Volume 4, Number 1 ISSN 2576-2699
International Conference Proceedings
April 8 – April 10, 2020
Dr. Martin Bressler, Southeastern Oklahoma State
Dr. Jeff Mankin, Lipscomb University
Copyright 2020 by Institute for Global Business Research, Nashville, TN, USA Volume 4, Number 1
ISSN 2576-2699 International Conference Proceedings April 8 – April 10, 2020 Editor Dr. Martin
Bressler, Southeastern Oklahoma State University Co-Editor Dr. Jeff Mankin, Lipscomb University
Copyright 2020 by Institute for Global Business Research, Nashville, TN, USA Institute for Global
Business Research Conference Proceedings Volume 4, Number 1. Pp. 57 – 62
Nick Saban – a case study for recruitment
Methods and application of Tuckman’s Model of Team Development
Ashley Hildebrandt, West Texas A&M University
Jackie Marr, West Texas A&M University
This case is well-suited to an introductory-level management class where curriculum
includes concepts of recruiting, managing teams, and Tuckman’s Model of Team Development.
For this case, the primary subject matter concerns recruitment methods; the importance of team
development; identifying the characteristics of each stage of team development; and how
leadership can guide teams through the team development process. A brief overview of the history
of college football will be presented. In addition, it will analyze the career and recruitment tactics
of Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama football team. Tuckman’s Model of Team
Development will be presented and the ability to implement Saban’s recruitment success in the
world of business will be examined for viability. This case has a difficulty level of three-four (juniorsenior level) and is designed to be taught in an introductory management principles class. The case
can be taught in less than two class hours with an additional one to two hours of outside preparation
time by students.
College Football has become one of the most popular and most watched sports in America.
As games, conferences, and rivalries become competitive, teams and coaches must turn to their
recruitment and team development techniques as a way to ensure success for years to come. As
players graduate, enter the NFL draft, or get injured, teams need a dependable group of players
ready to step up and be productive members of the team. Businesses work to recruit and retain
employees of high value who will be beneficial to their business for the foreseeable future. While
there may be obvious differences in the recruitment needs of coaches and managers, they are all
working towards the goal of finding the best person for the job. Tuckman’s Model of Team
Development can be used to analyze recruitment and team development methods of both college
football teams and standard businesses.
History of college football
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) recognizes the first official college
football game as the 1869 matchup between Rutgers University and the College of New Jersey,
which is now known as Princeton University. With little to no official rules, the game resembled
more of a soccer match than what we know today as American football (Parlier, 2019).
The first rivalry in college football, which is still very active today, was Harvard v. Yale.
The pair played their first matchup in 1875, and this is one of the first games that began using more
regulations and rules that were more akin to modern-day football (Jost, 2011).
Seven years after the first official game, the first set rules for American football were
established by representatives from Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Today, there are
various conferences, bowl games, rivalries, and championships. A major factor in the creation of
these divisions and matchups is the use of rankings, which was not common until 1936. That year,
the Associated Press released the first set of rankings that included 20 teams. At the end of the
season, Minnesota was at the top of the list, making them the official champion (Parlier, 2019).
In 1998, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was established to revamp the ranking
system. This system now matched top-10 teams with one another to compete in an end-of-season
bowl game. The No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams were to compete for the championship title. The
first year of this system, Tennessee defeated Florida State (Parlier, 2019). 2014 saw another
revamp of the system with the introduction of the College Football Playoff (CFP). In this system,
the top 25 teams are ranked each week of the regular season. After the final regular season week,
the top four teams are matched up to play in a playoff round. The winners of the first round of
playoffs then play one another in the CFP National Championship game. The first CFP National
Championship game saw Ohio State defeating Oregon (Parlier, 2019).
Nick Saban’s career
Coach Nick Saban recently completed his thirteenth season as head coach for the Alabama
Crimson Tide football team. He started with the program in 2007 after coaching stints with
Louisiana State University, the Miami Dolphins, and other various college and professional
programs. His overall college coaching record boasts over 240 wins and less than 70 losses (The
University of Alabama, n.d.).
Saban’s first season at Alabama was dismal compared to where the program stands today.
