In the end, there was no need for added security when Alabama coach Nick Saban visited Athens, Tennessee for a speaking engagement last night. More seats, more water and more Gatorade, on the other hand, would have been handy.
After about a hundred complaints from Volunteer fans, the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce’s benefit dinner was so packed that the line of fans stretched more than a city block a full hour before Saban grabbed the mic under large tent.
Fans from Alabama, Georgia and, of course, Tennessee were in attendance and a smattering of Vol supporters — in the words of The Knoxville News Sentinel’s Evan Woodberry — “mingled comfortably with the hordes in crimson.” According to Andrew Gribble of The Birmingham News, 900 of the 1,500 tickets sold were snapped up by out-of-state residents with one group traveling all the way from Michigan to hear Saban speak.
Among the coach’s comments on the night:
* “I don’t really know that much about Butch (Jones), but I have a lot of respect for him. He’s had success everywhere he’s been. I’ve got a lot of respect for the University of Tennessee.”
* “I’m not going to talk a lot about football. I’m going to talk about how you win. There’s no way you can be a good leader if you’re not willing to serve other people.”
* “Mediocre people don’t like high-achievers and high-achievers don’t like mediocre people. I know I’m old fashioned, but I believe it, it works for me, and that’s why I have success.”
* “We’ve been up here several times and we do some things for people. This is not about Tennessee. This is not about Alabama. It’s about what we do for people. We try to support charities and we’re here to support the chamber today.”
* “This is a lot like the town I grew up in, filled with a lot of people with down-to-earth values. A lot of great people just like you in that town kept me on the straight and narrow. And you’re doing that for somebody right now, even if you don’t know it.”
The Chattanooga Times Free Press also filed a report on Saban’s speech. Fifteen-hundred people, busloads from far off states, and multiple newspapers and television stations covering the event. That’s a pretty good tent revival by anybody’s definition.