Saban resembles the dashing drifter who marries the girl next door, snatches her innocence, raids her bank account and smugly moves to the next town to milk his next victim.
Tiger partisans have been down this road before with Paul Dietzel, the previous coach to lead LSU to the Promised Land. Hell hath no fury like a spurned LSU fan.
Dietzel directed LSU to a national championship at 34, and then had the audacity to take an assignment as head coach at
Saban, like Dietzel, made a terrible choice for his next career stop when he departed
Dietzel decided the call from Army was irresistible at the onset of the Vietnam War.
Long before the Tet Offensive, the job at
LSU pounded the Gamecocks of Dietzel by a score of 28-12, and for awhile LSU got over its hatred of the man who had said with assurance, "I will never leave LSU," when he was the most coveted commodity in his profession.
Seven years after his inauspicious return to
His Indiana Hoosiers (Dietzel was athletic director and Lee Corso was coach) edged LSU 24-21 at
His pride wounded, Dietzel moved out of Boyd Hall and traveled to
Saban was the image of the coach that LSU envisioned for the 39 years between Dietzel's first exit and Nick's arrival at TigerTown. He was leading-man material and conveyed an attitude of control and confidence. At the end of his five years, LSU was 48-16, and Saban was 53 years old and a two-time SEC winner and onetime NCAA victor.
It seemed Nick might shed his job-hopping tendencies and find LSU appealing enough to stay for another 10 to 20 years. The revolving door at East Stadium had become Saban's kingdom, but the mercurial mentor decided he had no more worlds to conquer at LSU and off to the NFL he went.
Like Lou Holtz and Pete Carroll, Saban learned football's major league was not his oyster. Players were compensated more than their coaches and occasionally talked back.
Saban's decision to return to the SEC provides both a trap and an opportunity for Les Miles. It is better for Miles to compete against the flesh-and-blood, five-foot-eight version of Saban rather than the omnipotent ghost of 2003.
LSU is favored over
Miles is 29-5, the best 34-game stretch in LSU history. But three goals remain unreached in his three years as Saban's successor: Miles has yet to secure an SEC title, collect a national championship or beat Nick Saban.
A victory Saturday completes the last objective, makes LSU the solid favorite for the SEC championship in 2007, and leaves open the prospect of sauntering out of the Superdome on Jan. 7, 2008, as the BCS champion.
His counterpart in crimson relishes the role of the underdog, but there is probably no game since the BCS title game of Jan. 4, 2004, that Saban has desired to win more.
This contest will either enhance the stature of Saban or enable Miles to rid