Stuart McNair

Hypothetical questions are not welcome by Alabama’s Nick Saban

Football isn’t the only thing being taught in Alabama’s fall camp

Football isn’t the only thing Alabama football players are being coached on. Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban revealed Thursday following Bama’s first practice of fall camp that his players had been “coached” by a media expert. And Saban had been listening, too.


This media expert (one can’t help but think, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”) according to Saban instructed the players to not answer “What if?” questions. And Saban considered that good advice; don’t deal in hypothetical questions.


When did this begin? I first noticed it when Mike DuBose was Alabama’s head coach, but it may have been Ray Perkins who first mentioned not answering hypothetical questions.


The oddity of this is that coaches must deal with hypothetical questions in preparing their teams and preparing for opponents. What if Southern Cal comes out in the wishbone? Okay, Bama probably won’t prepare for that hypothetical. I’ll bet John McKay, who was coach of the Trojans in 1971, wishes that he had. Alabama’s Paul Bryant had changed the offensive look of the Tide, and upset USC in Los Angeles to open the season.


But surely there are possibilities the Tide must prepare for from opponents. “What if…?”


And even with one’s own team. What if our starting nickel back elects to transfer just before the start of the season?


Thinking of coaches as Army generals, the critical difference between winners and losers is preparing so thoroughly as to not be surprised by the unexpected. As Bryant preached, “Expect the unexpected.”


No one doubts that Nick Saban isn’t as prepared as any coach ever. The decision to not answer “What if?” questions is simply a dodge. And that is taught to Tide players.


Both center Ross Pierschbacher and defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson were made available to reporters following practice. Both were asked how being picked No. 1 (in the Coaches Pre-Season Poll announced earlier Thursday) affected the team?


Both denied knowledge of the poll and both said their only thought had been to go out and get better in practice.


Saban’s discussion of the media coach warning against hypothetical questions came as he failed to answer a question about the possibility of Bama’s disgruntled defensive back, Maurice Smith, ending up at Georgia. To be fair, Saban had already discussed the Smith situation and Alabama’s stance in agreeing with the Southeastern Conference rule prohibiting graduate transfers not having to sit out a year.


Another question regarding the status of suspended defensive back Tony Brown brought Saban’s suggesting that the reporters needed a session with his media coach to learn how to not ask “What if?” questions.


After departing the podium, Saban stopped to give reporters another bromide that he certainly shares with his team, particularly on a blistering day such as Thursday in Tuscaloosa.


“Are you here because you want to be or are you here because you have to be,” he said with a smile. “Get your ass out of gear!”

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