Saban not Satan, but he has no love for little guys


The book on Satan goes something like this: He’s a bad guy, one who personifies evil and temptation, doing his best to seduce mankind into the ways of sin.

He’s also big on leading humanity astray.

It’s unfair to paint Nick Saban totally in the same light, although if Alabama football continues to win national championships, I’m guessing it might be an Auburn fan who will be lured into killing trees the next time.

But as for the part about leading humanity astray ...

Saban wants to lead the college game to a point much like the NFL, as close to a professional existence as possible, only with a tad lesser amount of greed and hopefully a rule against any player adopting the offseason fashion sense of Tom Brady.

Saban last week said it was “terribly disappointing” that, for the second time in four months, a coach referred to him as the devil.

He’s right. It was wrong. Besides, if you saw Elizabeth Hurley strut around in those next-to-nothing-red-outfits in “Bedazzled,” you would know Saban looks nothing like the evil one.

Tim Davis is the Florida assistant and former member of Saban’s staff with the Miami Dolphins and then Alabama who dropped the “D” word last week. In January, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin called Saban “Nicky Satan.”

The obvious: Such comments always, at some level, are coated with a degree of jealousy. Saban isn’t paid millions of dollars annually to be named Mr. Congenial of his state. He isn’t the guy to break up a room with laughter once things get tense.

He is the most arrogant of coaches coaching the most arrogant of programs. He also wins like nobody’s business.

There isn’t a fan base nationally that wouldn’t welcome Saban and his pitchfork of four national championships and counting into its locker room, not a team across the country he wouldn’t instantly make better.

There is a great chance that working for him at times must feel like running errands for Michael Corleone, but the perks of such success probably lessen the sting of his demanding ways.

Since 1991, Saban has recruited or coached 111 players who were drafted by NFL teams.

Is any other recruiting pitch needed when he walks into a home?

None of it, however, means Saban is correct about dumping all the have-nots of college football once and for all.

In and around being teased by others as a coaching Lucifer last week, Saban reiterated his stance that major college football would be better off with five conferences that included 70 or so teams.

Such a move would make the UNLVs of the football world and many like them less relevant than an extra point in a 50-point blowout.

It would kill them.

Traditional rivalries mean less and less now anyway, and the idea of five leagues each comprised of 14 teams would make a mockery of conference affiliation and loyalty.

Only a handful of programs are truly elite, while others have shown an ability to rebuild and succeed from hard times.

But by forming a system in which the best teams play each other more often, you in turn would create more losing programs in the middle and at the bottom, those who annually rely on finding early success against teams from nonmajor conferences.

I’m not suggesting the new four-team college playoff is the best and most complete answer for deciding a national champion, but it’s a positive move away from the Bowl Championship Series cartel and still allows for the Boise States of college football to believe they have an opportunity, however slight, to win a title.

If the game goes as Saban desires, that chance is dead and buried for good.

Saban wasn’t good as an NFL coach, going 15-17 over two seasons with the Dolphins. Maybe he wants the college game to more mimic the parity of the pro side to prove he can succeed in such an environment. Maybe he’s just tired of beating the snot out of the Florida Atlantics and Western Carolinas of the world.

He’s not the devil. He’s just the planet’s best college football coach whose laser focus never wavers from what is best for his program, little guys be damned. That’s his reality, his purpose, his responsibility to those who sign his checks filled with zeros.

But know this about Saban’s wish for five conferences and 70 teams: The devil is in the details, and the details aren’t as rosy as he might want everyone to believe.

At least not for a majority of college football programs.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.