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January 8, 2010

Nick Saban


THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome the head coach of the University of Alabama, Coach Saban. Congratulations on last night. Welcome.
COACH SABAN: Thank you very much. First of all, this is off the record. Can I make a comment off the record? (Laughter.) Somebody told me that in the press conference we had here the other day that I was shaking my leg so therefore I was tolerating the press conference. It was on ESPN was what I was told. I shake my leg in the meeting; I shake my leg when I'm sitting in my chair at home; I shake my leg all the time. So I must be tolerating life. (Laughter.)
I didn't want anybody to be offended by that. I'm just one of those guys that, you know, shakes their leg all the time and rocks the rocking chair.
But anyway, I'd just like to, again, thank the Tournament of Roses and all the volunteers and committee people who make this a world-class wonderful venue to be a part of, probably one of the best competitive venues that -- especially for football or a college football team that I've ever been associated with, and I know a lot of people do a lot of hard work to do that. Very, very proud of our team, our players, the hard work and dedication that they went through, not just over a year long but in their development through the years in the program at the University of Alabama. The great job that our coaching staff did; their hard work and dedication is certainly appreciated, and the development of the players and the example they set. They have the kind of program that could have this kind of success. Our entire support staff; Dr. Witt, who is a very, very fine president, who has done a wonderful job at the University of Alabama in improving the academic quality of the school, the image of the school and certainly making it easier for us to be able to recruit quality athletes, and his participation has always been a positive for us; Mal Moore, who had the foresight when things weren't going so well at Alabama to build the facilities and do the things necessary that one day we'd be able to elevate the program again to one that got some positive national recognition.
The other thing is probably the day that I felt like something special could be sort of accomplished was the first spring game we had, and there were 92,000 people there and probably 10,000 or 12,000 more that couldn't get in. I think that kind of passion, that kind of support, that kind of positive energy certainly contributes greatly to having a chance to be successful. It makes me feel very proud to add to the great tradition of the University of Alabama, something significant in this time, and we feel like there's a tremendous responsibility and obligation to having a high standard of excellence in terms of what we do and how we do it. Because of that tradition, it makes me feel very good that we've been able to contribute to that in a positive way.

Q. What do you want the statue to say, because apparently there is going to be one?
COACH SABAN: Well, I haven't thought about it. Terry said something about that this morning when we got up, and that was really the first time I thought about it. In all honesty, I guess that when you're driven and you put as much into what you do as we have, not just for this year but for 30-some years, you would hope that something you do leaves a mark and the way you did it leaves a mark that is positive, that maybe could affect someone in a positive way in the future. You know, I think that would be the most significant thing I would see from something like that.

Q. You didn't seem too thrilled about the Gatorade shower last night, kind of got you in the face, and they've been showing it quite a bit on TV, and you don't look too thrilled.
COACH SABAN: You know, it was a little chilly out, plus I don't know if you noticed, but our defensive players did a pretty good job of hitting, but they're not supposed to hit you in the head with the bucket, either. (Laughter.) I mean, that -- it was a surprise. I knew it was coming, but I wasn't thinking about it. So the intensity of the dump was the problem. (Laughter.)

Q. Two questions: First, last night immediately following the game I talked to a 69-year-old man from Albuquerque, New Mexico, with tears in his eyes. When you're part of something like that that brings so much emotional joy to people, what's that like? And the second thing is what would you advise Rolando McClain as far as his NFL status?
COACH SABAN: Well, first of all, I sort of mentioned the fact that really probably the thing that gives you the most positive self-gratification is seeing other people enjoy what's been accomplished, and that's certainly true for me. I think that our fans, our players, our coaches, to have the opportunity to experience this at this time, I know it means a lot to a lot of people because of the passion that they have, and that's what makes the University of Alabama a unique place.
I think that's always, to me, where a lot of the positive self-gratification comes. You know, I won't speak to Rolando McClain specifically, but when we recruit players, whenever we counsel players about the NFL, I very clearly state to them that when they're eligible for the draft, if they're first-round draft picks, and we will do everything we can to find out what their draft status is, that they certainly have to make a strong consideration from a business standpoint to consider coming out for the draft.
But I also strongly suggest to those who are not first-round draft picks that they should stay in school, graduate, and try to become first-round draft picks. And the reason for this is if you ever look at the money chart from the first guy picked in the draft to the last, I mean, the money falls off the table from 1 through 30. If you're the 50th guy picked in the draft and you can make $4 million and maybe a million and a half of that is guaranteed, if you can be the 15th guy, you might make $25 million or $20 and eight or ten of it guaranteed, it would be worth it to stay in school and graduate and make the extra $20 million. And that's usually from a business perspective what we try to tell players.
Now, I know there's a lot of other people out there that try to convince them otherwise, and I think that I don't want to speak for the NFL, but this new salary cap thing for next year is going to affect the guys that are picked in the first 10, 12 picks the most, a little bit for probably the next 10, 12 picks and probably not very much thereafter. So I know there's a lot of promotions going on out there through agents that tell guys that if they don't come out for the draft this year, they're going to lose out on a lot of money. Well, there may be 25 or 30 guys that lose some money, but the rest of them are not going to be affected.

