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January 10, 2012
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
THE MODERATOR: Good morning. Today's press conference features the official trophy presentations for four national championship trophies as well as some time to hear from head coach Nick Saban from the University of Alabama.
We'd like to start with the trophy presentations. First we'd like to introduce Mr.Bill Hancock, the Executive Director of the BCS, to present the BCS Coaches' Trophy.
BILL HANCOCK: I'm here on behalf of the American Football Coaches Association and also the 11 conferences and institutions that represent‑‑ that manage the BCS to present the Coaches' Trophy, which is the most coveted award in college sports for college football, to Coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Bill. We'd like to introduce John Affleck, the Sports Enterprise Editor for the Associated Press, presenting the Associated Press National Championship Trophy.
JOHN AFFLECK: Good morning. The Associated Press was founded more than 160 years ago, and this is the 75th season that our poll has selected a national collegiate football champion.
And, Coach, I just want to wish you hearty congratulations, because, after last night, you left no doubt that the Crimson Tide are 2011 national champions.
THE MODERATOR: Next up is Steve Hatchell, the President and CEO of the National Football Foundation to present the MacArthur Bowl.
STEVE HATCHELL: Good morning. I'm Steve Hatchell with the National Football Foundation. On behalf of Archie Manning, our board of directors, 12,000 members, we're here today to congratulate Coach Saban, the University of Alabama, on their national championship.
This trophy we believe is significant because it was first awarded in 1959 by General Douglas MacArthur, whose great saying was "There's no substitute for victory."
And I've had the great honor to be up here now several times with Coach to be able to present this trophy.
And the names of each institution that wins a national championship is etched on the arches of this trophy, Tiffany trophy, that was created by a board of director for the National Football Foundation.
And so on behalf of the National Football Foundation, we'd like to say thank you to the Sugar Bowl for this wonderful platform, Paul, your staff, your committee. Thank you for the Sunbelt Trophy for looking after our trophy, who will usher it to Alabama after this where it will reside for the year.
But, most importantly, congratulations, Coach. Awesome. Six times now the University of Alabama is on this. No other school has this. And you've got a bunch of these. So congratulations.
THE MODERATOR: We'd now like to introduce Mr.Lenn Robbins, the 2012 President of the Football Writers Association of America who will present the Grantland Rice Trophy.
LENN ROBBINS: Coach Saban, on behalf of the more than 1,200 members of the Football Writers of America, it's a pleasure to present you with this national championship trophy again.
Great, great accomplishment by your team this year. Came back from a loss. The motto was finish, and you guys certainly finished.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We'll begin with head coach, University of Alabama, Nick Saban.
Coach, would you like to make an opening statement? Or we can go straight to questions.
COACH SABAN: First of all, I'd like to make everyone aware that it's a great honor and a privilege for the University of Alabama, our football team, our program, to accept these trophies on behalf of the entire team.
There's a lot of people who contribute to the success of the program: our administration, Dr.Witt, Mal Moore, our athletic director, and our administration.
Certainly and probably the people who get the least amount of credit that deserve a lot more is our coaching staff and the people who work with the players on a day‑to‑day basis to help them be successful personally, academically, and athletically, so that they can take advantage of their gifts and be all that they can be.
And, lastly, those who made the commitment to make this accomplishment together as a team, our football players.
So I'm very proud of the organization. I'm very proud of the togetherness, the teamwork. I appreciate everybody's commitment more than you know, so that this honor can be bestowed upon our team, which is all about the players and the coaches and the people who work every day to make this such an honor to accept on their behalf.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. In Pasadena, I think I remember you started thinking about the next season about as soon as you got off the trophy presentation. It just seemed like last night you relished this one a little bit more. Am I dead wrong in that assessment?
COACH SABAN: Well, to be honest with you, I think I maybe did. This team was a special team, not that the 2009 team was any different. And certainly an honor and a privilege to be with a group that sort of, I don't know, made the kind of commitment that you look for from a competitive character standpoint and intangibles that you always strive to try to get as a coach in a group, whether it's togetherness, the positive attitude, the responsibility and accountability they took for each other and themselves and the hard work and discipline that went in sort of the development of this team.
