Saban's scheduled Tennessee appearance causes stir

Alabama coach Nick Saban speaks during an NCAA spring college football news conference, Saturday, April 13, 2013, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.  (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt) MAGS OUT

Alabama coach Nick Saban speaks during an NCAA spring college football news conference, Saturday, April 13, 2013, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt) MAGS OUT

Alabama coach Nick Saban's planned appearance at a benefit event Tuesday in Tennessee shows the Crimson Tide-Volunteers rivalry is alive and well, even if it's been one-sided lately.

Saban's speech at the seventh annual Athens Area Chamber of Commerce benefit dinner is expected to attract a sellout crowd of 1,500, the largest in the event's history. Rob Preston, the Chamber of Commerce president, calls it a boon for the local economy and notes that "probably 90 percent" of the ticket buyers are from outside McMinn County.

But the decision to invite Saban to an event less than 60 miles south of the University of Tennessee's campus has caused hard feelings in some quarters. Saban's Alabama team has won three of the last four national titles and has beaten the Vols six straight times by an average of 23.2 points.

Preston said his office had received more than 100 complaints about the Saban appearance over the last several months. Security has been beefed up for the event as a precaution, he said.

"We've gotten emails," Preston said. "We've gotten phone calls. Most of the phone calls happen at 2 o'clock in the morning or when we're not here. They leave it on the machine."

Preston, who considers himself a Tennessee fan, said the chamber hardly received any negative feedback when another rival coach — South Carolina's Steve Spurrier — spoke at its first benefit dinner.

"We certainly did not do this to get people upset," Preston said. "Some people say this is a combined effort to help Alabama's recruiting. I know to you that sounds ridiculous — and it is very ridiculous — but (some) people think that's what this is about."

Even with all the commotion, Preston said he never had any second thoughts about inviting Saban. Preston didn't say how much the chamber was paying for Saban's appearance but noted that the coach was donating the entire amount to Nick's Kids Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting children, family, teacher and student causes.

Preston said people have bought $50 tickets from as far away as Florida and North Carolina. The previous record holder was actor Kirk Cameron, whose appearance sold just over 1,200 tickets.

"The positives have far outweighed the negatives," Preston said. "This is by far the biggest event that we'll probably ever have. To bring a coach the caliber of Nick Saban to our little town is just a great thing. What it's going to do for our local economy, it's a great thing."

Other previous speakers at the event have included actor Lou Ferrigno, former Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl and retired baseball player Pete Rose.

Last year, ex-Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer spoke with former wide receiver Peerless Price and linebacker Al Wilson in a salute to the Volunteers' 1998 national championship team.

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Comments » 56

tomatosoup writes:

Man…can’t Saban just leave us alone? I admit hands-down that he is one heck of a coach/recruiter/etc….but seriously, is he trying to start trouble? Anyway, he just may regret any negative comments he says about UT. Gooooo Vooooools!!!

td writes:

Very Simple Response. It's the Athens Chamber of Commerce. Boycott Athens businesses! Let 'em rely on the people who support that jelly company.

atlkevin writes:

Is it really a "rivalry" if one team is really good, and the other is consistently terrible?

It's not a rivalry. It's envy. There's a big difference.

jakethevolguy writes:

How about it Witchy, ya think you can work up some ju ju for this event?

vol1994 writes:

Only way to put it all to rest is to beat Saban and his Bama team.
The most realistic chance to defeat the Tide will be in 2015, as the game will be @ Neylad and Butch's 2014' class will be soph.
But that is why they play the game so I hope it will be sooner.

I graduated from UT in 94 and never saw us beat Bama, so that rivalry is still #1 in my book, w/ Florida #2.

GOJO writes:

Athens has been on my list of stops for overnight stays & dining when I was working in or near the area. No more.
The Athens Area Chamber of Commerce just blew it for me.
I'm sure they will do nicely without my business.

Snapshot writes:

in response to atlkevin:

Is it really a "rivalry" if one team is really good, and the other is consistently terrible?

