Every move Nick Saban makes is calculated with razor-sharp precision and still, public perception often outweighs intention.
Blowback centered around Alabama’s recent involvement with DJ Durkin was so negative that Saban was forced into releasing a public statement, clarifying his staff’s influence on the embattled former coach at Maryland.
SEC Network host Peter Burns believes Durkin’s brief consultant-like role was initiated by Jimmy Sexton, who represents both Saban and Durkin. Burns’ thoughts on the atter begin at 21:10 of Hour 3 of this week’s Spain and Fitz ESPN podcast.
“I don’t know so much of it is what DJ Durkin can provide other than what Alabama provides for him and more importantly his agent Jimmy Sexton,” Burns said. “Sexton is like the Wizard of Oz and he is the puppet master of college football. I go back and look and it’s DJ Durkin, Hugh Freeze, Butch Jones, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian … what do all of these guys have in common? They’re all repped by the same guy.
“Nick Saban has become kind of that halfway house. (You can be an assistant) or you come by and grab a cup of coffee in the lobby and you’re seen at the halfway house. Honestly, that’s what it was. DJ Durkin comes in and does a little self-scouting. It almost feels as if this is a litmus test to see how radioactive this is to the coaching profession. Sexton can go, ‘why don’t you roll in there and see what the firestorm is? And if there’s not a hubbub about this, I can sell that to new buyers and bidders who might want DJ Durkin to be a part of their coaching staff.’”
Saban considers Durkin’s time in Tuscaloosa as a method of “professional development” and says he’s not a paid staffer. According to ESPN, Durkin will not accompany Alabama to the Capital One Orange Bowl for its College Football Playoff semifinal matchup against Oklahoma on Dec. 29.
Durkin also has met with multiple NFL teams since his firing to watch tape and offer input.
“With all these guys, it’s been sort of unfathomable why (Saban would) taint the pool, but I guess he helps out his own agent and gets the insight from former head coaches who were, at one time, good at their jobs for cheap or for free,” Sarah Spain said.
Durkin was fired at Maryland in October in the wake of an investigation surrounding a toxic culture around the program and the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair.
“Had Jim Harbaugh done this, would (we) have acted differently? If it was Urban Meyer, the whole world would be on fire right now,” Burns said. “It’s a situation where anything Nick Saban touches (becomes gold). That’s the natural perception. If Nick Saban says it’s ok, well doggone it we’ll have to back down a little bit. But it’s still a situation where DJ Durkin isn’t hireable.”