There is one reason why coaches at Alabama, Auburn and LSU make more money than their counterparts at Vigor, St. Paul’s and Saraland. It’s not because the college coaches are better at drawing up passing plays or blitz schemes.
The reason colleges are eager to pay their coaches millions of dollars per year is because there is so much interest in the sport, which leads to the kind of revenue that justifies those salaries. That’s the only reason.
A big part of that interest — and an even larger part of that revenue — is derived from television.
That’s why on-field reporters for TV networks get access not afforded other journalists. In the case of Alabama’s season opener against Louisville, that was ABC and reporter Maria Taylor.
Most everyone has seen the exchange between Saban and Taylor after the Tide crushed the Cardinals in a game dominated by the storyline of sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s spectacular debut as a starter.
It’s important to acknowledge what Taylor did and did not ask. Here is the entire exchange.
Taylor: “Everyone had questions about who was going to start at quarterback when this game started. What answers did you have about your quarterbacks after watching both of them play tonight?”
Saban: “I still like both guys. I think both guys are good players. I think both guys can help our team. So why do you continually try to get me to say something that doesn’t respect one of them? I’m not going to, so quit asking.”
If you actually watched the interview, you know the tone of the response made it even more disrespectful. Saban has since reportedly apologized to Taylor for the exchange, which is nice. But I have a feeling the apology had as much to do with his treatment of a woman as it did his treatment of a journalist.
Let’s start with this: Taylor gets no special consideration because she’s a woman. Anyone who says Saban shouldn’t talk to a woman like that is off base and disrespecting professional women in all walks of life. Taylor never asked for any special treatment because she’s a woman and she shouldn’t be offered any.
She has since said as much, and she’s moved on to her next assignment.
Secondly, she did not ask a question that has repeatedly been asked of Saban. Nobody has previously asked what he thought of the performance that had just taken place minutes before.
The question was not only legitimate but it was the one everyone watching — you know, the fans whose interest make it so college coaches literally make 100 times more than the high school coach working just as hard down the street — was interested in hearing.
Here’s an example of an appropriate response that would not have required Saban to say he didn’t respect one of the quarterbacks: “Tua did a terrific job in distributing the ball to the playmakers we have at wide receiver and tight end and running back. We need to continue to make sure he’s making great decisions and continues to improve. Jalen [Hurts] is a great athlete who has a lot to contribute to this team as well, and it’s up to the coaches to make sure we take advantage of what a great weapon he can be for our team.”
That’s just one possible example. There were many other ways to handle the question.
But, to me, the key to respecting every member of the Alabama team was to praise Tagovailoa for his impressive leadership and execution. In his debut as a starter, Tagovailoa led the Tide to five touchdowns on six possessions. The lone trip that did not end in a touchdown came when DeVonta Smith fumbled after a long completion that would have put the Tide in scoring position.
Tagovailoa completed 75 percent of his passes (12 of 16), including 6 for 6 on third-down conversions. For his career, 13 of his 93 passes have gone for touchdowns. That’s one in every seven pass attempts.
Hurts, on the other hand, showed once and for all that he is a talented athlete but not a true quarterback. Kirk Herbstreit, who is as diplomatic as he is excellent as a color man in the booth, repeatedly pointed out plays Hurts missed that would have been easy connections had Tagovailoa been in the game.
Hurts may have a future as a professional football player but it has to be obvious even to him that he doesn’t have a future as a quarterback.
I stick by my preseason prediction that Hurts will play in four games, then redshirt before graduating in December and transferring with two years to play elsewhere.
Saban has already named Tagovailoa the starter for this week’s home opener against Arkansas State. That’s clearly the right and obvious move.
It also means everybody can stop asking him about it.
Randy Kennedy writes a weekly column for Lagniappe and is co-host of “Sports Drive” every weekday from 3-6 p.m. on WNSP 105.5 FM, the country’s first all-sports FM station.