President Donald Trump long ago took a side in the Republican primary for this year’s U.S. Senate race in Alabama: former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, who’s facing former Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s first attorney general, in a runoff election Tuesday.
Trump was doing some last-minute campaigning for Tuberville on Monday, and he either made more fans among those of the Plains persuasion, or he made enemies among those on the Tide side — or both, let’s be honest — with something he said.
“Really successful coach,” Trump said, speaking of Tuberville. “Beat Alabama, like six in a row, but we won’t even mention that. As he said … because of that, maybe we got ‘em Lou Saban. … And he’s great, Lou Saban, what a great job he’s done.”
Trump was right on the winning streak: Tuberville’s Tigers won six Iron Bowls in a row from 2002-07 and seven out of nine overall dating to 1999.
The Saban part, on the other hand . . .
First, though, a little-known fact: The full name of the current Tide football coach is Nicholas Lou Saban Jr. Saban has been in charge of the program since 2007, aka the beginning of the end of Tuberville’s Auburn tenure. A 36-0 Tide victory in 2008 ended the streak, and Tuberville resigned less than a week later following a 5-7 season.
Now, is Trump a college football savant who knows coaches’ middle names? Did his staff pass along that nugget to troll Sessions and Tide fans? Or did 45 just get his names mixed up?
There’s a chance — a chance, now — he made a Freudian slip and referred to the late Lou Saban, whose coaching career spanned from 1950 to 2002. That Saban coached in the NFL, two AFLs (American and Arena), multiple NCAA divisions, the NAIA and high school. He even had a run as an MLB executive with the Yankees.
He also became known for this legendary mic’d-up moment:
Because the Sabans (who may or may not have been second cousins, according to Lou Saban’s widow — yes, it’s complicated) do share a name, there’s enough cover for Trump to say he meant to do that — especially if Tuberville wins Tuesday and goes on to defeat Democratic incumbent Doug Jones in the November general election, which will be held 25 days before the next Iron Bowl is supposed to be played.