Guess what these men have in common: Joe Paterno, Steve Spurrier, Rich Rodriguez, Jim Tressel, Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, Pete Carroll? Okay, not enough information. Here’s the answer: In 2007 they were all ranked as better college coaches than Nick Saban, who was re-entering the college ranks and in his first year at Alabama.
Today, no one seriously could suggest that Nick Saban is not the best in college football, among the best of all time. Maybe a few with midwest bias would put Meyer on an equal plane, but those in the South know which one made the other one quit.
Also in 2007, no one would have guessed that Saban would be starting his 10th year as head coach of the Crimson Tide, and with no end in sight. Before coming to Tuscaloosa, Saban had a history of tenures of no more than five years in his coaching career, which was already past the 30-year mark.
Saban had been a head coach at Toledo in 1990, at Michigan State (1995-99), and LSU (2000-04), as well as the Miami Dolphins (2005-06) before former Athletics Director Mal Moore plucked him from the NFL for the Crimson Tide.
From time-to-time we need to take stock of this amazing Saban Era of Alabama football. As is well known, there have been other great Bama eras by Hall of Fame coaches – Wallace Wade (1923-30 with a record of 61-13-3), Frank Thomas (1931-46 and 115-24-7), Paul Bryant (1958-82 with 232-46-9), and Gene Stallings (1990-96 with 70-16-1). Both Wade and Thomas had Alabama winning percentages of 81.2; Bryant was 82.4; and Stallings 81.0.
Saban is now 105-18 at Alabama, a winning percentage of 85.4 per cent. In regular season Southeastern Conference games he is 60-12 for 83.3 per cent.
Year-by-year under Saban on the field the record is:
2007 – 7-6 overall (4-4 SEC)
2008 – 12-2 (8-0)
2009 – 14-0 (8-0), SEC and National Champion
2010 – 10-3 (5-3)
2011 – 12-1 (7-1), National Champion
2012 – 13-1 (7-1), SEC and National Champion
2013 – 11-2 (7-1)
2014 – 12-2 (7-1) SEC Champion
2015 – 14-1 (7-1) SEC and National Champion
He has coached Alabama to the championship of the toughest division in college football, the SEC West, six times, and to the SEC title four times.
Saban is 6-3 in bowl games.
Most important is what he has done at the level where Alabama is most prominent. The Crimson Tide under Nick Saban has won four national championships. (Saban also won a national championship coaching at LSU in 2003.)
Consider how the Bama championships have been won:
In 2009, Alabama went undefeated, defeated previously undefeated No. 1 Florida for the SEC championship, and then defeated previously undefeated Texas in the Rose Bowl, 37-21.
In 2011, Alabama lost an overtime game to LSU, 6-3, in regular season , thus missing out on the SEC title as the Tigers finished the season undefeated. With Bama having only an overtime loss to the unanimous No. 1 ranked team, the Crimson Tide and LSU were rematched in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship. Alabama’s defense dominated as Bama took the championship with a 21-0 win.
The next year, 2012, Alabama again suffered a regular season loss, falling to Johnny Manziel-led Texas A&M, 29-24. But Bama fought back to win the SEC West and then defeat third-ranked Georgia, 32-28, for the conference crown. That set No. 2 Alabama up against undefeated and No. 1 ranked Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. The Tide’s 42-14 romp brought home the crystal national championship trophy.
Last season, 2015, Alabama again lost in regular season, falling to Ole Miss, and the Tide was considered “dead and buried. Gone!” Once again, Saban directed Bama to win-after-win, week-after-week, and reached the SEC Championship Game, defeating Florida. That put the Tide against No. 1, undefeated Clemson. Bama earned its 16th national championship with a 45-40 win
Alabama’s four national championship games under Saban have been won against four undefeated opponents, three of them ranked first at the time of kickoff, the other (Texas) ranked second behind Bama.
Only four men have coached as many as four national championship teams – Bryant with six, Saban with five, and Frank Leahy of Notre Dame and John McKay of Southern Cal with four each.
Saban’s all-time record as a college head coach is 191-60-1 – Toledo 9-2, Michigan State 34-24-1, LSU 48-16, and Alabama 105-18.
Though he is judged and paid for being a successful on-the-field coach, Saban is particularly proud of Alabama’s exemplary record of Tide football players being successful in the classroom, second only to Vanderbilt in the SEC and leading the nation year-after-year in having players who have earned degrees by the time of the bowl game. Moreover, he and his wife, Terry, administer the Nick’s Kids (named for his father, “Big Nick”) Foundation, which participates in numerous charities benefitting youth programs in Alabama, and which has also been extraordinarily generous in building homes for those lost in the tornado that devastated Tuscaloosa in 2011.
From a Crimson Tide standpoint, the continuing good news is that Nick Saban shows no signs of letting up or stepping down.