Saban sounds Alabama’s accomplishments in response to criticisms

jkendall@thestate.comJuly 17, 2014 

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban talks to the media during the SEC football media days at the Wynfrey Hotel.

MARVIN GENTRY — USA TODAY Sports

— Alabama was picked Thursday to win the SEC by the media assembled here, which, as most everyone knows, comes as no surprise to Steve Spurrier.

“They’re the favorites. There’s no question about that,” South Carolina’s coach said this week at SEC Media Days. “As long as they can recruit like that, they're always going to be the favorites.

“I guess, fortunately, sometimes the team that plays the best is the team that wins instead of maybe who all has the best players.”

Earlier this summer, Spurrier wondered aloud if Saban has underachieved at Alabama. The Crimson Tide have won two SEC titles and three national titles in Saban’s seven years at the school.

Saban responded Thursday when he took his turn at media days.

“It doesn’t bother me much at all, but I sometimes feel we have failed at Alabama by the comments that I hear,” Saban said. “I guess there is a new standard for failure.”

Asked if he was specifically referring to Spurrier’s comments, Saban replied, “No.”

“Some of the comments I hear it makes me think we failed at Alabama. We won 72 games the last six years, which nobody has done in the history of college football. Nobody has ever done that. Three national championships, and all of a sudden we have failed. A total failure. That’s just the way it goes, though.”

In June, Spurrier told The State, “How many SECs has he won there in (seven) years? He’s won two. Now, if you had the No. 1 recruiting class every year and so forth, I don’t know if he has maxed out, potentially, as well as he could.”

Spurrier was asked here this week to elaborate on that comment.

“I just made a statement that I think they’ve had five number one recruiting classes out of the last six years, which has got to make him the greatest recruiter in the history of college football,” he said. “Arguably, they’ve got the greatest collection of football players ever assembled for a college team.”

Spurrier marveled at Alabama’s ability to sign highly ranked classes year after year when players know how much competition there is for playing time there.

“When I was at Florida, we had the No. 1 class in 1991, Danny Wuerffel, all those guys. The next year the guys said, ‘Coach, you’ve got too many players on Florida, I’m not going to get on the field,’ ” Spurrier said. “I give him credit for it. They do it the right way. He runs a good program. It’s just amazing to me how they've been able to stack and keep loading up players every year.”

Alabama was picked to win the conference title by 154 of the 293 media members who voted in this year’s preseason poll, but it didn’t take Saban long Thursday to mention that his team is on a two-game losing streak after falling 34-28 to Auburn in the final game of the regular season last year and then 45-31 to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

“We have to re-establish our identity as a team at Alabama,” Saban said.

What the Crimson Tide don’t have to re-establish is their relationship with their fan base. Saban’s annual trip to the Hyatt Regency for this event always draws a large and loud crowd of Alabama fans. On Thursday, the highlight was Australian Alabama fan Antony Hands, who flew 9,700 miles from his home in Australia to meet Saban and hold up a sign in the lobby advertising that fact. He came by his Crimson Tide fandom by marriage when he wed an Alabama alum.

“She is a bit embarrassed by how crazy I am,” Hands said.

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