The Washington Post

With straight face, Nick Saban says Big Ten ‘is a really good conference’

(Getty Images)

SEC football teams have won seven of the last eight BCS titles, with their run of dominance ending in January when Florida State beat Auburn in the national championship game.

A Big Ten football teams hasn’t won a national title since the 2002 season, and it’s been lapped in terms of aggregate success by the SEC definitely and, in most years, all the other conferences not named the ACC.

But that didn’t stop Alabama Coach Nick Saban, who has won four national titles as an SEC coach (one at LSU, three at Alabama), from singing the Big Ten’s praises on Wednesday. Of course, he was taking questions at a fundraising event in Mason, Ohio, which is just outside Cincinnati.

“I think we have a little bit of an advantage when it comes to the recruiting base we have in the Southeast,” Saban said, per Doug Lesmerises of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. “But I think the Big Ten is a really good conference. And I want to be quoted on that.”

Saban, whose ties with the state of Ohio include playing and coaching at Kent State, an assistant coaching stint at Ohio State, the head coaching job at Toledo for a season and four years as the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator, couldn’t remember the last time he gave a talk in Ohio, Lesmerises reports. Ever in tune with his audience, Saban told a story about former Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes (one he had trotted out previously).

He also said the Alabama-Auburn rivalry is “not the same kind of deal” as other rivalries, including Ohio State-Michigan.

“I have a lot of respect for (Ohio State-Michigan), it’s a great game and I know … hey, Woody wouldn’t let the coaches buy gas in Michigan when we went recruiting there. You couldn’t turn in a receipt from Michigan. He didn’t want to help to help the economy any.

“So I kind of get it. But I’m telling you, that game is rough, Alabama-Auburn.”

Saban ended the night with a subtle reminder of his exalted station right now:

“I feel really at home here, it’s really great to be back in Ohio. I hate to use this, but, Roll Tide.”

After spending the first 17 years of his Post career writing and editing, Matt and the printed paper had an amicable divorce in 2014. He's now blogging and editing for the Early Lead and the Post's other Web-based products.



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