Saban's 'mistake': Not naming Muschamp coordinator


Alabama coach Nick Saban said Tuesday that he should have named Will Muschamp the Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator after the 2005 season.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer/File
Published: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 8:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 8:18 p.m.

DESTIN — For a young guy, first-year Florida football coach Will Muschamp has an impressive resume. But it could look even better if Nick Saban had not made a “mistake” with Muschamp when the two were in their second year with the Miami Dolphins.

Saban said at Tuesday's SEC spring meetings that he should have named Muschamp the Dolphins' defensive coordinator when the job came open after the 2005 season.

“I just made a mistake,” Saban said. “When I went to Miami as the Dolphins coach, I didn't want to put guys that were college coaches in coordinator positions until they'd coached in the league and got some experience.




“I had coached in the league for two years at Houston and became the (defensive) coordinator at Cleveland and it was really, really difficult, only being in the league two years and understanding the league, the personnel, match-ups and a lot of things.”

Even though Muschamp coordinated the Miami defense in 2005, his title was assistant head coach. When the defensive coordinator's job came open, Saban hired veteran NFL coach Dom Capers instead of giving the title to Muschamp.

“I should have made Will the coordinator,” Saban said. “Dom did a wonderful job, but Will probably deserved to get that job. It was me trying to protect him. I wanted to give him another year before he was out there.

“I was trying to protect people that were important to me. I don't think we have any issues or problems.”

That was obvious Tuesday.

Muschamp has often talked about the positive influence Saban has had on his coaching career, and Saban was high in his praise of Muschamp on Tuesday.

“Will was always one of my favorites in terms of the guys we had the opportunity to work with,” Saban said. “He's a hard worker. He's got great principles and values personally and philosophically as a football coach.

“He's very enthusiastic. He has a leadership quality about him that really effects people in a positive way, especially players. I think he'll do a really good job as a coach. He's done a really good job everywhere he's been.”

Saban obviously didn't make a mistake when he named a very young (and somewhat unproven) Muschamp his defensive coordinator at LSU in 2002.

“He was just a linebacker coach at Valdosta State when he came to LSU,” Saban said. “Two years later, he was the coordinator and he's done a really good job every place he's been. We have a lot of respect for him.

“He didn't even apply for the job. I just called and told him he was going to be the coordinator.”

Saban isn't the only friend Muschamp has in Destin this week. He's also close to second-year Tennessee coach Derek Dooley. The two worked together on Saban's staff at LSU.

“When you spend as much time as you do with other coaches as assistants, you become close,” Muschamp said. “And your families become close because your wives are widows during the season a little bit. I certainly have a lot of respect for Derek.”

Coaches on Tressel

Despite his rapid demise at Ohio State, Jim Tressel was one of the most respected coaches in the business by his peers. Several SEC coaches commented Tuesday on Tressel's sudden resignation Monday.

“He did a lot of good things for college football,” Muschamp said. “He's an outstanding football coach. Listen to his players, and what I've heard, and it's very positive. He's always been class to me.

“That's all I can judge things by, how somebody treats me. He's been first-class to me.”

Saban echoed those thoughts.

“If you were in the military, you would say we lost a fine comrade in this whole thing,” Saban said. “He's a good friend. He's somebody I've had a tremendous amount of respect for, for a very, very good number of years.

“We kind of grew up together in coaching. I always had a tremendous amount of respect for him as a person, as a coach and the way he handled his business with a lot of class and character.

“I don't know the details of this whole situation. Obviously, there were mistakes made and there are going to be consequences for it. Still, this is one of the finest people in our profession and I hate to see what's happened.”

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