Nick Saban was highly complimentary of his new Iron Bowl rival, Auburn football head coach Hugh Freeze, during SEC Media Days 2023 in Nashville on July 19 — telling reporters that the new lead voice of the Tigers locker room has a history that “speaks for itself.”
“I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for Hugh Freeze,” Saban said (h/t 247Sports’ Brandon Marcello). “I’m sure he’ll do a very good job at Auburn. … His history as a coach sorta speaks for itself. He’s a good recruiter, they had really good players at Ole Miss. I’m sure he’ll do the same things (at AU)”
Of course, Saban’s quote is one that could easily be dissected as one potentially referencing the history of Freeze that the media talks about — mainly the reason why he was removed from Ole Miss and why he had to take several years off from coaching before accepting a Group of Five job — if you dive down the rabbit hole deep enough. This isn’t the first time this year that Saban’s words were open to being misconstrued and taken as a swipe…
Nick Saban swiped at Alabama basketball’s Nate Oats before taking aim at Auburn football HC Hugh Freeze
We don’t even know if Saban was referencing any of the controversies the Auburn football head coach ever experienced in the past with his comments, but it’s a near-certainty that he was referencing Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats earlier this year when speaking on Tony Mitchell’s suspension.
“Tony Mitchell has been suspended from the team and all team activities until we get more information about the situation and what his legal circumstance is,” Saban said at a news conference after the team’s first spring practice (h/t Yellowhammer News). “Everybody’s got an opportunity to make choices and decisions. There’s no such thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You’ve got to be responsible for who you’re with, who you’re around and what you do, and who you associate with and the situations you put yourself in.” This was roughly a month after Oats used similar phrasing to describe Brandon Miller’s involvement in an incident that resulted in the death of a Birmingham woman in Tuscaloosa.
“Can’t control everything anybody does outside of practice,” Oats prefaced before saying, “Nobody knew that was going to happen. College kids are out, Brandon hasn’t been in any type of trouble nor is he in any type of trouble in this case. Wrong spot at the wrong time.”
Saban will never catch any flak for making these cryptic comments because of what he has done on the field at Alabama. And it’s questionable if he even deserves any since he may have been referring to Freeze’s on-field success and not what black-balled the Auburn football head coach from the SEC for six seasons.