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July 21, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with Alabama head coach Nick Saban. After an opening statement, we'll take questions from the media.
COACH NICK SABAN: Obviously, great to be here representing the University of Alabama and the SEC. I'd certainly like to thank all of you for the great job that you do for our league, for our student-athletes in terms of the positive self-gratification that you give them and the attention you give them with the coverage that you give, not only our program, but our league and our individual players.
One thing I do want to get established here is I want to make sure I'm in the right year. I want to be in the moment here today. Is it 2010? Am I right about that? Because everything I kind of hear has always been about last year. So I'm going to make sure that we're going to talk about this year relative to our team.
You know, last year was a great part of Alabama tradition, certainly an indelible part of Alabama football history. We had an outstanding team that really bought in and had great team chemistry. We're really proud of the fact that we had 22 graduates in the national championship game, 13 guys that ended up signing professional contracts, a lot of people that are really going to be successful in life from that team because of the character and attitude that they had.
Certainly that team had something to do with our current team understanding the formula for success and what it takes in terms of focusing on the process of what it takes to be successful in terms of work ethic and positive energy and attitude, everybody being responsible and accountable for what they need to do to be successful, how important team chemistry is, and confidence, what it takes, self-imposed limitations that sometimes you can shed when you are able to accomplish something even beyond what you thought you might.
So Phil Mickelson I think is kind of a great example of all that in that it took him 14 years before he won a major, but when he won one, he won several.
But last year is basically over. You know, we're not really defending a championship. I'm sure somebody is going to ask me, How are you going to defend this championship? The championship's a part of history and we're not going to defend anything.
I think we're not into repeating. Everybody asked the Yankees when they were in training camp, is it going to be more difficult to repeat this year winning the World Series this year than last year?
All 25 guys said, Yes, absolutely, it would be.
But nobody could really answer the question why. I think the 'why' comes, It's more difficult to focus on the process of what it takes to being successful when you're coming off of success. That's certainly going to be the challenge for our team, our players' willingness to focus on doing the right things, the things that are necessary. To create an identity for this team in terms of what this team wants to accomplish and what this team can do in this football season is what we're trying to focus on. That's certainly something that we would like for them to focus on.
We've had a good off-season. We had a good spring practice. We had a good summer conditioning program. But I think really a lot is going to be answered about this team in this fall camp. You know, a realistic view of this team is that we lost 11 starters, a punter, a kicker, and a great return guy. So we lost a lot of good football players from last year's team, which is going to create a lot of opportunity for some other young players who need to prove and show that they can play with consistency and performance. That's going to enable them to be successful relative to what they have to do to sort of satisfy their role so that their particular unit, whether it's offense, defense, or special teams, can be successful in what they want to do.
But you really can't look in the rearview mirror and be able to accomplish these things. You have to look forward and stay focused on the present moment in terms of what it takes to be successful, the work ethic that it takes, everybody's commitment to a standard of excellence, the respect and trust that we have to have for each other in the organization so we can be a good team with good team chemistry. Certainly everybody being responsible for their own self-determination, which is all about accountability to do your job. That's something that's always been a big part of what we've tried to get every team to do. That's going to be really important for this team.
Look, if we had all the same ingredients coming back, all the same ingredients, I watched a cooking show the other day with a guy on TV showing you how to cook. Let me just say, I put all the same ingredients in my pot as he put in his, and what came out of the oven is not the same as what came out of his oven.
Even if we had all the same ingredients back, it would be difficult to manufacture the same kind of team chemistry. That's one of the great things about college football, is there's always a lot of new opportunity for a lot of new people because you have turnover on your team. And a realistic approach is, Are we going to be able to do the things that we need to do with the young players that don't have as much experience, that are going to get some on-the-job training in terms of what they want to accomplish, what they need to do to do a good job. Are they going to be able to do those things with the right attitude, the right commitment, the right intensity, the right sort of ability to overcome adversity? Deal with success when they have success, and have the maturity to overcome some of the negatives that they'll surely go through in this season?
It always comes down to how many shining lights do you have on your team and how many blinking lights do you have. Blinking lights are people who don't do what they're supposed to do, they don't do the right things. They don't have the right habits. They don't have the correct discipline to get the job done on a consistent basis. Those kinds of players usually affect your ability to be successful.
