BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at an area middle school about character.
My message? When you strip away your house, your car and your job, your most important virtue remaining is, yes, character.
I pointed the kids to a few of my favorite quotes: Said the great John Wooden, "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
I also quoted 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Bad company corrupts good character."
I also reminded the kids of a familiar college football coach who has consistently delivered on his promise of what good character can bring.
Since arriving in Tuscaloosa some eight years ago, Nick Saban has done a remarkable job of keeping his players on the right path, often turning bad apples into good ones.
From offering his players sports psychologists, motivational speakers, strict schedules and discipline, the Alabama football has proven that his "Process" indeed works.
And character? It's been an essential part of Saban's message, as he recently told the University Of Alabama Coaching Character Initiative, "Take a leadership role to influence the people around you ... the outcome will be determined by your decisions."
Nick Saban's focus on character is why I think the Alabama football coach is taking so much heat as the Jonathan Taylor saga continues to unfold.
Was Taylor guilty of assaulting his girlfriend days ago? Was the accuser lying? Why did the woman change her story? Could she really have caused her own bruises? Is Taylor getting a raw deal?
Rather than go all CSI, I'm going to let the police figure that out. But what I do have a beef with is the fact that Saban accepted Taylor into his program despite the fact the defensive lineman faced a domestic assault charge in Georgia.
I certainly have to question the character of any man who strikes a woman, and I'm surprised that Nick Saban didn't tap the breaks in this case.
While some of my fellow media friends have slammed Saban for not apologizing for taking Taylor into his program, my problem lies in the fact that the coach took the player in the first place.
It doesn't take long to find memorable and inspirational quotes about character and leadership in college athletics. Here are just a few:
"I don't think it's about who you play, it's about who you are."
"I think people confuse punishment with discipline. Discipline is about changing behavior."
"I want my players to be able to stand up and say they did everything right."
"If you are afraid to do things because you don't trust players, then you're probably never going to allow them to grow."
"It's like your own children. There are some things you have to let them do. You can't protect them all the time."
"Affecting young people and getting them to move in the right direction, to do the right things, is obviously important to being successful."
"When other players think it's not acceptable by their peers how they go about what they do, they will change more readily. If they don't change then, maybe they are the wrong guys."
The man who uttered every one of those phrases? Nick Saban, the master of The Process.
Oh, The Process: Down through the years it's been a model for success:
1. Recruit the right people (players, coaches, staff)
2. Define each person's job (for players that means study and practice times, training schedule, counseling sessions)
3. Focus on the job at hand rather than the results. Do all three and the results will come.
In the Jonathan Taylor case, Nick Saban blew it on #1, while Jonathan Taylor blew it on #2 and #3.
While Saban has often done a remarkable job in helping young men after giving them second chances (DJ Pettway comes to mind), Saban's takeaway from all of this? His Process is not foolproof -- it can't save them all.
The mistake of the coach? Allowing football talent to trump character. And the thing about it is, Saban doesn't have to sign players with questionable character traits- doesn't he pretty much have the pick of the litter? Why the need for Saban to play Dr. Phil when being a coach is his best medicine?
I truly hope that Jonathan Taylor sees his life transformed. I also hope that Nick Saban, along with college coaches everywhere pay heed to all of their fancy quotes and take them to heart the next time a questionable athlete becomes available.