If Tim James, Republican candidate for governor in Alabama, wasn't a divisive figure leading to the June 1 primary (see video above), he became one Friday.
James, in a neck-and-neck battle with Bradley Byrne for the nomination, denied that if elected, he would cut the annual $4.1 million salary of Nick Saban or fire the Crimson Tide coach.
"Dispelling another untruth from the Byrne camp: I will neither be firing nor cutting Coach Saban's salary if elected," read a post on James' Twitter page.
The controversy started in April, when James reportedly joked about cutting Saban's salary during a meeting with the editorial board of the Crimson White, Alabama's student newspaper.
"It was kind of an off-handed remark" James made as he walked up the office stairs with the newspaper's staff members, former managing editor Alan Blinder told the Birmingham News.
Crimson Tide fans spent Friday calling into the popular Paul Finebaum radio show, with many pointing out that James is a 1985 graduate of Auburn. Tiger fans rushed to defend James.
"It's the most engaged they [callers] have been in regards to Alabama politics in a long time, but of course we're talking about something bigger than Alabama politics — Nick Saban," Finebaum told the Birmingham News on Friday night.The Alabama fan site Capstone Report isn't buying James' denial.
"Anyone who believes this is a fool. James is in bed with the Alabama Education Association (you know, the people who like corruption in the form of double-dipping). Tim James is without principle and an Auburn fan. He does not have the best interest of Alabama or the University of Alabama at heart.
"The fact the campaign responded to a rumor discussed on message boards and talk radio makes this into a big story. Will it sink the James campaign? It should."