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CECIL HURT: Nick Saban focused on Alabama football, but social commitment will not die

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

There is no way to tell how long the echoes of the University of Alabama athletes’ march calling attention to social issues will resonate. History follows its own path, although many national opinions attached special importance to the moment. The world, however, moves fast. New stories replace the old every day. Issues get pushed aside by new issues, The cycle spins on.

Nick Saban seems determined not to let that happen to the issue of race relations in America: not on his watch, not while he is coaching a team made up predominantly of Black young men. He also seemed determined to make the point that awareness was now a team mission, not a one-time photo opportunity, on Monday.

“We’re not letting this die,” Saban said during his Wednesday Zoom call with UA media. “We’re making a list of things that our players can do and can encourage other people to do in our own community, some of which they mentioned on Monday.

“So this is not just “We (went) over there on Monday and we had a march and now it’s over.’ We challenged everybody to do things to make a difference, and now we’re going to challenge ourselves to do the same things, me included. And everybody can do that in their own way.”

At least one question asked for Saban to comment on comments that had been made on social media. There are no bad questions (or almost none) in a press conference, because you never know what answer you might get. However, Saban was far too savvy to wade into the swamp of, “Yeah, I saw what Mike927067 said in the replies and here’s what I think." That’s even more true of the politically-charged issues that have dominated the summer of 2020, coronavirus and racial justice/injustice, as opposed to the usual, "Why’d you run that fake punt?" variety. Sometimes people express true, sincere political dissent online; other times the replies are as orchestrated as a symphony by Rimsky-Korsakov. So he addressed the question in the straight Saban fashion. 

“I don’t have an opinion about everybody else’s opinion,” he said.

A quick aside: people frequently ask what makes Saban a great coach, but he gives insight into that all the time — like this time. He makes a decision, sets a course and sticks to it with no interest in suggestions from outside. That confidence is contagious (please, no mask jokes) and a team feeds on that. If he was to spend his time in eternal argument, which you can certainly do these days, he would eventually cross that line that separates convincing someone else to actually trying to convince yourself  — and players notice.

One other line of questioning was whether the march — with some athletes carrying signs or wearing T-shirts that read “Black Lives Matter” — was endorsing an attitude or the eponymous political organization. 

“I don’t think (the athletes) have ever come out and say they support any organization — good, bad or indifferent,” he said. “They support concepts of things that can be done in the future.”

Things that can be done in the future. “Not letting this die.” One wonders when that commitment will manifest itself again, perhaps at the home opener on Oct. 3 against Texas  A&M, if the summer’s other bone of contention — coronavirus — allows it.

Cecil Hurt

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt