Sometimes it is good to be the king.
In winning two of the nation’s three previous national championships, Alabama coach Nick Saban has earned the respect not only of the Crimson Tide fans who pack Bryan-Denny Stadium full-to-the-brim on Saturdays and of the sporting media that covers his team like hawks (and vultures), but from within the brotherhood of the college football coaching fraternity.
While speaking with reporters before the Tide’s Iron Bowl clash with in-state but currently downtrodden rival Auburn, Saban showed a fellow member of the frat pack a little love.
Saban may have won the BCS National Championship in 2009 and 2011, but Auburn’s Gene Chizik took home the crystal ball in 2010.
Only two years later, his Tigers sit at 3-8 and are expected to be streamrolled by Saban and his Tide en route to Alabama’s second consecutive appearance in the title game.
Times may have changed, but the respect Saban has for a fellow college football coach and a fellow champion seemingly have not.
“I personally think Gene Chizik has done a really good job,” Saban said, per the Montgomery Advertiser. “All I know is playing against him, it’s always a tough game. They’re always well-coached and they’re always well-prepared.”
Of course, rumors abound regarding Chizik’s future, or lack thereof, as the face of War Eagle Nation.
At the very least he has made it to the end of the season, however, and that is more than can be said of Derek Dooley, who has been fired with one game remaining in his third season at Tennessee. Before Dooley accepted the Vols gig, the son of legendary Georgia coach Vince spent a handful of seasons as the head man at Louisiana Tech.
[Rumor Mill: Arkansas Razorbacks have offered Jon Gruden a contract]
Before that? You guessed it, years as an assistant under Saban at both LSU and in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins (one assumes both Saban and Dooley could do without future mentions of that dumpster-fire of a season down in hot, hot Mee-ah-mee, but we digress).
Saban already has a statue of himself stationed at the heart of the Tuscaloosa campus; obviously, this coaching legend is not going anywhere.
When asked to weigh in on Dooley, again, Saban heaped nothing but praise upon his former assistant.
“Derek Dooley is a good friend,” Saban said. “He’s been very, very loyal for seven years working on our staff. Regardless of what he did or didn’t do at Tennessee, he’s still someone who is a professional colleague and a good friend who we would love to help in any way we can.”
Some choose to look down upon others from their perch at the top. Saban may not be the most congenial of characters, but he showed quite a bit of exactly that — character, for those wondering — in praising those in the most dire need of professional love after running two once-proud programs into the ground.
As pleasant as Saban was in front of a microphone, however, he is not going to go easy on Chizik on the football field on Saturday.
Not with a second chance to win his second-straight BCS National Championship on the line.