Guerry Clegg

Guerry Clegg: Saban makes mistake, then makes it worse

Trust. Accountability. Responsibility. Making good choices.

Those are all words and phrases you hear college football coaches preach about.

Players and coaches must trust each other.

Players must be accountable.

Players must be responsible.

Players must make good choices.

Sounds great. But then

A coach like Alabama's Nick Saban, possibly the most powerful coach in college football, makes his own words seem trivial.

It was bad enough that Saban unwisely took a chance on a player, Jonathan Taylor, who was (and still is) facing felony charges of domestic violence. But when that poor decision predictably and sadly blew up in Saban's face, he refused to take accountability. He refused to take responsibility. He refused to admit he made a bad choice.

As a result, he betrayed trust.

It should have been a red-flag that Georgia released Taylor last spring after Taylor was accused of choking his girlfriend and striking her with a closed fist. How Saban and Alabama could justify signing Taylor on the rebound is itself a travesty. I don't care if it was a "university decision," as the school claimed. I don't care if Taylor underwent psychological evaluation and counseling. I don't care if he spent a season Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi.

Taylor had no business being admitted to the University of Alabama on a full scholarship. He didn't even make it through his first semester or spring football before he allegedly committed the same offense.

That should have been embarrassing enough to Saban and the administration. But no. Saban had to make it worse with his clumsy and arrogant press conference Monday.

The first question was rather straight forward:

"Does Taylor's arrest change your stance on recruiting players who've been arrested for domestic violence."

Here's what Saban should have said:

"Absolutely."

Instead, here's what he said:

"I think you learn from every experience and we certainly learned some things from this one. I certainly don't condone that kind of behavior, especially when it comes to how females are treated, and that's something we try to create a lot of awareness for with our players and would certainly be very cautious about any player that any character problem, especially something like this, would be something that we would be very careful about in the future."

Had he stopped right there, it would have been OK. Not that the decision to sign Taylor was OK, just the reaction. But then Saban had to go throw gasoline on smoldering embers.

"But I will say this. We will continue to try to create opportunities for players and try to help them be successful. And even in Jonathan Taylor's case, if there's anything we can do to help him overcome his issues and problem we will still certainly try and help him be successful. But right now the guy just can't be on our football team."

Then it got worse. Much worse. He was asked point-blank, "When you kind of reexamine the thought process, the decision-making process, the vetting process, do you feel like you made a mistake in offering Jonathan Taylor another chance here?"

Excellent question. And again, the answer should have been, in a very contrite tone, "yes, we made a mistake."

Instead, here's what Saban said, in a very arrogant and defiant tone:

"No, I'm not sorry for giving him an opportunity. I'm sorry for the way things worked out. I'm not apologizing for the opportunity we gave him. I wanted to try to help the guy make it work. It didn't, work. So we're sorry that it didn't work and we're sorry there was an incident and we're sorry for the people that were involved in the incident. But we're not apologizing for what we did and we're going to continue to create opportunities for people in the future and we'll very, very closely evaluate everyone's character that we allow in the program because we all have the responsibility to represent the University of Alabama in a first-class way."

A reporter asked what specific requirements were given to Taylor.

"He did everything we asked him to do," Saban said Monday. "He had a lot of psychological profiling. He had a lot of psychological counseling. He never missed a session. He did everything he was supposed to do. So we're sorry there was an incident and we've levied the consequences and I think that's all there is to talk about when it comes to that.

"We have 125 other players on our team who are doing really well and there's really nothing else to talk about. Jonathan Taylor came here, we gave him an opportunity. It didn't work out. He failed. We're sorry. It's time to move on."

No. It's time for Saban to man up and plead mea culpa to a terrible "university decision." The next question set him off even more.

"What was the vetting process and who did you talk to and what did you learn in that vetting process with him?"

Saban, getting exasperated, did his little hand waving thing and said, "I don't know what the question is."

Whaaat

waaaas

theeee

vettinnnng

processssss?

"You know, I'm not really going to answer all those questions," he said, before then kinda sorta answering the question. But then he concluded that by stuffing his sneaker back down his throat.

"I'm going to say it one more time. I don't know what else there is to talk about here."

He probably does. That may be the saddest part.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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