TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban is old school.
He played college football in the 1970s so it’s easy to see why Saban’s way of thinking would differ from athletes playing now.
Eli Gold is the host of Saban’s weekly radio show and the play-by-play man for Alabama radio. Gold didn’t mention anyone by name when asking Saban for his thoughts on players transferring. But the point was clear.
“Look, Eli. I played so long ago, I don’t think anybody even knew you could transfer,” Saban said, laughing. “I don’t think they knew anything about it.”
Things got a little more serious from there as Saban dove deeper into the topic of players switching schools.
Alabama had six players transfer out of the program this offseason. The seventh departure occurred four games into the season.
Alabama lost backup quarterback Blake Barnett to transfer on Wednesday. Barnett, a former 5-star prospect, started Alabama’s season opener before losing the job to true freshman Jalen Hurts.
Barnett was never mentioned by name during the show.
“I think the culture has changed a little bit,” Saban said. “There’s certain pride that people have in competition. There’s certain things I was taught growing up about not quitting and seeing things through. I think if I had come home and told my dad that I was going to quit the team, I think he would have kicked me out of the house. I don’t think I would have had a place to stay.”
Saban said the choice to leave a team or a program wasn’t there back in his day. He believes it’s good that players have more choices and are exposed to more things.
Saban pointed to the rate at which basketball players are transferring, and how the tendency is to look elsewhere if things aren’t going your way as some of the biggest changes he sees.
“I think everybody has to face their fears,” Saban said. “We all have anxiety about things. We all have little insecurities, but eventually you have to face your fears if you’re going to be successful. Everybody has some fear of failing.”
Saban mentioned recruiting rankings, media coverage and other external factors as things that put pressure on young players to succeed early on their career.
Saban said when highly touted players don’t have success early, they start to become fearful of what their futures may look like.
“My dad used to say ‘the grass is always greener on top of the septic tank,'” Saban said. “It always looks better some place else. You think instead of facing your fears, overcoming adversity and making yourself better through competition, you’ll go someplace else thinking it’ll be better there. Until you face your fears, you’re always going to have some of those issues and problems.”
Former Alabama quarterback and current ESPN analyst Greg McElroy was the media guest host on Saban’s show Thursday. McElroy started two years under Saban. He helped Alabama to an undefeated season and a national championship in 2009.
“I’d rather play one year here than four years any place else,” McElroy said. “It’s a great experience.”