Nick Saban has built a veritable fortress around the BCS Championship game over the last few seasons. The Tide has won three national titles over the last four years, making it a true-to-life dynasty. Saban, along with his coaching staff, and the few players that have earned the right to don the Crimson and White over the last half-decade have earned their claim to college football immortality.
All of the winning aside, however, Saban has done it relatively the right way since taking over in Tuscaloosa prior to the 2007 season.
Despite all the rumors swirling after every season that Saban would bolt for the NFL, he never has. In fact, after winning his most recent title, it looks like he will remain a member of Tide Nation for life.
Despite the cutthroat recruiting tactics necessary to bring aboard the nation’s top-flight talent, never once has Saban been linked to any substantiated recruiting malfeasance.
Saban has come under fire for his use of medical redshirting, a practice that allows injured players to stay in school to finish up their degree but not to play football or to count against the team’s scholarship counts. However, he has dodged any real flak and the use of medical redshirts has been adopted at a number of other big-time schools as a means of making room for incoming and big-time recruits.
His practices of releasing players for relatively small infractions has also come under the microscope. However, despite forcing young men off of his team and rarely, if ever, announcing the reasons behind his decisions, Saban’s victories have always overshadowed his tendencies off the gridiron.
As well as the tendencies of his players.
However, while other SEC teams have dealt with the dismissals and arrests of players and come under far more scrutiny, Saban and his Tide are going to have to own up to it this time around.
Florida was forced to kick off Janoris Jenkins. LSU and Saban’s successor, Les Miles, was forced to dismess Tyrann Mathieu. Both were following marijuana arrests. Georgia sent running back Isaiah Crowell packing following weapons charges, in spite of the fact that Crowell was a star running back as a true freshman the season before.
Saban, up in his castle in the clouds, so to speak, has not been forced to deal with the public dismissals of star players under him, building his reputation as a legend in Alabama with each successive win, each big recruiting class, and each quiet offseason.
That is, until late Monday evening/early Tuesday morning.
That was when All-SEC freshman DJ Pettway, former five-star recruit Eddie Williams, linebacker Tyler Hayes (who recorded two tackles in the national title game as a true frosh) and halfback Brent Calloway were all arrested on charges ranging from second-degree robbery to fraudulent use of a credit card.
For Williams, it was the young man’s second arrest in a span of as many days. He was taken into custody on Sunday for illegally possessing a pistol — an offense that is, in and of itself, reason enough to at least suspend a player. However, the nation hardly heard a thing about it.
Why? Is it because he plays for mighty Alabama? Perhaps.
If that is the case, then the shroud of supremacy and of secrecy must be lifted from this world-class football program.
We are not saying that now is the time for a witch-hunt. We are not calling for a rush to pitch forks and torches and saying that every single record of every single Alabama player must be examined under a microscope.
What we are saying, however, is that winning cannot cure all ills.
Like the rest of the conference and the rest of the nation, Alabama’s program has taken a turn for the embarrassing with these arrests. Saban, the master at turning anything and everything into motivation for winning, will come out of this totally fine, there is no question about that.
However, and for the time being, the behavior and overall class of his program has, and should, come into question. Are his players too spoiled? Do they believe they can get away with anything? Because they shouldn’t be, and they obviously cannot.
In the end, the only thing that suffers is the Alabama brand, and the school itself.
Which, at the end of the day, is exactly what Saban, his coaches, and his players are supposed to be representing with style and grace.