Anderson: Saban's Tide dance just another little lie

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We've looked at the Bill Cowher situation from just about every angle as we wait to see whether he will return as Steelers coach or retire to his mansion in North Carolina.

Will his ego let him walk away after a subpar season following the Super Bowl victory?

Are money, contract length and vacation time sticking points?

Is he worried that his personal life will suffer if he doesn't join his family in Raleigh?

So far, he has left us hanging, although we can expect to know his decision soon.

To Cowher's credit, one thing he has not done -- at least as far as we know -- is intentionally mislead us about his future.

He did not swear all season that he had every plan to be back for the 2007 season and finish out his contract.

He did not vow to remain as Steelers coach the rest of his working life.

In short, he did not lie.

If you're like most fans, you must be absolutely sick of coaches lying about their future or interest in other jobs.

The latest example is Nick Saban, who put a lot of effort over a number of weeks into trying to stifle reports that linked him to Alabama's job.

Yesterday, he left the Miami Dolphins to take the Alabama job.

A few days before Christmas, Saban told Florida Today: "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach. I shouldn't even have to comment on it."

The problem is, he did comment on it.

He lied. Repeatedly.

A consistent "no comment" would have been better, if he couldn't be open and honest.

Yes, we tend to consider a lack of comment as an admission that reports of interest in other jobs are true. So what? The truth is the truth, and fans and boosters want to know what's going on with their coach.

That's part of the gig when you're in a high-profile -- and highly compensated -- job.

Any coach of a pro or major college team who wants to explore other options on the sly isn't being realistic. It's news, and we're going to find out.

Some don't just lie about their future or interest in other jobs; they often do so defensively and with a sense of anger.

That same opening at Alabama, where Mike Shula was fired, snagged West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez in the word-game web.

Rodriguez went so far as to call a radio talk show to robustly deny any interest in the Crimson Tide job. Soon after, he interviewed there and was offered the job.

Rodriguez turned the offer from Alabama into a contract extension and substantial raise to stay with the Mountaineers.

Good for him. But even if that was his angle all along, it doesn't excuse the lying.

Unfortunately, there can be consequences for admitting interest in other jobs.

In 1999, when Walt Harris was at Pitt, his name surfaced as a possible candidate at Ohio State, where John Cooper was on the hot seat. Harris said he was happy with the Panthers but that he "would listen" to any offers "out of respect for my family and our coaches and their families."

As an aside to reporters, Harris asked whether any of us wouldn't at least listen if The New York Times or Sports Illustrated came calling.

He was honest. He paid for it with a rebuke from his bosses. Shame on the Pitt administration for punishing honesty.

After the Ohio State job did open and Harris emphatically said he was staying at Pitt, he couldn't understand why the questions kept coming.

It was because too many of his colleagues are caught lying, ruining the trust between coaches and the public.

We already know coaches' contracts are not binding and hefty buyout clauses are only speed bumps. We don't need big, steaming piles of lies, too.

Butch Davis' escapade was one of the most blatant. Up until the day in 2001 that he left the Miami Hurricanes to coach the Cleveland Browns, he outright lied about meetings with Browns officials. He lied to his staff, his bosses and recruits, not to mention fans.

Tommy Tuberville once told a Mississippi alumni group that he would only leave that school if it was "in a pine box." Two days later, he accepted the Auburn job.

Since presumably he flew or drove across the state line rather than make the trip in a wooden carrier, well, you get the picture.

More recently, Tom O'Brien left Boston College for North Carolina State after saying in a statement that he was "not a candidate for any job."

Dennis Erickson is a regular in this category. His latest move, to Arizona State, came after he said he would leave Idaho on his own only if he was ready to retire.

It stinks that lying has become, among the coaching set, an acceptable way of handling business.

As for the Dolphins, they're now looking for a new coach.

Let the candidates line up. The lies and false denials won't be far behind.


Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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