The BamHammer Interview: Cecil Hurt

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If you follow Alabama football, you follow the writing of Cecil Hurt, Sports Editor of the Tuscaloosa News. Cecil has covered Tide football for years, and has become the most reliable source of information about the team outside of the school’s press agent. Cecil sat down with us over the weekend.

Been hanging out on the Strip lately?
Well, I live about two blocks away so I don’t know if that constitutes “hanging out.” Last time I went into one of the bars, they threatened to have me busted for over-age drinking.

What differences do you see between the reckoning fans expect Deadrick and co. to have with Coach Saban, and how the coaching staff actually handles player discipline?
Fans (like the rest of us) love to spend other people’s money and discipline other people’s players. Nothing that some fans likes better than “throwing (insert name here) off the team” because it shows a coach is “tough.” I think this staff will be firm but also understands that each case requires individual attention.

Is it unfair to look at this as a test case for Saban?
All cases are test cases. The next time there is an incident will be a test case, too. Plus you’ll have the added component of seeing if he is “consistent.”

Coach Saban is, as of right now, undefeated at Alabama. Do most fans have realistic expectations about the coming year, and the rebuilding that needs to take place?
I think most fans who understand football know that every coach at Alabama – including Coach Bryant – had had a first-year transition. I think media people sometimes confuse fans hoping to win every game (which they should) with expecting to win every game. That level of expectation is a year or two away, I think.

Opposing coaches were mostly silent regarding Mike Shula, but Les Miles in particular has been pretty vocal about the Tide’s new direction. Does the rising level of trash talk come from the fear of a resurgent Alabama?
I’d take it as a reflection of what their fan base is talking about. It wasn’t just coaches – no one talked a lot about Mike Shula as a coach, outside of Alabama. I do think “fear” is too strong a word. I think they recognize Alabama will do well, but I’d say most big-time coaches expect to do well themselves, too,

At first glance, Saban and Major Applewhite seem an unlikely pairing. Does Saban see the same upside in his OC that others have?
I think Major’s stint at Rice attracted a lot of attention. I am sure Coach Saban liked that, and the energy level Major brings.

Long-time fans have a hard time imagining the Tide offense having to carry the defense; will that be the case this year?
I don’t know about carrying, but I think a good offense can help the defense with time of possession, etc. Ultimately, the defense has to stop someone, though.

What do you think of the gameday policies put in place by Gene Hallman’s team? Do they benefit the skybox-level attendee to the detriment of the sidewalk alumni?
I honestly can’t give a fair answer. I walk from my house to the pressbox. And no one ever invites me to a tailgate.

Mal Moore has come back strong after a long series of bad coaching hires. Is he coasting toward retirement on the strength of the Saban hire, or are there items left on his to do list?
First, I think you can debate bad coaching hires. Franchione and Price were, in football terms, good coaches. Both departed for reasons not entirely under Mal’s control. I do think the decision to narrow the search for Price’s successor to UA alumni was the wrong way to go. Second, I think Coach Moore has projects that he still wants to spearhead.

Is one of those items the further expansion of Bryant-Denny, or would he prefer to leave that to his successor?
Not speaking for Coach Moore, but I think he would like to be involved in that.

Finally, your prediction: is this Saban’s last stop?
Probably so. What’s the logical next step, otherwise?