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Saban doesn't text.


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New Orleans

Nick Saban has done everything there is to do in college football. He has won four national titles, three at Alabama, which he has turned into a dynasty. A win here Thursday over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals would inch him closer to a fourth title in six years.

But there is still one thing that Saban can’t do, won’t do and, in fact, has never done.

“I do get text messages, and I do read them,” he said on Tuesday. “I just don’t know how to send them back.”

Saban, 63, also doesn’t bother with email. When he is able to escape for a weekend with his wife Terry, “she gets 387 emails,” he said. “She spends the next day answering 387 emails. I spend the next day hopefully doing something that’s more productive. If you don’t send any, you don’t get any.”

Don’t get him going on Google, either. “I don’t know what you would do,” he said last month. “I don’t do any of that stuff.”

For most, that “stuff” is a part of daily life. But this is a window into the world of Nick Saban, whose no-nonsense, all-business demeanor has become legend in college football.

Among people Saban’s age, 79% of baby boomers who own mobile phones are texters, according to the most recent Pew Research Center report in 2013. Even the few college coaches older than Saban text, including 75-year-old Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, their school spokesmen said.

It isn’t unheard of for an executive to swear off email. But what separates Saban from other big names in business is that his job requires him to communicate with 18-to-22-year-olds—and texting is their lingua franca.

“Coach Saban would probably be the one person in my life I don’t text-message,” Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones said.

Saban’s players stay in touch with each other and everyone else in their lives through texts. Alabama offensive lineman Austin Shepherd, like most college students, says he is on his phone all the time. He could hardly think of anyone other than Saban he doesn’t text. “Gosh—my grandma, maybe?” he said. “I think my grandma doesn’t.”

Teens sent an average of 60 texts a day in 2011, according to Pew. They talk through text messages more than any other medium. They text people in their daily lives more than they call, instant-message, email and even more than they socialize in person outside of school.

So it is a mystery to Ohio State players how Saban operates without texting, especially given Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer’s dependence on it. “I see him texting a lot,” said Ohio State linebacker Curtis Grant. “That’s kind of weird. I wonder why [saban] doesn’t.”

It is because Saban considers texting a waste of his time.

Saban speaks often about what he calls “the process”—an efficient, consistent approach to maximizing one’s potential. Accordingly, Saban chides his players for using—or, in his opinion, overusing—their phones. He values developing relationships and making the most of his busy schedule. “Coach Saban has figured out how to do anything he wants to figure out to do, and I think he sees texting as unnecessary,” said St. Louis Rams center Barrett Jones, a former All-America at Alabama. “He’s the most efficient person I’ve ever met. He probably views it as an inefficiency.”

The odd thing about Saban is that those who have played and coached for him say he is hardly a Luddite. He uses a computer, though only to watch film, and he was one of the first coaches to embrace Skype as a way of seeing recruits without leaving his office.

It turns out that his technophobia, like everything else about Saban, is a conscious strategy. Saban instead believes in the power of personal conversations and keeps an open-door policy for players to talk to him. “I don’t even know if I had Coach Saban’s cell number when I was in school,” said SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy, who won a national title as Alabama’s quarterback in 2010. “I knew where I could always find him.”

That hasn’t changed as young people have become more tethered to their phones. “I don’t think I’ve been on the phone with Coach Saban since I’ve been recruited,” said Jones, who is now a junior.

Saban’s peculiar philosophy has filtered down his coaching tree. Texting is inessential in football recruiting, since it has been banned since 2007. But new Florida coach Jim McElwain, who won two national titles as Alabama’s offensive coordinator under Saban, also considers texting overrated as a management tool. “If you can’t see someone face-to-face and look them in the eye, the next best thing is to call somebody and have a conversation,” he said. “It’s a lost art today.”

Some of Saban’s players have adopted his process, too. But one of them, 315-pound lineman Arie Kouandjio, copped to a different reason for not texting. “Big fingers,” he said.

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He has people that do that "stuff" for him. He does exactly what he wants to do and nothing else.

Most people are required to use email at work. I also text co-workers as another way to communicate while at work.

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He has people that do that "stuff" for him. He does exactly what he wants to do and nothing else.

Most people are required to use email at work. I also text co-workers as another way to communicate while at work.

It's Saban. He thinks it. His minions hear it. No need for slow comm methods such as texts and emails. Those are for mere mortals.

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meh.. i know plenty that dont.. my mom and dad (owns his own business for 30 years running now) have never used a text or email in their lives. they seem to be doing just fine. it's mostly the older crowd though and thats understandable.

Edited by bigman334
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