Nick Saban offered a measured take last week about college football players sitting out of bowl games, saying that he understand why some players choose to sit out while also suggesting it’s bad for college football.
Of course, coaches often skip out on bowl games for other opportunities, so why shouldn’t players do the same?
In any event, what do we make of Saban’s comments?
“I just think he’s playing the PR game a little bit,” Bleacher Report SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I think he knows that he wants to make it known that he doesn’t think players should skip bowl games. I think he would say that with any of his players and say, ‘Look, you probably need this’ because he wants them to play and succeed. But I think he’s trying to, I would say, quelch a little bit of the hyperbole in terms of what a coach might or might not do by saying, ‘This is not how I wish it would be,’ but I think he also understands what reality is – and the reality is where we are right now in terms of coaches and players bailing in December.
“So that’s not the first time Nick Saban sort of acted that way,” Sallee continued. “He railed against tempo offenses while building tempo offenses. He rails against run-pass options while building an offense that runs run-pass options. So he likes to make a stand on ways that he thinks football should be, but he’s also not going to fall into the trap of being so stubborn as to limit what he’s capable of doing knowing what the current reality is.”
Saban blamed coaches, the media, the NCAA – pretty much everyone – for creating a mindset in which every non-playoff game is irrelevant. If players don’t think the game is all that important, Saban said, then you really can’t blame them for wanting to sit out.
To be fair, though, many bowl games have been glorified exhibitions long before the playoff era.
“It’s not a new reality. That’s been the reality for a long time,” Sallee said. “Bowl games have always been about motivation: which team is motivated, which team wants to be there, which team is not happy to be there, which teams packs it in. I don’t know if you watched the Birmingham Bowl with South Carolina and South Florida. I did. Tell South Florida that bowl game wasn’t meaningless. They absolutely had meaning behind that game, and South Carolina, the same thing.”
South Florida beat South Carolina, 46-39, in overtime Thursday to finish the season 11-2.
“And look, we’re talking about a football game,” Sallee said. “In reality, every football game is meaningless. It’s all entertainment. These kids, they want to go out and win. They want to go out there and have a good time and go out on a high note. Getting a bowl win means something. Getting a bowl win over a team that you’re somewhat engineered to be competitive with based on match-ups, that mattered to them. So yeah, they’re meaningless bowl games, but who cares? They’re still fun.”