So lots of challenges on this team. To replace eight defensive starters, which is what we have to replace, and four in the secondary, all four guys in the secondary, will be a real challenge. Even though we had some talented players who lack experience, you know, again, how they sort of grow and learn and mature as players is going to determine to a large degree the kind of success we have.
Offensively we have eight players back on offense, starters, three really good receivers, two really good runners, a very experienced quarterback who did an outstanding job for us last year in Greg McElroy, who is applying for a Rhodes scholarship. Offensive line, we got a couple guys to replace, but actually have three starters back there, and a good young tight end prospect to replace the tight end. We're going to have a freshman punter and kicker almost certainly.
A lot of question marks, you know, when you look forward about Alabama's football team next year. And very challenging for us to take these guys and see how well we can help them develop and mature so we can play in what's going to be most certainly a very competitive league.
I see probably the two teams that lost the most just on paper is probably Alabama and Florida, who played in the championship game last year. I think there will be more parity in the league. And it will be more difficult week in and week out for all of us to determine the success we're going to have and the challenge of being consistent in the performance that we try to provide.
So August 4th starts camp for us. We have two weeks from today. We just finished up a high school camp today. We've had a good summer. Our players have worked hard. We're looking forward to having a great fall camp.
I think, again, I said earlier that our fall camp is probably going to be the most important that we've had since we've been there because a lot of challenges are going to get answered realistically in how our team progresses in these two or three weeks of fall camp before our first game against San Jose State.
We have a difficult schedule playing Penn State this year, as well as, you know, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee in the east. I think that every team in the west is going to be better than they were a year ago in our estimation.
Really looking forward to the challenge of the season. Really looking forward to getting started on August the 4th.
One thing I'd like to mention, this whole Marcell Dareus thing, which I'm sure you're going to ask about. Our compliance people are looking into it in conjunction with the NCAA. We're not really going to make any comments, nor do we have any information that he did anything wrong or he didn't do anything wrong. But we're going to find out with the due diligence that we look for.
I think I would like to say there are probably three areas of responsibility here. A, we all as institutions have a responsibility to educate our players to make good choices and decisions about what they do. We have an outstanding agent education program. Joe Mendes, who has been in the NFL for years, interviews our players, makes booklets, actually has home visits with their families to try to educate them on the things that they can and can't do relative to agents.
I think that the players have a responsibility to make good choices and decisions about what they do with the agents. I also think the NFL Players Association has a responsibility to monitor and control what agents do.
I think if an agent does anything to affect the eligibility of a college football player, his license ought to be suspended for a year. That's the only way we're going to stop what's happening out there because it's ridiculous and it's entrapment of young people at a very difficult time in their life. And it's very difficult for the institutions and NCAA to control it and it's very unfair to college football.
I think as college coaches, we should look into doing something about that relative to we develop a lot of football players so they can go on and play in the NFL. We treat the NFL as well as anybody in the United States when they come to the University of Alabama. If something doesn't go on from their end of it to control what they're doing to affect our players, then I'm not sure that that same hospitality will be welcomed in the future.
THE MODERATOR: Hands up for questions, please.
Q. Commissioner Slive said he'd also like to see a change in the NCAA policy related to agents from enforcement, this penalty goes with this, to one that's more supportive of the players. Would you also be in favor of that?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I don't think there's any question about that. I think we're a little bit in double jeopardy as institutions because we're responsible for the players in a circumstance that's very difficult to be responsible for what they do when it comes to agents.
I'll give you an example. We had an issue a couple years ago with Smitty who got suspended for the Sugar Bowl. You know, we probably could have prosecuted the guy. But in prosecuting the guy that did wrong, we would have put our institution in jeopardy - possibly - from an NCAA standpoint. We didn't do it. But then the same guy is standing in line trying to give our players money this past year and nothing gets done about it. It's not a good situation.
I mean, it was a bad situation at Southern Cal for Reggie Bush, and it's a bad situation all the way around. I think to assume that people are going to do the right things in this circumstance without some guidelines is not going to work.
Hey, we all should drive the speed limit because it's for safety. It's all for public safety. But I'll be the first one to admit, like 90% of the rest of you if you're honest, that I drive the speed limit because I don't want to get a ticket.