It was a really special group. And I feel very privileged to have been a part of that. But now that you mention it, we're losing a lot of good football players. And we've got a lot of good young ones coming up and some good players coming back.
But every year is a bit of a rebuilding year, and we'll certainly have a lot of opportunities for a lot of young players to make a contribution next year.
Q. Coach, to that end of that last question, to the same end, you two years ago didn't seem pleased with the Gatorade bath. Last night it's almost as if you accepted the inevitable when it came time for the Gatorade bath.
COACH SABAN: I enjoyed the Gatorade bath two years ago. I think we've talked about it before. I wasn't expecting it and I got almost knocked out. So the players improved in terms of their ability to deliver (laughter), I improved on my ability to accept, and everybody was happy. Except Rinaldi because he didn't want any of it and he got some of it, too, but I told him to send me his cleaning bill.
Q. What does this say about football and the state of Alabama? You guys won, Auburn won, and now you've won again. What does that say for the state as a whole?
COACH SABAN: I think I can't speak for anyone else, but certainly at the University of Alabama we have a special tradition, there's a special passion with the people who support our program, which we certainly appreciate their support, their passion.
And the tradition that we have that has been contributed to by so many former players and coaches and all that Coach Bryant accomplished and every other coach since, and I think that that passion is probably there because we don't have pro sports in our state and everybody relates to the college programs we have.
It's been that way for a long time, and I think it makes it special and maybe a little unique that we have that kind of situation, and I think it speaks volumes for the programs in the state that what's happened over the last three years has happened.
Q. Coach, for what you just talked about, passion and tradition, there is really one level of expectation at Alabama, and that is to win the national championship every year. I feel that's your expectation, too. When you come off a year where you've had a couple of hiccups, I imagine it's easier to get that message across. So how do you keep the message fresh for next year, and have you thought about what that message will be?
COACH SABAN: Absolutely. I think that the most challenging years is you really‑‑ you really have to have a special character about you to not be relieved to some degree by the success that was accomplished.
And obviously we want everyone in the organization to focus on and remember the things that contributed to the success: the commitment, the work ethic, the togetherness we had on the team, the positive energy and attitude.
But that is a little more difficult to get people to resonate toward when they've been successful. I think it's human nature to some degree to sort of get satisfied with what you've accomplished. And it's human nature to some degree to: I accomplished this, now I'm entitled to a little time off, I'm entitled to not having to do what I used to do. And that will not get you where you need to be.
And I think you need to have tremendous leadership and maturity on your team to be able to respond to that in the correct way. And that will certainly be challenging for our group.
But as I mentioned before, we have an outstanding coaching staff. And our team played a great game last night. But Kirby Smart did an outstanding job in making adjustments in the game. He's done a wonderful job with our defensive team all year long, and I certainly hope that everybody realizes all that he's contributed and all the other coaches on our staff has contributed in helping develop the right sort of character and attitude in our players to get this kind of high level of performance on a pretty consistent basis.
Q. Two titles in three years. Clearly you're on top of your game. But I'm wondering is there any part of you saying: I'm 60, I've been doing it for 40 years; if you need me, I'll be at the lake? Or does your fire still burn as hot as it did the first time you were a GA?
COACH SABAN: What do you think? (Laughter). When a guy jumps offsides with three minutes to go in a game and you still coach your team like it's the first game of the season, what do you think? I mean, I'm a competitor. I think the real positive self‑gratification you get is sort of seeing people maybe perform, accomplish to, become more than even they thought they might be.
And that's sort of why we do this. Not only from a winning the football game standpoint, but from a personal success standpoint, from guys improving their ability maybe to be successful in the future because they graduated from school and they developed a better character about them in terms of what they learned as competitors and football players.
