The 7 best lines from Nick Saban's SEC media day press conference
ATLANTA — Wednesday was Nick Saban Day at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, as part of SEC football media week.
Of course, the six-time national champion wasn't the only featured speaker on the third day of the conference's annual event. He was flanked by new hires Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State and Tennessee's Jeremy Pruitt, who was Saban's defensive coordinator from 2016-17, as well as Missouri's Barry Odom.
Despite it being Moorhead's SEC media day debut, he was already well-aware of the "Sabanmania" that would follow a few hours after him.
"When I saw the list earlier in the spring and saw I was speaking on the same day as coach Saban, I was a little worried I was going to have to go after him," Moorhead joked Wednesday morning. "It would be like taking the stage and performing after the Beatles and no one is going to be in their seats and paying attention to what you're doing."
Saban took center stage at 1:30 p.m. ET in front of a mostly-full media room that ran 12 rows deep on both sides of the room. All chatter seized as the Alabama coach approached the mic.
"Happy to be here. I hope everybody's saying that," Saban said in his introduction. "Glad to be here. That's what we should all say."
By the end of the 30-minute session, the 17-year SEC media day vet would walk off the podium saying, "It was easy today."
Here were the seven best lines in between from Saban's SEC media press conference:
On the quarterback battle between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa:
"I think the number one thing that you will want to talk about is the quarterback controversy that you'd love to create, that you've already created, that you will continue to create, and I will tell you the same thing exists there. It's still to be determined as to who is going to play quarterback for Alabama. So you can ask all of the questions about it, but it's still to be determined."
Saban didn't wait for the question and answer portion to address the mystery on everybody's mind: Who will be Alabama's starting quarterback come Sept. 1? Unsurprisingly, Saban said the competition will continue into the fall, and he warned media members that if anyone posed this same question, he'd just repeat the same mantra, "We'll see."
However, later on he responded to a question about incumbent starter Jalen Hurts' future by saying he "expects him to be there (on the roster)" for the beginning of the season, whether or not he's named starting quarterback.
Hurts led the Tide to two straight national championship appearances and was a Davey O'Brien semifinalist last year. But when he struggled in the first half of last year's title game, Tagovailoa emerged as the hero and threw the game-winning touchdown pass vs. Georgia.
On if he's thought about how many more years he'd like to coach:
"I'm going to continue to do this for as long as I feel like I can make a positive contribution and as long as I feel healthy enough to do it. And, you know, our noontime basketball team was undefeated again this year, so that's always an indicator to me that I can make it through another season."
Don't underestimate Saban's humor, no matter his stoic approach with the media. Much has been made about the star-studded pick-up games featuring Saban and his friends in the coaching ranks.
On a serious note, the 66-year-old coach said that he wants to continue coaching as long as he's healthy and doesn't put the program in a bad spot due where he's no longer "capable of making a contribution" to the school's success.
On how he plans to utilize the NCAA's new redshirt rule, that'll allow players to appear in any four games in a season and still be eligible for a redshirt:
"I don't see a strategic advantage. I just think it's a really good advantage for young players to be able to play some and not be able to lose their year, which will enhance their development."
Saban supported the new rule but said he doesn't think he'll necessarily use too much strategy in preserving extra years for student-athletes. Saban noted that very few student-athletes stay five years in today's game, as many players take advantage and graduate in three or three and a half years. According to Saban, the Tide had 25 players in last year's national championship game that had already achieved their degrees.
On the advice he gives his former assistants when they take head coaching jobs:
"What I tell every guy that when they leave, whether it was Jim McElwain or Kirby (Smart) or whoever, I said the most important thing for you, when you go to be your own head coach, is you have to be who you are. You have to be yourself. You guys have been that way here, and you made a tremendous impact on the group that you were in control over."
Four former Saban assistants now have head coaching jobs in the SEC —Jimbo Fisher; Texas A&M, Will Muschamp; South Carolina; Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee; and Kirby Smart; Georgia.
While Pruitt, entering his first season with the Vols, joked earlier Wednesday that Saban wouldn't give advice once they're on opposite sides, Saban admitted that on many occasions he talks to former assistants over the phone about new rules and even management questions and quarterback competitions.
On what qualities he looks for when hiring assistant coaches:
"I think it's one of the reasons that I think a lot of people misjudge my reason for having staff size and having lots of interns, is I like to help develop those coaches so when they go someplace else and coach, I can hire them back someday. Because I'd rather hire somebody that I know as a person in terms of who they are, kind of character they have, kind of leadership they demonstrate, the kind of teacher they can be, rather than having to go on somebody else's recommendation."
Saban added some more top traits he looks for out of his assistants are teaching ability and overall knowledge and fit for his staff.
On if he likes participating in neutral site games to begin regular seasons:
"Neutral-site games really launched our program in Alabama when we first came there years ago. But I think philosophically we're sort of changing our thoughts on that and our future scheduling and trying to get more home and homes."
Alabama will play ACC opponent Louisville in the Camping World Kickoff in Orlando, Florida on Sept. 1 to mark the seventh straight year it'll open the regular season against a nonconference Power 5 opponent at a neutral site.
Saban said his team is excited to play in Orlando, but would also like to have additional home-and-home series against other power schools on future schedules. He added: "I think we need to get — have more really, really good games on TV for the players. We can't have fans who pay a lot of money for tickets and boxes and loges who support our programs to pay for games that no one is interested in watching."
On UCF's undefeated season last year and the College Football Playoff system:
"I have tremendous amount of compassion for UCF and what they accomplished this year and going undefeated. We've only had one team that's gone undefeated and won the national championship, and that was in 2009, and that is very, very, very difficult to do, for anyone. And I have a tremendous amount of respect for the players."
Saban went on to say he believes the CFP committee did a good job determining the four schools that did make the 2018 Playoff. He added that the CFP system may minimalize the perceived importance of other bowl games and that there are a lot of "philosophical questions" that'll need to be considered in upcoming years.