SEC Media Days 2011: Nick Saban's Thin Line Between Love And Hate

Live coverage from Birmingham, where SB Nation is taking in the spectacle of SEC Media Days.

You'll hear a lot of chatter this morning likening Nick Saban's treatment of the media to an emotionally abusive spousal relationship. This isn't far off. Whatever else he is, and he is many, many things, Coach Saban is not a morning person today. He eschews his traditional thanking of the assembled press, dispenses some bizarrely sincere-sounding wishes that everyone had a good summer, then manages to convincingly grind out a sentence expressing that this is one of his favorite days of the year. A few people laugh. They are quickly silenced. 

Here comes the obligatory opening joke, and by football coach standards, it's a good one: It's his and Spurrier's tenth SEC Media Days. "Coach Spurrier and I would like to get some kind of award for that, if y'all could come up with something." Some thanks for all who've helped contribute to and publicize tornado relief efforts in Tuscaloosa, and we're off to the Q&A:

• Right off, we get a question about Mike Slive's proposed reforms. Every year there's a question that sets Saban off. Sometimes you can tell when that question's dropping. This is not one of those times. Saban, acidly: "I know there's nobody in this room interested in writing about positives."

• On the ever-entertaining Iron Bowl rivalry and attendant year-round mayhem: "I would like to see our fans show class in terms of how we represent our institution and our state and our athletic program." Later: "I would tell them that it's not personal. That it really isn't personal." Would love to hear him say that in the locker room.

• On out-of-conference scheduling and the pressure to pad the slate with quality opponents, another joke! "If you're gonna play somebody in another division, you don't have to play the best team."

• Like most of the rest of us, he appears content, even eager, to be left out of conference realignment talk. 

• On the lopsided balance of 3-4 defensive schemes in the league versus 4-3, our own Spencer Hall translates his answer: "We played 3-4 about 20% of the time. It's actually 19.839094049%, but I won't bore you with details."

• On the SEC's unbroken streak of national championships: "We're the national league of college football."

• On the quarterback race in Tuscaloosa, things get heated again: "Well, first of all, let me say you all are a lot smarter than we are as coaches, because I could never pick who's gonna win the SEC." Pressed on where the depth chart stands, he visibly oozes contempt: "It doesn't stand anywhere."

• Saban turns a brazen question of Slive's dicatorial leadership style into a charming anecdote about the inquiring reporter's lack of prowess as a spring game coach when he was at LSU, and just like that, it's Sunshine Nick again. Having sat up straight with bright eyes for our allotted time, we get our thanks from Coach Saban. Grown men in crimson polos faint all over the room with cartoon hearts swirling about their noggins.

• On the specter of a preseason No. 1 national ranking for the Crimson Tide: "It means nothing." Kinda like love. Kinda like life. 

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