This current unrest at the University of Missouri is bringing back memories for Alabama coach Nick Saban.
During Wednesday morning’s SEC teleconference, he was asked about his time at Kent State, where he played with current Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and NFL Hall of Famer Jack Lambert in the early 1970s.
While the Golden Flashes football team was excellent in 1972 — it won the school’s first and only conference championship — it will forever be overshadowed by what preceded it: the shooting of four students by the National Guard on May 4, 1970.
Did Saban or his teammates take part in political action following the deaths?
“We did have some groups that came together and tried to have meetings about what we could do to, you know, restore the image and help people do the right things,” Saban said.
The coach added that school was shut down until the fall of 1970, so players spent roughly five months away from campus.
“When we came back in the fall, you know, we had some guys that were active in Kent State United,” Saban said. “Most of the team was. Other students were, as well. I think it helped, you know, heal the wounds. And the fact that we had a decent team that year, sort of as a rallying point, too.”
This past weekend, Mizzou players decided to boycott team-related activities in support of a graduate student on hunger strike who requested the resignation of university president Tim Wolfe.
The boycott quickly succeeded. Wolfe resigned Monday, and the players returned their focus to beating BYU on Saturday.
Saban said he hasn’t been paying much attention to the news out of Missouri, but he offered the following:
“In our organization — and I’m sure Gary’s the same way — we try to promote equal rights and equal opportunities and fairness for any group,” he said. “So I would assume that’s what he’s doing, but that’s certainly what we would do.”
Those comments echo what Saban said on Monday.
“We always respect our players,” he said. “And when they feel passionate about something, we’re always going to listen.”