When you’re ranked No. 1 in the nation, received 58 of 60 first-place votes and are winning games by an average of 41.2 points per game, you have to search high and low to find something to complain about.
Last week it was the media for Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, as he implored reporters to write something bad about his team so they wouldn’t get full of themselves.
This week it’s the University of Alabama students, as Saban called them out for their lackluster support of the football team.
Saban’s comments came Wednesday, four days after Alabama defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 56-14 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Paid attendance for the game was 101,471 (99.7 percent capacity), but the number of people in the stands was much less. Saban put that on the students.
Nick Saban’s full comment on the student section not being full for recent games: pic.twitter.com/aVDrxlc1Me
— Chris Breece (@ChrisBreece) October 4, 2018
“I can honestly say I was a little disappointed that there weren’t more students at the last game,” Saban told reporters in Tuscaloosa. “I think we’re trying to address that. I don’t think they’re entitled to anything, either. Me, personally, I think it ought to be first-come, first-serve, and if they don’t want to come to the game, they don’t have to come. But I’m sure there’s enough people around here that would like to go to the games, and we’d like for them to come too because they support the players. So I’ve never said anything about that before.”
He added, “To see half the student section not full, I’ve never seen that since I’ve been here before.”
Attendance has been down across college football in recent years, and the 2017 season saw the largest drop in 34 years.
Alabama is not immune to that, and the fact that the Crimson Tide was playing Louisiana-Lafayette didn’t help Saturday’s crowd.
Was Nick Saban right to call out students for not showing up Saturday?
Saban has long advocated for programs in Power Five conferences to only play other Power Five schools, so Alabama doesn’t have to schedule the likes of Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State and the Citadel like they did this year. Those three games account for 43 percent of the Crimson Tide’s home schedule this season.
It also didn’t help that the kickoff for the game was at 11 a.m. local time. That snooze button looks very appealing to many 18-to-22-year-olds who were up late Friday night having fun.
But Saban doesn’t care for such excuses.
“When I first came here, you used to play that tradition thing up there and everybody was cheering and excited and happy and there was great spirit,” the coach said.
“Now, they don’t even cheer. They introduce our players and nobody even cheers. So I don’t know, maybe there’s something else somebody else ought to talk about. Maybe I shouldn’t talk about it. Maybe I already talked about it more than I should.
“So, you all can beat me up for that if you want, but look, our players work too hard and they deserve to have everything and people supporting them in every way and have tremendous spirit for what they’ve done.”
One veteran sportswriter suggested that many Alabama students don’t show up because the team is too good and complacency has set in.
An entire generation of Alabama students will get to tell their grandchildren that they didn’t go to games in the greatest era in football history because the team was too good
— Tommy Deas (@tommydeas) September 29, 2018
Whatever the reason Alabama’s student support has been lackluster, you can be sure that those students heard Saban’s message loud and clear.
A game against Missouri on Oct. 13 is the only home game for Alabama over the next five weeks, but the Tide finishes the season with three straight home games against Mississippi State, the Citadel and archrival Auburn.
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