The Miami fans, as obnoxious as they can be, did not deserve Nick Saban.
Certainly the Dolphins organization, full of good people, did not deserve to have Saban inflicted upon them.
For that matter, the big-time football-coaching profession, for as many dents as it puts into itself, did not deserve to have Saban covering the entire group of them with shame. Saban is safely in Tuscaloosa, Ala., now, not having enough decency to speak to his Dolphin players before leaving and then using a speaker phone to tell his assistant coaches that he was leaving to take the University of Alabama coaching job -- by darkness of night, as it turned out.
For the larger part of two weeks he lied that he was not going to take the Alabama job, that he was interested only in finishing the job in Miami. The bitter jokes are in full force now: "Saban only lies when he moves his lips."
Saban left the Dolphins worse off than he found them when he was hired two years ago.
Nevertheless the organization is better off without him. As soon as he took over the Dolphins, with owner H. Wayne Huizenga acceding to his demand for total control, he set about to make all within his command miserable and he succeeded. The front office was governed by fear. His 21-man coaching staff was kept at their desks deep into the night for no other reason than he could order it. People who worked in the non-football part of the Dolphins' headquarters were forbidden to engage him in conversation.
Meanwhile his football team performed like a collection of rejects when they surely had the talent for a better record. The evidence was their 21-0 shutout of the Bears in Chicago when the Bears seemed almost unbeatable. All through the last few weeks in December he was asked about the daily rumors concerning his taking the Alabama job. "The only thing I'm interested in is the future of the Miami Dolphins," he claimed.
This was from a man who didn't have enough interest in his players to say goodbye to them when he left them for his new job.
Saban will probably do well at Alabama, where he isn't likely to bump into any bothersome academic standards and the talent is plentiful and rarely barred from admission. The Southeastern Conference is a good fit for him. In the Big Ten, where he coached Michigan State, things work somewhat differently and he was a mere 13 games over .500 in five seasons.
He parlayed his last year, his only good one at 9-2, into an offer from the New York Giants, which he declined, and another from Louisiana State, which he accepted. Hours after he fled Miami, Alabama welcomed him. As Bill Curry, a former head coach of the Crimson Tide, remarked, "The school president doesn't run Alabama football and neither does the athletic director. The football operation is run by a group of wealthy boosters called the Alabama Mafia." They and Saban deserve each other.
Larry Felser, former News columnist, appears in Sunday's editions.