The most respected newspaper reporter covering Alabama athletics is Tuscaloosa News Sports Editor Cecil Hurt, and it's my pleasure to speak with him on a regular basis about the Crimson Tide and many other things. I was not surprised to get a telephone call from Cecil early his evening.
And I'm sure he was not surprised at my response.
Cecil's question concerned a statement that had been made to him earlier in the day. "I won't use it," he began, "but did you tell someone today that you had talked to Mal today and he told you there was ‘no way in hell' he would hire Nick Saban?" Actually there was a second part to the question. "And that it was down to Rich Rodriguez and Jim Grobe?"
And then we talked some more. I haven't talked to Mal Moore, Alabama's athletics director who is handling the search for Bama's new football coach, since the day Moore announced that he had dismissed Mike Shula. I was aware of Moore being in New York for the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame banquet and suspected he might drop in with University President Dr. Robert Witt on the New York area alumni function that is annually held the night before the banquet.
And I agreed with Cecil that Moore would never say "there is no way in hell" he would hire Nick Saban. I don't think Saban, currently the coach of the Miami Dolphins, is going to be Alabama's next football coach, but not because I have spoken to Moore.
Cecil and I also talked about a "time frame," which Moore has insisted is not paramount in his task. We agreed that Moore is going to be as sure as he possibly can be, which means he will have at least one personal conversation with the eventual selection.
We are also aware that Moore won't be winging back to Tuscaloosa following Tuesday night's banquet. Weather and circumstances permitting, he intends to go to South Bend, where Alabama is playing Notre Dame Thursday night. Moore was once assistant head football coach for the Fighting Irish and is still popular with Notre Dame fans.
As for Rodriguez, the coach at West Virginia, and Grobe, the coach at Wake Forest, they probably were and are on Moore's list. And it's almost certain there are others. What no one can know beyond the list is Moore's rank. It's easy to say that Moore has missed out on his "top two," South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier and Saban. But there is no evidence he ever talked to either.
The cold, hard facts – difficult as it may be to accept them – is that no one other than Moore knows his complete list or the order of that list. Beyond that, we don't know when the decision will be made. Moore may or may not get his first choice, but we'll never know unless he tells us. And I don't expect him to.