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April 24, 2012

HURT: Draft should be another positive for UA

Nick Saban visited glittering Dallas on Tuesday night, a spring Crimson Caravan precursor to a September trip that will be the highlight of the opening weekend of the college football season. And he also spoke, both in Dallas and on Tuesday's SEC teleconference, of a plan that might keep such games viable in the future.

"We've always been in favor of games like this," Saban said when asked about the season opener against Michigan, to be played in the Dallas Cowboys' stadium.

However, the hot topic of the day, or at least one of the hot topics, is postseason play - and whether it would impact the current bowl system and, possibly, a team's willingness to play tough non conference opposition during the regular season that might affect a team's chances to be selected for a national title playoff.

"On the outside looking in, I have always thought that keeping the bowl system healthy was probably the best thing for college football," Saban said.

That doesn't mean that the University of Alabama coach is against change.

He has been a long-time advocate of a plus-one playoff system, within the bowl framework. He also says that he would like to continue playing games like Clemson, Virginia Tech and Michigan within those parameters.

It is hard to see precisely how Saban is on "the outside" of BCS issues, having had more success under the current system than any other coach, with three titles already to his credit.

His opinion - one he shares with most other college coaches, as far as the bowl system is concerned - has to carry weight. Whether a plus-one system would help Alabama, which has done just fine without it, is less of an issue than what is best for the game so far, and most people now seem to agree that a plus-one - and the continued survival of interest-building early games like Alabama-Michigan - is best.

Of course, not all the conversation in Dallas was about college football. The city is, and will always be, an NFL town first. With lots of speculation that the Cowboys, looking for secondary help, might turn to Alabama for Thursday night's first-round draft choice, Saban gave a strong endorsement to Mark Barron.

"He's got the right stuff to be a special player for a long time, believe me," Saban said, adding on the SEC teleconference that Barron "had made himself about $10 or $15 million by coming back to school, plus he graduated.

"He has great range on the back end and he's smart. He ran our entire secondary last year."

The Crimson Tide coach also talked glowingly of Alabama's four other potential first-rounders, a national advertisement for the Alabama program beyond any purchase price. However, even Saban said there comes a point where enough draft information is enough.

"I don't see how anybody drafts anybody any more," Saban said in an interview on Dallas radio. "I mean, Trent Richardson is as fine a person - not a player, a person - as anyone you'd ever want to meet, and I get a call from a team the other day saying they heard Trent used to hang around with the wrong people. I mean, where in the heck does that come from?"

Despite that, Thursday's draft, just like the trip to Dallas, figures to be another stellar day of publicity for the Crimson Tide.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.

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