Man, I love The Onion.
In 2013, Entertainment Weekly posted its Top 25 headlines from the first 25 years of “America’s Finest News Source,” and as much as I try to separate myself from Entertainment Weekly, they picked some doozies.
Like “Studies Reveal: Babies Are Stupid.”
And “Winner Didn’t Even Know It Was Pie-Eating Contest.”
And “World Death Rate Holding Steady at 100 Percent.”
The Onion has a sports section, too, and in this week’s edition we have “Evaluations Ruined Tide,” a hilarious satirical explanation from Alabama football coach Nick Saban for the Crimson Tide’s failure to win the national championship last season.
Saban’s ridiculous rationalization in the article is that his star-studded team lost its focus during the weeks leading up to the semifinal against Ohio State because some of them found out approximately where they would be picked in the NFL draft, and distraction, and loss of team chemistry, and hahahaha, and . . .
Actually, “Evaluations Ruined Tide” was Thursday’s Daily Gazette headline on an Associated Press story from Wednesday’s SEC football media day.
Saban, who signed an eight-year contract in 2014 that makes him one of the nation’s most highly paid public employees and one of the most highly paid people in American higher education, whined about the draft status of six of his unpaid underclassmen being a factor that led to the Tide’s downfall.
He tried to backtrack on Thursday, telling Paul Finebaum of AL.com that he wasn’t making excuses, but simply advocating for a better policy on the timing of draft evaluation requests. But it’ll be difficult to get this genie back in the Gatorade cooler.
Here’s the money quote: “I just felt like in our experience last year, our chemistry from the SEC championship game to the playoff game was affected by something.
“We had six guys in this situation this past year and 11 the year before. So we’re trying to get ready for a game, and all of a sudden a guy finds out he’s a first-round draft pick or a guy who thought he was a first-round draft pick finds out he’s not a first-round draft pick, and we’re trying to get ready to play a playoff game.”
The process, as it stands, allows college players three years removed from high school to enter the draft, provided they declare by Jan. 15 of that year, after the playoffs are over.
One resource that presumably helps their decision to stay or go is the NFL’s Draft Advisory Board, a collection of scouts and team executives who assess where a player will be drafted, upon request by the Dec. 15 deadline.
Saban said that his six underclassmen who asked for draft predictions got their evaluations back around Christmastime, days before the top-ranked Tide’s semifinal against Ohio State. The Buckeyes pounded Alabama’s defense in a 42-35 win and wrought equal destruction on Oregon in the national championship game, 42-20. Pretty good team, that one that beat Alabama.
For Saban to come back now and say that Alabama’s chemistry was ruined by some of his stars’ draft status is the highest form of elephant excrement.
First of all, whose $6.9 million job is it to get Alabama ready for the biggest game of the season?
Let’s say some players suddenly had their minds on something other than the Buckeyes, like, say, their impending careers. Whose job is it to recognize that and do something about it?
Second, Alabama under Saban is a football factory. The resources at his disposal are outlandish compared to those at many schools. He’s supposed to get NFL-caliber players, and does so year after year after year. Pushing back the draft-status request deadline isn’t a bad idea, but in the meantime, don’t lean on that to explain away a loss to a powerhouse like Ohio State. A nation weeps.
For background on this column, I went through the Gazette archives and found a story from Feb. 4 of this year with the headline “Nick Saban Returns From 2-Year Recruiting Expedition With 94 Blue-Chip Players.”
“I spent months patiently tracking some of these All-Americans, but in the end it was worth it,” the intrepid Saban is quoted in the article, and . . . yeah, you caught me. That one actually was from The Onion.