How Does Saban Have Fun In BCS?
Alabama, 11-1 and ranked second in the nation, goes after its 14th national championship Monday night against undefeated (13-0) LSU, ranked first nationally. Kickoff in the BCS National Championship Game will be at 7:30 p.m. CST with television coverage by ESPN. LSU defeated the Crimson Tide in regular season play in Tuscaloosa, 9-6, in overtime.
Just a couple of years ago at a press briefing in Pasadena before Bama defeated Texas to win the national championship, Nick Saban indicated he didn't enjoy all aspects of the event (though he may have been responding only to his duties to meet with reporters). That doesn't mean he doesn't enjoy the experience of preparing a team to play in the national championship game.
"It depends on how you categorize enjoyment," Saban said. "I enjoy the competition. I enjoy the fact that our team has an opportunity to play in such a great competitive venue. I enjoy the work of trying to get the team ready to play the way they're going to need to play to have an opportunity to be successful.
"It's very challenging.
"So that's my enjoyment. Maybe your perception of enjoyment is to go out and have a party. That's not my enjoyment of this experience."
He said his enjoyment is "putting the team together, putting the plan together. To have an opportunity to play against a great team and see if you can be successful.
"That's my enjoyment. That's my fun. It may not be other people's fun. I enjoy it. That's what you work for, to have these kinds of opportunities."
Trent Richardson, seated across the Superdome field from his head coach, was asked about Saban and the tailback said a misconception is that the Tide coach is mean; a hard taskmaster. Saban said, "There are certain things we think are important to being a champion, and hard work is one of those things. But I also think it's important that people learn to be responsible for their own self-determination, which is accountability."
That is defined in the organization by the leader, Saban said. "And," he said, "we believe it is important to be very positive in your approach to doing that, which I think is where the misconception probably starts. You don't have to be negative."
Saban was asked about several things that have gone before, including many of his players having been on the 2009 national championship team. Saban was asked if that helped in the approach the players take.
"I think that regardless of how many times you've been in a game like this, there's still going to be anxiety," Saban said. "I do think some of the older players on the team who are the leaders who have been in this situation before have certainly helped some of the other players.
When Saban was head coach at LSU eight years ago, his Tigers played in New Orleans against Oklahoma for the national championship. The Tide coach was asked if that had been an home-field-type advantage for LSU then and if it would be Monday night.
Saban said his players have to "focus on what they need to do on the field every play throughout the game...and try to finish the game a little bit better. Finish drives. Do the things we need to do to be successful."
He said there will be emotion in the game, but not for 60 minutes, emphasizing the need to focus on the job.
In looking back, it's worth remembering the attitude of another coach who won a national championship at Alabama (and in New Orleans). Gene Stallings said, "The fun is in the winning."
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