Trump honors Alabama football team at White House after Saban reportedly warns no protests

President Donald Trump hailed Alabama football’s most recent national championship as “one of the greatest victories ever” as he welcomed the Crimson Tide to the White House Tuesday.

Alabama won their fifth title under head coach Nick Saban on Jan. 8, when they defeated SEC rivals Georgia 26-23 in overtime. Trump watched the first half of the game from a private box overlooking the Alabama sideline, but left during halftime with Alabama trailing 13-0.

The Tide rallied to tie the game at 20, before backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hit fellow freshman DeVonta Smith for a game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime, an ending Trump said would “go down as one of the most exciting finishes in college football history — of any sport.”

Trump praised Saban’s “Process” for success, and said the coach could “make a lot of money” if he were able to sell the formula.

“In the national championship game, you stuck to ‘The Process,’ even when it was looking pretty tough,” the president said. “I was watching. I said, ‘Coach, not looking too good.’ Down 13-to-nothing at halftime to a great Georgia team, these champions fought back as they did all season long. And they kept fighting and fighting.”

According to Alabama’s student newspaper, Saban warned his players not to follow in the footsteps of some professional teams — most notably the 2017 NBA champion Golden State Warriors — by skipping the traditional White House visit.

“Coach Saban addressed it and just said, ‘Hey, we’re doing this regardless of your political thoughts,’” junior left guard Ross Pierschbacher told The Crimson White. “‘We’re going, just to celebrate this team. It’s an honor. And just to be able to say that you’ve gone to the White House is something that you can cherish forever.’ So that was basically the extent of that.”

“You know, not many people get invited to the White House, so not many people get invited to see the president and meet the president,” Saban told The Associated Press. “So this is a special day for our team. A team that is being honored here because of their achievements in terms of winning the college football national championship, which makes me very proud.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former Alabama senator, was among those on the South Lawn for the team visit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.