The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

October 11, 2012

Former Kent State teammates Saban, Pinkel meet

— TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Nick Saban will have a reunion of sorts from Kent State's 1972 Mid-American Conference championship team, since he couldn't make the first one.

The Alabama coach was a safety on that team 40 years ago, while Missouri's Gary Pinkel was the star tight end. They'll be opposing coaches for the first time Saturday in Columbia, Mo., instead of teammates and co-workers.

They share an alma mater, a mentor, Don James, and pretty impressive coaching track records. And James will be pulling only for a pristine game that shows the strong coaching he expects. Rooting for one ex-pupil would be too much like rooting against the other.

"It's like having two sons out there," James said.

Pinkel flew to Ohio for the real reunion before Kent State's Thursday night opener in August. Saban couldn't make it since that's when he hosts his weekly radio show and Alabama happened to have a big game against Michigan two days later in Texas.

Now, they're Southeastern Conference rivals since Missouri joined the league — much to the chagrin of James.

"I like them both and cheer for them both," said James, who might have to record this one to see Washington play. "I wish that Gary hadn't gone into the Southeastern Conference.

"He can recruit and he can coach, so he'll be all right."

Pinkel is getting a rough indoctrination to the league that Saban and the Tide (5-0, 2-0 SEC) have been presiding over with two national titles in the past three seasons and a shot at No. 3. The Tigers (3-3, 0-3) are still seeking their first SEC win.

The two coaches speak fondly of one another personally and professionally, but Pinkel said they didn't hang out during their college days.

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