from the Times-Picayune: 02/13/02 By Dave Lagarde Staff writer/The Times-Picayune Good morning. It is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the rest of your Lent 2002. Since Louisiana is a predominantly Catholic state, its citizens know a little bit about the solemn season of fasting and penitence ahead. They understand personal sacrifices -- for 40 days (excluding Sundays) until Easter -- are expected. Traditionally, many give up drinking after the wretched excess of the long run from Thanksgiving through Christmas and New Year's to Fat Tuesday. Some go without sweets. A real Catholic couch potato will avert his eyes from all sports on television. Then there are the slackers who take the easy way out, avoiding Brussels sprouts and anchovies. Don't believe LSU coach Nick Saban, good Catholic guy that he is, fits in the latter category. So, Saban should get in the spirit and give up talking from both sides of his mouth. Just to see what it's like. Saban's sentences were running against the grain of previous actions last week after LSU signed a class of 26 recruits, judged to be among the best in the land. On one hand Saban apparently saw absolutely nothing wrong with the Tigers' signing of Cohen wide receiver Troy Hankton, who waffled on a commitment to Tulane to cast his lot with the reigning Southeastern Conference champs, or Fortier linebacker Tory Collins, who originally selected West Virginia. On the other hand, the defections of linebacker Archie McDaniel to Texas A&M, wide receiver Reggie Lewis to Florida and offensive lineman Jay Kirkland to Ole Miss lit the head coach's fuse. And, man, did he go off. Although Saban never spoke the name of McDaniel, the most devastating loss of the trio, it is difficult to imagine the about-face that took him from Tigertown to deep in the heart of Texas wasn't the object of the head coach's signing-day rant. "Is that what we want kids to do?" Saban said. "Is that what we want our young people to do? It's not what I want mine to do in my house. They are not going to do it. The parents out there, you've got to question their values, too. It's amazing to me. If one of mine makes a commitment and they say, ‘I wanna change my mind,' you know what I'm going to say? ‘You made the commitment, go do it. You shouldn't make the commitment if you weren't going to do it.' " Interesting stuff there. Saban works himself into a-hotter-than-a-habañero-pepper lather over McDaniel's exit, even calling out his parents, while he certainly had a hand in pirating Hankton from the Green Wave and Collins from Rich Rodriguez's Mountaineers. So sorry, Nick, but you can't have it both ways. So which is it? Are you taking the high road and getting out of the arm-twisting and mind-changing business of recruiting? Or will it be the down-and-dirty as usual? If Saban is serious about this commitment thing -- and it sure sounded like he was -- then all the LSU Tigers faithful should rejoice and be glad. Apparently Saban had a major commitment epiphany. Good thing Saban didn't go through this change of heart late in 1990. Otherwise he would have honored his three-year rollover contract at Toledo, where he coached one season, guided the Rockets to a 9-2 mark and left to become defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns. And it's a good thing he didn't experience it late in 1999. Otherwise he would have honored his five-year rollover contract at Michigan State. We can only imagine where LSU might be without him. Apparently those jumping-from-here-to-there-to-anywhere days are over in the Saban household. If you're a Saban you now are a man of your word. And you honor your commitments. So, that's good news, Tiger fans. There no longer is a need to fret every time a high-profile job comes open and Saban's name is mentioned. Saban has a five-year rollover deal with LSU. If he is true to his words, he is committed to remain in Baton Rouge for the long haul. . . . . . . . Dave Lagarde can be reached at [email protected] or at (504) 826-3811.