Holly Anderson tries to figure out how Alabama got itself into the pickle it did with Jonathan Taylor in this excellent piece, or, as Spencer Hall succinctly phrases it, “why the hell did Alabama even bother with Jonathan Taylor in the first place?”.
Spencer goes on to say “Because he’s good at football isn’t a good enough answer”, and that may be a start, but my feeling about why it did so is that the simpler truth is, well, because it could. When you operate in an environment where nobody questions your decision making, it’s not surprising that at some point you become imbued with a sense of personal infallibility. Sure, Nick Saban appreciated the talents of Jonathan Taylor and how those talents could benefit the Alabama program, but more than that, Saban believed he had the Taylor situation under control from the start, simply because he’s Nick Saban.
Saban is not a bad person. He’s not corrupt. He is shrewd and directs a program that has almost unlimited resources with which to operate at a pinnacle virtually unmatched in college football. Alabama recruits like nobody’s business. That’s both its glory and the reason bringing Taylor into the mix is such a puzzle to some.
Call Alabama a victim of its own institutional hubris, if you like. It’s as good an explanation as any.
And now that Taylor has taken his third strike, where do things go for Saban and Alabama? Holly pretty much diagrams the first play when she writes,
The Taylor episode will subside, at worst, into what will euphemistically be called a “distraction” for the football program. It won’t take long. That particular elision when we discuss these things, that inertia, takes hold so quickly, so insidiously. Difficulties, you know. By the time we all reconvene in July for SEC Media Days, Saban will be deploying that “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed, but also mad” face full-time. He’ll rattle off whatever combination of word-pap he has calculated will get him out of that topic the quickest, in a tone of stern patience that says we should know better than to ask. And truth be told, maybe we should. We already know how much good it’ll do anyone.
And that, unsurprisingly, is where Saban quickly went at Monday’s press conference.
6:40: Saban on Jonathan Taylor: “I think it’s very unfortunate that the guy came here with some very specific guidelines and zero tolerance and obviously didn’t live up to that. While we’ve created many opportunities for players through the years, sometimes those things have worked out extremely well, we’re sad to say in this case it didn’t. We all take responsibility for that.”
“We all take responsibility”? As in the school as well as the player? Well, maybe.
Or maybe not.
Owning up to a share of the responsibility, it seems to me, would involve shedding some light on why Saban thought – really thought, not offering up some second chance bullshit about a football player who still had outstanding legal issues to resolve in Athens when Saban made the call – the decision to give Taylor an Alabama scholarship was a defensible one. Or as Hall puts it,
And yes, I’m pretty sure Nick Saban shouldn’t have touched him in the first place, but that’s not the repellent part of the conversation here. That the first question asked is: What is or isn’t in the interests of a college football program? That’s the move, to run to the institution and fret about its decisions and the reputation of the extremely wealthy men running this institution, and not about the people involved. That’s the nauseating thing after the act to me. It just is, and even after trying I can’t really even begin to articulate all the reasons why.* It just feels like failure in every goddamn direction, including this one.
Yeah. But that’s not the kind of thing a person immersed in a sense of infallibility is going to be forthcoming about on his own. I’m not sure Saban is even ready to be honest with himself about why he did it. And so at the presser, he ended the discussion in the only way he knew how.
Though I’m not sure the passive-aggressive handling of the media and the resort to euphemistic gobbledygook is going to be the end of this story, no matter how much Saban wills it to be so. Because there is still one wild card out there – the victim. And while Bill Battle nauseatingly equated her situation with that of her alleged attacker’s by hoping both could deal with the situation “constructively”, there are several ways for her to take his suggestion.
The obvious one being under advice of counsel.
The 6-foot-4, 335-pound Taylor is accused of choking his victim in the Athens case. According to Tuscaloosa police, Taylor’s 24-year-old female victim had “minor injuries to her neck from the assault” this past Saturday.
That has put Alabama, which went to great lengths to defend Taylor’s admission, at considerable legal risk. Taylor was dismissed by the Crimson Tide on Sunday, and it’s likely the university will take similar steps this week.
In the end, will it come to a threat of litigation? There are plenty of reasons in this day and age to think it never will – everything from local hostility (think how the FSU community reacted to the Winston matter) to taking care of business behind the scenes – but if she elects to pursue the school to hold it accountable for its poor judgment, and people like Saban and Battle face a future where both are forced to answer questions under oath in a deposition setting, trotting out the old standby “let’s move on” won’t cut it.
Which, ultimately, is why it’ll never come to pass. Infallibility sometimes has to be enabled. And if there’s one resource Alabama has plenty of, it’s enablers. Meanwhile, I guess we’ll wait for Geno Smith’s inevitable return to good graces and the starting lineup.