Nick Saban is Alabama’s Pied Piper.
When he showed up at SEC Football Media Days, Thursday, the Wynfrey Hotel lobby at the Hoover Galleria was bulging at the seams with Crimson Tide fans.
It’s an annual ritual like no other. If you enjoy people watching, there is no better place on earth to be than at the Wynfrey when Saban and his entourage are first spotted by those attired in various modes of dress that pledge allegiance to Alley-dad-gummed-Bama.
They come in all shapes, sizes, genders and ages. They are all concerned with one thing. Seeing Saint Nick is a priority. Getting his picture with their Smart Phones is a plus. Getting an autograph is cause for fainting. Don’t even try to explain what happens when Saint Nick gives them a nod, or lordy be, speaks to them.
One fan flew more than 20 hours from Australia this week in hopes of meeting Saban. He got about a minute of face time and an autograph. Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer? You betcha.
While Saban rules the roost at Alabama, he is anything but Mr. Big Shot in his own family.
Saban welcomed his first grandbaby to the family last December. A daughter got engaged. (How would you like asking Nick Saban if you could marry his daughter?)
“With the addition of these folks in our family, I just continue right on down the totem pole,’’ Saban told a record number (1,267) of media gathered in Hoover, Ala.
“I’ve always been behind the two dogs, but the line is getting deeper and deeper when it comes to Miss Terry,’’ Saban said of his wife, who when the couple flew into Tuscaloosa to be named Alabama’s new coach, couldn’t believe the Crimson crush of fans waiting to welcome them.
Saban was their savior, at least in the football sense.
He brought them honor, self-esteem and most important, national championships.
Saban has rebuilt the program to the point that, in recent years, he doesn’t rebuild. He re-loads.
His team was voted a heavy favorite Thursday to win the SEC championship. They beat Auburn with a 154 to 75-vote count. But …
“We have to reestablish our identity as a team at Alabama,’’ Saban said. “It’s going every player to have a tremendous amount of buy-in for us to be able to do that.’’
Granted, Saban lost a number of really good players. He always does. Take it for what it’s worth, but Alabama placed three players on the first team Preseason All-SEC defensive team. It put four more players on the Preseason All-SEC offensive team and two more on first team special teams.
That total is nine, same as it was in 2011 and eight in 2010. As radio disc-jocks would say, the hits just keep on coming.
Yes, Old Reliable AJ McCarron is trying to make an NFL roster. There will be a new quarterback and Saban is not ready to name him. The Bama quarterback will face West Virginia, Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss before its first SEC test, Florida, in Tuscaloosa.
It is also the first season where the national championship will be determined in a four-team playoff. The former road to the national championship was determined by media and coaches poll and a final BCS poll. The SEC fared well in that formula and is expected to continue to place a team or teams in the four-team playoff. A national championship committee will determine which teams make it.
Saban noted the BCS formula often got the two most deserving teams to play for the national title.
“The criticism always came when there were more than two teams that were deserving,’’ he said. “Now, the same thing is going to happen with a four-team playoff because there’s always going to be a fifth team that could have been deserving that will create controversy.’’
But what would college football be without a little controversy?
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.