Whatever we need to do to create some consequences for people who are not doing the right things here, which starts with the agent, in my opinion, who is entrapping and taking advantage of young people at a difficult time in their life, to make these kinds of decisions, although the players are responsible and the players should have consequences if they do it, but the agent should have consequences. Right now, they have none. They have none.
Q. You talk a lot about each season being a process. How do you feel about your new starters on defense and how they're buying into your system as far as trying to build another championship team?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I think the three players we have back, one at each position, one up front, one at linebacker, and one at secondary, are all good players. I think a lot of players buy into our system. These players have grown up in the system. They just don't have the knowledge and experience, the game-time experience we'd like for them to have, which helps them to develop confidence and consistency in their performance.
We don't have a lot of depth. We haven't defined all the roles, especially in the secondary, that some of these guys can do, because we don't have a lot of experience there.
I do like the talent level we have. I do like the attitude that the players have worked with. I think this is going to be a defensive team that improves throughout the course of the season.
Q. The NCAA is proposing legislation that would limit a school from being able to offer a scholarship to a potential recruit until the summer before their senior year. What are your thoughts on that?
COACH NICK SABAN: I would be all for it, to be honest with you. I mentioned the fact that we just came out of a camp. We probably had at least 25 guys that are going to graduate in 2012, and be in that recruiting class who had all received offers from other schools already. We're talking about a guy that's a sophomore going into his junior year.
You know, I tell each and every one of these guys that, you know, we can't offer you in camp, it's against NCAA rules. At some point in time in the future, you're going to have to call us because we can't call you. When we finish our evaluation process, we'll determine as to whether we're going to offer you a scholarship, which is a huge negative for us because we're trying to be selective, go through a process.
These guys haven't even taken an ACT test yet. How can you evaluate are they even going to qualify? I mean, so we've tried to slow that process down ourselves by waiting till we have an opportunity to talk to high school coaches, talk to guidance counselors, get an evaluation of the kind of character, attitude, intelligence that these young men have, even though they do have some athletic talent that's pretty apparent even in camp.
I would be for that. I think whatever we do, as long as it's the same for everyone, it's very fair. I think it would give some of these young people a little more time to evaluate, make some unofficial visits, and evaluate where they might want to go to school, as well.
Q. You mentioned two freshmen in the kicking game. Any concerns in the special teams kicking game? How much additional time will you focus on the kicking game in fall camp?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, you're always concerned when you don't have experienced players that have done things in games before. But we had a lot of confidence in the young guys we have in terms of their talent. I think them gaining knowledge and experience is going to be helpful.
I don't know that spending more time in practice is necessarily going to enhance their chances of being successful in terms of their execution. I think the most important thing is, when you're a specialist, I equate it a lot to a golf swing. You have two or three basic benchmarks of things you need to do to be efficient and effective in what you do. I think that individual practice and them being able to carry that into competitive situations in practice, as well as onto a game, are probably the most important things for these young guys.
I think these guys are talented and they're going to be very good at what they do. It might take them a little bit of time to develop and gain experience.
I always tell freshmen, I always ask a freshman, because one of the big things in recruiting is where am I going to play next year as a freshmen. We've had like eight freshmen start, and two of them were junior college guys, and three years and 75 recruits at Alabama, but everybody wants to know where they're going to start next year.
Are you a better player now than you were when you were a freshman in high school? This is talking to a senior.
Oh, yeah, coach, I'm a lot better than I was when I was 14 years old.
I say to them, What makes you think you won't be a lot better player when you're a senior in college than you were when you're a freshman?
This is something called development that is necessary for most players. Not just in high school, it's in college, and it's in the NFL, as well.
So we want to give these guys an opportunity to develop and not put a lot of pressure on them and allow them to develop with good direction, support from their teammates. We'll spend as much practice time as we need to, to be able to help them get ready to do that.
Q. What importance do you put on friendships, personal relationships, between team members? Is that something you and your staff stress to try to maintain cohesiveness? Is that something talked about or something that occurs naturally on good teams?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I think that the most important thing comes down to two words: trust and respect, the principles and values of the organization, as well as each other. In other words, your teammates, at least as football players and what they do in the organization, what their role is.
