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The Nick Saban Syndrome

I call it the Nick Saban syndrome. Habitual lying or being so neurotic about a job the person feels its time to leave when times get rough. Sometimes it's more money, a better team or ownership. In some cases the coach is just in way over his head, realizes he has no idea what he's doing and decides to leave before the situation gets worse. In the case of Bobby Petrino, he has the classic Saban symptoms.

Bobby Petrino always has the coaching "itch." His longest tenure at any coaching position was his last job. Petrino was the head coach at Louisville for four years before he bolted for the NFL. In the summer of 2006 Bob decided it was time for a change. He signed a contract to become the next head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. At the time, this was an ideal job. Petrino walked into a situation where he had a star quarterback, nice running game, budding wide receivers and a stellar defense. Bobby is also heralded as an offensive guru who would inject firepower into a lackluster offense. Falcons owner Arthur Blank and General Manager Rich McKay were ecstatic about their new hire and rightfully so. It seemed that Vick would be a perfect fit in Petrino's scheme and was poised for his best year in the NFL. But Vick's conviction on dog fighting charges and eventual jail sentence threw a chink in Petrino's armor. No longer was Atlanta a viable place to be and no amount would keep him there.

Bobby's itch was flaring up again.

On Tuesday night, he resigned as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons and was named head football coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks four hours later. Not only did he leave without speaking with his players, he left them a hand written note describing his decision to leave in the middle of the season.
The message that Bob continues to send is that when times get tough or enough money is thrown his way then he has no problem with abandoning his commitment. Petrino is in the business of shaping the lives of young people and his latest decision does not send the right message. In essence, Petrino is saying that when times get rough he gets going. I wonder how his team will respond when they are behind in a tough game. Will they characterize Petrino's worse assets? If so then the blame goes no further than the head coach.

College coaches around the country seem to have the Nick Saban syndrome. LSU head coach Les Miles continues to have his name linked to the coaching vacancy at the University of Michigan. To Les's credit he has continuously denied wanting the Michigan job, but that means nothing. When Saban was the head coach for the Miami Dolphins he denied reports linking him the coaching position at the University of Alabama. He went so far as to state that he has no interest in going to Alabama and that he will not be the next head coach for the Crimson Tide. A few weeks after his denial he was named head coach for the Alabama Crimson Tide. The list goes on and on and will continue to grow. Yet their behavior seems to be tolerated and even celebrated.

For what its worth, when did it become ok to lie? I know that sounds really black and white, but think about it. Would you want someone coaching your favorite basketball or football team who lies on a constant basis? Better yet, would you want a person who is known for lying leading your child?
It is ok to change your mind. As a matter of fact, I think it should be encouraged. Yet when coaches are expected to make a position move every few years, it unsettles the market and the minds of those that may be playing for the lying coaches.
When we begin to demand more from our society and from the institutions that hire these coaches, then maybe we can begin to make a few changes. But as long as coaches like Bobby Petrino continue to find work so easily, don't expect a cure for the Nick Saban syndrome anytime soon.

-JH

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