How powerful is Nick Saban? Media members couldn't use the bathroom while he went
Published: Thursday, July 19, 2012, 3:01 PM
By Jon Solomon -- The Birmingham News
HOOVER, Alabama -- The line for the bathroom was a couple deep outside and growing a little impatient. Inside? Nick Saban.
Media members couldn't enter the bathroom at SEC Media Days while Saban relieved himself, accompanied inside by Alabama coordinator of athletic relations Cedric Burns.
"Hope he hurries up," one photographer said, waiting in a short line blocked by two security officials. "I've got to go."
So came and went another SEC Media Days with Saban's rock-star status on display. The Alabama crowds waiting in the Wynfrey Hotel lobby were smaller than usual, yet caused minor and temporary damage to a door.
There's SEC speed. And then there's Saban autograph-seekers speed.
As Saban left the event, one backpedaling fan accidentally knocked off the handicapped button on the revolving door in the lobby. A hotel official was able to fix the damage in a couple of minutes.
"Insane," said one older man as he watched the scene. "Lose two or three games and it all changes."
Remember the "I Hate Auburn" T-shirt guy criticized by Saban last year? That fan's reaction then: "It's like I went to church and God told He didn't approve."
Today, meet an Alabama football fan named James Pellem, a 25-year-old hospital technician from Huntsville who spent the past two days collecting autographs from most SEC teams.
"Two or three years ago, I was one of the Alabama fans you did not want to be around," Pellem said. "I liked to talk a lot of mess. A lot of Alabama fans are just mean people. Of course, you want to beat Auburn bad on Saturday. But you know, when you meet these guys, it's hard to dislike them."
Among the coaches he got autographs from: Gene Chizik. Twice. And it was Chizik who asked Pellem -- decked out in Alabama gear -- if he wanted him to sign anything.
"If every Alabama fan that has some kind of bad blood could come and actually meet (Auburn players and Chizik), I think it would calm them down a little bit," Pellem said. "If they could actually stand here and hear how the Auburn guys talk to the Alabama kids or the older Alabama family, maybe they'll realize this is just a Saturday thing. I don't have to hate them every part of the year."
Saban was asked today if, in the wake of the Penn State scandal and Mike Slive's words of caution, Saban has too much power at Alabama. "It's not true, if that's the perception," Saban said, citing his respect for Alabama's chancellor and athletics director.
Pellem said he hopes Saban's authority isn't so great that it could be abused.
"But the Penn State fans a year or two ago probably would have said no way, Joe Paterno is the most honest man on the Earth," Pellem said. "I would say probably 90 percent of me would say that wouldn't happen here. The way Saban carries himself, talks and looks, I just don't think he'd do anything like that."
Then Pellem remembered a picture he saw recently. It was of President Obama and Saban walking together and included the caption, "The most powerful man in the world with President Obama."
"I understand why you're asking," Pellem said.