Nick Saban Favors 9 Conference Games, Odds Are So Does Mike Slive
Nick Saban and SEC commissioner Mike Slive have a close relationship. In fact, Slive trusts Saban unlike he trusts any other SEC coach. Slive and Saban have a mutual admiration society. Last year Slive used Saban to advocate aggressively for the best four teams to advance to the playoff. At the time it was a cold war, arguments over whether or not the best four teams should advance to a playoff ruled the day.
This year the primary debate is over a nine game SEC schedule.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive has played his cards close to his vest, telling CBS's Tony Barnhart yesterday that he didn't have a public opinion on future SEC schedules.
That's all well and good, but look closely and Saban will tell you what Slive typically thinks.
That's because Saban has become Slive's most eloquent public advocate, the most successful coach in football is also the most trusted partner of the most powerful man in college athletics.
Mike Slive and Nick Saban have a powerful partnership that is rooted in each man's appreciation of the skill and intelligence of the other.
It's the SEC's own bromance, Slive and Saban sitting in a tree...
Time and again, as controversial issues have faced college football, there has been Saban, Mike Slive's most trusted advocate, advancing the Slive's opinion in a more aggressive manner than Slive ever could have. It's a testament to the working relationship between Slive, a brilliant media and political tactician and saban, a budding advocate who heretofore bristled when he was asked any global issues in football.
Saban has come to recognize his responsibility to the sport at large, a four-time BCS champion coach whose opinion is valued by the fans, media, and other coaches more so than any other individual. But it's also something larger, Saban and Slive's relationship continues to strengthen into an unbreakable bond.
Having won the argument over which four teams should advance to the playoff -- remember when it was all conference champions? -- both men continue to echo each other's public positions. In reiterating his support for nine conference games, Saban said he wasn't trying to look at the issue from a microscopic close level -- after all less conference games favors each coach which is why all other SEC coaches are opposed to nine games -- but rather from a what's best for the league perspective.
Who does that sound like?
"If I had an opinion, I wouldn't tell you. But I am open-minded on this issue. The test for me is what is the principle in play? There are scheduling principles in play, but for me, the overriding principle is: What is in the long-term best interest of the Southeastern Conference? That is a simple principle but it can be very difficult in application. It takes some forecasting. It takes some thinking.
We've always been very creative in this league. We have always been deliberate and careful. All those characteristics have to go into this discussion about the schedule. Where it comes out, I don't know, but everything is important -- every element."
So Slive won't tell you his own opinion about the SEC's football schedule, but if you listen closely Nick Saban will tell you what Slive's opinion actually is. And Saban is telling you loud and clear that Mike Slive is in favor of nine conference games.
How deft are Mike Slive's political skills?
He's turned Nick Saban into a statesman who wants to talk about bigger issues facing college football and the SEC.
Yep, Nick "the Process" Saban has turned into a statesman who is more interested in global issues than he is team specific issues.
Here's a solid bet that nine SEC games aren't very far away.
Because what Mike Slive and Nick Saban want, Nick Saban and Mike Slive almost always end up getting.