Q. After you won the SEC Championship, Ms. Terry, who knows you better than anybody, said she could already see in your mind already working towards the next game as you were on the podium celebrating. Just curious on the podium last night how soon was your mind moving to what you've got to do next and if you could tell us what you did to celebrate last night.
COACH SABAN: Well, I didn't do much of anything, really. Sat in the room and some of the family and the friends that we had at the game stopped by. And that's celebration enough for me. Again, it was the joy of everyone else that sort of makes you feel good.
But I'm always thinking ahead, anticipating problems. Every success brings a new set of problems. Every success brings a new set of issues, attitude of next year's team, development of the players for next year, issues that you have from a staff standpoint or player standpoint, personnel standpoint, recruiting standpoint. You know, there's really no time to sort of let your guard down because every success brings a new set of issues for everyone. And being able to manage that is what allows you to be successful with more consistency.

Q. Overall, given the success this season, how important do you think it will be to retain as many assistants as possible, and specifically the two coordinators who may get some interest out of this?
COACH SABAN: Right. Well, I'm always happy and interested for our coaches to be able to advance professionally, especially if it's a professional advancement in terms of a guy being a coordinator who can go be a head coach in a situation where he has a chance to be successful. I think not to have that philosophy and attitude for your coaching staff, that's what they work hard for. That's what they want to do. That's what they try to do, and that's what we would like to help them do.
I'm not pleased when guys make lateral moves because it's a little bit human nature to think, like my dad used to say, the grass is always greener on top of the septic tank. (Laughter.) You always think it's better someplace else. You kind of let your ego get involved, and you make moves that you shouldn't make that really aren't in your best interest from a career standpoint.
So I'm not happy when guys do that. But anybody on our staff who can move up, we would like to help them do that. It's important to have continuity on your staff, but at the same time, when somebody does leave, new energy and new ideas come to your staff, and that also can be helpful in the development of improving your system.
You know, I think it happened a little bit this past year. I wasn't happy that anybody left, but at the same time the guys that came in did a wonderful job, and their energy and enthusiasm helped our team this year.

Q. Greg McElroy talked about last night that he was playing with some cracked ribs. How much did that affect the 32 days of preparation? How much did it affect last night's game, just what he was able to do, what he was not able to do, and was he close to coming out at any point?
COACH SABAN: No, he was not close to coming out at any point, and this is something that he's had for quite a while, not just from the last game. It's something that did not show up on X-rays for a long time. He's played with it for quite a while, and we actually did a bone scan because at certain times he would feel it, and it didn't go away for a long time. So when we did a bone scan, we saw an old little hairline crack in one of his ribs, nothing dangerous, nothing that he couldn't perform with. It did not bother him in practice much, and I don't think it affected our ability to prepare for the game or his ability to prepare for the game, even though it was a little bit of a nuisance to him at times.

Q. Just wondering about Rolando, and how much did the illness affect him at all, if at all, last night?
COACH SABAN: I thought he played great in the game. He had a really good game and did a nice job of managing the no-huddle situation, and most of their NASCAR quick-paced plays were not an issue for us. I thought he did a really good job. I thought he played well. I thought he managed the circumstances well. You know, some players who get out of their routine a little bit, he missed a day of practice, he didn't feel very well the day before the game, and he actually took IVs for several days, was very dehydrated. Took IV before the game and at halftime, actually.
But I think it shows a lot of his maturity as a person and a competitor not to allow that to affect his ability to go out and perform and focus on what he needed to do in the game. Pretty good for the mental toughness side of it, as well.

Q. Will you shake your leg and your fist at me if I ask about the prospects of repeating next year? You'll probably go in as No. 1 in the preseason.
COACH SABAN: Well, and I don't think that's -- I mean, for all the players that we're losing on defense -- we had a team this year that really probably won because we ran the ball effectively and we played pretty well on defense for the most part, and we're going to lose a lot of players on defense. We have some good young players, and it'll be a great opportunity for them. But every team is different, and every team has issues and problems that you have to resolve in terms of the development of the players that you have and your ability to recruit and replace the right people and develop the right chemistry.
Now, we do have a lot of good players returning on offense. Hopefully we can build on that and improve. But we're going to have a new kicker, we're going to have a new punter, we're going to have a new specialist, we're going to have a lot of new things.
I think that people who make those statements sort of just look at the periphery of, well, you have Julio Jones, you have Mark Ingram, you've got Trent Richardson, the quarterback is coming back, so therefore everything is going to turn up roses. And that's not necessarily the case, because you've got to build a team. And a team -- you know, we play 50 or 60 guys through the course of the season, and like I always say, the bottom 40 guys on your roster usually determines how good that team really is. And I don't want to criticize the media or anything, because God knows I get punished enough by you guys, but you guys will look at the top four or five guys on the team and make your determination.

