Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Runaway Sage Coach

Only one year removed from winning a BCS National Championship with his LSU Tigers, Nick Saban was moving on to the big show. Despite his devout-sounding promises he'd be in Louisiana for good, Saban jumped ship when he was offered the chance to step in for Dave Wannstedt and take the reigns of the Miami Dolphins.

Hurricane Katrina forced Saban to return to Baton Rouge one more time. The Saints couldn't play in New Orleans yet in the wake of the destruction, and the Dolphins had to travel to Saban's ex-home stadium October 30, 2005.

Saban wasn't crestfallen, nor were the fans at Tiger Stadium.

Miami beat the Saints 21-6, and the crowd praised Saban most of the way. They cheered him, they kissed him, they hugged him, they even made a sign that read: "Welcome Home Nick."

Maybe we can blame that on Katrina too. Maybe Louisianans had experienced too much pain to jeer a sports figure. Maybe that would seem silly and insignificant in the greater scheme, considering the circumstances many in the state faced at the time, and still face today.

The fans at Tiger Stadium felt proud that day. Surely they missed their coach, but they didn't get mad.

Second chances, however, are easy to grant. It's third ones that are hard to gain. And we doubt Saban will get away with another knee-jerk swap like this in his career.

Saban put on another Oscar-worthy production for Dolphins players, fans and media in the last month of the season. And as the Alabama Crimson Tide continued to get turned down by second-rate coaches, taking reputational hit after hit, Saban's name heated up from simmer to boil in rumour mills and NCAA message boards nation-wide. And as the whispers became screams, and eventually declarations ("Saban or the Highway"), the Dolphins coach stuck with the front stating he was staying put come hell or high water.

Wednesday, two days after the first losing season of his career ended, Saban announced (well, he let his high-and-dry owner, Wayne Huizenga, spill the beans) he was off to Alabama for eight years and $32 million. I suppose that high water did come, in the form of a tide.

Now, it's 'Bama embracing this traitor. But when you play with rattlesnakes, sooner or later you're going to get bit.

Those crimson tides can turn in landlocked Tuscaloosa, it doesn't take much. The bets can start now: How long will Nick stick in The Heart of Dixie?

You can be damn sure 'Bama football fans expect a lot. And, based on history, you can expect Saban will board a jet (maybe for the Jets?) as soon as trouble finds his new program.

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