Saban reflects on Tide’s AFCA Academic Achievement Award — Says player reactions he cut while NFL coach varied based on having a degree
On Thursday, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) announced the six recipients of its Academic Achievement Award. Among those were the Air Force Academy, Clemson University, University of Louisville, Rice University, the University of Utah and the University of Alabama.
During his weekly “Hey Coach!” program later that evening, Alabama Crimson Tide head football coach Nick Saban explained how the program under his leadership emphasizes academics to prepare his student-athletes for life after football.
Saban offered an illustration of the importance of players using their time in college from his stint in the National Football League. According to the Alabama coach, when he was responsible for cutting players as an NFL assistant, the reactions varied to the news based upon whether or not the player being cut fulfilled their obligations as a student and received a college degree.
“We really emphasize in recruiting when we recruit guys that they’re coming to college to prepare themselves for the day they can’t play football,” Saban said. “That means they need to get an education. And I can’t tell you how much difference there was – it’s never fun when you’re in the NFL for eight years, and six of those years, I was actually responsible to release guys when you had to cut somebody from the team. You know it was always amazing to me that when you cut a guy that had a college degree, he would say, ‘You know Coach, I really appreciate the opportunity. I’m going to go to work for AT&T in Dallas because I graduated, you know, last year,’ or whatever. And it was like – just ready to move on in his life. Disappointed, but ready to move on.”
“And when you cut some of these guys that put all their eggs in one basket, you know, to play in the National Football League – majored in eligibility when they were in college, didn’t do what they were supposed to do to try to graduate,” he continued. “It wasn’t important to them, and they weren’t very committed to it. And it was devastating, you know, to them when they didn’t make the team because now they’re faced with ‘what do I do next’ because they didn’t have a career off the field to go to.”
Saban touted efforts of Alabama’s Center for Athletic Student Services, which is under the direction of Associate Athletic Director for Student Services Jon Dever.
“You know, I’m very proud of a, what our players have been able to accomplish,” Saban added. “But, you know, Jon Dever, his staff of people in our academic support program, do a marvelous job of helping our players. You know, the people in the university community – our professors and all the university community is always cooperative, give us the information that we need so that we can help the players – whether it is with tutors or whatever. Some places I’ve been, that’s hard to get. It’s hard to get that kind of cooperation. So, I can’t tell you how much we appreciate that. And I think that we have one of the most successful academic support programs in the history of academic success of any school in the country because of all those things. I’m really kind of proud of it. I know it doesn’t get talked about very much. Everybody is interested in how many games you win. But for the player, it is probably one of the most important things.”