Sunday, January 1, 2012

Nick Saban employs time-tested approach to bowl layoff

image Ken Rogers of the Dothan Eagle has a report from last night, examining the approach used by Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban to keep the team focused during the long layoff between the regular season and a bowl game. It’s a method he’s developed through trial and error during his career as a head coach.

Saban is 6-6 in bowl games as a head coach, but three of those losses came in an 0-3 run at Michigan State. Since then, his teams are 6-3 in bowls and he’s 2-0 in BCS Championship Games. 

“Starting out at Michigan State, I used to try to carry the season to the game, you know?” the coach said. “Maybe we’d play on Nov. 28 and the season would be over. Maybe on Dec. 5, 6 and 7 we’d have three practices and then go recruiting until the next Wednesday or Thursday and have two or three more practices the next week.

“Then on Dec. 18 we’d start practicing and we’ve already had five or six practices and we’ve have some more practices and it’d be Christmas break. Then we’d do the game week stuff.

“By the time the players got to the game they were just shot. I don’t know if they were shot emotionally or physically or whatever. So we started taking more of the approach with that much time off there’s no way that you can carry the momentum of the season to the bowl game. That you have to approach it more like it’s a one-game season.”

This is not the first time Alabama has had a long layover between the end of the regular season and its bowl game. After the 2009 season, Alabama had a five week wait between the SEC Championship Game and the BCS Championship Game in Pasadena.

Realizing that it’s impossible to try to carry season momentum into post-season play, the one-game season approach seems to strike a chord with the team and likely has them emotionally, mentally and physically ready to play when the long layoff ends.

Rogers’ report includes quotes from players indicating that they’re fully bought into the method and embrace it. “Where it really helps us is the fact that Coach Saban’s been through it,” Junior offensive lineman Barrett Jones said. “He’s got an exact plan of the best way to do it.”

They trust their coach because he’s been there, done that, and brought home the hardware.

Read whatever you want to from this, but the “preseason camp” approach employed by LSU head coach is probably a little different from the system embraced by Alabama. LSU players came back from their Christmas break carrying a few extra “holiday pounds” and Miles plans to have them in a “good sweat” during practice. But don’t laugh, sports fans. Maybe there’s a method to The Hat’s madness—Miles is 6-3 in bowl games.

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