At the recent National Football Foundation’s Football Forum in Dallas several head coaches discussed the importance of character for student-athletes and Jim Tressel who got to deal with some serious discipline issues during the problems surrounding Maurice Claret at Ohio State said: “We keep track of our players’ automobile registration,” Tressel said. “I’m responsible for signing off on what they drive, and we have people keep an eye around our facility on who’s driving what to make sure somebody doesn’t show up driving something new.” So let’s get this straight, Jim Tressel and his staff at Ohio State are keeping track of players’ automobile registrations, but at Alabama a player in Jimmy Johns is selling cocaine right outside the football complex, dozens of Alabama students have called into radio talk shows in the past two days and said that it was widely known on the Alabama campus that Johns’ was selling drugs and was hanging around some very dubious people, Johns had a website and business that sold pitbulls (and on that website Johns’ was shown wearing his Alabama football jersey which is a NCAA violation), and then we get a look at Johns’ myspace.com webpage (can this really be Johns’ myspace page?) which should have set off a number of red flags at Alabama as well. What?
The first question is: What in the hell were Nick Saban and the football staff at the University of Alabama doing? Jim Tressel is checking automobile registrations, but Saban and company have an alleged drug dealer, pitbull selling entrepreneur, who has a myspace.com page (If it is really his) that should have been setting off loud alarms throughout the Alabama athletic department, but everyone in a position of power in Tuscaloosa is asleep at the switch. What in the Hell is going on at Alabama?
The second question is: Is it worse that Nick Saban and his staff did not know about Johns’ activities or that Saban knew and he just let Johns’ slide, because Alabama is already short of linebackers for the upcoming season? Both are reprehensible, with not knowing about Johns’ activities only slightly better than knowing and letting it continue to go on, because anyone paying attention around the Alabama athletic complex (the place where Johns’ was taped by police selling cocaine outside of) had to know that it was a real possibility that Johns could be getting into trouble. How could they have possibly not known about Johns’ activities? Only if they did not give a damn of what Johns was up to, and that is just unacceptable in this day and age.
That brings us to the Essential Lessons of the Jimmy Johns’ arrest and that it is the head football coach’s responsibility to know what is going on with his players, and for players like Johns that have a track record of not behaving correctly, the football staff needs to be doubly attentive to what is going on. This is not an issue of privacy or personal liberties, because every player on a collegiate football team is representing the university or college that he plays for, and when a player gets arrested for selling cocaine that effects the entire institution in a very negative way. We are going to assume that Nick Saban did not know that Johns’ was selling cocaine (If he did know he should be fired on the spot), which by default means that he and his staff fell down on their job to make damn sure that they knew what was going on with one of their most troubled players. If Coaches Hot Seat had been at Alabama during the past year, Johns’ would have not been on the football team, but if he was on the team he would have not been able to make a move without the coaching staff knowing about it. We would have known how many times the guy gets up to piss at night, but it seems Saban and his staff didn’t even care to check up on Johns’, to know he was selling drugs and hanging around with some strange people, to check-out his myspace.com page (if it is his), or to even know that Johns’ had gone into the business of selling pitbulls. That is outrageous and unacceptable at a place like Alabama, especially since Johns’ has already been in so much trouble since Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa.
We agree wholeheartedly with the football coaches that gathered at the National Football Foundation’s Football Forum in Dallas that it is the responsibility of coaches to know if there are shady influences around their players. As Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News pointed out in a column earlier this week, “The problem at the heart of Saban’s first Alabama team went deeper than a lack of talent or depth. Simply put, some of the better players were some of the worse people. He didn’t create the problem, but neither did he come close to solving it. Saban seems to have genuine concern for his players and supreme confidence that he can save the ones who need saving. Sometimes, he can. Other times, it’s better to lose a player and save the team.” Well said.
The Essential Lessons: Head coaches should know what is going on with their football players and if that takes assigning a graduate assistant to follow around a player and listen for rumors on campus, then so be it. If a player is doing things that are detrimental to the football team and/or the university then he must be dismissed from the team. “Motivation is simple. You eliminate those who are not motivated.” Lou Holtz
If Nick Saban had followed these essential lessons the entire country would not now be reading stories that a linebacker on his Alabama team, that was given an award as recently as the Alabama spring game, was arrested for selling cocaine, and right in front of the damn football complex. This Johns’ story at Alabama raises another very interesting question: What else is going on with Saban’s players that he and his staff do not know about? Stay tuned, because Saban by his actions in the past 18 months has made it very clear that he will allow people with questionable character and seemingly a lack of personal motivation to remain on the football team at Alabama.
What else is going to pop-up at Alabama that the football staff doesn’t have a clue about? What else indeed.