Saban opens up at media day; ND’s pair of 5s

Nick Saban has a charity called Nick’s Kids Fund.

He and his wife Terry have been running it for 14 years and it

raises money for needy children. It’s not named after the Alabama

coach. It’s named after his late father, the hardworking man and

tough Pop Warner coach who made Saban what he is.

Saban, who isn’t one to let his emotions show easily, opened up

a bit while talking about his father during media day for the BCS

championship. Saban’s Crimson Tide play Notre Dame on Monday for

the national title.

Saban grew up in rural West Virginia and started working by the

time he was 11, ”which I think is probably been the most critical

thing in the development of the work ethic that I have,” he said

Saturday.

His father and mother, Mary, instilled in Saban the importance

of respecting people and at times he was taught hard lessons.

”There was a bum that used to come to my Dad’s service station

early in the morning because he’d give him free coffee and

doughnuts,” Saban said. ”We had had a tough game the night

before, I don’t remember whether it was basketball game, a football

game or whatever. The guy was giving me a hard time and I sort of

sassed him. I was 17 years old. I got the strap right on the

spot.

”It was the right thing. I needed to learn a lesson. I was

disrespectful to an older person, regardless of the

situation.”

Big Nick Saban started the Pop Warner football league in which

is son played. Saban said his father bought a school bus to drive

the kids around, picking them up from the coal mining towns where

they lived and driving them home so they wouldn’t have to

hitchhike.

”He was a tough coach,” Saban said. ”He expected the best all

the time. Probably instilled some of the perfectionist-type

characteristics that I have in what I try to do. He had a high

standard of excellence for what he expected from me. Discipline was

a very important part of what you did.”

Saban said that he, like many people, didn’t really appreciate

what his father was trying to teach him until he was an adult.

”Probably when I was a senior in college. That’s probably when

I realized it,” he said. ”And my first year of graduate school

was when he passed away. I never really ever told him, which I

regret.”

TRICK SHOT MONDAY: As media day was winding down, a half-dozen

Notre Dame players gathered around the BCS trophy to recreate

”Trick Shot Monday,” a locker-room ritual back in South Bend

where the players try to make outrageous shots into a paper cup

filled with water, using a ping pong ball.

They bounced it off the football-shaped crystal. They ricocheted

it off a piece of wood placed on the turf. Mike Golic Jr. even

dropped to his knees, trying to knock it in with his forehead.

Everyone failed until ESPN’s Samantha Ponder stepped in to make a

shot.

”We’re proud to see her get her first win,” Golic said,

grinning. ”It’s something I know she’ll cherish for the rest of

her life.”

DECISIONS, DECISION: Being a quarterback is always about making

the right call at the right time.

That’s why Alabama’s AJ McCarron brought so many pairs of shoes

– about 30 – to the BCS championship. Surely there’s a penalty for

going out in black sneakers and brown pants, right?

”Back at home, I’ve got a bunch of shoes. I’ve got at least 130

pair,” McCarron said. ”I brought like 30 here. At nighttime, I

never know what I’m going to wear so I change and try to match.

I’ve got a bunch of bow ties too. I don’t even know.

”My mom does that whole thing.”

McCarron typically wears a suit, bow tie and all, to games.

Tailback Eddie Lacy just shakes his head and points to the only

pair of shoes – red and white sneakers – that he brought to

Florida.

”That’s all I need,” he says, grinning. ”I’ve only got two

feet. I don’t know what’s up with him (McCarron) and his shoe

fetish.”

Wide receiver Kenny Bell says McCarron is just ”playing

catch-up” with him. Bell said he brings 40 pairs of shoes even on

a weekend trip and left 100 more at home. ”I’m a very big

sneakerhead,” he said.

More importantly for the game, Bell is being coy about his

status for the game. He had surgery to repair a broken leg

sustained against Auburn on Nov. 24, and was expected to be out 5-6

weeks.

His status for the game is uncertain.

”I don’t know just like the world doesn’t know,” said Bell,

one of the team’s better deep threats.

A PAIR OF 5’s: Whether Notre Dame is on offense or defense, the

leader of the Fighting Irish is number 5, quarterback Everett

Golson or All-American linebacker Manti Te’o.

Te’o, a senior, explained that the reason he wears 5 is not for

some former Irish great like Paul Hornung – who also had the number

– but because, when Te’o was a young boy, he and his dad were in

the car and his father asked him, ”When you play football, what

number would like?”

Being 5 years old, Te’o said ”5.”

For Golson, a redshirt freshman, the number is simply the one he

wore all through high school.

So, coming to Notre Dame – a school where Te’o was already a

star – did Golson ask for Te’o’s permission to wear the same

jersey?

”No,” the normally forthcoming Te’o said Saturday, shaking his

head.

Manti, you mean he just did it?

”Yes.”

STAR TREATMENT: Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and his

All-American center, Barrett Jones, were sitting next to each other

on separate podiums. But only McCarron’s spot came with speakers,

which made it a little tough for Jones to stay focused.

”Sorry, it’s hard to concentrate when he’s talking about me

over there,” Jones said. ”The skill players get all the love. AJ

got speakers, and I’ve got sit over here and listen to him.”

GUNNER: Notre Dame freshman Gunner Kiel, from Columbus, Ind.,

was one of the most heralded quarterback recruits in the country

last year. He had a hard time deciding where he wanted to go to

school – to say the least.

First he verbally committed to Indiana. Then he de-committed.

Then he verbally committed to LSU. Then at the last moment, he

decided to go to Notre Dame.

As far as recruiting news goes, Kiel’s indecision was big news

and his choosing Notre Dame was considered a huge score for coach

Brian Kelly.

”I think I put more pressure on myself because I overanalyzed a

lot of things,” Kiel said. ”If I could do it all over again I

would probably go back and enjoy the recruiting process and enjoy

my senior year and enjoy the people around me and just have a fun

with it instead of making it seem like a job. And putting so much

stress, so much on myself it buried me.

”I wanted to please everyone. I wanted to make everyone happy.

I also couldn’t make up my mind either. That’s why I committed so

many places and de-committed to so many places.”

SABAN STARS IN NBA: Nick Saban is not tall.

By his own admission, not fast, either.

Yet somehow, he’s found a way to be a successful pickup

basketball player. Then again, it’s easy to win at pickup ball when

you can manipulate everything from rules to rosters.

In between recruiting season and spring-football season at

Alabama, it’s basketball season for Saban and his staff. Saban was

asked at the BCS title game media day on Saturday what he does to

stay in shape, and Saban revealed that he enjoys getting on the

court.

With certain conditions, of course.

”I’m the commissioner of the league,” Saban said. ”It’s a

noontime basketball league, NBA. I pick the teams so I have the

best players on my team. I also pick the guy that can guard me and

there’s only two guys in the whole organization who are shorter and

slower that I would pick to guard me. And then I call the fouls. So

if you call that working out, I guess that’s my workout.”

Saban, who checks in at around 5-foot-8, said he doesn’t keep

stats, and no, he doesn’t break down those game films, either.

”No one would want to see that,” Saban said.

Does Saban call fouls on himself? He said it happens – but only

sometimes.