Nick Saban, legendary Alabama head coach and winner of 7 college football national championships, is retiring. As you might imagine, the news sent shockwaves throughout the state of Alabama and the college football world as a whole. Get the inside scoop from a lifelong Alabama fan's personal perspective.
While there will be a plethora of articles written about Coach Saban's historical achievements, I wanted to approach this news from the lenses of a fan's point of view.
The impressive array of records, first round draft picks, and titles are impressive, but I'm not so sure that the average person knows just how much Nick has done for the state and for college football. Keep reading as we bid farewell to a true legend.
— Always College Football (@AlwaysCFB) January 10, 2024
As folks often say in the Yellowhammer State, "Bama is in my blood." Most of my family lives in Alabama and my grandfather even played from the Crimson Tide back in the 1940s. Heck, I can even recite the "Yea Alabama" fight song word for word! Needless to say, I've seen the ups and downs of this football program throughout the decades.
The ironic thing is that I've lived most of my life in Tennessee. Let me tell you firsthand that the grade school and high school years were more than a bit rough at times because of my devotion to the Crimson Tide. Even to this day, I still get plenty of glares in the grocery store each gameday when I'm covered in Bama attire from head to toe.
A lot of people may not realize this, but Alabama had quite a long dry spell when Gene Stallings retired after the 1996 season. Sure, I remember glimpses of the 1992 championship season, but hey I was only 9 years old at the time. I never knew it would be 17 years before that would happen again!
I always laugh when people refer to Alabama fans as bandwagoners. While Coach Saban has blessed (spoiled?) us with a ton of titles in his tenure, all true Alabama fans had to endure the likes of Mike Dubose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, and Mike Shula. Those were some lean years to be sure!
My Dad and I were actually at Mike Shula's last game as head coach of Alabama on November 18, 2006. After a painful loss to Auburn, Shula was fired and the coaching search began. Pops and I chatted the whole 4-hour ride home about who would be the next man for the job. Little did we know that we were about to strike it richer than Jed Clampett.
One of the heroes behind the Nick Saban hiring was the late Mal Moore, a former Alabama QB that played under Bear Bryant. Moore, the Alabama AD at the time, flew from Tuscaloosa to Miami and convinced Nick and Ms. Terry to come back to college football. Boy, do Alabama fans owe a huge debt of gratitude to Moore!
I was driving to work on January 3, 2007, when the news broke on the radio that Saban would be the next head coach of Alabama. Dad and I were more than a bit excited, but honestly, I remember wishing we could've lured Steve Spurrier away from South Carolina. As Garth Brooks says, "some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."
My grandmother called me the next day to tell me about the purely insane amount of excitement that was charging through the state. The airport was jampacked with fans when Saban and his family landed in T-Town. She said, "It looks like we've signed the greatest rock star of all time."
A lot of folks forget that Alabama went just 7-6 during Saban's first year in Tuscaloosa. Even the greatest coach in the world needed time to get his recruits in the door. Speaking of recruiting, that was probably Saban's greatest strength as a college football coach.
Just how important is recruiting to a college program? Most experts say that "you have to win in the living room before you can win on the field!" Judging by the fact that Nick Saban has more national titles than any other coach, he obviously won a lot of parents over in the living room.
Oh, and what about developing young men? Saban coached 49 first-round NFL draft picks throughout his head coaching tenure. Even more importantly, Saban drastically improved the graduation rate of Alabama players. In 2019, he earned a bonus for getting Alabama football's graduation rate to 84.6%.
Sure, I know Coach Saban is proud of the 6 national titles and 9 SEC championships at Alabama, but I'd be willing to bet he's even more proud of the number of players that got their degrees. You can just tell by his interviews that his true passion is helping young men succeed in life, not just on the gridiron.
In honor of Nick Saban retiring, the 🐐 coach of any sport IMO, here’s his best 30 seconds ever. pic.twitter.com/2mJ6DguSJI
— Colin (@colin_gladman) January 11, 2024
According to the Tuscaloosa News, Nick Saban's last day as Alabama head coach was a lot like his first. He worked tirelessly until the very end. Before informing his players of his retirement, Saban interviewed candidates for openings on his staff and even was on a call with other SEC coaches. What a fitting end to an unbelievable coaching career!
What's next for Coach Saban? He could make more commercials with Coach Prime or even become the new spokesperson for Little Debbie since he lives on those amazing Oatmeal Creme Pies. And we all know that ESPN College Gameday would love to have him on set each Saturday morning.
For now, though, I don't see Coach Saban doing any of that. All of that may come eventually, but for now, I envision Nick watching lots of movies with Ms. Terry at their lake house. I'm also betting he'll be spending ample amounts of time with his grandkids!
I think I can speak for the entire Bama Nation by saying: THANK YOU Coach Saban! It's been one heck of a great ride. We miss you already!
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