Q. Coach, you talked about last night being proud of the seniors, that they didn't necessarily sign up, but they bought in. From your perspective, what was it like for them? When you got there, how far did you have to come both physically and mentally?
COACH SABAN: Well, I certainly don't want to make any criticisms relative to what was there going on in the past or any of those things, but just the whole work ethic, mental toughness, toughness, discipline, the intangible things that you like to see in players who have a chance to be as good as they can be, play as well as they're capable of playing, a lot of those things had a long ways to go.
And my hat is off because there are several of those players who didn't make it that were pretty good players, and you know who they are, who would be in this class that were actually starters at some point in time that aren't on the team anymore. And there are those that played very well in the game last night and had a tremendous amount of success in the last two years who did make some changes in how they went about things, and I'm not talking about just as football players now, I'm talking about as people, I'm talking about how they represented themselves, how they walked down the street, how they talked, how they act, how they dress, the image that they project. I'm talking about academic success and discipline in terms of doing what they're supposed to do academically and present the right image for the program in terms of what they represent and who they represent besides themselves, and how they developed as football players in terms of the work ethic. And I think all these things are going to affect their ability to be successful in the future as people.
I think there were a lot of lessons that our team learned this year, even last night in the game. The best thing and the worst thing that happened in the game last night was we scored with three seconds to go in the half, and we get a celebration penalty, which everybody says, why would you be mad at that guy for scoring a touchdown. But I'm coaching a team to get better; I'm not coaching the moment. And I'm coaching the thing and the decisions that you need to make to play the kind of football that we're trying to get all of our players to play.
But at halftime of that game because of that circumstance, it was like the locker room after the SEC Championship game. We were very flat in the third quarter, and I had to stand up on a chair and say, this is a 60-minute game. You know, we need to refocus, recenter what we're doing, get our energy right, quit wasting energy. And you only have so much of it; you've got to channel it in the right direction. And I felt that that affected our play in the second half. And that's not to take anything away from Texas because their team showed tremendous resiliency and competitive spirit to keep fighting in the game. Their defense never gave up. We never got a 1st down in the third quarter, and they finally made a play that got them back in the game offensively. So there's a lot of lessons to be learned in everything that we do.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you. We'll begin with the trophy presentation. I'd like to bring up Bill Hancock, BCS Executive Director, to present the trophy.
BILL HANCOCK: Good morning, everybody. It's my honor to represent the 120 institutions and the 11 conferences who manage the BCS, and also the American Football Coaches' Association to present the Coaches Trophy to Coach Saban, his staff, the athletes and the entire University of Alabama community.
THE MODERATOR: Next up I'd like to bring up John Affleck, sports enterprise editor, to present the AP trophy.
JOHN AFFLECK: Thank you. Of all the organizations that are awarding a National Championship today, the AP has been at it the longest. Our poll has been around since 1936, and this is the seventh time that we've had the opportunity to award it to the University of Alabama. So Coach, I'd like to congratulate you and everyone at Alabama. The University of Alabama is our 2009 national champion.
THE MODERATOR: Next up, Tim Griffin of ESPN.com, president of the Football Writers Association of America to present the Grantland Rice Trophy.
TIM GRIFFIN: We go back a long way. I remember back in the day when you were coaching the Houston Oilers' secondary with Jerry Glanville, and I never thought there would be a time when I'd be presenting this trophy to you and you'd be getting it, so congratulations for that. You know, as far as our trophy goes, this is coming from 1,200 media members from across the country. We not only congratulate your team for the success it had last night but also during the course of the season. Congratulations on everything that you guys were able to accomplish this year.
THE MODERATOR: Next up we have Steve Hatchell, president and CEO of the National Football Foundation, to present the MacArthur Trophy.
STEVE HATCHELL: On behalf of the National Football Foundation, our 62-year-old organization and this trophy that we've been awarding since 1959, we would hope that you'd look at this, and I know it's the second time that you've had impact on this trophy, but you talk about leaving a lasting image, and when you go through and look at all of these wonderful teams that have won the National Championship, in behalf of general Douglas MacArthur, you're a big part of this. It's the fifth one that Alabama has on this trophy and your second, and we're really thrilled with the opportunity to be here to congratulate you, Mal Moore, all that you do for college football. We're very, very pleased. And so on behalf of our chairman Archie Manning; our board of directors; our vice-chairman George Weiss; Matthew Sign, our chief operating officer, we're thrilled to be able to present this trophy to you. Congratulations.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to move all of the trophies together for a photo op real quick. Give us one moment.
COACH SABAN: While we're doing that, I'd like to say that in accepting these trophies, we certainly accept these on behalf of our team, everybody involved in our team, which is our players, our coaches, our support staff, our administration, Dr. Witt, Mal Moore, who's done a wonderful job, and our fans, who are a big part of our team. And we certainly accept all of these as a part of the great tradition of the University of Alabama. Thank you.

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