It's not a rivalry. It's envy. There's a big difference.

Consistently terrible, what are you like five years old? That must be the extent of your memory.

marnel1958 writes:

It is really very simple . . . It is the Athens CoC's right to invite whomever they want to speak at their function and raise whatever amount it will raise. By the same token, it is every Vol fan's right to never support any Athens CoC member's business. No Biggie !!

A_Voice_ofReason writes:

Who cares. I don't like it either...there is a billboard right outside of my business, and I even take a different route to work now so I don't have to look at it. But, after hearing CBJ's comments (or lack thereof) I'm taking the high road too.

This is Tennessee. If Athens wants to throw out cash so Nickey can come speak, good for them. Can't argue about how good Saban is as a coach, just need to field a product that makes Saban coming to TN insignificant.

GV.

cobragolfer writes:

You people need to realize that you are finally going to have a "winning" coach in this state... in Athens... if just for one night!! Boycott Athens all you like... there's nothing there to boycott anyway. It's just a spot in the road between Knoxville and Chattanooga.

ctwins writes:

in response to marnel1958:

It is really very simple . . . It is the Athens CoC's right to invite whomever they want to speak at their function and raise whatever amount it will raise. By the same token, it is every Vol fan's right to never support any Athens CoC member's business. No Biggie !!

I guess after last year and 300 people buying tickets to hear Coach Foolmer the ACoC decided to find someone that could pay the bills so to speak. Where were all those passionate rocky floppers last year? I could care less who speaks in Alabama... but then again after losing 3 straight by 31 pts and 6 in a row by an average of 24 pts probably is a little irritating. The Vol
talk radio/internet covers Alabama/CNS like no other,
a little embarrassing really. Find something else to fixate on.

atlkevin writes:

in response to Snapshot:

Consistently terrible, what are you like five years old? That must be the extent of your memory.

You're right. How could I forget 2001-- the one year we had a good team? Shame on me. I'm a bad Vol.

And you're delusional.

marnel1958 writes:

in response to ctwins:

I guess after last year and 300 people buying tickets to hear Coach Foolmer the ACoC decided to find someone that could pay the bills so to speak. Where were all those passionate rocky floppers last year? I could care less who speaks in Alabama... but then again after losing 3 straight by 31 pts and 6 in a row by an average of 24 pts probably is a little irritating. The Vol
talk radio/internet covers Alabama/CNS like no other,
a little embarrassing really. Find something else to fixate on.

When you say " I could care less " you are saying it is important. Maybe you meant " Couldn't care less " who knows? I simply stated the obvious about anyones right to do whatever . . . you seem to be pretty emotional about the whole thing with your statistics at the ready. Me fixate??? You are a piece of work, little boy!

leajacks writes:

It strikes me as funny that all Saban has to do is make a public appearance in our State and so many people go ballistic. He's just a man. No more special than you or I. Albeit, a darn good football coach....but just a man. Apparently it was a good call on the Chamber's part to invite him. It's raising more money than Fulmer brought in for them and I'm sure more money than Jones ever would. Support your football team, but don't take it out on the city of Athens for wanting to have a successful event.

62vol writes:

in response to atlkevin:

Is it really a "rivalry" if one team is really good, and the other is consistently terrible?

It's not a rivalry. It's envy. There's a big difference.

You have quickly forgotten that we outplayed them a few years ago and missed getting a win due to a botched field goal. Yes, it is a rivalry that goes back a hundred years or more. That is why it is a rivalry. UT has won their share. Bear/Alabama never beat Neyland.

keepitreal4vols writes:

Next year, maybe they can book Derek Dooley to just stand against a wall and sell $50 tomatoes for throwing.

NovemberNed writes:

Who cares? This is an opportunity to go hear a 4-time national championship head coach give a motivational talk about life. That's all it is. Because they were able to get this generation's best football coach to speak, you people want to boycott their town? Come on!