I think every issue that we have between players comes down to one of those two things: trust and respect, or some lack of it, for something or someone. But when you don't have the proper trust and respect for the rules and the principles and values of the organization, it creates a lot of division in your organization and togetherness of your team. Because a guy sitting there saying, Well, this guy didn't do what he was supposed to do, he's not getting penalized, coach didn't penalize him enough, he penalized this guy more.
I think when you have that trust and respect and everybody is responsible to do what they're supposed to do, that creates trust and respect for each other, which is very important to have in team chemistry.
I think we have guys on our team that are very good friends, but I also think we have guys on our team that don't spend a lot of time together off the field, but have a tremendous amount of faith, trust, and confidence, and respect for those people, their character, and what they do as football players. I think that's probably the most important thing.
But we do, I will say this, try to encourage our players to do things together. You know, we have a bowling night in the summer where all the guys go bowling together. So we do give them an opportunity to get to know each other a little bit better outside of football.
Q. You said a few minutes ago you think every team in the west is pretty strong. How do you think the landscape of the division has changed since you first came into it years ago?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I don't really think it's changed much. I think we probably have made some improvement since I came in the league. But I think the statement I made is I thought every team in our division would improve and be better than they were a year ago. I can go through each team and tell you why.
Arkansas has a really good quarterback, all their offensive players return. Probably going to improve on defense.
I think LSU has a lot of good players, quarterback back, good skill players. They've always had pretty good players and done a good job coaching them.
I think Mississippi State is going to be better.
I think Ole Miss is going to be better.
I think Auburn is going to be better.
I think everybody on our end of it is going to improve.
I don't think the landscape of the league has changed that much. I think there's a lot more parity. Way back when I was back at LSU, in terms of a lot of good coaches, a lot of good programs, a lot of good teams. I think the SEC as a league just keeps getting better because I think the national exposure we get as a league really helps us all get more national recruits.
National exposure is something that's helped us do that. I think the great TV package we have has been a key to that.
Q. Going back to the agents. How would yanking an agent's license for a year hurt that agent since they have so much cash piled up, they could survive professionally? If you ban NFL scouts from the campus, can't they get tape anyway to evaluate?
COACH NICK SABAN: They probably could. But what else can we do? I'm for doing something. I don't think the system as it is right now is very good. I would hate for somebody to suspend me and tell me I can't collect fees in my profession for a year. That would do me a lot of good in terms of straightening out whatever I was doing wrong, so...
If you weren't writing well and they said, Hey, we're not paying you for a year because you're not writing with professionalism, that wouldn't have any effect on how you change what you're doing? I think it would have a significant impact on what they do.
Can you say whatever you want, nothing's about money, but I think most everything gets a little bit about money somewhere along the way. If you make these guys do what they're supposed to do or they can't get paid in that profession, it's going to change what this he do. I'd change. I can't speak for what you'd do, but I certainly would.
It's not fair to the good agents. There's a lot of good agents out there that don't do this stuff. They're not out there chasing guys and giving them money and breaking rules and flying them all over the country, sending girls after them, all kind of stuff. They're not breaking the rules. It's unfair to them.
So, you know, I mean, they could fix it. It could get fixed. You have a standard of behavior and conduct that we have as coaches, that you have as professionals in what you do, that they should have as professionals in what they do. If they don't meet that conduct, they can't make a living doing that, it would straighten it out now.
The NFL can do that. We don't need to not let them come to practice to do that. There's already people that don't let them come to practice. I've never had one minute of our practice ever restricted to NFL scouts, anything we do, in benefit of our players. I would absolutely hate to do this. But I would also hope that the NFL and the NFL Players Association would do something about this without us having to do that.
Q. Can you talk about the role that Dont'a Hightower will play on defense this fall and how it might be different to the role Rolando played last year?
COACH NICK SABAN: First of all, they're two completely different players, both very good players. Both guys have made very positive contributions to the success of our defense.
Dont'a Hightower is very good inside linebacker. The thing he does a little bit different than Ro, is Ro was the signal caller, the leader out there. Dont'a is a little bit more of a pass-rusher, could play defensive end, could be a DPR, designated pass-rusher, can move around, play multiple roles and positions. That's how we were using him last year prior to his injury. We would like to be able to use him that way again this year if that's possible.
