TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It's been a rough three weeks for the Alabama football team, but coach Nick Saban doesn't like the notion that it could provide extra motivation for the 2011 season.
The season might provide a welcome distraction, though.
"I think they're two different things and I think we should look at them that way," he said. "The season will be a lot of fun, and it will be an escape for a lot of people who have had a lot of heartbreak, through what they've been through with this storm, but we'll still be supporting, rebuilding and trying to help those who need it."
Saban made the comments during the special radio broadcast of "Hey Coach Helping Out," from Bryant-Denny Stadium on Monday. The fundraiser asked Crimson Tide fans to donate to UA's Acts of Kindness Fund and other organizations involved in relief following the April 27 tornado.
It came a night after Saban, more than 30 players and several other Alabama coaches and school officials attended the memorial service for junior tackle Aaron Douglas at Cokesbury United Methodist Church's Epworth Hall in Knoxville, Tenn. The 21-year-old was found dead last Thursday morning in Fernandina Beach, Fla., where authorities are still investigating the cause of death.
"We've never, ever lost a player the whole time I've been coaching," Saban said. "When you lose your parents you're an orphan. When your husband dies you're a widow, or your wife dies you're a widower. There's no word when your child dies."
Although the football team was essentially given May off, and most players have headed home before the start of summer workouts, more than 30 drove up for the service. Also in attendance were former Tennessee coaches Phillip Fulmer and John Majors, and numerous other former teammates as Douglas won a starting job as a freshman with the Volunteers before transferring to Arizona Western College.
"These things we're talking about are about people," Saban continued. "It has nothing to do with where you went to school or who you're rooting for, how much passion you have when the game starts. It has nothing to do with that, it's about people and doing the right thing to support people regardless.
"Having great rivalries, there's nothing wrong with that either, but this is a great opportunity to keep those in perspective and keep them on the field."
Others participating in the radio show were Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox, men's basketball coach Anthony Grant and gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson, who recently won her fifth national championship.
Cleanup from the storm is expected to take months, if not years, to complete.
"Everything makes a difference," athletic director Mal Moore said.