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to tomatosoup:

Man…can’t Saban just leave us alone? I admit hands-down that he is one heck of a coach/recruiter/etc….but seriously, is he trying to start trouble? Anyway, he just may regret any negative comments he says about UT. Gooooo Vooooools!!!

Saban will certainly say things catering to the Bama fans who will surely make up a big portion of the audience, but I seriously doubt he's going to say anything negative about UT there. I'm betting he'll say good things about CBJ and the direction he's taking the program -- if he says anything at all. Kiffin and Spurrier are known for giving other teams bulletin board material, not Saban. He doesn't have to.

murrayvol writes:

in response to tomatosoup:

Man…can’t Saban just leave us alone? I admit hands-down that he is one heck of a coach/recruiter/etc….but seriously, is he trying to start trouble? Anyway, he just may regret any negative comments he says about UT. Gooooo Vooooools!!!

I can assure you he will make zero negative comments about UT.

murrayvol writes:

in response to jakethevolguy:

How about it Witchy, ya think you can work up some ju ju for this event?

Saban's like the "tar baby". Not even the WITCH_DOCTOR would take that chance.

jjk writes:

This is the biggest who gives a (expletive) story out there. Saban is speaking in Athens, so what? I'm no Bama fan, but he is an excellent coach and a good motivator. That's what this should be about, not a conspiracy to recruit. People are so ridiculous nowadays. It's not like the Vols are going to be beating Bama anytime soon.

tensie2004 writes:

in response to GOJO:

Athens has been on my list of stops for overnight stays & dining when I was working in or near the area. No more.
The Athens Area Chamber of Commerce just blew it for me.
I'm sure they will do nicely without my business.

I drive through Athens between 5 to 6 times a year. I stop sometimes and get something to eat and buy gas. NEVER AGAIN. Will totally boycott all Athens businesses in the future. Also will bet that more than half of the people that attend this function will be Bama fans. Way to promote the enemy Athens Chamber of Commerce, hope you are proud of yourself.

ROADFOREMAN_KNOWS_ALL writes:

I think it's a cool idea.

bernie writes:

This is a benefit event--not a football game. What is the big deal?

tovolny writes:

Let the man speak..what's it going to hurt? This is not the same as what Bear Bryant used to do by going to barber shops in Tennessee towns that had a good prospect. I have been told by a reliable ex-Bama employee that Bear got a haircut somewhere in Tennessee each week. They still strip away players like E.J. Junior and Dante Hightower and a slew of others.

BUT, LET THE MAN SPEAK...then we can critique it afterwards. I doubt seriously what he says will help or abate anybodies' recruiting.

Teresa writes:

90% of tickets were bought outside McMinn Co. Just like we knew - Bama fans. A lot of good they'll do the economy of their county after this event is over. The long-term harm of Vol fans refusing to stay in Athens for home games (to get a head start down I-75 to head home) won't be worth it, Mr. Preston.

Also, why are we having another article about this repeating the stuff from months ago? Extra security, lol. Maybe to protect Nick from the Bama worshipers. Read the article on him for the NYT last year and you can see just how ridiculous this Saban love is. Not that he's not a great coach, but this stuff is beyond stupid. I actually felt sorry for him. He is stalked constantly by those fans.

tfortennessee writes:

Really, does any Vol fan care what Nick Sabin is doing? I couldn't care less. He is a great coach, has done a wonderful job at Bama, and has set the standard high for UT to strive. To be the best, you must beat the best and right now Bama is the best. For that I think him and wish him well, until the Vols come to town! GBO

barefoot43 writes:

in response to vol1994:

Only way to put it all to rest is to beat Saban and his Bama team.
The most realistic chance to defeat the Tide will be in 2015, as the game will be @ Neylad and Butch's 2014' class will be soph.
But that is why they play the game so I hope it will be sooner.

I graduated from UT in 94 and never saw us beat Bama, so that rivalry is still #1 in my book, w/ Florida #2.

Pretty sure that we play at Tuscaloosa in 2015. That may still be the year to change the direction, I sure hope it is. I am choosing to sit back and see what happens with new quarterbacks and new offense. But what I am really waiting for is some speed on defense.