So that's probably the great thing about college football. And we certainly still enjoy that and really cherish the opportunity to be at a place like the University of Alabama where you can attract very good football players and sort of see them develop as people and improve and get better, and that's the part of it that we enjoy.
I really do think that maybe the only thing that's changed about me is winning the game is not enough. It really is not enough. Doing it the right way, sort of trying to set the right example for your players and having people in the organization that are all trying to help and support those players to have an opportunity to be more successful in life, which also includes serving other people, which I think is one of the big things that this team did.
And I'm probably just as proud of our team winning the Disney Spirit Award for their contribution to our community which suffered in the tragedy of the tornado this past year as anything else that they accomplished.
And I think those are important things that serve you well in life. So doing it the right way and seeing guys do the right things.
And we do have a few players who didn't share in this, that had the opportunity to do it, because they didn't make the right choices and decisions. And I feel like we failed those guys.
Q. First, did you hear any update on C.J. Mosley this morning? And, second, just talk‑‑ now that you have a 13‑game complete body of work to judge about, talk about Trent Richardson's season this year and where you thought he stood as a college football player?
COACH SABAN: C.J. Mosley is, we think, okay. He had a dislocated hip, which they put back in, which x‑rays were okay. But we need to do an MRI probably today or tomorrow, and if the MRI comes out okay and there wasn't any damage to the joint, he'll be fine in six weeks.
If there is any bone chips or fragments, they'll have to scope those out. So that's as much as I can tell you about that right now.
Trent Richardson probably had as good a football season as anyone that I've ever had the opportunity to coach in terms of what he accomplished as a football player. But probably more important to his teammates, the way he accomplished it. The guy was a great team player. He was very positive in the way he affected his teammates.
I always use the analogy that you really can't be a great player unless you affect somebody on your team. Players make plays. Good players affect somebody on their team. Great players affect their entire unit. And Trent's competitive spirit certainly affected everybody on our team.
So, I mean, his work‑‑ he's unselfish. Always works hard in practice. Always sets a good example for everyone else. And certainly his production this year was as good as anybody in college football.
Q. As hard as you had to work this year, 13 games, coming back to get to this point, all the work you put in, what would be your mindset if this system said, "All right, you've got to go prove it again," after all you've put on the line now?
COACH SABAN: Well, I had that experience in 2003, if everybody remembers. Southern Cal we bumped ahead of in the SEC championship game. They didn't get to play. It was actually a split poll that year. We beat Oklahoma here. And there was a groundswell that a group wanted to have a game between LSU and USC. And I said at the time I was all for playing it.
But I think that this is the system that we have. And I think your entire mindset is to sort of succeed in that system. And so I can't really sort of have a feeling about what it would be like if we had to prove it all again.
All I know is that the spirit that this team played with last night was special. Finishing the season, finishing plays, finishing the game are all goals of this team, and they played with about as much heart and as much character as any game that I remember, maybe the Florida SEC championship game a couple of years ago, and that's probably why we had success.
Q. Curious if you and Ms.Terry watched the Weather Channel today and what were your instructions.
COACH SABAN: I couldn't get people out of my room until 3:00. I haven't been up until 3:00 for a long time. So I actually got up just in time to get here. So we missed it today. I look forward to that every day.
When you sort of do what we do and you sort of go, go, go, and you don't get to see each other very much, when you have that 30 minutes‑‑ of course you know I love my Little Debbie cookies, and to have two of those and a cup of coffee and be able to visit with Miss Terry for 30 minutes every day, it's a treat. I look forward to it.
Q. Two of the more emotional people last night we talked to after the game, AJ McCarron and Jim McElwain, and AJ said he thought that McElwain let the reins off him a little bit, let him loose, only because McElwain couldn't get in trouble from you because McElwain is leaving town. Your thoughts on what that win meant to AJ and to Jim?
COACH SABAN: First of all, it was our plan to do what we did. It's something that we wanted to do more of in the first game. And, look, I think it's important that whoever is calling the plays, whoever is calling the defenses, whoever is making the special teams calls, you gotta trust the players.
