Saban opens up at media day; ND’s pair of 5s

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MIAMI (AP) - 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.”

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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.”

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