I was always told that offense sells tickets and defense wins games. That is what happened in 98 and that is how Alabubba has consistently won championships as well as LSU. For all the glitz that Oregon has, they lose the big one because defense stops their offense.

MetroplexMojo writes:

in response to bernie:

This is a benefit event--not a football game. What is the big deal?

I agree..not a big deal. He's going to walk up to the podium, climb the stepladder, stand on the two phone books placed there and give the same canned leadership speech that he has delivered dozens of times before.

SevenT writes:

This is hilarious....Alabama's head coach comes to town and they have a record sellout because Saban is the best.

I wonder if Coach Jones could get 10 people to come hear him speak in Alabama? I seriously doubt it.

Just Saying

lomas98 writes:

The funniest part is Kirk Cameron is the biggest draw over pearl, fulmer, al Wilson, peerless, pete rose, and the Incredible Hulk. Really?

ACWLY writes:

The Event will include Alabama fans from all around the area, Preston and probably John Adams and that totals 1,500 Alabama fans... Hey, I wonder if John Adams will be wearing his CRIMSON Tee Shirt like the one he wore when we were playing Alabama at the SEC Basketball tournament? Athens residents should be ashamed.

usafvol writes:

in response to SevenT:

This is hilarious....Alabama's head coach comes to town and they have a record sellout because Saban is the best.

I wonder if Coach Jones could get 10 people to come hear him speak in Alabama? I seriously doubt it.

Just Saying

Are you really as ignorant as you appear or is it an act? Really, tell the truth!

dvols writes:

I don't understand why TN fans is soo upset...should be the Georgia fans upset that ole Saban is in Athens.......

sluuuurpppp.........

CoverOrange writes:

Who?
Big deal.

snafu14u#241639 writes:

You all are missing the whole point. It's about $$$$ for the kids...the charity. Boycotts are small minded and mean spirited. All this over a football coach. If I was charged with the same responsibility of raising as much $$$$ as I could for children I'd do it in a heart beat, shake Saban's hand, thank him for coming, count the $$$$ and brighten some kid's lives. You folks ought to get over the pettiness and think about the kids from both states. Go Vols. Bonzai Vol.

Snapshot writes:

in response to atlkevin:

You're right. How could I forget 2001-- the one year we had a good team? Shame on me. I'm a bad Vol.

And you're delusional.

I don't think you are a bad Vol, I don't think you are a Vol at all!
2001? What about playing for the SEC Champ. in 2007?

Delusional? No I am firmed rooted in reality. Check it out sometime, you might like it. And brush up on the Vols history next time before making such ignorant statements.

Teresa writes:

in response to snafu14u#241639:

You all are missing the whole point. It's about $$$$ for the kids...the charity. Boycotts are small minded and mean spirited. All this over a football coach. If I was charged with the same responsibility of raising as much $$$$ as I could for children I'd do it in a heart beat, shake Saban's hand, thank him for coming, count the $$$$ and brighten some kid's lives. You folks ought to get over the pettiness and think about the kids from both states. Go Vols. Bonzai Vol.

I have no problem with the charity for the kids. I think it's great he has this charity and donates his speaking fees to it. Boycotts after the fact won't cost the charity one penny. It's the Athens' businesses that it will cost and is why some aren't that happy Mr. Preston did this.

Can't you all understand it's Bama fans going? It's a cheap and sometimes only way they can see their God of Coaches speak. I don't mean to demean him, he is a great coach, no doubt. Their fans worship him is what is silly. This is an event for THEM, not Athens' residents.

wayne.kearney#1414428 writes:

Saban is a very good speaker. He is not coming to Athens to stir up anything. Besides if their was any players in this area that he wanted he would get them

tarter_sauce writes:

why would anyone complain ,it's for charity . i just hope the Oak Tree population doesn't suffer.

gc_scvol writes:

in response to wayne.kearney#1414428:

Saban is a very good speaker. He is not coming to Athens to stir up anything. Besides if their was any players in this area that he wanted he would get them

JALEN HURD

vut5686#1405392 writes:

Many reactions are so sad. Are we so paranoid and lack confidence to the point we raise all these negative howls over a football coach steping foot in our state?

