Nick Saban was in all his rock-star
glory leaving the interview area at the SEC media days in
Meanwhile, in another interview
session, Sylvester Croom was holding court to a half-filled room, discussing the
incremental steps of making
The oddity of the situation was
that it was Croom who was largely responsible for the Saban-mania in the
Think back to last Nov. 4, when Croom's Bulldogs upset the Crimson Tide 24-16. It was that game that set in motion the return of Saban, unhappy in an NFL where he couldn't control everything, to college football.
Does anyone think then-Tide coach Mike Shula, coming off a 10-2 season in 2005, and the recipient of a brand-new multi-million dollar contract, was in serious trouble when his 6-3 team took the field that day?
At the time the outcome seemed like pure justice since Croom, with vast NFL experience after playing for the canonized Bear Bryant at Bama, was passed over four years before for the far less tested, younger Shula.
But that game had the effect of
gaining four million new fans for
Coincidently, the same week ESPN
commentator Bill Curry was in
Curry has had experience dealing
with the vagaries of coaching, having headed programs at Georgia Tech,
He famously also had a brick thrown through his office window by a disgruntled fan after a loss.
Curry, like almost all so-called experts, expects Saban to succeed. "When the Crimson Tide Nation gets behind someone, even a so-so coach, they should do well,'' Curry said. "And Nick Saban is much more than an average coach.''
But Curry also questions the
proprieties of a program – and there are more than just
Now that those restrictions are not a handicap anymore, Saban will reap benefits Shula never had a chance to enjoy.
"Is it too much,'' Curry asked rhetorically, "to think the coach who inherited the nightmare situation – when conditions really made it hard to win – deserved a chance to coach beyond the punishment period?''
No, but Sylvester Croom and his Bulldogs changed the course of SEC football on Nov. 4, 2006 – bringing on the current wave of Saban-mania.
Marty Mule' can be reached at MJM981@Bellsouth.net