HOOVER, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from WBRC FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
The moment had arrived! On Wednesday at 9 a.m., Alabama football coach Nick Saban sat in front of hundreds of writers at SEC Media Days 2016 expecting to be asked about Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones. The catch? During the thirty minute session, no one in the room asked the coach about the status of those players. But never fear! Twenty minutes later Saban was grilled by the "Talking Hairdos" in the local TV interview room. And the questions kept on coming.
The last time we left Nick Saban, he was at Old Overton Golf Club telling us that he was handling the matter of Robinson and Jones internally. On Wednesday, the coach went a number of steps further as he commented on dropped drug and weapons charges, playing status and philosophies on punishment. So here's the best the Bama coach had to offer on a touchy subject. And you print guys? Uh, you're welcome.
The first question tossed at Saban in the TV interview room came from, well, me. I asked the coach if Robinson and Jones have done what has been asked of them by the coach and (the big question) if the two would start in the season opener.
Said Saban, "The information we received what the prosecutor did in deciding not to charge these two men... we had a set of internal things they had to do like community service for domestic delinquent groups. If the guys continue to finish these things, and the fact they weren't charged with anything... I don't think the facts that we received matched up with what was released. Based on all that information, if these guys complete these things, this will be handled internally and we will decide at a later date if it's necessary to suspend them. But if they do the things they are supposed to do internally, they WILL be able to play in the first game."
Wow! It looks like you will see both on the field against the Trojans in the opener. But there's more from the coach, as he was reminded that the district attorney in the case said that one of the reasons the charges against Robinson and Jones were dropped was because these young men had worked hard as athletes. Does Saban call that justice?
Said the coach, "I don't think that's all there is to it, so you have to look at the whole picture. Based on the information that we got and based on what they did wrong, I think the prosecutor made the decision based on the whole body of work that was done there and what the laws are. That's not my choice, not my decision to make. I'm also making this decision based on the history of what kind of people they have been in our program and the things they have done to change their behavior relative to our program. So that's basically what we're going to do."
How about the accountability issue? Saban was asked how his players work together to look out for one another: "I think our players respect each other, I think they trust each other. I think to have 125 guys who are all college age they do a pretty good job overall in terms of their behavior. They graduate at a higher rate than the normal students at the University of Alabama and we have had very few problems. Are we perfect? Are these guys perfect? I don't know, but for those of you who have children, are your children perfect? I mean I had two children and proud of them and I love them, but did they always do things exactly right? They grew and they matured and became better people because of what they did."
Saban went on to say, "The respect and trust that we have been able to develop on our team, everybody knows the responsibility they have to represent themselves, their family, the institution, the program. There's an expectation of the level of that, but I also know that when we have failings when we are less than perfect, we're always going to be very supportive of helping the players."
Saban has always been big on working to change bad behavior, and he's never bought into the idea that game suspensions are the best way to do that. Said the coach, "To think that the only way to help players is to suspend them from games, I think is a punitive attitude that may not be correct."
Would the Alabama coach be in favor of the SEC instituting a blanket punitive policy for such cases as to further motivate players from turning to the dark side? Said Saban, "We already have a lot of peer intervention policies as we educate players on the consequences of good and bad behavior. I'm not sure you have to have some national rule that says 'this is the punishment', for example, we have an NCAA rule that if you have a positive marijuana test by the NCAA you are suspended for six games or half the season the following year. Our internal policy is more geared at helping players solve the problem and be able to drug-free in their pursuit of an education. Whether it's domestic violence, guns, agents, drugs, and alcohol... we try to educate them on good and bad behavior so they can have the foresight in making decisions."
I have two kids and barely keep up with them. I can't imagine keeping 125 testosterone-filled men on the straight path. But like I always say, that's why Nick Saban makes the big bucks. Nick Saban was hired to be a coach, a father figure and a shrink. He was also hired to be a disciplinarian. Saban has decided on the discipline he is doling out for Robinson and Jones. Go ahead and disagree with the punishment, but Nick Saban runs the Alabama football program and we don't. And that's the way it is.