Sabans secrecy fuels media focus on behavior

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It seems the University of Alabama&8217;s football team cannot stay out of the news these days. Unfortunately for Tide fanatics, the days of media coverage praising Nick Saban and his work with the program seem to have fallen by the wayside with the recent run of arrests and behavior issues being reported in Tuscaloosa.

Most recently reports have come across that Bama receiver Keith Brown and linebacker Prince Hall are suspended for the group&8217;s first game against Western Carolina for unspecified violations of team rules, which leaves the door open to a plethora of possible violations. Neither of the two has been arrested, however, which seems to be the biggest trend apparent in Saban&8217;s coaching tenure at Alabama.

Earlier this summer, the program saw three players, defensive end Brandon Deadrick, tailback Roy Upchurch and linebacker Brandon Fanney, arrested in an incident at a bar on the infamous &8216;Strip,&8217; which has in the past several years been plagued by violent late-night behavior, after midnight. Following the arrests, Saban said he was investigating the incident, and he would divvy out the punishment he saw warranted by the infractions once he had all the facts.

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As Saban was doing so, two weeks later, Simeon Castille was involved in an incident that lead to his arrest in the same bar district as his three teammates. According to police, Castille&8217;s &8220;shouting, cussing and challenging passengers to fight him,&8221; at two in the morning in an area that has seen two shootings in the past two years lead to his arrest for disorderly conduct.

If the first three arrests, which were related, didn&8217;t draw fire for Saban, Castille&8217;s incident, to which he is pleading not guilty and appears to have been blow out of proportion, did. The first event lead to and injury of a police officer, which was talked about by the media, but the hail storm of attention came after the second Strip arrest not because of the actual incident so much as events proximity to the previous arrests.

The media outlets, which have had limited access to Saban or his team, took the arrests as an opportunity to latch on to Saban and accuse him of lacking the ability to instill discipline in his team. And Saban has remained aloof.

To me, this is one of those things a coach cannot do much about. If you look at the SEC it appears that every summer there is a team with a run of incidents and arrests among their players. Not that it is any excuse for the individual player&8217;s actions leading to their arrests, but these are college kids and during the summer when they have down time they like to blow off steam by hitting late nights on the Strip.

If you look at incidents in recent years at other school the Bama players aren&8217;t exactly leading the way in offenses. South Carolina had players stealing computers and their own portraits from their stadium. Florida had players beating up other students from the school at parties, by tossing kegs no less. And Tennessee rules the roost for summer arrests.

Yes, there are behavior issues at Alabama, but these are kids making their own decisions and in the end Saban can&8217;t stop them from doing so. His biggest weapon against such actions is his authority to suspend players, which he has yet to do in the arrests.

Which turns my interest back to the recent suspensions of Brown and Prince. As neither was arrested, what did they do to warrant a suspension?

Saban said; &8220;These particular players have reached a phase where punishment &8212; and taking a game away from them &8212; is something we feel is necessary to do at that time.&8221;

What heinous actions could have been committed that exceeds the severity of players getting arrested?

But, following Saban&8217;s record of privacy in regards to team matters, I fear we will never know.

Brandon Glover is the sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at