Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Saban towers over rest of college football
Alabama head coach Nick Saban poses with The Coaches' Trophy during a BCS National Championship college football game news conference Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Alabama defeated Notre Dame 42-14 Monday night to win the national championship. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
LITTLE ROCK Like him or not, and from the outside looking in he makes it difficult to like him, Alabama’s Nick Saban is the best college football coach in America.
He is a control freak who often seems like he’s had a very successful personality bypass procedure, but the man knows his job better than anyone.
At most of his news conferences he comes across as a bully, but to his benefit, in the week leading up to his fourth BCS Championship Game, he was almost charming with the national media in attendance.
Yet, the total of people in Alabama who care about the way he treats people is probably zero.
Victories overshadow everything else with fans.
Saban has become such a winner in Alabama, they have stopped printing the bumper stickers that read “Dig Bear up.”
He even once made Coca-Cola redo some cutouts because the cutout of Tommy Tuberville, who was Auburn’s head coach at the time, was taller than Saban’s. The cutouts were life-size.
Yet, last week he made jokes about his stature and staff basketball games.
So maybe he’s just a complicated man who is not really comfortable in the spotlight. Maybe he has a nonsocial streak in his personality.
Maybe he was around Bill Belichick too long.
Whatever, there have been some rumors that Saban might want to try his hand at the NFL again. There are 13 schools in the SEC that need to ante up $1 million each to try and make that happen.
Getting him out of the league may be the only way to level the playing field.
That was proven again Monday night when the Crimson Tide strolled and rolled over Notre Dame.
From the very start, it was obvious that the Fighting Irish were not used to a stage as gigantic as the one in Miami.
The BCS Championship Game atmosphere is unlike any other. The only one that really comes close could be the annual Alabama-LSU showdown, which was in the Tide’s favor, just like having been in the BCS Championship Game three of the past four years.
What was proven again Monday night was that you just can’t give Saban five weeks to prepare for a bowl.
Last year he beat a more talented LSU team by adding some new wrinkles to his offense. After the game, LSU Coach Les Miles said the Tigers changed absolutely nothing for their second matchup against Alabama.
Alabama showed almost perfect offensive balance Monday night, rushing for 265 yards and passing for 264 yards. Its defense dominated the line of scrimmage and allowed only 302 yards of total offense, and 160 of that came on the Irish’s final drive of the third quarter and the first drive of the fourth quarter, when Saban was getting his younger players some big game experience.
The Crimson Tide scored on their first three possessions, running 23 total plays for 223 yards, while the notso-Fighting Irish had 13 plays for 59 yards, and anyone could see the rout was on.
It wasn’t just that Alabama was bigger and stronger, it was more poised and more prepared.
The game also proved that the BCS is still flawed. Notre Dame was not the top challenger in the country. Truth be known, it was probably Texas A&M, one of the new kids on the SEC block, or perhaps Oregon.
It wasn’t Notre Dame.
Yet, that doesn’t diminish what Saint Nick has done.
He and Alabama are the undisputed kings of college football for the third time in four years in the most competitive era ever.
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/09/2013