Nick Saban invited CBS broadcaster Verne Lundquist on his radio show Thursday night, and the play-by-play man asked him a pointed question.
After he left LSU to coach the Miami Dolphins in 2005, when did he realize that he missed college football?
Saban’s answer may surprise some people: it was pretty much immediately.
“The day I landed in Miami and went to the first press conference,” Saban said, according to CoachingSearch.com’s Chris Vannini. “I started to realize the difference between the NFL then and what the NFL was like when I was in it before with Bill Belichick from 1991-94 in Cleveland, before we had free agency, before the media had infiltrated everything that was happening. I guess right then. The challenge of building a team.”
It’s not a shock that Saban didn’t like how free agency worked or how much access the media had in NFL.
But it is surprising that the itch to go back to coaching college game back that quickly, even if it was just a little at first. He soon acted on that itch, taking the head coaching job at Alabama after just two seasons with the Dolphins.
If that press conference was the first moment that made him think about wanting to go back to coaching college football, the moment that confirmed that decision was the Dolphins’ refusal to sign Drew Brees before the 2006 season.
“The most disappointing thing, and most people know this story now, was when we were going to sign Drew Brees, and we already had a deal with him,” Saban said. “Our doctors didn’t pass him in the physical because he was coming off (a) serious shoulder injury. Dr. Andrews had done it and I flew to Birmingham to talk to Dr. Andrews, who I totally trust and works with our players at Alabama.
“When that happened, I said I can’t control my destiny here. I can’t control my destiny here. There’s too many things that, no matter how hard I work or what I do, I can control my destiny better in college by working hard and making good choices and decisions and creating a good program for players. I think that happening made me lean back to coming back to college.”
Saban’s desire to control every minute detail, from practice to media access to player acquisition, comes through in how he manages the Alabama program. That’s something he couldn’t have in the NFL.
Four national championships later, Saban’s not exactly upset about the way things turned out.
“It was a tough decision,” Saban said, “but it certainly worked out great and we’ve been very happy here for 10 years.”