Full disclosure: I enjoy Alabama Crimson Tide football. I like Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and attended the 1993 Sugar Bowl. I’m not nearly the fan I used to be, meaning that I don’t worship an elephant or Nick Saban like some of my friends and family. I also live in Ohio as one of the few who isn’t an Ohio State Fan.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) July 13, 2016
Wednesday, Alabama coach Nick Saban got into a heated on-air discussion with ESPN’s Paul Finebaum regarding Cam Robinson and his arrest earlier this year. I think a lot of what Nick Saban and other coaches do is for the best of their players as long as it benefits them and their team first. There’s nothing wrong with that because I think that’s how most of us think. I also think it’s incredibly difficult to say we’d do something different if we were in Saban’s position.
The truth: many of us will never been in Saban’s position of responsibility. To be as good as he’s been and to be a disciplinarian isn’t something I’d like to try for $500,000 or $4.5 million per year.
And this is the part Saban gets right: He shouldn’t care what you, me, Finebaum, or anyone else in the media thinks about how he disciplines his players. He’s 100 percent correct that his duty is to the University of Alabama then to those players. He’s also correct that whatever discipline he hands out is between him, the school, and the players. I get all that, because even though I don’t have children, when my parents got upset with me they didn’t have to explain my discipline to anyone else.
No it isn’t quite an apples-to-apples comparison, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment.
Here’s where Saban gets this completely wrong: something happened in that car. How do I know? Because the police stopped, questioned and decided two people had done enough to warrant an arrest. My lawyer friends will tell you that an arrest doesn’t equal guilt (trust and believe I know this) and everyone has a right to their day in court in front of a jury of their peers. Again, I get that. I’ve spent more time in the past two weeks defending the justice system than I have doing my own actual job.
But I don’t believe for a moment that police officers randomly arrest two people for absolutely no reason at all. With all that’s going on in this country, I’m not ready to say one half or even one third of all police officers are bad people. So, let’s cut the crap. Something happened in that car, and while the district attorney decided to not pursue charges that doesn’t mean there wasn’t illegal activity.
Now that the legal process has concluded, Saban should insist Robinson tell him exactly what happened in that car and discipline him accordingly. If that means Robinson sits a series, quarter or an entire game, then so be it. More importantly, Saban should discipline his players when they get arrested just as your employer would discipline you if you were arrested. Bad things happen to good people, but that doesn’t mean those people should get away without discipline.
So no, coach Saban doesn’t owe it to anyone to explain how he disciplined those players, but for the sake of Cam Robinson’s growth as a man, I hope he was disciplined and understands the potential legal trouble he’s avoided.
E-mail Damien at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.