Rolando McClain played the same position all the time. He played "Mike" linebacker all the time. He was a good blitzer, he was a play-maker, he made a lot of plays. But he was the signal caller and stayed in that position all the time.
I'm hopeful that Dont'a will not just have to be the signal caller all the time so that he can play some of those other roles, as well. Because they are tremendous assets for him and would be assets for our defense.
Q. As many football college teams are using the spread offense. Do you see many teams in college football perhaps taking advantage of what you do and mimicking some of what you do? Could that be a trend in college football, to go back to more of a pro-style set? What advantage does that give you on the recruiting trail when you're recruiting offensive athletes who can play in a set like they would eventually play in the NFL?
COACH NICK SABAN: You know, I think one of the things we always tell players when we're recruiting them is, you know, when you go to college, you're in the business of developing two careers. You want to develop a career off the field by graduating from school, and that's the most important career that you have to develop when you go to college. But you also want to have a great college experience as a football player, win a championship, be as good as you can be, and see if you can develop a career as a football player and play at the next level.
Being a little bit of a pro background guy, we've always tried to sort of pattern our systems out of how we could best develop guys to be able to do that. That's probably why we play offense the way we play it, and it's the way we play -- why we play defense the way we play it. And even special teams, we haven't gone to the spread punt, all that stuff, which is pretty predominant in college football.
I think there is some concerns at the next level, which is not our concern in college. I will say this: the spread offense, some of the things that are being done offensively in college football, is very challenging and very difficult to defend, especially if you have the kind of personnel to do that. So this is in no way a criticism of that style of offense, because I think it's very difficult to defend.
But I do think it's more difficult for the people in the NFL, which is really not our issue as college coaches, to sometimes evaluate players, a left tackle that never gets in a three-point stance, a quarterback who never takes a snap from under center, a runner that never gets the ball with his shoulders pointed down parallel to the line of scrimmage. Some of those things are evaluation issues, which it's the player's choice when he chooses that, where he wants to go to college, the style of offense or defense he wants to play.
Q. With all the expansion stuff, talk during the summer with some schools pulling power plays, getting more of a revenue share, do you think there will be a day in the SEC where the power schools say, We deserve more than some of the lower-tiered schools?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I certainly hope that never happens. I think in the spirit of parity, in the spirit of togetherness in the league, in the spirit of great competition, the best way is the way we do it.
I know that Alabama and Florida in the last couple years have played on national TV a bunch of times, and maybe Vanderbilt hasn't had the same number of opportunities. I'm absolutely all for them getting the same amount of money we get. For the development and benefit of their student-athletes across the board, in every sport, as well as the competitive balance in the league, I'm 100% behind the way we do it, and I hope it never changes.
Q. At LSU, I remember you kind of had to change the culture to where the people expected excellence. Talking to those people down in the lobby, they seem pretty sure that Alabama has lost their last football game. How is that culture different to deal with?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, you know, first of all, we loved the people in Louisiana. We had a great experience there, a special experience that we'll never forget in terms of what we were able to accomplish there, the support that they gave us. We love the fans we have in Alabama. They do have high expectations. I really wouldn't want to coach anyplace that they didn't have high expectations for what they wanted to accomplish.
I just hope that our fans are always realistic in what we can accomplish with the teams that we have, and that they keep a positive attitude about how we go about developing a first-class program. I think our positive fan support has been a real asset to us turning around the fortunes of the football program at the University of Alabama, getting 92,000 people at the spring game, getting it on ESPN because of it, are all things that are positives for our team. It has nothing to do with winning games.
I hope our fans can always understand that their positive energy and attitude toward our team is something our players really appreciate. And it's something as coaches we appreciate more than they know in terms of how much it helps us be successful.
I don't mind the expectation as long as it's realistic and it doesn't create a lot of negativism in the organization.
Q. With the pressure to win and the competition, the rigors of recruiting, is it a badge of honor to make 10 years as a coach in an SEC school? Do you think that will become more rare in the next several decades?
COACH NICK SABAN: I missed the one part there about 10 years?
Q. With the pressure to win in the SEC and the rigors of recruiting, the competition in the league, is it a badge of honor to make 10 years as a head coach in an SEC school?
