2013 DISCOVER BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
NICK SABAN PRESS CONFERENCE – JAN. 8
COACH NICK SABAN: I guess I'd just like to say how proud I am of our team and everyone in our organization for the great job that they did this past year, our coaching staff, our support staff, the university community, Coach Moore, president, chancellor, everybody at Alabama, including our fans. They've been very supportive and helpful in helping us be successful. I think the players appreciate it. We certainly appreciate it. And I think that this team, as I said last night, certainly exceeded our expectations in terms of what they were able to accomplish. Very difficult to repeat, to have the psychological disposition to repeat.
I know there's a lot of questions about how do you celebrate this, and I think in thinking about it last night, I really hope that we all appreciate what we accomplished and understand what it took to accomplish it, rather than just revel and marvel in what we really did, because if you appreciate something and you understand what it took, I think that you may be more committed to what you need to do in the future to continue to be successful.
So every opponent that we play next year we'll certainly have it targeted on their schedule to beat us, so we'll have a lot of challenges for ourselves, and the team that we have next year is 0-0. Even though I really appreciate what this team accomplished, and I'm very, very proud of what they accomplished, we do need to start for the challenges of the new season very quickly with the team that we have coming back.
But we're very proud of what our players were able to accomplish with this victory and this game against a very good Notre Dame team.
Q. It seems like for the last four years at the end of the year, each time your team has probably played its best game in the last game. Can you talk about how you accomplish that, how you get them to play their best at the end.
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I'm not really sure. But we kind of have a program, an approach that we use that is a little different than what we used to use because there's so much time between games. And I feel like our players are comfortable with that in terms of how we practice, how we prepare, how we sort of don't try to carry the psychological momentum from the season to the game, and let that happen when we get closer to the game.
I think probably the biggest change for this team was Thursday after a bad practice, after we came back and practiced on New Year's Day, the next day we came down here, had a couple guys not be responsible and do what they were supposed to do. I think that kind of got everybody recentered and refocused the way we needed to be to get prepared and carry it into the game.
I think each year is a little bit different. I think each team is a little bit different, but the formula for what we do is pretty much the same.
Q. Not to infringe on your 24 hours, but looking ahead to next year, what does it mean to have a quarterback who's accomplished what AJ has accomplished and come as far, and what is his -- I don't know if he has a ceiling, but what is his potential for next year and what can he do?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, you know, AJ has gotten better and better every year. I think AJ is a very competitive guy who's an outstanding leader, who affects other people in a positive way. And I think when you watch him and Barrett in the fourth quarter with five minutes to go in the game, you can see what kind of competitors they both are, the kind of respect for each other, and the kind of standard of excellence they're trying to play to. We're always trying to get players to play for 60 minutes and be the best that they can be and not worry about the scoreboard, and I think their reaction to each other was an indication that they're still out there completing and playing like you'd like for them to.
I think AJ, we certainly have to build the team around him. I've talked a lot about it's difficult to play quarterback when you don't have good players around you. I think we should have, God willing and everybody staying healthy, a pretty good receiver corps. We'll have to do some rebuilding in the offensive line. Regardless of what Eddie decides to do, we'll probably still have some pretty decent runners. But I think AJ can be a really good player, maybe the best quarterback in the country next year.
Q. Eddie Lacy may not have quite gotten the recognition that your last two running backs had, but what are you going to remember about him and what really sticks out to you about his play and what you've seen since he's been at Alabama?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I think the thing that probably I appreciate most about Eddie is Eddie has probably had to overcome a lot more adversity, have a lot more resiliency, be a little more patient. You know, he's had to overcome, battle a lot of injuries, but he's never, ever lost sight of the focus, the goal of what he wanted to accomplish and what he wanted to do, continue to improve and get better.
I think after last year with the toe injury, being off for six months before he could ever do anything, it probably took him four or five months to get back to where he really was, what he could be, which was probably the last three or four games of the season.
So I really probably appreciate the resiliency that he had in terms of what he's had to overcome as a player to gain the success that he's had.
