We learn new things all the time in this business of sports reporting.
The college football landscape might have a entirely different look right now if not for Steve Spurrier following his heart instead of the money.
According to The MMQB via the book, The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football (Doubleday), by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian we found out that Spurrier could have and did change the landscape of college football by saying no to Alabama, and referring them to Nick Saban, who at the time was the Dolphins coach.
“It’s the best work I’ve ever done,’’ noted reporter Keteyian said Sunday. The reporting on the Nick Saban-to-Alabama move after the 2006 NFL season is terrific.
Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, Benedict and Keteyian report, first offered Steve Spurrier the head-coaching job, but he said Spurrier said he was “too dug in’’ at South Carolina.
Spurrier told Moore to go after Saban. (Wonder if Spurrier regrets that now?) Saban, then with the Dolphins, was ripe for the taking, which he denied vehemently then.
But coaches often deny truths vehemently until the bitter end. The authors say Saban got to dread the Dolphins job.
“Saban told a friend in Miami he felt as if he were going to work in a factory every day; he missed the camaraderie of college coaching.”
It was clear to Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga that Saban wanted to take the Alabama job, and he said to Saban finally, “Nick, if that’s what you want, I want you to do it.”
The best chapter in the book, I thought, was Chapter 9, “The Janitor,” about the “Unseen, unsung heroes of college football,’’ the directors of football operations who have to clean up every mess in some messy programs. As well as do all the minutiae that make college programs go. It’s a very good read.
Hindsight being what it is, I went back and researched what may have happened had Spurrier taken the Alabama job. Saban obviously wanted out of Miami and the Dolphins organization.
There were 24 coaching changes in 2006-07. Some of the more notable moves were Saban to Alabama, Randy Shannon to Miami, Butch Davis to North Carolina. The year after we saw Rich Rodriguez take the Michigan job, Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, Bo Pelini to Nebraska, Mike Sherman to Texas A&M, and Rick Neuheisel to UCLA.
Amid all those changes, only Saban and Pelini are still in place at their prospective universities. We can’t predict where Saban where have landed had Spurrier taken the Bama job, but a few schools could have different outlooks had they hired Nick Saban.