Takeaways from the '60 Minutes' Interview with Nick Saban, 'The Perfectionist'
The long-awaited special on CBS' 60 Minutes on Alabama head coach Nick Saban aired on Sunday night, and in the process, the entire country got a glimpse into the machine known as "Alabama football."
Armen Keteyian was granted extraordinary access to the program over the last eight months for the feature, as well as his new book The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football.
The feature on CBS profiled Saban's roots in West Virginia, his work off the football field with his "Nick's Kids" charity and his famous "process," which has produced three of the last four BCS National Championships.
What were some of the takeaways from the report?
To view the piece on the 60 Minutes website, click here.
The Process Is Personified
It's been known for a while that Nick Saban doesn't coach against another team; rather, he coaches against perfection.
We got a glimpse of that during the 2013 BCS National Championship Game in Miami when, in the fourth quarter of the 42-14 blowout, center Barrett Jones and quarterback AJ McCarron got into a shoving match about assignments based on the look from the Fighting Irish defense.
The titles are nice, but that may have been Saban's crowning achievement.
"The game is probably won, and they're still trying to get it right," Saban said on 60 Minutes. "Which, to me, is the kind of pride in performance that you want in the players."
It showed the world what people within the program already knew. Saban doesn't care about the score; he cares about the game. More specifically, the preparation and execution of his players on the field—regardless of opponent or situation.
When everybody else in the country is fighting to top you, and that's your only concern too, you're doing something right as a head coach and as a program.
Stability Is Important
It's clear that Saban knows, accepts and is constantly battling his nomadic reputation. Prior to his stint at Alabama—where he's been the head coach since 2007—he had never spent more than five years at any one job.
He famously said he wouldn't be the head coach at Alabama while he was with the Miami Dolphins in December 2006 before taking the Alabama job a few weeks later. That's something he regrets, and he said as much in the 60 Minutes feature.
But stability was a constant theme throughout the piece.
"There's not 'The University of Mars' which is a better place," Saban said.
It's also clear in the segment on his work with his charity that Saban is entrenched in the community, and he and his wife Terry not only take pride in that, but they recognize that it's a departure from the norm for their family.
To put it bluntly, there might as well been a bug in the corner of the screen saying "Not going to Texas," because it's clear that Tuscaloosa is Saban's home until either he retires or Alabama doesn't want him anymore.
Considering Saban is responsible for a 112 percent jump in athletic department revenue, the latter doesn't seem likely.
"Nick Saban is the best financial investment that this university has ever made," Dr. Robert Witt, chancellor of the university, said.
Stability is important for all parties, and it's directly responsible for Alabama's and Saban's success.
Perfection, Obsession, It Doesn't Matter
The title of the piece is "The Perfectionist," but the word "obsession" could be substituted into the mix in a variety of ways—and that's a good thing.
Saban has an obsession with being perfect. It's not a philosophy, a scheme or a process. It's an obsession that encapsulates his entire life.
In the piece, Saban professed that he's always teaching, even when young campers receive their certificates after completing football camp.
"Shake hands," Saban says before a camper makes a priceless expression as he turns and walks away.
His obsession with perfection is applicable in recruiting too. Saban said that, if he likes a recruit, he will have every game sent to him and he will watch every single play that prospect makes in every game.
That's obsessive in the most productive possible way, and that's a big reason why Alabama is in the midst of a dynasty.
Saban the Prophet
Like many coaches, Saban is full of cliches, most of which are nothing more than "coach speak" designed to say a lot, but tell very little.
This quote from the piece stuck out, though: "Mediocre people don't like high achievers, and high achievers don't like mediocre people."
That's very true, and it's impossible to avoid a mixture of the two existing in any program—especially an FBS football powerhouse.
Alabama is no exception. There are people who slack off within the football program, including one who showed up late to a meeting in the piece because he was busy taking off his earrings. But the fight to achieve perfection forces those people to adapt and become high achievers whether they're predisposed to be or not.
That epitomizes the Alabama program and is a compliment to Saban's methods. He isn't a "player's coach"; he's a coach who gets the most out of his players.
What Do You Know, Saban Can Be Happy
Saban is famously known for his 24-hour rule which lets players soak in a victory before getting back to work, regardless of the week, month or year.
Never has this been more evident than when, after the 42-14 win over Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game, Saban told ESPN's reporters on the field that he was behind in recruiting and had a ton of catching up to do because of the week-long stay in South Florida.
Curmudgeon? Saban himself acknowledged that it's easy to jump to that conclusion.
But a funny thing happened after Alabama's 49-42 win over Texas A&M in September. He got happy.
"I'm so happy, happy, happy; I can't tell you," Saban said in the locker room after the game. "I'm so proud, proud, proud."
It was the college football equivalent of a sighting of Sasquatch. The biggest beast in college football let his guard down and became "human" for a brief moment.
That indicates just how big that win was. It wasn't the style of game Saban likes. It was stressful for 60 minutes. But it clearly meant a lot to the coach who's put his name alongside Paul "Bear" Bryant in Alabama coaching history.
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