Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Nick Saban - Pharaoh, Caesar or Napoleon?

The Tuscaloosa News has a big, fat story on a big, fat story in Sports Illustrated (don't you just love how the media loves to write about ... itself!?). Here is a quote from the SI article:

“They have welcomed him as Caesar, as pharaoh, and paid him enough money to burn a wet dog. Now he will take them forward by taking them back to the glory of their past -- the 21 Southeastern Conference championships, the 12 national championships, the Team of the 20th Century (as The Wall Street Journal called the Crimson Tide in 2000).

“Saban has not promised them so much -- 'I don’t believe in predictions,’ he says -- but they believe. It may take two years, three, more, to be in the discussion again when people talk about the best teams in college football. But they know he will take them home."
I think a comparison to Napoleon would be more apt. Saban has been crowned Emperor of Alabama for the nonce, but what will happen if Tuberville defeats him and Alabama wins 7 or 8 games, and maybe loses whatever bowl they wind up in? As a Kentucky fan, I understand, perhaps as only Kentucky fans can, about what expectations can mean when the fans are, as my grandmother used to say "A bit tuch'd". But basketball and football are vastly different, and if Alabama is unable to contend for an SEC championship this year, how many more years will Saban get, especially given the amount of money he is being paid?

Alabama fans expect results. 92,000 fans at a practice game don't suggest that they are expecting a couple more seasons as also-rans. But when they look at his salary and the historical place of Alabama in the national picture, 7 or even 8 win seasons will not get it done. 'Bama fans are bound to want much more, and that right soon.

How soon? Well, I'm not really qualified to say, this being football and all. But my guess is, this year is Saban's only warm up. If Alabama isn't contending for the SEC championship next year, I'll wager "" will be up and busy, and 'Bama fans will be making ready to exile him to whatever the SEC football equivalent of Elba is (maybe Kentucky, like Bill Curry).

Frankly, I hope Saban succeeds. Alabama and Kentucky fans are closer kin than most of either fan base would admit. Only in Kentucky basketball can Alabama fans find a peer when it comes to passion ... nay, obsession, with a college sport. Maybe Gator football (remember Ron Zook?), but I'm not so sanguine about that.

Anyway, Nick Bonaparte, good luck. You are going to need a heaping helping, in my judgment. Like my brethren in Lexington, Alabama fans are not noted for their long-suffering patience.