Saban Rules

Nick Saban has absolute power on the rules concerning Alabama football coverage, and I understand that. I wish he would open things up a little more, although in particularly sober moments, I realize I'm not gnashing my teeth over not being able to spend two or three hours standing in the blazing sun watching players in shorts.

I've always thought that if there were only one right way to do things that everyone would do them the same way. They don't.

Former Alabama coaches Paul Bryant and Gene Stallings, for instance, were able to win national championships in spite of opening the gates to the practice field to reporters. Nick Saban, also a national championship coach, is (like his predecessor Mike Shula) not inclined to allow the press to see how the sausage is being made.

That's the way it is. And it's really not that big a deal. Those who cover Alabama football have plenty to write about. Saban is generous with his time when he meets with the press. He can be caustic when he gets a dumb question (which he does, too often), but he gives expansive answers. He makes his players available for interviews. Sunday he will make his offensive and defensive coordinators, Major Applewhite and Kevin Steele, available, even though that's not part of his policy.

And he allows reporters to watch a brief period of individual work practice most days. It is from that period that trouble can arise, and did this week.

It had been announced previous to Friday's practice – actually two practices, since the squad was divided in half with a group of mostly veterans in the afternoon practice and a squad that included almost all the newcomers in the evening practice – that Saban would not be speaking to the media after the workouts. He would answer questions Saturday.

He had explained on Thursday that there was no depth chart in the early practice days as the emphasis was on players improving and coaches being able to identify the roles of those players in the upcoming season.

Imagine the surprise of some reporters when they read accounts Saturday morning that included a guess at a depth chart. At least one even surmised that players like Prince Hall, working in the evening practice, had been demoted.

When Saban met with reporters Saturday, he reiterated what he had said two days earlier. Emphatically.

Because it is Saban's policy, it has been and will continue to be the policy of 'BAMA Magazine and BamaMag.com that observations in those brief practice moments will be to guide us when we meet with the head coach. We understand we are not to report on what we see, only what we talk about with coaches and players. (That has been the case under any coach I've ever known.)

I don't think I would have made the mistake those other media members did under any circumstances, but that was particularly true Friday. Do you want to hear about my birdie on 18 Friday afternoon?


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