First, he comes because he was invited. He happens to be a multiple NC coach. He is worth listening to. Equal protest would probably be offered if the POTUS, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Al Sharpton or Russia's Putin showed up. In all cases, were they to be speaking, we should welcome the fact they choose to come and listen up: might learn something, whether we agreed with their philosophy...or not. When Saban, or, hypothetically, any of the others celebraties leave town, Athens is still Athens, Tennessee is still a state and the Vols are half-way to having a fine recruiting class for 2014.

Saban's little talk to the C o C in one of our many counties will not matter a lick of spit to what happens in October. There is not one valid point to all this protest. Must have been caused by a KNS poll.

brokebackvol writes:

in response to atlkevin:

Is it really a "rivalry" if one team is really good, and the other is consistently terrible?

It's not a rivalry. It's envy. There's a big difference.

Actually Kevin, if you look at the big picture with this rivalry over the years, it's been very "streaky." Don't be surprised when the Vols break the streak and start one.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to jakethevolguy:

How about it Witchy, ya think you can work up some ju ju for this event?

Witch Doctor say everyone attending needs to stare at his hair...Witch Doctor hear from a pretty good source he pretty touchy in the beauty salon he patronizes in Bamaville. lol
Bones never lie.
*besides Witch Doctors strongest Voodoo not as strong as Sabans hair gel.

jcm1983 writes:

in response to tensie2004:

I drive through Athens between 5 to 6 times a year. I stop sometimes and get something to eat and buy gas. NEVER AGAIN. Will totally boycott all Athens businesses in the future. Also will bet that more than half of the people that attend this function will be Bama fans. Way to promote the enemy Athens Chamber of Commerce, hope you are proud of yourself.

You people are crazy. Saban is not coming her to recruit, he is coming to give a motivational speech. The money he makes from his speaking fee is going to his charity and the money from the ticket sales is going to the city of Athens. How is this bad enough to justify a boycott of an entire city? He spoke in Nashville, Chattanooga and Memphis earlier this year too. So, while you are at it, you might as well boycott those cities as well. If you want to boycott them because you feel as if it is a recruiting ploy, you might as well boycott Knoxville too, because Saban and Alabama winning in Neyland Stadium the past few times has more to do with him recruiting Tennessee kids than him giving some motivational speech in Athens. How petty can you really be?

Moesart writes:

Grow up, people. Stop whining like a bunch of pansies.

Kay_Pasa writes:

Amen JCM1983!!! This is soooo not worth the spike in y'all's blood pressures.

murrayvol writes:

in response to brokebackvol:

Actually Kevin, if you look at the big picture with this rivalry over the years, it's been very "streaky." Don't be surprised when the Vols break the streak and start one.

That'll happen when Saban leaves.

Replacing Nick will be infinitely harder than replacing Bryant. The Bamians may never get over this one.

SeaBassHauling writes:

You can all take and look at your own views as you like.....BUT....You either know something about football/Recruiting or you Don't !!! They took down the billboard near Athens And NOW there is one at the xt.350 in GEORGIA !!! If you don't know where this is....just think about it !!!.....I75 north bound 5 miles from the Tennessee line hear outside of Chattanooga.....All the recruits coming up out of the south including Ga.,fl.,Al. Coming north sees this sign with SAban and the NC trophy.....Plllllzzzzzz people this a problem like it or NOT !!! It's all about what you leave in these kids minds on there trips !!! PERIOD !!! Soooooo if you don't still get then shut up cause you don't understand football period....Because if you don't get these recruits then you don't win these games that you speak of...to not have this problem in the first place....

antonio14313 writes:

is any UT coach allowed to go to tuscaloosa to speak?? if not, then CLOSE THE BORDER!!! no ifs, ands, or buts about it. go vols.

t

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