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UA Chancellor on 60 Minutes: ‘Saban is the best financial investment this university’s ever made’

(Above: 60 Minutes profiles the Bama football program and head coach Nick Saban)

For the last eight months, University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban gave CBS’ 60 Minutes full access to his entire program.

On Sunday evening, CBS aired the first half of a two-part series focusing on The Crimson Tide, starting with a visit to Crimson Tide practice

“Why are you so tough on people?” 60 Minutes correspondent Armen Keteyian asked Saban after watching him relentlessly demand perfection from his players.

“I don’t know if that’s fair, that I’m really tough on people,” the Tide coach replied calmly. “We create a standard for how we want to do things, and everybody’s got to buy into that standard… Mediocre people don’t like high achievers and high achievers don’t like mediocre people.”

The means through which Saban and his teams pursue perfection is a system known simply as “The Process.” Rather than worrying about winning, Saban encourages his guys to focus on doing their job at the highest level every single play — in practice, and ultimately during the games.

“The approach was to challenge the players to play every play in the game like it had a history and a life of its own,” Saban explained. “[We] tried to take the other team out of the game and make it all about us… It really is the simple way to do it. It’s the best way to do it.”

The play that epitomized “The Process,” according 60 Minutes, took place late in last year’s National Championship game.

The Crimson Tide were up big with just over 7 minutes to go against an outmatched Notre Dame squad. Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron and center Barrett Jones called different plays at the line of scrimmage. Both insisted they were right. After arguing over the play, McCarron called a timeout in frustration and berated Jones, who responded by shoving McCarron in front of millions of people on live television.

Saban loved it.

“The game’s probably won… and they’re still trying to get it right,” he said, “which to me is the kind of pride in performance that you want in the players.”

The CBS crew dug into Saban’s past to try to gain a better understanding of what in Saban’s upbringing led to his seemingly maniacal pursuit of perfection.

Saban’s dad, Nick, Sr., is a local Pee Wee football coaching legend in their West Virginia coal mining town. Saban started working at his dad’s service station when he was only 11 years old.

“If we washed a car… and it was not done exactly, perfectly correctly, he would say ‘wash it again,'” Saban recalled. “A single streak and you had to do the whole care again.” He says now that his desire for perfection started at that service station.

Years later, after working as a graduate assistant for Kent State University’s football program, Saban decided that coaching was the profession for him. In what would be the last conversation he ever had with his father, Saban told him the news.

“I think [coaching football] is what I really want to do,” Saban recalled telling his dad. “That was the last conversation we had.”

Nick, Sr. passed away just days late at the age of 46.

After bouncing around from college to college, never staying longer than a few years, Saban won his first national championship at LSU. He then hightailed it to the NFL, taking a job as the Miami Dolphin’s head coach.

But after a couple of lackluster seasons, Alabama came calling.

Saban initially denied any interest in the job. At one press conference, an exasperated Saban explicitly said he would not be Bama’s next head coach.

He took the job shortly thereafter.

Asked by the 60 Minutes correspondent if he regrets those words now, Saban said, “Absolutely… It affected my integrity as a person by saying one thing and doing something else.”

The criticism he received over taking the Alabama job ended up being nothing more than a blip on the radar, though, especially now as the Tide pursues its third consecutive national championship. But there are still some who question whether any coach is worth what the University of Alabama pays Saban — over $5 million per year, more than any other college coach in the country.

University of Alabama system Chancellor Dr. Robert Witt, who approved Saban’s giant contract, says it has proven to be one of the smartest decisions he’s ever made.

“Nick Saban is the best financial investment this university’s ever made,” Witt said confidently.

When 60 Minutes ran the numbers, they found plenty of data to back up that claim. Saban has overseen a 112 percent increase in revenue for the athletic department, $4 million of which was returned to the university in the form of academic scholarships last year alone.

But Saban’s pursuit of perfection has not consumed him to the point that he’s blind to the world around him. Even a little bit of pop culture seems to have infiltrated “The Process.”

After a big win against Texas A&M earlier this year, Saban praised his team in the locker room with a familiar phrase from A&E’s hit reality show Duck Dynasty.

“I’m so happy, happy, happy,” Saban exclaimed. “…I’m so proud.”

The second part of the 60 Minutes profile is set to air Wednesday on Showtime.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_SimsYH Nick Saban

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