Nick Saban’s first season as the Alabama football coach was a rocky one. Alabama fans were excited about the Crimson Tide’s 6-2 start in 2007, but it was short-lived. The Tide dropped four of their final five games, including a sixth straight loss to the Auburn Tigers.
Perhaps the low point of that first season was a 21-14 loss at home to Sun Belt foe Louisiana-Monroe. It was a loss that exposed a team in transition, with some of Saban’s players buying into his system, and others clinging to the low-effort, high-praise formula that had been the Tide’s hallmark of late. (Ed. – it was also a low mark for this writer, as it marked the first and only time I walked out of an Alabama game in protest.)
Saban’s modus operandi as Alabama’s head coach has been to preach the Process; of focusing on the work instead of the results. The ULM loss served as the line in the sand for Saban, and he drew the ire of some in the sports media for his remarks on the week of his first Iron Bowl:
Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event. It may be 9/11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, and that was a catastrophic event.
Alabama fell again to Auburn, but it can be argued that the seeds were sewn at this press conference for the resurgence of Alabama football. Saban expressed the need not only for good players, but for players with good character:
They talk about alcoholics and people like that who never ever change until they hit rock bottom. Well, they change because when they hit rock bottom they have an awareness, they have an acceptance and a commitment to change.
Contrast the state of Alabama football at the end of Saban’s first season and at the beginning of his seventh. The Crimson Tide head into the first game of this season ranked No. 2 in the nation, with two BCS Championships in three years, and a very good shot at three in four. Alabama has its first Heisman winner, and graduates its players. Off-the-field incidents are so few as to be the stuff of conspiracy theories among our rivals.
Nick Saban rebuilt a dynasty in Tuscaloosa, and a strong case can be made that on that November day, the cornerstone was put firmly into place.
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