Saban was one of the keynote speakers on a list of many. The impressive itinerary included Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, Buckeye assistants Joe Daniels and Luke Fickell, Pittsburgh recruiting coordinator Bryan Deal, former Michigan offensive line coach Jerry Hanlon, as well as current Minnesota line coach Mitch Browning.
"I absolutely owe anything I've done in my career to the people in this room," Saban said of the 1,800 coaches in attendance. "My roots are with the people in this room."
Each year, the three-day clinic is highlighted by a banquet dinner on Friday night. As is usually the case, this year's featured speaker at the Hilton near the Easton Towne Center, was Coach Tressel himself.
Tressel reiterated much of Saban's sentiments regarding the overwhelming amount of great coaching in the state.
"You know, just look at the national championship coaches and all," Tressel said. "Coach Saban coached at Ohio State, Coach (Pete) Carroll coached at Ohio State, Coach (Bob) Stoops grew up in Ohio, and Coach (Larry) Coker had coached at Ohio State. Look at the top 10, you better step foot somewhere in Ohio if you want to get to the top."
Tressel believes the coaching fraternity is a tight-knit group who look to help one another out. He said it's one of the few industries competitors seek each other's council.
"I think guys come to clinics to find out how they can play their role better," Tressel said. "Then naturally when they line up against you, they want to compete with you."
Saban started Friday morning off speaking to a full room just as Tressel finished, talking about influences and teamwork.
"There is no ‘I' in team," Saban said. Just remember, however, there is in fact an ‘I' in win. That ‘I' to me, represents individual responsibility to the team."
Saban spoke primarily of defensive zone techniques, but also shared a few stories to use as simple advice to high school coaching staffs.
"I'm reminded of a game when I was at Michigan State back in 1995," Saban said. "We were playing against Penn State and they had the ball down by about five points with just a few seconds left in the game. It was fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line. After they had called at timeout, they came out and ran a jailbreak screen to Bobby Engram. He broke about three tackles and just barely got over the goal-line for the winning score. I told Joe Paterno that was the absolute dumbest call I've ever seen. But you know what? It worked. You just can't think of plays as a coach. You have to think of players."
Just as Saban did earlier in the morning, Tressel used many clichés as inspiration in his speech. However, Tressel wasn't without his usual witty humor either.
Tressel followed up a hearty prime rib dinner, by poking fun of something listed in the program's itinerary. The banquet speaker was listed as ‘to be announced', and Tressel had an easy explanation for the oversight.
"I'll tell you my rendition of how it came out that way," he said. "I think Mike Mauk called over to Bob Tucker in our office and talked about how we could be a part of this great football weekend and who would speak when and so fourth. That was somewhere in the early part of December and so fourth. As you will recall, we had not done very well in our last regular season game. They had turned in their schedule at that point, and they (the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association) in their infinite wisdom knew if we didn't do well in our upcoming bowl game that next January 2nd, the banquet speaker probably would be TBA. They probably wanted to save the printing costs. As it turns out, we did all right, and we lived to see another day."
Tressel began by speaking of his prominent appearance and focus on the clinic itself.
"Someone asked me the other day what my role in this clinic would be," Tressel said. "I think it's important that we remind each other of how much influence we have over people. I think we have a very important role in society and over young people. You can influence them more in ways that no other person can."
Tressel spoke highly of a new Buckeye football player Anthony Schlegal. The inside linebacker transfer from the Air Force Academy has been well documented for his playing ability, but Tressel shed a new light upon his personality.
"Anthony is a young man that a year ago was the captain at the United States Air Force Academy, the only sophomore captain in the history of Air Force football," Tressel said. "When it came down to decision time as to what he thought his role was going to be in his life, he decided he really had a passion to become a high school football coach. He didn't have a passion to do much else than that. He made a tough decision to shift gears. He wanted to do what you guys are doing. As he looked around the country, he contacted us because he knew of the reputation of the coaches in the state of Ohio, and he knew the influence we have over people's lives."
Tressel then shared a letter from a 1984 Ohio State graduate Don Milligan, who has been serving in Khandahar as a member of the Armed Forces. The letter went on to thank Tressel and Ohio State football for its attention to pride, teamwork, and basic human appreciation for life and the role of football in realms beyond the game itself. Attached was a United States flag, which was flown in a march through Iraq very recently.
"The impact of teachers, coaches, and parent is incredible," Tressel said. "The challenges in what you do and what we do is great. You have the chance to influence people and change lives."
After sharing an excerpt from a book which spoke of the role in enlarged responsibilities, Tressel went on to say it's important for everyone to take greater responsibility and greater obligations.
"As we came from Youngstown State to Ohio State, the territory was enlarged," Tressel said. "The opportunity to influence was enhanced. The challenges were more difficult, and there is certainly the chance more people will oppose you. But we all need to look for God's guidance, each other's guidance, each other's wisdom even greater. It's a different world, a more challenging world. We need the coaches more, we need each other more, and we need God more. Your role in society is even greater today, than ever before. Whatever it is that draws people to this game, we can get it done."
Tressel concluded the evening speaking of the future and how everyone is impacted by their decisions in life. After being asked about influence and roles of coaches on each other, he stated how great a fraternity he belonged to.
"What other profession would you see guys coming to share notes with each other, and then use them against one another," Tressel asked. "This is what it's all about."