Power-5 Coaches Discuss How Nick Saban Handled Non-Suspension Of Jermaine Burton At Alabama

The ongoing discussion around Alabama's Jermaine Burton and the perceived lack of punishment from Nick Saban was a topic of discussion over the last week. You can see Burton on video making contact with fans after the game.

After deciding not to suspend him for the postgame incident at Tennessee, questions have risen as to why Burton was allowed to play.

I recently spoke with four different head coaches at the power-5 level on the condition of anonymity. They gave me their opinion on what they would've done in the situation. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what Saban should or shouldn't have done in regard to Jermaine Burton. A few coaches agreed with how Saban handled the ordeal. But one thing is clear, they don't all agree with Saban's tactics.

Suspension Should Be Considered

Speaking with two SEC coaches anonymously, the overall sentiment was that they would have suspended a player if this happened on their football team. Both coaches made it very clear on what they thought of the situation.

"One-hundred percent suspended. A terrible message. He (Saban) gets away with everything. Anyone else would be getting killed."

While speaking with another head coach, the response was mixed, knowing that every circumstance is different.

"Well, our job is to protect the players in those scenarios. But I don't condone hitting a female in any circumstance. The way the video looked, I would've most likely sat him for a game, hopefully where the player would learn a lesson. It's about optics as well, which could've probably been handled differently. But each coach and school has their own protocol. Maybe counseling was enough"

SEC Coaches Speak Publicly On Teleconference

When speaking to reporters on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman mentioned that the history of the player would need to be analyzed. The Razorbacks coach pointed out that something would have to be done.

“Oh, I don’t know. Those will be things that you’d have to probably check the history of the player and those things of that nature. Obviously, there would have to be something done there. But it’d be hard to say just right off the bat. But certainly, wouldn’t condone it, nor want that to happen. And certainly, something would have to be done.” 

LSU's Brian Kelly mentioned that these scenario's of rushing the field is a reason why you fine schools heavily for these situations because of the unexpected.

“I’ve been on teams where the fans have stormed onto the field, and it’s never an easy situation because it is a bit chaotic. You don’t know exactly what’s going on. First and foremost, you’re being rushed off the field generally by security or police and you don’t have a great perspective of it."

"It’s one of those things where, that’s why you fine heavily when people rush the field because there’s so many unexpected things that can happen," Kelly added. "I don’t think there’s a script for it. I think that from my perspective, any time those things happen, you have to be extremely aware of your surroundings and make sure you get to safety.” 

Power-5 Coaches Speak Up

I mentioned earlier that not everyone was on the same page, some agreeing with Saban. Pointing out that in the moment, it's such a cluster of people rushing the field. You don't what was said to the player at the time.

"What if the person was rushing the field and putting a device in the players face, making him feel threatened? We have to trust our players are making the right decisions, but it's so hard in those situations," One Power-5 head coach said. "If the player felt scared, who are we to tell him he shouldn't be? This is why it's important to get everyone off the field, just because anything could happen. I don't blame Saban for taking his player's word and not suspending him, I probably wouldn't either."

Another coach made it clear that the coaches can only hope that the situation doesn't occur again, which would destroy any credibility of the decision not to suspend.

"You just hope that it doesn't happen again. If you trust your players and know who they are, then you should be able to gauge their personality. I think going forward more schools will think abut this incident and look to manage the situation better. You can't blame Tennessee fans for storming the field, but it's also hard for me to cast stones about a particular punishment if I haven't been there before. But you never put your hands on a female."

The opinions of others have been rampant, with many thinking that it was a cut and dry situation. But as you can tell from these Power-5 coaches, that's not always the case.

Written by
Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series. Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football "Credit Card Scandal" along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.