Q. Could you talk about C.J. Mosley's performance last night, and how he always seems to give his biggest performance in the biggest games.
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I think C.J. played consistently well for us all year long. I don't really feel like he ever had a bad game. I think he loves to play, he's a very active player, he's very athletic, very instinctive. Always seems to make a lot plays.
When you look at the production, which we have a production chart on defense, he's pretty consistently the guy that's getting the most points game in and game out. So I think his consistency and performance is what makes him a special player, and it really doesn't matter who we're playing against, he always seems to make a lot of plays. He had a great game last night.
Q. This type of success that you guys have had prompts comparisons to other teams, other programs. I guess the Nebraska teams of the mid '90s accomplished the same thing, the three in four years. You had to prepare for and play those Nebraska teams. I am wondering if you see any similarities, what you remember about that Nebraska period.
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, what I remember about them is I was defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns with Bill Belichick and the first game we had at Michigan State with me being the head coach is against Nebraska. And they beat us 55-14, and the score did not indicate how bad they beat us. I'm thinking that I hadn't been in college football for four or five years, being in the NFL. I'm thinking, we're never going to win a game. We'll never win a game here at Michigan State. I must have taken a bad job, wrong job, no players, something. I remember Coach Osborne when we shook hands after the game, he put his arm around me and whispered in my ear, "You're not really as bad as you think."
So I think he knew he had a pretty good team. And we actually ended up winning six games, so we weren't really probably as bad as I thought.
Q. When those seconds were winding down, were you expecting the Gatorade bath? And for those of us who have not had a Gatorade bath, how does it feel?
COACH NICK SABAN: It's cold, it's sticky, but I appreciated not getting hit in the head with the bucket. That was an improvement.
But I really pride myself in being able to anticipate what's coming next, you know, anticipate what the next problem in the organization is, anticipate what we need to solve, what we need to focus on, what we need to work on, and I've never been able to anticipate the Gatorade coming. I don't know what's up with that.
Q. I think Barrett Jones was part of the Gatorade squad last night. He played that game with torn ligaments in his foot. We learned that last night. Obviously you knew that some time ago. He talked about what you've meant to him. Can you talk about what he's meant to the program and what he's meant to you personally.
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I don't think that I've ever coached a person, a guy that was a better person. I don't know one person that doesn't like him and respect him. But so willing to serve other people, give his time up to go to Haiti or whatever it is. As fine a human being as I've ever been around. Actually makes you wonder sometimes even as a coach who's trying to set a good example for the players, should I be more like him?
He's got a 4.0 grade point average, so you really can't complain much about the kind of student-athlete that he is. He wins the Campbell Award, which I think was very deserving of what he really, as a student-athlete, stands for, and a guy that has been an All-American, an Outland Trophy winner, started at three different positions on three
National Championship teams, maybe didn't start on the first one, but I just can't remember a player that personally, academically and athletically has ever contributed more than Barrett Jones from a leadership standpoint, from a character standpoint, from how he represents the university, the program, the organization, his family, himself. I mean, you're talking about a first-class guy. If I was a CEO, I would be trying to hire the guy.
Q. I talked to Tommy Bowden, who you know, of course, and you've got a couple of his older assistants, about the physical nature of your program, and when you've got Bama and Notre Dame, they seem to be similar, yet you dominated last night. He seems to think the difference might be because you practice more physical because you have a quality of depth there to be able to do that. Do you concur with that? And what else might you add to that?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, we practice the way we practice when we didn't have any depth. So I think that our players actually believe that we work harder, we're more physical because of the way we practice, that we practice good on good to challenge them to be the best that they can be, and in doing that, we sort of establish the intangibles, the effort, the toughness, the mental and physical toughness, the discipline to execute against a quality person, that all enables players to improve and hopefully be all they can be.
I mean, that's the purpose for doing it, whether it's the off-season program, spring practice, summer conditioning, or the way we prepare against each other even during the season. And I think our players pride themselves on that. And I think that's a positive for us.
