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ESPN’s All-access Alabama documentary: Recruiting coup or distraction?

The network will have unprecedented access to the Crimson Tide program this fall.

NCAA Football: SEC Football Media Day Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The evolution of Nick Saban has been one of the more interesting storylines to follow over the past several seasons. From the use of a HUNH offense to recruiting lighter defensive linemen and hybrid defensive backs to playing more freshmen, the legendary coach has shown a willingness to adapt and stay ahead of the curve. Most recently, he realized that some of the younger coaching staffs were doing a better job of connecting with prospects through media. His response? Hire some big personalities at the assistant level who had experience with those platforms, get the affable Scott Cochran on Twitter, and rankle LeBron’s feathers with a well done barbershop series featuring many of the wealthy young men who received their job training in the hot Tuscaloosa summers.

This latest revelation, however, may just take the cake. He has agreed to allow ESPN inside access to the program, as they prepare for the season opener, for a series that sounds somewhat similar to HBO’s Hard Knocks.


The show promises to go inside closed-door meetings and all preparations for the season opening Sept. 1 against Louisville in Orlando. Nick Saban and other coaches will be mic’d up during the workouts, according to the release.

”Alabama football is one of the premier programs in all of sports,” said ESPN vice president of production Lee Fitting. “The intrigue behind their championship-filled decade and the fans’ appetite for unique access continues to escalate. This series will provide a unique perspective of the Crimson Tide as they build upon a foundation for what they hope is another championship campaign. We appreciate Coach Nick Saban and the entire Alabama operation for allowing us inside their walls over the next month.”

Remember that this is a coach who, as far as we know, still won’t allow assistant coaches to speak to the media until bowl season. He typically hates what he calls “clutter,” and the type of praise that will likely be heaped on the players during such a production will be more of the “rat poison” that he has to keep the players away from. Saban clearly sees this as another opportunity to stay ahead of the recruiting game, and believes that those rewards outweigh any risk of distraction.

The show is called “Training Days: Rolling with the Tide” and will air on ESPN2 four consecutive Wednesdays: August 9, 15, and 22 at 6pm CT then the finale on August 29 on 9pm CT.

We know you’ll be watching, but what do you think about the concept?