When the White House extended an invitation to dine with President George W. Bush, NFL great Dan Marino accepted but Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban said no.
Saban said his obligations at training camp took priority over the chance to spend an evening with the president. Politics weren't a factor, he said.
"It was really a tough decision," Saban said on Monday. "I feel like my first responsibility is our team. That in no way disrespects the importance of the opportunity I would have loved to have had to spend dinner with the president."
Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said he also turned down a chance to attend because the dinner on Sunday conflicted with team meetings on the second day of training camp.
The dinner took place at Joe's Stone Crabs, a landmark Miami Beach restaurant. Among those joining Bush were Marino, a former Dolphins quarterback and an NFL Hall of Famer, and Nick Buoniconti and Jim Mandich, members of the 1972 Dolphins team which achieved the only perfect season in league history. Their wives were also present.
Other guests included actor Andy Garcia and Univision host Mario Kreutzberger, known as Don Francisco.
How did Saban's wife react to his decision to decline?
"I'd rather this not become a public issue, because I don't think I even told her, to be honest with you," he said. "Now that you mention it, maybe I should wear a helmet home tonight."