had the opportunity since getting here yesterday to evaluate any of that. But that's a part of the process. That's a part of what we need to do, try to get the best 22 guys on the field, try to give everybody the best opportunity to compete for those positions.
Regardless of what a guy has done here in the past, everybody has a clean slate, they have an opportunity to compete for their position. There will be no depth chart. Everybody will have a chance. But even when you don't have a depth chart, the first team guys always run out there so everybody knows who the best guys are.
Q. If I was a recruit on the fence, what would you do to woo me to stay here at Alabama for the next four years?
COACH SABAN: I think we have a pretty good track record of recruiting. I think recruiting is all about attention and relationships with people and developing trust. Michigan State, I think they were 3 8. We ended up 10 2 in the fifth year there with a team that was the first team since 1965 that beat Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State in the same year, and beat Florida in the Citrus Bowl. LSU was 3 8 when we went there. In the second year, we won the SEC championship. In the fourth year with a team of players we had recruited, we won the national championship. I think the players that you saw play last night for LSU were primarily players that were recruited when I was there, JaMarcus Russell, Early Doucet, Craig Davis, Dwayne Bowe, LaRon Landry. They were all players that were recruited when I was there.
I think people need to understand this is kind of the last stop for us. I think that the University of Alabama has a lot of resources. I'm going to go back to the mission statement and say that this program will help them develop best as people, best opportunity to get an education, best opportunity to play on a winning football team that will be a champion that will develop them to their full potential, and also the best place for them to launch their career when they leave.
I think those things should be the reasons that they come to this institution. We'll have good people here that can help them do that.
Q. You mentioned Alabama's tradition and history. What does that mean to you? What does it mean to what you're trying to build? What do you want your place to be in it when you're gone?
COACH SABAN: I have a tremendous amount of respect for tradition. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the people who created that tradition, all the players, the coaches, whether it's Coach Bryant, all the people who worked hard to create that and that have created a legacy for the University of Alabama. That's important and needs to be respected, it needs to be recognized.
At the same time we need to look forward in terms of what we're going to accomplish here, because even though that says that all those things have been accomplished here and can be accomplished here, we need to go through what we need to do to accomplish them now and in the future in terms of the kind of football players we're able to recruit here, the kind of things we do to show a commitment to having a standard of excellence that's going to help people be champions. I guess that's how I would look at it. I think it's what you do now.
It's obviously going to be as a college coach. We've had success at several stops in college coaching. I'm hoping this one is more successful than any of those. If that's the case, I think I'll be remembered as a guy that created a legacy of being a pretty good teacher, pretty good person, and a guy that affected a lot of people's lives in a positive way. I think that's how I'd like to be remembered.
Q. In your initial evaluation of the program, what do you see as the top challenge for you to not only develop a winning record but to reach the championship level you talked about?
COACH SABAN: First of all, you got to have good players. You got to recruit well. We need to have a staff of people I think we've made commitments here to show there's facilities, there's things here. But the people, the relationships, the quality of football players that you can recruit are what's going to help you be successful.
The second part of that is developing the football players that you have. How do they improve while you're here? What kind of program do you have, whether its strength, conditioning, medical and physical toughness, all the things you need to do as a coach to develop a player to be the best he can be.
But the combination of those two things quality of talent as well as how you develop that talent are probably going to be the critical factors that determine whether you're successful or unsuccessful. That's what we'll focus on.
You know, it really doesn't matter where we are right now. Wherever it is, that's where it is. It's where we take it to from there, how we improve the players that we have, how we affect them so they have a better chance to be successful. If we get the team to play to their full potential, I think we've done our job. If that's not good enough, we need to get better players.
Q. You have a reputation, winner, teacher, demanding. Who influenced you to shape you in the way you are as a coach and as a man?
COACH SABAN: I think first of all my dad who was a coach. He was a Pop Warner coach, American Legion baseball coach. He didn't go to college. He had a service station in West Virginia. I worked for him for a dollar an hour for a lot of years. He started out, bought a school bus. We had seven coal mining towns in the county. He would go in each coal mining town, up a hollow somewhere, pick the kids up, take them to practice. Won 26 games in a row, lost one, won 33 more games in a row, beat Joe Montana's team in Western PA when he was at Butler, all this. Took these country kids that didn't have an opportunity to play, taught them how to be successful, how to compete. That certainly is something that has stuck with me as a person and as a player. I played for him. It made me better. The work ethic he taught, the standard of excellence, the integrity that you do things with, the attitude that you carry with you and the character that you carry with you, what you do every day. Those kinds of values affected me.
Don James was my college coach at Kent State. I guess he had as much of as impact on me as anyone in terms of organization, quality of work, being the best you can be. He's the person that got me in coaching. Most people say, When did you decide you wanted to be a coach?’ I never decided I wanted to be a coach, never, till this day. Coach James, I was playing baseball, he got me off the baseball field and said, I want you to come and be a GA.’ That's how I started. Being around him made me want to be a coach. I enjoyed doing it because he was very well organized.
George Perles was an effect on me at Michigan State. There's been a lot of guys that have positive effects, Jerry Glanville. Jerry was a great coach, but I'm not going to leave any tickets for Elvis Presley anywhere. We left him for DB Cooper, who is the guy that was in the airplane in the Northwest somewhere, jumped out with $250,000. Never found him or the money. We left tickets for him when we played Seattle. There were FBI agents at will call to see if anybody came to pick them up.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH SABAN: When I raised that crystal for the people of Louisiana, for LSU, when we won the national championship, it was raising it for everybody who contributed to supporting LSU, to supporting that program, to supporting that team. That was a special relationship.
I don't think there's any reason because we're going to compete against each other that that can't continue to be a special relationship that both sides respect. When we play and compete on the field, it can be a tremendous, classy rival with as good of competition as anybody could ever have in a game.
What's special about what was accomplished together as that group should remain special, just like any team that wins a championship. Those people in Louisiana were a part of that championship and a part of that team. That special relationship shouldn't go away because we're going to have to compete against each other now.
Q. You mentioned national championships a couple times. What would it mean for you to have a statue on the Walk of Champions and how soon can we expect it?
COACH SABAN: You're talking about expectations again. I think that's probably one of the greatest accomplishments that we've had in coaching, is winning the national championship. It was something I'll never forget, something that I would most certainly like to accomplish again. We're going to work very hard to do that, but we're going to stay focused on the process of what it takes to do it. I can't make any predictions, nor will I ever, about when something's going to happen. I like to keep working on it, making it better, making it better than everybody else has, then all of a sudden you have a chance to do that.