If you have out-of-town visitors who haven’t been to Tuscaloosa in a decade or so, the first thing they will likely notice is the boom in housing units, with apartments and condominiums springing up from downtown to Alberta City.
“Students?,” they might ask.
“No,” I’ll reply. “Analysts.”
Nick Saban might not have enough off-the-field assistant coaches to fill an entire high-rise. He might not even have more support staff than any college football program — the numbers on that are difficult to verify, both at UA and at some other institutions. There is no question, though, Saban’s extra assistants draw the most attention and have some of the biggest resumes — Steve Sarkisian in the recent past, or Butch Jones. This year, according to published reports including one by George Schroeder from USA Today, Alabama might have three former head coaches analyzing things.
Alabama has yet to confirm anything officially, staff-wise, moving at about the same pace and with about the same amount of joy as North Korea names its nuclear test sites. It seems Jones will be back in some capacity, perhaps with a “senior analyst” title. The USA Today report indicates Mike Stoops, once the head coach at Arizona from 2004 until 2011 and, most recently, the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, will be in Tuscaloosa. Then there is speculation Major Applewhite, most recently the head coach at Houston and, long ago, Saban’s offensive coordinator at Alabama, might come aboard.
That’s a huge amount of head coaching experience that might be assembled in one place. It’s not entirely about Saban “rehabilitating careers,” although he’s successfully seen Lane Kiffin (who was never technically an analyst, although he did some informal chatting with Saban before he was hired as offensive coordinator) and Mike Locksley, who was an analyst along the way. These are knowledgeable football minds that can help Saban, whose goal appears to be an infusion of as much coaching experience as he can get.
The fact things didn’t work out, long-term, at the most recent head coaching stop, gives pause to some fans. The thing is, Alabama’s analysts are not being asked to do most of the things head coaches do. Saban certainly studies film and creates strategy, but a large amount of his time is spent recruiting, or handling media duties, or appearing at coaching clinics, or communicating personally with players, a role he plans to expand in 2019.
One of the things that puts Saban at the pinnacle of the coaching pantheon is his ability to juggle all those different responsibilities. Often, time management can cost a head coach his job because if the other areas (especially recruiting) should slip, there are ripples that can rock the win-loss record. Analysts don’t have any of those responsibilities — they study football all day long.
There is also a familiarity factor. Saban’s relationship with the Stoops family goes back more than 40 years. One of the most famous Saban stories: he and the elder Bob Stoops (the uncle of the current generation of coaching Stoops brothers) were so engrossed in a football conversation in a Youngstown, Ohio, bar that they failed to notice an armed robbery in progress. Applewhite, should he come to Tuscaloosa (to repeat, nothing is confirmed), will be on his second tour of duty.
And, thanks to the recent building boom, they won’t even have to sleep on cots in the training room.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.
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