Nick Saban and Paul Finebaum sparred at SEC Media Days on Wednesday, with Finebaum taking Saban to task for not suspending Cam Robinson or Hootie Jones following their May 17 arrest. Saban, of course, reacted harshly.
He didn’t, however, engender much sympathy.
“I think most people were on Finebaum’s side,” Bleacher Report SEC writer Barrett Sallee said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Really, he was doing his job. To kind of put some context into what happened, it’s very frustrating for us on Nick Saban day. You do not get a lot of Nick Saban availability in the offseason, and in that main ballroom that you see on ESPN and the SEC Network, you really don’t get to ask the questions because he’ll filibuster for half the time. Three or four people will get the mic and you’re done. So you sort of have to work with the ebbs and flows, especially with a guy like Saban who recognizes that some tough questions are coming and will filibuster on other questions to run the clock out, so to speak.”
Robinson and Jones were arrested in Monroe, La., and charged were possession of marijuana. Robinson also faced a felony charge for possession of a stolen firearm, but the district attorney opted against prosecution. Saban questioned the arresting officers for not arresting the other two passengers in the car and suggested the officers were LSU fans.
That didn’t stop Finebaum from holding Saban accountable for his decision not to suspend the players.
“That’s what he needed to do,” Sallee said of Finebaum. “Someone needed to do that. It’s a little more hostile than I would have expected. I fall on Finebaum’s side. I think Nick Saban made a bad mistake by treating this the way he’s treated it because he’s basically said, ‘Look, if you knew the facts of this case, then you’d understand.’ Well, tell us the facts. If you insinuate that cops are LSU fans, tell us that. You’re not going to get in trouble legally if you say something like that. I definitely think that Finebaum was in the right, Nick Saban was out of line and it meant for some drama, that’s for sure.”
Saban and Finebaum apparently continued their exchange during a commercial break.
“I think the gist of (Saban’s message) was that you don’t need to come at me like that when you don’t know the facts of the case,” Sallee said. “Generally what Nick Saban was saying is there was some impropriety in terms of the police officers that pulled them over. That’s what led to those two people getting arrested while the other two people were not.”
Sallee said Saban’s decision to not suspend Robinson was “par for the course” for SEC football – and major college football in general.
“Here’s the thing,” he said. “College football coaches want to develop young men. They want to teach men how to make the right decisions. They want to be father figures in some cases. All of that stuff that people say is just coach speak is actually true. But they also want to win football games. So it’s beneficial for Nick Saban to have his All-American left tackle playing against USC. A lot of times they’re sort of torn between the right thing to do morally and the right thing to do from a football perspective. They have to save their jobs, for lack of a better term. They’re looking out for themselves. That’s pretty much apparent.”