Alabama football: Scott Cochran was the Tide's heart and soul. But does his loss matter?
“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Even if you’ve never been to an Alabama football game in the past decade, likely you know who Scott Cochran is.
Arguably the second most-visible person associated with the Crimson Tide football program, Cochran might also be the only college football strength coach in history to get his own 60 Minutes segment.
Or maybe you’ve seen him shilling Regions Bank…
And if you’ve actually been around the Alabama football team during a practice, well …
Cochran is leaving the Crimson Tide after 13 wildly successful seasons as the architect of Alabama’s strength and conditioning program. In many ways, Cochran is the heart and soul of the football dynasty that has rewritten record books and stocked trophy cases to bursting in Tuscaloosa.
Where is Cochran going? The NFL, perhaps?
Cochran will join Kirby Smart’s staff at Georgia as special teams coordinator, it was announced Monday evening. Smart, a close friend of Cochran, tried to hire Cochran when he became the head coach at Georgia in December 2015.
Which means that, for the first time since putting together his original Alabama staff in 2007, Saban will have to find a new strength and conditioning coach.
Big deal, you say. Harumph. Anyone can yell and burst blood vessels and motivate the top 1 percent of college football’s elite to push around some dumbbells.
That ignorance is bliss in most instances, but in this one … well, it will cost you. Because Cochran, like many strength coaches in big-time college football, is perhaps closer to the players than their position coaches — and certainly their oft-Napoleonic head coach.
Cochran was all that for Alabama. He was the voice in players’ ears when they needed to push harder, give one more rep, throw up 20 more pounds when their muscles seemingly couldn’t take any more.
If it is true that football games are won in the offseason, then the work Cochran and the Alabama strength staff did for 13 seasons won more games than any other single coach named Saban or otherwise.
Not only did Cochran do all that for the Tide, he was the guiding force and beneficiary of Alabama dragging itself out of the weight-room dark ages and into utopia. Check this out …
That’s Alabama’s latest football weight room. In reality, it is like Disney World for muscleheads or pit lane in Daytona for gearheads. This Palace of Pump is where everyone from 350-pound offensive linemen to 150-pound kickers were directed to craft and refine their body to the peak of performance.
This was Cochran’s playground. But it wasn’t always such. This space, not too terribly long ago, was a dingy set of tennis courts — a drafty, dark place for the Crimson Tide tennis program to scurry to when the West Alabama rains often fell.
But as Alabama did the massive infrastructure work to raise Crimson Tide athletic facilities — not just football, but sports like tennis, too — to the level it needed to be, somewhere along the way it was determined that the work Cochran did in the former weight-room space inside the Mal Moore Athletic Complex was too good for the existing space and instead needed a 37,000-square-foot plyometric playground.
So it was built, and so “Built By Bama” became more than a catchphrase. It became a way of life.
Those 4 fingers Crimson Tide players hold up to start the last quarter of every game? That’s Cochran. No cellphones on the sideline? That’s Cochran. Built By Bama? That is Cochran.
And now it is headed to Athens, to be reunited with Smart and become a part of Georgia’s on-field coaching staff instead of the guy with the 120-db voice on gamedays.
For Saban’s part, his statement released Monday by Alabama wished Cochran nothing but the best … along with offering just a smidge of flex as well:
“We appreciate Scott’s contribution to our organization over the last 13 years,” Saban said.. “We can’t thank him enough for his service and dedication to our program and his commitment to our players. He is taking his career in a new direction, and we wish Scott, Cissy and the kids the best. As we do with every position that opens here, we will go out and hire the best person to lead our strength and conditioning program and help our players maximize the resources available in our new sports science facility.”
New sports science facility?
Just as is the case with any assistant coaching hire, Saban will take all the time necessary to find the right fit to replace Cochran at Alabama. Guys with a unique motivational skill-set and who are allowed to spend way more time with players during “offseason” time like Cochran don’t grow on trees. Knowing Saban, too, there is probably a short list of potential Cochran replacements just a short reach away.
Make no mistake, though, this is a shot straight across the bow of Starship Saban from young lieutenant Smart. Not wanting to become the SEC East’s version of Tommy Tuberville (or a 2nd coming of Mark Richt …), Smart is throwing a unique twist in “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” — by reaching into Alabama’s chest cavity and ripping out its heart and soul.
Because that’s what Scott Cochran is to the Crimson Tide. The heart and soul. Will he serve the same purpose in Athens? Who knows. But in Tuscaloosa, the departure sends Alabama one step closer to the cardiac intensive care unit than ever before.
Scott Cochran cover photo via Twitter @AlabamaFTBL