Alabama coach Saban not well-liked in Miami
BY MIKE BERARDINO For Sun-Times Media January 2, 2013 10:27PM
Updated: January 2, 2013 10:29PM
MIAMI — A dozen police vehicles, several bomb-sniffing dogs, a fire truck and a phalanx of airport security personnel greeted the Alabama football team upon its arrival Wednesday afternoon.
There also was a film crew from the reality show “Airport 24/7,” which airs on the Travel Channel.
Reputedly, this had nothing to do with Nick Saban’s messy exit from the Miami Dolphins six years ago at this time, but it was probably wise to be safe anyway.
With Saban’s powerful Crimson Tide chasing a third national title in four seasons, the coach’s arrival at Miami International Airport was steeped in preparation levels typically associated with a presidential visit.
“It’s great to be back in South Florida,” said Saban, wearing a gray suit with a crimson tie and squinting into the late afternoon sun. “We really love South Florida. We have a lot of great relationships here. We’re really looking forward to the week of being here.”
Saban, 61, has returned to South Florida for recruiting visits numerous times since reneging on his public promise he would absolutely not be the “next coach at Alabama,” but typically those trips have been brief and shrouded in secrecy.
Two prominent starters on the team this year hail from South Florida.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper, who starred in the victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship, is a product of Miami Northwestern High School. Defensive end Ed Stinson, of South Dade High School, has started all 13 games this season.
Vilified as much in these parts for that white lie as for posting a 15-17 record in two seasons with the Dolphins, Saban recently gave a lengthy interview on Miami radio in which he expressed regret about the exit process.
He wasn’t very interested in rehashing that phase of his life Wednesday, but Saban did sound somewhat contrite.
“I’ve made my comments about all that,” he said. “We all learn things about ourselves as we go. Some things we all would like to do differently. I don’t really think it’s worth [getting into] what I would have done. I just think we all make mistakes and sometimes we’d like to do things differently, but you don’t get the opportunity to get it back.”
Defensive lineman Damion Square said he was “very aware” of the enmity that exists for Saban among many South Florida sports fans.
However, Square downplayed the idea those team buses with Saban’s image displayed prominently on the sides might be the target of rotten tomatoes this week.
“He’s a top-notch guy,” Square said. “He’ll handle it the right way. He’s got the right people around him to handle that whole situation.”
There wasn’t much actual news from the Tide’s arrival.
Harrison Jones, a reserve tight end, was unable to travel for medical reasons, Saban said. The team hopes Jones will be able to arrive Thursday.
Also, Arie Kouandjio, a reserve offensive lineman, became dehydrated on the team charter and was treated by EMS workers upon his arrival. Kouandjio’s condition was not believed to be serious.