It’s incredible what can be subjected to quantitative data analysis if someone is committed enough and has enough time. The latest thing is an in-depth analysis from AL.com reporter Matt Stahl of how much Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban has smiled during all of his preseason press conferences over the past six seasons.
Remember the talk about whether Nick Saban smiling more means anything for Alabama?
I watched every Saban camp press conference since 2017 with a stopwatch, counting smiles to see if they correlate with the year’s success.
Here’s my lab report ⬇️⬇️⬇️https://t.co/OgiEbsTbLJ
— Matt Stahl (@mattstahl97) August 30, 2023
The notable conclusions there? Saban “has spent 3.42% of his total preseason press conference time smiling in 2023. That’s more than double the percentage of any year from 2017 onward.” The lowest percentage in the sample was in 2020, when “Saban smiled just two times that year, for a total of 28.74 seconds, 0.43% of the total press conference time and 0.25 smiles per availability.” (However, that comes with the caveat that many of those pressers were done over video calls due to COVID-19.)
Is there actually anything notable here? Well, Stahl concluded that “there’s little discernible correlation between Saban’s preseason camp smiles and the eventual success of his Alabama teams,” with the Tide winning titles in both 2020 (Saban’s least-smiley preseason year) and 2017 (his second-most smiley preseason year).
But this is interesting for seeing at least part of Saban’s mood in the preseason in each of these seasons, especially when we’re now again having conversations about Saban’s interactions with the media.
This is a thorough and impressive analysis from Stahl, and it’s nice to have actual data on Saban’s smiling rather than just anecdotal observations that he’s “smiling more.”