ATLANTA – I thought I had heard the last of the holier-than-thou indignation by the Alabama Crimson Tide crazies during the SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, last May.
At this time, the feud between their precious Alabama football coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher was still on boil. Saban had gone after the Texas A&M football program – which means he went after Fisher – in front of some deep-pocketed boosters at a speaking engagement in Birmingham on May 18.
Saban said the Aggies “bought every player.”
Fisher struck back the next day at a self-called press conference with “great vengeance and furious anger,” as Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules Winnfield says before blowing away someone who crossed his boss in “Pulp Fiction.”
“It’s despicable that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn’t get his way or things don’t go his way,” Fisher responded. “The narcissist in him doesn’t allow those things to happen. It’s ridiculous when when he’s not on top. Some people think they’re God. Go dig into how God did His deal. You may find out about a guy, a lot of things, you don’t want to know. We build him up to be this czar of football. Go dig into his past or anybody who’s ever coached with him. You can find out anything you want to find out what he does and how he does it. We’re done.”
Maybe, Fisher went overboard. The SEC did reprimand him along with Saban, but he had had enough. He had been hearing jealous people rip his No. 1 recruiting class from the previous February for months, and he was sick of it. Then he gets it from a mentor whom he helped win a national championshp at LSU in the 2003 season as Saban’s offensive coordinator? From a fellow West Virginian who have the same old school work ethic and similar personalities?
Fisher got shot at from a guy who he has had nothing but respect for since 2000 and said so numerous times? He even waited nearly an hour after one of Saban’s six national titles at Alabama just to congratulate him.
Saban quickly knew he messed up as did those close to him, and he apologized numerous times for what he said. He tried to call Fisher to no avail. But he kept apologizing, though never directly to Fisher. Yet, radio show hosts and callers for weeks cast Fisher as the villain, and they were incredulous. How dare Fisher say what he said about God Saban, virtually dismissing the fact that Saban spoke the first shot.
Still, Fisher eventually let it go. Both handled it well at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin in May and early June. Fisher moved past it. And it was basically done with as the SEC Media Days came around this past week in Atlanta.
Saban was not even asked about it during his turn in the main press conference on Tuesday. Then Fisher closed the event on Thursday, and a few members of the Alabama media – or close enough to that – couldn’t let it go.
“When you look back at the press conference in May,” a reporter asked, “do you have any regrets over how that was handled? Do you feel like you owe Nick an apology? How do things stand between you and him?”
Excuse me. The question is does Fisher owe Saban an apology? Really? Funny, Saban was never asked if he owed Fisher a direct apology. This questioner made a second mistake by asking too many questions in one turn. When this happens, the subject tends to just answer the last one.
“Listen, we’re great,” Fisher said, answering the last one. “Two competitive guys that go at it. We all learn from things we do in our business. I have great respect for Nick. Unfortunately, our thing went public. Sometimes that happens in this world. Nothing is private anymore, is it? Hopefully I learn from things we do and say, and we move on from there. But I have great respect for him and their program like always.”
Class answer from a class guy, period. And a classier answer than the question deserved. Fisher never answered the one about owing Saban an apology. And he doesn’t need to. I’ll answer it. NO.
Fisher’s answer should have been enough. But nooo!
Another questioner asked Fisher, basically, to talk about his days working for God at LSU – “What is the thing you took most from him that has influenced your coaching career?”
Wow! First Fisher is asked to make an Act of Contrition for The Almighty. Now, he has to say how the man who sold him out made him? But Fisher was fine with it and professional, and even praised Saban for something probably few know about – his concern with the mental health of his players.
“I think diversity in organization, different aspects of a program,” Fisher said. “I think he was one of the first guys into mental health and things, which has been a very forefront thing for me ever since I’ve been a coach – as an assistant or as a head coach.”
Saban has showed as much class for the most part as Fisher above with how he handled his mistake in Birmingham two months ago. But let’s not forget that Saban did mess up – badly.
It was one of Saban’s three worst public mistakes as a coach. The first one was how he handled his exit from the Miami Dolphins to Alabama late in the 2006 season.
“I guess I have to say it,” Saban said in late December that year. “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.”
And within a few weeks, he was the Alabama coach.
The second one was when he compared his 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe in his first season with the Tide to Pearl Harbor. Even a loss to ULM by Alabama is not akin to horrors of any war.
And now his attack on A&M and Fisher.
Saban, first of all, broke the code of coaches. Virtually all major college football coaches have cheated in some sort of way, and one should not say another is doing so when he is either doing it or having someone do it. Particularly when you’re the coach at Alabama, which has a cheating history on and off the record from present day going back to Bear’s days and probably beyond.
Surely, no one thinks that former Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt just suddenly started cheating when he got to Tennesee after leaving Alabama?
But worse than that, Saban went after his best and most loyal pupil, and if he has not already apologized for that to Fisher’s face, he should.
OK, now, we can move on. It’s over.
Until Oct. 8 in Tuscaloosa, that is.