I never thought about it -- we don't do it because we have depth; we do it because we're trying to improve each and every player to help them be all they can be.
Q. Winning four National Championships as a coach puts you in very exclusive company with an incredible group of coaches. Can you just talk about the significance of that and being part of that group.
COACH NICK SABAN: You know, I really don't think about it that way. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the other coaches and what they've been able to accomplish, but while you're in this game, you're always sort of looking for the next challenge of what you have to do to continue to maintain the standard of excellence that you've tried to establish in your organization and try to get people to continue to do the things that they need to do. They can appreciate, as I said before, what they've accomplished, but in appreciating it, you have to understand what it took to accomplish it, and I have a willingness to stay committed to those things.
So that's kind of where my focus is. I appreciate all the players and coaches and folks that have done everything to contribute to the success that we've had in the past. But I also understand that if we're going to continue to do this, it really doesn't help you succeed in the future unless you continue to do the things that you need to do to continue to have that kind of standard of excellence in your program, which is a process that takes a lot of attention and a lot of people's attention and a lot of people's commitment.
Q. You mentioned your tenure with the Spartans a moment ago. There's some discussion now that your time there proves that program can't win a National Championship. Could you answer what you think would have happened had you stayed there, and what about Michigan State's ability to compete on a championship level like an LSU or an Alabama?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I think Michigan State is a fine program. I think Mark Dantonio is a really good coach. He worked on our staff for five years and did a phenomenal job. You know, teams aren't that far away. I mean, they played Notre Dame; Notre Dame is in this game. They lost a bunch of close games this year. I think if you do a good job of recruiting and developing your players that a lot of people are going to have the opportunity to be in this game in the future, and I think Michigan State is one of the better programs in the Big Ten in terms of the history of success that they've been able to have. And I think they've got good people there, great administration, Lou Anna Simon is a great president. She was the provost when I was there. Understands athletics, was very helpful to us trying to build a program there. I don't see why they couldn't be successful.
Q. You sat here the other day and talked about how there are some players like a Mariano Rivera who have the ability to stay on point and get their message across athletically. I'm wondering if you could share - and I know you talk a lot about it being the players - but why are you able to get your message across? How do you do that?
COACH NICK SABAN: You know, I think, first of all, you have to have the respect of the audience, so you have to have the respect of the players, which I think you get by establishing a good program, and them knowing that you have their best interest in mind personally and their personal development academically and helping them develop a career off the field as well as athletically in terms of helping them be all they can be to see if they can develop a career on the field, and that you have a legitimate interest in using the resources that you have to help them launch a career when they leave, so they can get the best opportunities in life. That's kind of what our program is all about.
So when you make all your choices and decisions based on sort of that mission statement for them, and you hire people who are all committed to that mission statement, I think players respect that, and if they really want to be the best in all those areas, they're really interested in being a part of our program. So I think it starts with the fact that you've got to gain the respect of the people, knowing that you have their best interest in mind, which is what we kind of pride ourselves or try to pride ourselves in in developing our program. And then I think that we use a lot of different people that have ways of affecting psychological disposition who have helped us be effective in how we present these things. I didn't tell the players a story about Mariano Rivera; we showed them a film of that. I showed them a film of Michael Jordan saying everybody thinks the first championship is the hardest, but it's really the next one, because you have to have the will to fight against yourself, to be everything that you can be because you want to be it, because you've already won a championship. And he was able to win six. So I let those players, those people, affect our players as well as a lot of other people. I mean, we've had a lot of great speakers. We have a personal development program, and I think every one of those people affect our guys in some kind of way to help them make better choices and decisions so that they have a better chance to be successful. I think it's a combination of all of the above. It's certainly not just what I do.
Q. The SEC wins another championship, you win another championship, we asked you about the SEC, but I guess what I want to know is, is there something quantifiable about playing in that conference that gives the SEC team, your team, a benefit when it gets here to play another good team? Is there something that that conference gives you a slight edge over the other good team that you're facing?
