MIAMI — Nick Saban has a charity called Nick's Kids Fund.
He and his wife Terry have been running it for 14 years and it raises money for needy children. It's not named after the Alabama coach. It's named after his late father, the hardworking man and tough Pop Warner coach who made Saban what he is.
Saban, who isn't one to let his emotions show easily, opened up a bit while talking about his father during media day for the BCS championship. Saban's Crimson Tide play Notre Dame on Monday for the national title.
Saban grew up in rural West Virginia and started working by the time he was 11, "which I think is probably been the most critical thing in the development of the work ethic that I have," he said Saturday.
His father and mother, Mary, instilled in Saban the importance of respecting people and at times he was taught hard lessons.
"There was a bum that used to come to my Dad's service station early in the morning because he'd give him free coffee and doughnuts," Saban said. "We had had a tough game the night before, I don't remember whether it was basketball game, a football game or whatever. The guy was giving me a hard time and I sort of sassed him. I was 17 years old. I got the strap right on the spot.
"It was the right thing. I needed to learn a lesson. I was disrespectful to an older person, regardless of the situation."
Big Nick Saban started the Pop Warner football league in which is son played. Saban said his father bought a school bus to drive the kids around, picking them up from the coal mining towns where they lived and driving them home so they wouldn't have to hitchhike.
"He was a tough coach," Saban said. "He expected the best all the time. Probably instilled some of the perfectionist-type characteristics that I have in what I try to do. He had a high standard of excellence for what he expected from me. Discipline was a very important part of what you did."
Saban said that he, like many people, didn't really appreciate what his father was trying to teach him until he was an adult.
"Probably when I was a senior in college. That's probably when I realized it," he said. "And my first year of graduate school was when he passed away. I never really ever told him, which I regret."
Trick shot Monday
As media day was winding down, a half-dozen Notre Dame players gathered around the BCS trophy to recreate "Trick Shot Monday," a locker-room ritual back in South Bend where the players try to make outrageous shots into a paper cup filled with water, using a ping pong ball.
They bounced it off the football-shaped crystal. They ricocheted it off a piece of wood placed on the turf. Mike Golic Jr. even dropped to his knees, trying to knock it in with his forehead. Everyone failed until ESPN's Samantha Ponder stepped in to make a shot.
"We're proud to see her get her first win," Golic said, grinning. "It's something I know she'll cherish for the rest of her life."
Being a quarterback is always about making the right call at the right time.
That's why Alabama's AJ McCarron brought so many pairs of shoes — about 30 — to the BCS championship. Surely there's a penalty for going out in black sneakers and brown pants, right?
"Back at home, I've got a bunch of shoes. I've got at least 130 pair," McCarron said. "I brought like 30 here. At nighttime, I never know what I'm going to wear so I change and try to match. I've got a bunch of bow ties too. I don't even know.
"My mom does that whole thing."
McCarron typically wears a suit, bow tie and all, to games.
Tailback Eddie Lacy just shakes his head and points to the only pair of shoes — red and white sneakers — that he brought to Florida.
"That's all I need," he says, grinning. "I've only got two feet. I don't know what's up with him (McCarron) and his shoe fetish."
Wide receiver Kenny Bell says McCarron is just "playing catch-up" with him. Bell said he brings 40 pairs of shoes even on a weekend trip and left 100 more at home. "I'm a very big sneakerhead," he said.
More importantly for the game, Bell is being coy about his status for the game. He had surgery to repair a broken leg sustained against Auburn on Nov. 24, and was expected to be out 5-6 weeks.
His status for the game is uncertain.
"I don't know just like the world doesn't know," said Bell, one of the team's better deep threats.
A pair of 5's
Whether Notre Dame is on offense or defense, the leader of the Fighting Irish is number 5, quarterback Everett Golson or All-American linebacker Manti Te'o.
Te'o, a senior, explained that the reason he wears 5 is not for some former Irish great like Paul Hornung — who also had the number — but because, when Te'o was a young boy, he and his dad were in the car and his father asked him, "When you play football, what number would like?"
Being 5 years old, Te'o said "5."
For Golson, a redshirt freshman, the number is simply the one he wore all through high school.
So, coming to Notre Dame — a school where Te'o was already a star — did Golson ask for Te'o's permission to wear the same jersey?
"No," the normally forthcoming Te'o said Saturday, shaking his head.
Manti, you mean he just did it?
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and his All-American center, Barrett Jones, were sitting next to each other on separate podiums. But only McCarron's spot came with speakers, which made it a little tough for Jones to stay focused.
"Sorry, it's hard to concentrate when he's talking about me over there," Jones said. "The skill players get all the love. AJ got speakers, and I've got sit over here and listen to him."
Notre Dame freshman Gunner Kiel, from Columbus, Ind., was one of the most heralded quarterback recruits in the country last year. He had a hard time deciding where he wanted to go to school — to say the least.
First he verbally committed to Indiana. Then he de-committed. Then he verbally committed to LSU. Then at the last moment, he decided to go to Notre Dame.
As far as recruiting news goes, Kiel's indecision was big news and his choosing Notre Dame was considered a huge score for coach Brian Kelly.
"I think I put more pressure on myself because I overanalyzed a lot of things," Kiel said. "If I could do it all over again I would probably go back and enjoy the recruiting process and enjoy my senior year and enjoy the people around me and just have a fun with it instead of making it seem like a job. And putting so much stress, so much on myself it buried me.
"I wanted to please everyone. I wanted to make everyone happy. I also couldn't make up my mind either. That's why I committed so many places and de-committed to so many places."
Saban stars in NBA
Nick Saban is not tall.
By his own admission, not fast, either.
Yet somehow, he's found a way to be a successful pickup basketball player. Then again, it's easy to win at pickup ball when you can manipulate everything from rules to rosters.
In between recruiting season and spring-football season at Alabama, it's basketball season for Saban and his staff. Saban was asked at the BCS title game media day on Saturday what he does to stay in shape, and Saban revealed that he enjoys getting on the court.
With certain conditions, of course.
"I'm the commissioner of the league," Saban said. "It's a noontime basketball league, NBA. I pick the teams so I have the best players on my team. I also pick the guy that can guard me and there's only two guys in the whole organization who are shorter and slower that I would pick to guard me. And then I call the fouls. So if you call that working out, I guess that's my workout."
Saban, who checks in at around 5-foot-8, said he doesn't keep stats, and no, he doesn't break down those game films, either.
"No one would want to see that," Saban said.
Does Saban call fouls on himself? He said it happens — but only sometimes.