Questioning Saban's Ethics Is Short-Sighted

Journalists everywhere want Nick Saban drawn and quartered for his handling of questions about his interest in the Alabama job since Mike Shula was fired on November 27, and they are lashing out at him on television and radio as well as in print.

The Miami Herald's Dan Le Batard called Nick Saban a loser, weasel and a gasbag, columnist Pat Forde is calling Saban "the richest member of the Liar's Club," and ESPN Radio talk show host Colin Cowherd referred to Saban as a snake. There's no loss of national and regional talking heads criticizing the coach's handling of the situation.

But in an interview with on Thursday, Scott J. Reynolds, assistant professor of business ethics at the University of Washington in Seattle, said Saban's obligations to the media were only secondary.

"In the end, the two main competing obligations were to the owner of the company and (Saban's) family, and he was trying to manage those best he could," Reynolds said. "When the owner seems happy and the family seems happy it appears he has handled those two relationships well, but there are some secondary relationships that he didn't handle as well."

Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga was supportive of Saban's decision to go to Alabama, saying he "loved" Nick Saban and that he was not upset with the coach because the decision was more involved than the media portrayed. Huizenga wished the new coach well at Alabama.

"If I understand it, nobody is faulting him for taking the job," Reynolds said. "He gets to go back to the college ranks where he's been more successful. That suggests to me that he handled the one-on-one relationship pretty darn well."

Reynolds said judging by some of the media reaction to Saban leaving, "It sounds like Saban didn't choose his words too carefully. I'm looking at ESPN right here and from what Pat Forde writes, that tells me that he didn't manage his words very carefully. There's nothing wrong with saying ‘No comment.'"

Forde suggested in his column that Saban should just simply tell the truth and say, "I am a candidate for job X. I will not discuss it further until there is something tangible, be it an interview or an offer, to discuss."

In general terms, Reynolds said, being totally forthright about showing interest in another job could be a mistake for executives.

"They have obligations to represent the company," Reynolds said. "For them to say they are considering job offers at other companies can affect stock prices and hurt investor relations. Personally, they might be considering other jobs, which puts them in a difficult situation. I don't know that we (ethicists) have agreed on the best way to deal with that other than to choose words diplomatically."

Saban said he denied interest in the Alabama job because he wanted to concentrate all his efforts in coaching the Miami Dolphins, and saying he was interested in another job would have detracted from that.

"I was in the season," Saban said. "I said I was not interested because my commitment and focus was to our team and our players to give them the best opportunity to win each week."

**Note about this story: A business ethics professor at the University of Alabama deferred comment for this story when contacted and provided contacts for three ethics professors at different universities. Of those three, Scott J. Reynolds was the only one immediately available for comment.

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