Saban and his team went 7-6, with a sixth straight loss to rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl (The
University of Alabama, n.d.). However, the shift in leadership and level of trust for the still new
coach was evident as Saban and the Tide went 12-0 in the 2008 season. Since then, under Saban’s
leadership, the Crimson Tide has produced overwhelmingly successful results, boasting at least 10
wins each season since 2008. Saban is a six-time National Coach of the Year, SEC Coach of the
Year, Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year, and was the first recipient of the Bobby Bowden
National Coach of the Year Award. He is one of only two coaches to ever win six national titles
in the poll era, with the other being former Alabama coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant (The University
of Alabama, n.d.). He is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of modern
Tuckman’s Model of Team Development
In 1965, Bruce W. Tuckman introduced a model that described four stages to team
development according to his study, “Developmental Sequences in Small Groups” (Tuckman,
1965). Tuckman’s model of team development has been classified as linear-progressive
(Mennecke, 1992). Therefore, to become a functioning team, members will progress through the
following four sequential developmental stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing
(Tuckman, 1965). In 1977, Tuckman and Mary Ann Jensen reviewed teaming literature and
determined is was necessary to add a fifth stage to the model: adjourning (Tuckman & Jensen,
1977; Knight & Tippett, 2006). Although teams will experience all stages of development,
Tuckman’s model does not account for the length of time teams will spend in each developmental
stage (Sutherland & Stroot, 2010). Consequently, the longevity of the team as well as the tasks
needing accomplished are determining factors as to how long groups will stay in each stage
(Sutherland & Stroot, 2010).
According to Tuckman’s research, each stage of team development has two dimensions:
interpersonal and task (Tuckman, 1965). The interpersonal dimension relates to the human side
of teams (Mackey, 1999). This incorporates how members interact with one another; the team’s
behaviors; and the relationships formed among team members (Mackey, 1999; Sutherland &
Stroot, 2010; Noel & Patterson, 2006; Anderson, 2010). Trust and conflict among members; task
accomplishment; and team’s morale and cohesion are all impacted by the interpersonal dimension
(Mackey, 1999; Sutherland & Stroot, 2010; Noel & Patterson, 2006; Anderson, 2010). For a team
to be successful, it is important to note that cohesion is imperative (Severt, et al., 2016; Yalom,
1995). The task dimension pertains to the necessary activities being divided among team members
so the assigned work can be completed (Mackey, 1999 Sutherland & Stroot, 2010).
The stages of team development are distinct and well-defined (Mackey, 1999). In the
initial stage of team development, forming, the team members come together for the first time and
interpersonal relationships begin (Tuckman, 1965; Knight & Tippett, 2006; Francis & Young,
1979; Weinberg & Gould, 1995). During the forming stage, team members are getting acquainted
with one another; determining their roles within the team; becoming acclimated to the task; and
forming a team identity (Noel & Patterson, 2006; Knight & Tippett, 2006; Anshel, 1995; Weinberg
& Gould, 1995; Yalom, 1995). In addition, boundaries may be tested between the team’s leaders
and members to help alleviate any ambiguity as to who will be on the actual team (Tuckman, 1965;
Roeske-Carlson, 2000; Francis & Young, 1979; Weinberg & Gould, 1995).
Storming is the second stage of team development (Tuckman, 1965). This stage is plagued
with conflict and competition: members’ resistance to the team’s influence; rebellion against one
another; and defensive and emotional responses to task demands (Tuckman, 1965; Knight &
Tippett, 2006; Mackey, 1999; Roeske-Carlson, 2000). Conflict in unavoidable when people are
working together and there are numerous reasons for conflict to occur (Seck & Helton, 2014).
First, members may become arrogant and/or comfortable enough with the team to express their
honest thoughts (Kurland & Salmon, 1998). This will inevitably lead to differences of
personalities and opinions. Second, issues relating to one’s power, control, and position within
the team’s hierarchy can lead to conflict and opposition among members (Weinberg & Gould,
1995; Anshel, 1995; Carron, 1982; Cartwright & Zander, 1968; Francis & Young, 1979; Tuckman,
1965; Weinberg & Gould, 1995). Finally, team members face the challenges of how to effectively
address, handle, and resolve conflict (Noel & Patterson, 2006). Even though conflict can be
difficult for members to endure, avoiding it is not advantageous for teams (Mackey, 1999). Teams
must create an environment where members can present their issues and concerns without being
disrespected or attacked (Mackey, 1999). It is essential for members to manage their differences
in a cooperative manner for the team’s overall effectiveness, growth, cohesion, and success
(Yalom, 1995; Seck & Helton, 2014).
The third stage in Tuckman’s model of team development is norming (Tuckman, 1965).
The norming stage is marked with trust, openness, cooperation, and shared understanding and
expectations of team members (Knight & Tippett, 2006; Seck & Helton, 2014; Carron, 1988;
Roeske-Carlson, 2000). Since trust and respect are present, members candidly communicate their
ideas, concerns, and constructive criticism (Mackey, 1999; Seck & Helton, 2014; Roeske-Carlson,
2000). With the open lines of communication, the team has the ability to establish new roles,
ground rules, goals and acceptable behavior and norms (Seck & Helton, 2014; Mackey, 1999;
Carron, 1988; Weinberg & Gould, 1995; Noel & Patterson, 2006; Roeske-Carlson, 2000). In
addition, members finally begin to function and grow as a team as they work together to
accomplish their goals and assigned tasks (Mackey, 1999; Knight & Tippett, 2006; Carron, 1988).
