Nick Saban's tip to Big Ten: Recruit like we do in the SEC
MAY 01, 2014 2:45p ET
Alabama coach Nick Saban was in Ohio Wednesday evening for a speaking engagement, and he was asked a simple question by an Ohio State fan:
How long will it take the Big Ten to get up to SEC standards?
"I'm going to be politically correct on this one," Saban said before considering his answer.
The answer, stated in a round-about way, was simple: If you want to be like the SEC, then you need to recruit like the SEC.
"I think we have a little bit of an advantage when it comes to the recruiting base we have in the Southeast," Saban told those in attendance.
Saban added: "I think you have great high school football here in Ohio, but there's a lot of really good players in the Southeast . . . and as that league has accomplished a lot of success through the years, more and more people on a national basis want to come there. I think you almost have to nationally recruit in this day and age."
Alabama is recruiting so well these days that South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier joked the other day the Tide should be forced to sit out a year of recruiting. But what Saban said to those Big Ten fans isn't exactly new to their league. Ohio State definitely recruits nationally, and Michigan can in healthy years.
The advantage Saban refers to is just that SEC schools do it better on the whole than anyone else. The Class of 2014 composite recruiting rankings from 247Sports has seven SEC teams in the top 10 alone. The Big Ten accounts for only three teams in the top 25 (granted, this is just a one-year snapshot, but the theme holds).
Saban wasn't picking at the Big Ten -- it's clear he has respect for the league after coaching there and even asked to be quoted saying, "I think the Big Ten is a really good conference." He just gave a straight answer to a straight question, one that could apply to any league out there.
Want to be like the SEC? No problem -- just recruit like us.
Possibly the best part of Saban's speech: He clearly has an affection for the state of Ohio after coaching stops at Ohio State, Toledo and the Cleveland Browns -- telling the crowd, "I feel really at home here. It's really great to be back in Ohio." -- and Buckeyes fans in attendance seemed to appreciate Saban stopping in on them.
But even with all of those warm feelings, he could end the night in only one way.
"I hate to use this," Saban told the Ohio State fans, "but Roll Tide."