And if you're afraid to do things because you don't trust the players, then you're probably never going to be able to allow them to grow and be all that they can be. It's just like your children. There's just some things you have to let them do. You can't protect them all the time.
And I think that's what AJ sort of proved to all of us. And I'm not talking about Jim McElwain here. That if we were going to be able to have success against a defensive team like LSU, which is a very good defensive team, we're going to have to throw the ball, we're going to have to trust the quarterback to do it.
And my statement is: Look at it this way. If we don't do it, we can't win. So we need to do it. If the guy plays well, we'll have an excellent chance in moving the ball. And if he doesn't play well, we probably won't have much of a chance to be successful offensively. But if we don't do it, we may not have a chance either.
And I think Jim sort of felt the same way about that and did a great job of implementing what he did in letting AJ do what we needed to do in this particular game to be successful.
I just want everybody to know I'm not conservative. I want to throw the ball all the time. The interception we threw in the first game, I said: Throw the ball on first down. I wanted to throw the ball on first down in that game because of the way they play.
And we didn't do it enough. But I think we learned in the first game that's what we needed to do to be successful against the style of play and the good football players that they have on their defensive team. They're a good secondary. But they put pressure on their secondary and they have a very good front.
And everybody on our team did a good job. We protected well. Receivers caught the ball well. AJ made good choices and decisions about how he distributed the ball, and I think that's why we had success offensively.
But if we didn't win that game and LSU scored points, everybody would be saying why didn't we score more touchdowns. We tried seven field goals and made five.
Q. At the risk of asking you to be introspective, you were so consistent in talking about the growth of your players and how you want to see them develop, how are you a better coach than you were 10 years ago?
COACH SABAN: I think the more knowledge and experience that we've sort of gotten through the years, it's become more about the other people and less about me or whatever, and I think that's improved our ability to affect other people.
And I think affecting young people and getting them to move in the right direction to do the right things is obviously important to being successful.
And I think we've had a lot of help along the way in getting to that point because we have a personal development program and some very, very good people, whether it's Kevin Elko, Trevor Moawad with IMG, and Dr.Rosen who has been with us for a long time from Michigan State, all of these people contribute to the personal development of our players.
I mean, we have a personal development program where we hire people from outside. The Seattle Institute comes in and teaches mental conditioning for success, 12 classes a year for our players. And it's that expertise and sort of having an awareness of how important it is to bring other people in to contribute to that that has helped us learn and grow as well.
Q. Pitching a shutout in the championship game, can you think of a more gratifying defensive performance, and where does it leave the legacy of this defense?
COACH SABAN: Well, first of all, I don't think that‑‑ I mentioned this earlier. Kirby deserves a tremendous amount of credit for what he was able to do with this defensive team throughout the course of the year.
People probably give me more credit than I deserve, and he should not be overshadowed because I'm a defensive coach. We do work well together. But he implements what we do. He contributes to the plan.
He organizes it. He presents it to the players. The players respond very well to him. He's a very bright guy. Will make a great head coach some day and has done just a fantastic job. As our entire coaching staff has done.
And I think what this defense accomplished statistically probably speaks for itself. But I love competitors. I talked about that the other day when I was sitting in this seat. And I think that there's a lot of talent on this defensive team, but I tell you what, these guys are great competitors and they're warriors, and sometimes they can't practice very well all week and I get mad at them.
But, man, when they go to play, they play hard. They play well together. And they have a lot of pride in their performance, in what they do. And they've done it extremely well. Statistically, they've done it better than probably any group we've ever had.
And if you look at the record, whether it was the Cleveland Browns a long time ago with Belichick or whatever, Michigan State's defenses in some cases when I was a coordinator, in some cases the head coach, pretty consistently pretty good defense.
But this group probably was a cut above in a lot of ways, at least statistically, even though I certainly appreciate the quality of what some of those other groups were able to accomplish as well.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports