By Alex Scarborough
Nick Saban was a nobody then. His players’ first impression was that the ex-Houston Oilers assistant was kind of short. Truth be told, they got a Tony Danza vibe because of his deep tan, well-coiffed hair and wide-open shirt collar. But when Saban spoke in that first meeting — when he screamed about financial aid checks and threatened to kick players off the team — he had their attention. Soon, his training program would have them doubled over and dropping like flies.
“It reminded me of the Junction Boys,” said former tight end Vince Marrow. “I watched at least six or seven guys quit. They just couldn’t take it.”
Looking back 30 years on, Saban said he learned two important lessons during his one season at Toledo in 1990: motivation and game management. The latter was the hardest pill to swallow, though, as a mistake cost his team a win and the outright conference title. It’s something he carries with him today — one of those myriad details he pores over during every pregame meeting, before or after receiving scouting reports on the referees.
He learned, quite literally, which way the wind blows.
“We got the ball and went ‘two-minute’ down the field at the end,” Saban recalled of that game against Central Michigan, a 13-12 result on Oct. 20, 1990 — and his first career loss. “It was a one-point game and we lined up to kick a field goal of like 25 yards or something. We had a pretty good kicker, and the ball just got about 5 yards from the crossbar and just stopped in midair.”
He took a deep breath, reliving a loss that still haunts him, and continued.
“A lot of people remember the Bluegrass Miracle when I was at LSU. Well, we had the wind in the fourth quarter, and it was a significant 30 mph wind probably. And when we threw the Hail Mary, they couldn’t judge the ball because it just kept going and going and going, and that’s how we won.More…