COACH NICK SABAN: I think the biggest challenge in being successful as a player or a coach is consistency and performance. Anyone who can have a consistently successful program for 10 years I think deserves a tremendous amount of respect in terms of what they've been able to accomplish. It's because of the challenges of the league itself and the great competition in the league and the other great coaches that you compete against.
So no doubt in my mind that anyone who coaches for 10 years deserves some kind of special medal of honor relative to this league, especially if you can do things the right way. If you're developing character and attitude and thoughts, habits and priorities that are going to help the young men that you coach develop the right habits so they have a better chance to be successful in life. If you're graduating your players, doing a good job in terms of helping them develop careers, opportunities for their future, as well as being able to win enough games to hang around for that long, I think that's a pretty significant accomplishment.
Q. I'm asking this rhetorically, on this agent thing, what is in it for the NFL to change anything? It's a multi-billion dollar industry that has a free flow of players from you every year. I don't know if there's anything you can do to stop them doing what they're doing.
COACH NICK SABAN: It's not really the NFL. It's the NFL PA that has to do something about it. I think they're the ones that control the situation. I know there's a lot of politics involved, especially with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, that it may be difficult to do.
It's something that is affecting college football in a negative way. It's affecting college football fans. It's affecting a lot of people. It's not in the best interest of the young people that are doing it.
I mean, if these guys are guilty of doing any of these things that they're being investigated about right now, I mean, the consequences are negative for them and their future. They'll probably not get drafted as high as they could have got drafted if they played and participated. So it's not really good for anyone.
I mean, maybe we need to not be so self-absorbed about how it just affects us and the NFL and see how it affects everyone in college football, including the players, and do something about it.
I don't think it's anything but greed that is creating it right now on behalf of the agents. Agents that do this, I hate to say this, but how are they any better than a pimp? I have no respect for people who do that to young people, none. I mean, none. How would you feel if they did it to your child?
Q. I understand that you recently made a trip to the Gulf Coast. Your impressions of what you saw?
COACH NICK SABAN: I went to three places on the gulf, Grand Isle, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach. I did it very quietly to support the people. I don't think you really get sort of the full appreciation of what is happening on the gulf unless you see how it affects the people that are there, whether they're fishermen, people who make their livelihood by tourism, or whatever it is.
I went to those three places to support all the people there, in some kind of way to help. My message would be that even though there may be oil around, if you want to help the people in those areas, still go there, still visit. There's plenty of things to do. There's plenty of people who would love to see you and provide you some hospitality.
Q. I don't think anybody was really that sad to see Lane Kiffin leave. You're pretty familiar with his replacement. Now that Dooley is at Tennessee, what is your relationship like? How often do you still speak with him?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, you know, Derek is a fine young coach. Did a marvelous, marvelous job for us for seven years - five years at LSU and two years at the Miami Dolphins. His dad Vince is one of the greatest coaches of all time, in my opinion, in this league, in the SEC, is a good friend and a neighbor of ours at Lake Burton, who we just went to dinner with this past Saturday night. And Miss Barbara, who is Derek and my best public relations agent out there, who oftentimes gets on the radio and says things that we (hesitation) all approve of. But anyway (smiling).
So with that, I think anytime, whether it's Jimbo Fisher, Will Muschamp at Texas, Derek at Tennessee, even though we have to play, Bill Belichick and I went through a very similar situation, and I was on the other side of that, him being the guy that had been a head coach for a long time, me being kind of the new guy on the block playing in the same division, we always competed well against each other, but we never lost respect for who we were. Who he was as a person, his family, our relationship. I learned a lot from that experience with Bill.
I will have the same kind of experience, even though we have to compete against Derek at Tennessee, it's a rivalry game for us and for them as well, that we'll never lose respect for him and his family, what he's done.
You can compete in a game without hating somebody or losing respect for them I guess is what I'm trying to say.
Q. With the NCAA pushing the rules back, making it more difficult to have contact with your players, recruits, as it pertains to agents, has the NCAA maybe pushed the envelope too far away from you guys so you have less control when you need more control?
COACH NICK SABAN: I really don't know or understand for sure, based on your question, what specifically you mean by that. I feel like, more than ever before, not only at Alabama, but in our league, and the commissioner, Mike Slive, has done an outstanding job at this, in spearheading attention to this whole agent issue.
