FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Alabama's Nick Saban is not only viewed as the most successful coach in college football today but the most disciplined and structured.
Saban said those traits began when he was an 11-year-old working at his father's service station in West Virginia.
"It wasn't a self-serve, so you cleaned the windows, checked the oil, checked the tires, collected the money, gave the change and treated the customers in a certain way," Saban said Sunday. "We also greased cars and washed cars, so the biggest thing that I started to learn was how important it was to do things correctly. There was a standard of excellence, a perfection.
"I hated washing the navy blue and black cars, because when you wiped them off, the streaks were hard to get out, and if there were any streaks when he came, you had to do it over."
Saban admitted that it was tough growing up under "Big Nick" and the high standard of excellence that was expected. He became more appreciative of his father when he was a Kent State senior in 1973, but his father died when he was in graduate school.
"I never really ever told him, which I regret," Saban said.
ESPN color commentator and former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit is frequently televised from his residence in Nashville, and behind him are helmets from various schools.
Alabama became the first helmet to join an Ohio State helmet several years ago in the backdrop when Crimson Tide media relations director Jeff Purinton asked Herbstreit if he could send him one. Once there was an Alabama helmet, the rest of the SEC wanted to be represented.
"There is a lot of SEC back there, so they all got competitive," Herbstreit said. "Then all the other schools got involved. I get calls all the time asking if I would put their helmet back there, so what I basically do is put the top five BCS teams behind me. That way I'm not picking favorites."
So what happens to the helmets of schools outside the top five?
"My kids put them on all the time," he said of his four sons. "They get a kick out of it."
Alabama had a players-only meeting after arriving last Wednesday in which the older players voiced their displeasure with the team's focus and work ethic. Saban said such meetings are common and that he isn't alarmed.
"We traveled here, and it just seemed like we had a little bit of trouble getting sort of recentered and refocused on what we needed to do," Saban said. "We had to have a little meeting to try to get everybody back on track, but since that time I feel really good about how our players have responded."
Odds and ends
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said the player who has benefited most from this lengthy layoff is redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson. ... ESPN will have 39 game-coverage cameras tonight. ... ESPN senior vice president Burke Magnus said the championship game of the future four-team playoff will have a telecast sponsor but not a sponsor's logo.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...