Chalk one up for the bad guys.
If you like your college football to be corporate, humourless and coldly efficient, then Alabama’s 21-0 deconstruction of Louisiana State in Monday night’s BCS championship game is just for you. Yep, there’s a whole lot of Skinny Mochas being raised in boardrooms around North America right now to ‘Bama head coach Nick Saban, the unsmiling taskmaster who is well on his way to joining the sainted Bear Bryant as the two greatest minds to watch over Alabama football. Roll Tide.
The rest of us may fume but as Gene Wojciechowski writes on ESPN.com, there is no longer any argument over which team is the NCAA champion. The efficiency with which Saban’s machine dispatched LSU eliminated any argument Oklahoma State deserved consideration as the No. 1 team in the final Associated Press poll of the season.
Saban may be the kind of guy who can squeeze the fun out of Christmas and your stereotypical football coach (he loves military metaphors and had his players watch Red Tails, the movie about the Tuskegee Airmen, a heroic group of African-American pilots in World War II), but he sure knows how to win football games.
This BCS title is Saban’s third and he’s directed the Tide to two championships in the last three seasons. That puts him two behind Bryant, and at 60 years of age, Saban has plenty of time to pass him.
While Saban discourages any media examinations of him (his relations with the Fourth Estate are frosty, indeed), the contrast of the coach’s personality and style with his counterpart in Monday’s title game, Les Miles of LSU, was compelling. Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution captures some of that cold efficiency.
Miles, as shown in this remarkable story by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, is a much more human figure. He willingly talks about making sacrifices in his personal life in order to become one of the best football coaches in America. Miles is also affectionately known as the coach most likely to mismanage the clock or appear in a goofy video with his kids, something that would appall the buttoned-down Saban.
The first BCS title Saban won came in 2003 when he was head coach of LSU. Miles had to contend with a lot of opposition from the LSU fanatics (there is no shortening of this word to fans when it comes to Louisiana football) when he succeeded Saban and changed the culture around the team from Saban’s all-football, all-the-time atmosphere to one where families were not only tolerated but celebrated. After winning the BCS title in 2007 with LSU, Miles won a lot of the fanatics over but Saban’s shadow lingers.
As you can see in this blog item in the New York Times, Miles has not won over every LSU fan. Well, I suppose the old New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert is technically a member of the media, albeit one with his son on Miles's team. Be sure to click on the video link. Hebert's behaviour in an NFL press box for a Saints touchdown is priceless, as is the reaction of the journalists around him.
LSU was ranked No. 1 for most of the college season and when the Tigers beat Alabama 9-6 in overtime in their previous meeting, a lot of people thought it would be Miles who would win his second championship, not Saban. But efficiency won out.
Then again, as Bloomberg notes, we shouldn’t feel bad for either one of them.