HOOVER — Alabama football coach Nick Saban is the antithesis of SEC Media Days 2021.
Present a picture of Saban to 10 people at the Wynfrey Hotel, the attached mall or around Hoover and it’s all but assured 10 would be able to identify him. The same can’t be said for many of the coaches taking the stage this week.
The lineup is filled with fresh faces making their first trip to Hoover representing their respective teams. Eight of the 14 coaches weren’t here in 2019 for the most recent SEC Media Days. The pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 event with the season itself in the balance at the time.
When it does happen, it’s an event that’s all about talk. All about what could happen for these hungry programs. How they could maybe take the next step.
Then for these new coaches, it’s about making a strong first impression. It’s establishing what they are about, how he will be the guy to lead the program to success and why he’s different than past coaches.
Many coaches who step on the stage do their best to sell one of the most important currencies in sports: Hope.
Saban doesn’t have to. With seven national championships to his name, Alabama fans always have plenty of optimism for the season ahead with Saban leading the way.
Let this year’s unique flood of new faces at media days serve as an important reminder: The coaching business is incredibly fickle with constant turnover, but Saban has transcended it in a remarkable way.
On Wednesday, he made an appearance at his 19th media days as he enters his 15th year at Alabama. He’s second only to Steve Spurrier in media days appearances, according to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.
So how has Saban bucked the temporary nature of his profession?
“I think that's simple: You've got to win,” Saban said Wednesday.
This isn’t exactly new information for the coaches speaking in platitudes this week, trying to chase Saban. Here’s where the new coaches might want to take notes.
“You have to have culture in your organization,” he said, “which probably comes from the mindset of the people in your organization to have goals and aspirations for what they want to accomplish and what they want to do. And I’m talking about players as well here. They have to have a good understanding of what does it take to accomplish those goals and aspirations to be the best that they can be, and how do they have to edit their behavior to be able to do that and can they have the discipline, self-discipline on a daily basis to execute and do the things they need to do, make the choices and decisions they need to make, so that they can be the best that they can be?”
Dedication is something Saban embodies, defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis said. Mathis attributes his coach’s longevity in the profession to that and his love for the game.
Simple enough, right? Not so much.
If it were as simple as Saban and Mathis make it sound, South Carolina’s Shane Beamer, Tennessee’s Josh Heupel, Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin, Mississippi State’s Mike Leach, Missouri’s Eliah Drinkwitz, Arkansas’ Sam Pittman, Vanderbilt’s Clark Lea and Auburn’s Bryan Harsin would all be winning big-time soon. But most won’t.
In fact, come SEC Media Days in 2023, chances are good some of these newbies will be gone. By 2024 media days, even more.
Then there will be more new faces, making promises and selling hope like their fired predecessors.
And then Saban will likely take the stage once again, providing the stark reminder next to these unfamiliar faces just how rare his tenure is in the tumultuous SEC.