COACH NICK SABAN: I don't think there's any question about it. We had some really tough games with -- I think, were there six teams in the top ten at the end of the season, five maybe? I don't know, I thought there were six when we played the SEC Championship game. So if you're playing those teams, and we didn't play all five of them or six of them or however many there were, but we played a couple, three of them, those kinds of games, that kind of competition, playing against sort of the best, obviously helps you play another good team when you play in a game like this. And I don't even think it's just those teams, I think it's the fact that there's a lot of teams in our division that we had very difficult games with. So it's almost every game that you play in the SEC is a game that you could lose, and you have to be very well prepared for and you have to sort of play with a consistency. You can't play up and down, or you're going to have problems. And I think all those things really help the consistency and the players to understand and appreciate what it takes to be successful.
Q. Do you think it'll facilitate the dominance of the SEC when we go to the four-team playoff, that you have that chance to keep going and don't have to be one of the top two teams?
COACH NICK SABAN: You know, I don't really know how to answer that. I just know that when you -- we've had a playoff already in the SEC, because the games that we've played in, we played in the SEC Championship game three times, played Florida twice; we were 1-2. Played Georgia this year, we were 2-3. Georgia is five yards from being here. So we've already kind of had that. Now, if we're going to have that game and play those teams to get in the Final Four, if we're going to keep that format, I don't know if that enhances our chances or not because we may be eliminating a team, if that's the scenario, that would have been in the Final Four that may not be after they lose that game, which I think would be incredibly unfair, especially if every other conference doesn't have a championship game to play in. You shouldn't be able to sneak your way in. If we're going to have to play our way in, let's play our way in, everybody.
Q. Would you like to see the Conference Championship game go away?
COACH NICK SABAN: I think the Conference Championship game is a great venue. It's a great competitive venue. I mean, how much fan interest is there for that game? I mean, I heard what the tickets were going for, so that's -- other than playing in the National Championship game, that's as fine as competitive venue as I've ever been around, so why would we get rid of that? I think those things are great. And I think we should make more decisions on what the fans like and what the fans want to do and what gets the fans in the stands, because that's important to the success of the game.
Q. You don't strike me as a guy that would wear four rings at a time. Do you keep any mementos? Do you wear the rings? What do you do with them?
COACH NICK SABAN: I just put them on the coffee table for the recruits to look at. (Laughter.)
Q. Do you keep any sort of memento from any of this?
COACH NICK SABAN: Not really. I mean, I don't really wear any of the championship rings, never have. You know, I think the satisfaction, enjoyment, comes from the fact that you know you did your best to be the best, you could be at what you were trying to do, and by the accomplishment itself, that's where the self-gratification comes from. We don't really kind of need to wear a ring and go like this so everybody says, look what I've got. I mean, that's just not my style. You know, and we appreciate what everybody in the organization did to accomplish it, and very, very proud of their commitment and effort and hard work and all that they had to overcome to accomplish it.
Q. I know this never gets old for you, but why?
COACH NICK SABAN: Why do you do what you do? Are you driven to be the best at what you do?
Q. Yes, sir.
COACH NICK SABAN: You know, there's an old Martin Luther King sermon that talks about there's only one guy that I'd let shine my shoes in Montgomery, Alabama, because of the pride he had in the performance of how he shined my shoes. I didn't want anybody else in the world to shine my shoes. And the enjoyment he got that he did a great job for what you did. And you've probably heard this sermon, and I'm just paraphrasing here, but if you're going to be a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be. Sweep the streets like Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, Like Shakespeare wrote literature. Let them put a sign up right here that says "the best street sweeper in the world lives right here." And if you can do that, you do the best there is in life, knowing you did your best to be the best you could be, no matter what you choose to do. That's why. Because there's no better feeling than knowing you did the best you could be. I don't care if it's what you do, what I do, what the street sweeper does. It really doesn't matter. It's not all about results.
Q. You've spoken about how your team has exceeded expectations. How has your team been able to overcome that adversity and overcome the struggles of injuries and players that have gone to the NFL or graduated?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I think it starts probably with a commitment to the standard of what we want. I think the players understand. We try to define the expectation for every guy in the organization, and I think any successful business probably does that. So people can be responsible for their own self-determination. They can do their job.