Members develop team unity and cohesiveness as they appreciate the value of working together
instead of individually (Knight & Tippett, 2006; Anshel, 1995; Carron, 1982; Cartwright &
Zander, 1968; Francis & Young, 1979; Tuckman, 1965; Weinberg & Gould, 1995; Carron, 1988).
When the team becomes highly functional, productive, and cohesive, they have reached
the fourth stage of team development, performing (Tuckman, 1965; Noel & Patterson, 2006;
Mackey, 1999; Carron, 1988; Yalom, 1995)). In this stage, members have strong relationships
allowing them to communicate effectively in order to solve problems and make decisions in the
best interest of the team (Carron, 1988; Yalom, 1995; Noel & Patterson, 2006; Mackey, 1999;
Weinberg & Gould, 1995). Members focus on effectively working together to successfully
achieve task completion and team goals (Carron, 1988; Yalom, 1995; Seck & Helton, 2014; Noel
& Patterson, 2006). For this to happen, confidence, cooperation, and trust are demonstrated by
each team member (Weinberg & Gould, 1995; Seck & Helton, 2014; Carron, 1988; Yalom, 1995).
It is important to note that people who have had the opportunity to work in highly performing
teams state that it is personally beneficial; however, it is extremely difficult to obtain and remain
at this stage of optimal team development (Mackey, 1999).
In the final stage of team development, adjourning, the team is disbanding (Tuckman &
Jensen, 1977; Sutherland & Stroot, 2010). Here, members complete or postpose their final tasks
and objectives (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977; Seck & Helton, 2014). In addition, members may
become emotional as they reflect on how the team’s strengths, goal accomplishments,
relationships, and the team’s journey impacted them on a personal level (Sutherland & Stroot,
2010; Seck & Helton, 2014).
Team development is a complex process (Roeske-Carlson, 2000). Glacel and Robert
stated, “In the development of any team, certain stages of behavior [Tuckman stages model] take
place which impact how well the individuals and the team accomplish their task” (Glacel & Robert,
1996). Irvin Yalom provided further explanation on the importance of group development and
how it is an actual process. He demonstrated that if particular learning and growth processes were
bypassed in the early phases of team formation, then the team will be incapable of reaching the
performing stage of team development (Yalom, 1995). Numerous individuals and organizations
believe a team’s productivity and performance can be significantly enhanced if leadership properly
navigates members through Tuckman’s stages of team development (Glacel & Robert, 1996;
Knight & Tippett, 2006).
How does Nick Saban recruit and develop his team?
Many aspects of Saban’s tactics are different and distinct from other programs, such as the
fact he is constantly recruiting. He chooses not to rest on his current roster and their talent. Rather,
he works to better his team and fill their weak spots (Busch, 2017).
Saban seems to have a recruitment pitch that is carefully prepared and polished. Based on
reports from past players, fellow coaches, and staff members, Saban seems to use many symbols
as a way to relate to players and their families. One of these symbols is reported to be a grand
piano. As the story goes, Saban and his wife purchased this piano when they could not truly afford
it. They spent several years paying off the piano. This demonstrates that Saban is willing to have
persistence when working towards a goal and expects his players to do the same. Lastly, it allows
Saban to relate more to potential players as it shows he once struggled with finances and lived
In addition, Saban uses more conventional tactics. His home office is decorated with photos
of his National Championship winning teams and his National Championship rings. All of this
seems to serve as a way to show potential players that they can and most likely will win with
Alabama (Gallo, 2019). He ends the pitch by stating, “We want you, but know that we will win
with or without you”. Again, this sets him apart from other coaches as it puts more hype around
the program, instead of the potential individual player (Gallo, 2019).
The Tide is on a tight schedule when it comes to team development. A football season only
lasts from August through early January, which does not allow time for mistakes to take place. To
combat this, Saban and his team practice throughout the off-season. This allows them time to work
through the initial stages of team development during a less risky time. Conflict occurring in the
off-season is much easier for a team to manage than if it came during a high-stakes week in the
Saban and his team participate in several team bonding activities. For example, following
the team’s spring game, which is a scrimmage between players on the team, the winning group
joins Saban for a steak dinner. The losing team is left with pork and beans (Byington, 2017). This
has been a long-standing tradition. Both players and fans enjoy the jokes and comradery that
transpire because of the team’s spring game. The University of Alabama has countless other
traditions, especially concerning their football program. These traditions assist and encourage the
team members’ bonding, especially when it comes to the team’s new players. By ensuring his
players become familiar with each other early in the off-season, Saban builds a positive norming
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