But I feel like we're actually doing more than we ever have to educate the players and put them in contact with people who can answer their questions about their future and agents, all these types of things.
I'm not sure that there's some lack of access someplace. All we want our guys to do, this is what we tell our players, we don't want you to do any business on a street corner. We have a guy that comes in here and will sit with agents. You can interview agents. You can use my office if you want. I'll move out and go next door and you can use my office.
We're not trying to keep our guys away from agents. We're just trying to keep what happens on the street corner from happening. We're not trying to deny our guys access. We're proactive in allowing them, the times that they're allowed to talk to agents, get all the education they need about making a good selection when their season is over.
But what a player needs to understand is the best résumé he has is how he plays. He really doesn't need an agent until after his season is over. That's what we try to emphasize with our players.
But we also allow them to talk to agents at various times of the year through Joe Mendes, even in an interview process.
I don't understand the lack of access part. I'm just not getting that.
Q. You have less contact with your players, the athletic dorms have been taken away. The players are out there more, and you were more in control when you had the athletic dorms. Does that contribute, do you think?
COACH NICK SABAN: The thing that I would say, I think we're sort of barking up the wrong tree on, is not the athletic dorms, the control, this and that. But we make a tremendous investment in our players personally. I mean, we have the Pacific Institute that comes in and teaches our players of mental conditioning of how to be successful. They teach 12 classes in the summer, which our players get no credit for. But very interesting stuff. We have a peer intervention program that we use sports psychologists, psychiatrists, teach leadership, behavioral issues, drug, alcohol, agents, gambling, how to treat the opposite sex, macho man stuff, all the stuff that you read about that players have issue with. And we have a spiritual development program that's a moral development type program that all goes with this stuff.
But because we have more people, and we hire more people at Alabama to do these things, to invest in our players, we're always worried about how many guys are on the field coaching. We got the same number of guys coaching that everybody else does. All the other people that we have are there to support players in other areas. We check every class at Alabama when a guy goes to class. That takes a lot of people. They're complaining about how many people we have.
Well, you know, we have 40 people who do nothing but check class. But when one of our guys misses class, somebody is knock on his door at 5 after 8. Because of the guidelines we set up, just like the speed limit signs, we don't want to get tickets, I'm going to go ahead and go to class because somebody is going to be here and wake me up anyway.
I would say let us invest in the players in the areas we can help players develop as people and as students. It's how we pay 'em back for what they do on the athletic field for all of us relative to what we've been able to create in terms of an athletic business that is pretty successful, I think, in many leagues and in many programs across the country.
That's what I'm for, okay? I'm not upset about any lack of access. I'm for more investment in the player.
Q. You play Penn State for the first time this year in 20 years. What does the renewal of this rivalry mean for the program and for you to play Coach Paterno again as he winds his career down?
COACH NICK SABAN: Coach Paterno is probably one of the greatest coaches of all time in college football, not in terms of how many games he's won, but how he's contributed to the game in so many positive ways.
To give you an example, he was an an academic committee. When I was at Michigan State, we had a player that sort of tried to get a waiver for a sixth year because broke his leg twice. But he really couldn't get into graduate school. He had to get into a continuing ed program. At that time, you had to get into graduate school to be able to do that. Joe was the head of that committee, and he actually got it passed through and all that for us at Michigan State.
What was amazing was, we were playing at Penn State. I forget the exact score of the game, but this guy that he got eligible ran for a touchdown about a minute to go in the game that put us ahead in the game. They went down and kicked a field goal and won the game. He did things for players and made decisions based on what was right, not what was politically correct for him or his school or anything else.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for that because he's done it a hundred times for lots of players and lots of people involved in college football.
So they have a great football team. They won 11 games last year. I think it's a great intersectional rivalry. We've tried to play one good game somewhere each year, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Atlanta, Penn State, home and home the next couple years., we're working on games for '12 and '13. I think it's a great experience for our players. Certainly one of the people as a coach that I have the most respect of anybody in our profession.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
COACH NICK SABAN: Thank you very much. We appreciate what you do for college athletics and our football players. Thank you.
End of FastScripts