Stability Possible With Coach Changes

Coach Paul Bryant "heard Mama calling," but he didn't hear his alma mater asking him to come back for a lesser position. In fact, when Bryant agreed to leave Texas A&M for Alabama, he insisted on being director of athletics in addition to being head football coach.

I admit that I did not expect Major Applewhite to leave Alabama for Texas after just one season with the Crimson Tide. I understand the pull of alma mater (perhaps on Julie Applewhite as much as Major). If Major replaces Mack Brown as head coach of the Longhorns in a few years, this career move will be vindicated. And if that doesn't happen? It still may have been the best thing for Major.

Our concern, though, is no longer with Applewhite.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban now must fill at least two coaching vacancies. As it turns out, he has two coordinator spots to fill. Offensive coordinator is more high profile than special teams coordinator, Earlier it was announced that Ron Middleton had accepted the job as associate head coach at Duke under David Cutcliffe.

Somehow, it does not seem a daunting task for Saban. At this time last year he was in the process of building a complete staff. He has a long history as a head coach and has filled many vacancies over the years.

It is interesting to see the various lists of candidates (particularly for the job vacated by Applewhite). Most knowledgeable fans can come up with one or two dozen potential replacements. Saban knows many times that number.

While it may be difficult for Saban to get the exact man he wants for a job, it is easier to entice a coach to Bama than it is to many places. Not many men would fail to see the advantage of having a stint at Alabama on a football coach resume.

Additions to the staff could be announced at any time, though Saban is on the recruiting trail and may wait until after that last recruiting weekend (February 2-3) before Signing Day (February 6) to do his coach head-hunting.

Saban said on several occasions as the 2007 season was winding down that he did not expect any changes in his staff. There is no reason to believe there will be any more vacancies, but that doesn't mean more changes aren't in store.

One issue that has been raised is that of "stability." A case can be made that keeping assistant coaches is only moderately important to stability. Every team in the Southeastern Conference Western Division will have at least one new coordinator in 2008.

The important factor in stability is more at the top. For instance, the Crimson Tide had extensive turnover in assistant coaches under Bryant. He reloaded and the championships continued. More recently (not quite as dramatically), Auburn has lost a number of coordinators under Head Coach Tommy Tuberville, but the Tigers have maintained a strong program.

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