When I worked for Bill Belichick we had one sign in the building; it says "do your job." Now, he defined what he expected from everybody in the organization, but everybody knew what the expectation was for them, whether they were secretary and personnel, a player; what kind of players we wanted bring to the organization from the personnel department, whatever it was. And then everybody needs to make a commitment to the standard, be a team player, trust and respect the principles and values of the organization as well as each other, be positive about how you go about your work, and know that it's going to take a tremendous amount of commitment and work to be able to accomplish it. So I think we start with those types of things and try to get everybody to buy in, and I think they're more prepared to be able to do it when the time comes. But I think it takes a bit of maturity on the players' part to be able to do that, and we certainly appreciate that, and that's why we've been successful, because of the players' commitment to that.
Q. Some would say this is an appropriate or an inappropriate question to ask the morning after you win a National Championship, but I think it's the elephant in the room that everybody is thinking about, at least in the back of their minds, and that is the NFL. You're now a National Championship coach again. You're likely to be the hot coach in terms of getting offers, phone calls, maybe you have already. I'm just wondering if you could just put it to rest, do you have any desire to return to the NFL at all, or can you without hesitation say that you're staying where you are?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, you know, how many times do you think I've been asked this question? How many times do you think I've been asked to put it to rest? And I've put it to rest, and you continue to ask it. So I'm going to say it today, that -- you know, I think somewhere along the line you've got to choose. You learn a lot from the experiences of what you've done in the past.
I came to the Miami Dolphins, what, eight years ago for the best owner, the best person that I've ever had the opportunity to work for. And in the two years that I was here, had a very, very difficult time thinking that I could impact the organization in the way that I wanted to or the way that I was able to in college, and it was very difficult for me, because there's a lot of parity in the NFL, there's a lot of rules in the NFL. And people say you can draft the players that you want to draft; you can draft a player that's there when you pick. It might not be the player you need, it might not be the player you want. You've got salary cap issues. We had them here. You've got to have a quarterback. We had a chance to get one here; sort of messed it up. So I didn't feel like I could impact the team the same way that I can as a college coach in terms of affecting people's lives personally, helping them develop careers by graduating from school, off the field, by helping develop them as football players, and there's a lot of self-gratification in all that, all right. So I kind of learned through that experience that maybe this is where I belong, and I'm really happy and at peace with all that. So no matter how many times I say that, y'all don't believe it, so I don't even know why I keep talking about it.
Q. We saw your wife Terry next to you last night, and you guys have been together since back in high school. Just talk about what her support and encouragement means to you personally, and also for your team. They love to call her Ms. Terry. Talk to us a little bit about Ms. Terry.
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, let me say this: I met Ms. Terry when she was in seventh grade at science camp and I was in eighth grade, and we were from different schools. And she did not know what a 1st down was when we first started dating, and there's no doubt in my mind that she thinks she ought to be the head coach at Alabama right now. No doubt. And she is a hell of an assistant, even though she thinks she's the head coach, which when she's around, I always make her think that. But Terry does a fantastic job, I think, of being very, very supportive, not only in the things that we do, or try to do, in terms of recruiting and getting to know and develop relationships with people that are important to feel comfortable when they come and visit our university and things like that.
She does a tremendous job with our Nick's Kids, which is a tremendous community outreach that helps a lot of people in our state and certainly a lot of victims in the tornado. There's a lot of people who support that organization, and she does a wonderful job of all that. We make a significant contribution to sending I think it's like eight kids a year on first-generation scholarships to the University of Alabama. She sort of does all that. She's quick to tell me when we're running it too much up the middle, when we're not passing enough, when we don't blitz enough on defense. I get lots of feedback on all those things.
So I would say that she's probably as big a part of the program as anyone in terms of her time, her commitment and all the things that she does to serve people in a really positive way that is helpful to us being successful, not only in football but in the community and what we can do to serve other people.