"Well, honesty and integrity is an important part of our character, my character," Saban told the Sporting News. "Those are words that we use all the time. I think that in an effort to protect our team at Miami – because I had not talked to Alabama and did not talk to them until the season ended – I express that (character is important) to (Alabama) through my agent and said it was up to them whether they wanted to wait and that I would not make any promises. I would talk to them then, I would only reassess my circumstances and our situation as a family at the end of the year.
"But I kept getting asked about this over and over and over, and in trying to defuse the interest and leave the focus on our team in Miami (long pause) ... I had a responsibility and obligation to the players on that team, the coaches on the staff, and I didn't want that to be the focus of attention. So would I manage it differently? Absolutely. I would still have the same integrity for our team, but I just would not answer any questions relative to Alabama ... I do apologize for any professional mishandling that might have occurred."
Saban also admitted that choosing Daunte Culpepper(notes) over Drew Brees(notes) as his free-agent quarterback might have been a bit of a mistake. Then again, under Saban, maybe Brees would be the one in the UFL at this point.
Saban's statements are so surprising and out of character, you have to wonder if they aren't a precursor to an eventual NFL return. This is a guy nicknamed "The Nicktator" – he's known for never backing off and having to have things a certain way. To admit that he was wrong in a public forum isn't exactly his style. His ability to pick up and move when better opportunities are presented is well-known. And let's be honest; your average big-time college football coach has as much of a concept of fidelity to the home team as a mob informant. In just the past few seasons, we've seen Bobby Petrino's "Pig-Sooey" debacle, Pete Carroll's dine-and-dash at USC, and Lane Kiffin's subsequent Leap into Disaster from Tennessee to the "death penalty" version of the Trojans. Not to mention Saban's moves from LSU to the Dolphins to the Crimson Tide, which led Yahoo!'s own Mike Silver to call him "the ultimate liar and contract-breaker" in an episode of the NFL Network's Top 10 shows about the coaches who were best off in college and out of the NFL. "I'm glad he's out of the pros," Silver continued. "He's pretty much reviled because of it."
Reviled as he may be, it wouldn't be a big stretch for some NFL team desperate for a turnaround to inquire just how married Saban might be to the eight-year, $32 million contract he signed in January of 2007 after insisting over and over that he wasn't taking the Alabama job. After all, Carroll got $35 million over five years from the Seahawks when he bailed out of Los Angeles, despite his previous NFL failure. And Saban, the only guy besides Bear Bryant to take two different SEC programs to national championships, would look just as attractive to some NFL teams as he did to Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side" – he's one of the most renowned masters of the 3-4 defense at a time when that defense is taking over the NFL.
There's no official weight to a Saban-to-the-NFL story just yet, but don't be surprised if there is in the future. After all, why else would Nick Saban apologize for anything?
- Nick Saban