"Nick and I have known each other for a long time," Tuberville said at SEC Media Days, matter of factly adding: "He's a good football coach."
Obviously, Alabama fans believe Saban is better than good. More than 90,000 of them showed up for the spring game. Their donations are paying the new coach's mind-boggling salary. Their obsession with every word he speaks and every move he makes has made him into a larger-than-life figure.
From all appearances, Tuberville couldn't care less. He knows the new kid on the block always gets a lot of attention. By comparison, he and his Tiger program are already a proven commodity.
"People pretty much know us, know our program," he said. "We've had success, won games.... If you've got that going for you, you really don't need a lot of publicity."
If Tuberville feels slighted by the media crush reporting Saban's every move, he masks it well. If anything, he seems happy that the spotlight is shining elsewhere.
"It's been good for us," he said. "Nick's probably had a tough time – as I did my first year at Auburn – having to answer all the questions about this and that. That's part of it. But I've kind of enjoyed being underneath the radar for the past six months."
Tuberville began his head coaching career at Ole Miss, upgraded the Rebel program, then bolted for Auburn nine years ago. Switching his allegiance to another league school made him persona non grata in Oxford. Saban is viewed the same way in Baton Rouge. He enjoyed great success at LSU before jumping to the NFL for two years and now back to the SEC.
"I'm sure there's going to be emotions there," Tuberville said, subsequently adding: "There's always certain situations you walk into that are a little more difficult.... It's always hard. But then you throw in the coaching challenges you mention, and it makes it even that much harder."
Tuberville's situation is hard but simple: Beat Alabama. Upon taking the Auburn job, he dropped two of his first three meetings with the Tide. Since then he is 5-0. Bama is so determined to end that streak that it is paying Saban an obscene amount of money. Tuberville is just as determined to continue the streak.
"We all have a lot of games but there's none more important for the two coaches in this state than that game," he said. "Our players will hear it from us almost daily.... Our players understand from the day we recruit 'em till the day they leave, that's the game we want them to be prepared for.
"Fortunately, we've been able to play pretty well in that game for the last few years."