Saban "homecomings" like West Virginia game have common result, a win
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ Usually when someone from the University of Alabama football team has a homecoming of sort, like this it is this week for 17 players on the roster who hail from Georgia, there can be a bit of a scramble for tickets.
This week, though, is at another level as Nick Saban is finally facing his home-state team as a head coach, West Virginia. A big contingency of Saban supporters is expected to make the trip down to the neutral-site Georgia Dome for Saturday’s game (3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2).
“That was the biggest thing going when I was a kid,” he said. “To go to Mountaineer Field and watch West Virginia play, that was like the highlight of my year. I still have great memories of home and great memories of the people and relationships that I have at home. I’ve always kind of been a Mountaineer fan.”
After recalling some basketball memories at “old Mountaineer Fieldhouse” — “I used to sit in the upper deck with my feet hanging over the deck looking in between the rails watching Jerry West play” – he added: “You don’t forget stuff like that. but now I’m Alabama’s coach. I’m an Alabama fan.”
In addition to being from Fairmont, West Virginia, Saban once now-famously turned down an opportunity to be on Bobby Bowden’s coaching staff with the Mountaineers after his father died.
He eventually did make it to Morgantown, serving as a defensive assistant on the 1978 and 1979 teams, which respectively went 2-9 and 5-6 and at one point lost 11 of 12 games. Also on that staff as the offensive line coach was Joe Pendry, Alabama’s development officer and NFL liaison. When head coach Frank Cignetti Sr. wasn’t retained, Saban moved on to coach at Ohio State.
He’s since faced the Mountaineers twice as an assistant coach. As a defensive assistant at Kent State in 1975 he was on the losing end of a 38-13 game, and two years later his last game on the Syracuse staff was a 28-9 victory .
However, Saban almost never loses homecoming games as a head coach.
In 2010, he finally faced Michigan State at the Capital One Bowl and the Crimson Tide destroyed the Spartans 49-7.
Saban lost his first game to LSU as Alabama’s head coach, 41-34 in 2007, but came out on top his first trip to LSU in 2008, 27-21 in overtime. He’s 5-3 against the Tigers with the Crimson Tide.
The 2011 season opener was against Saban’s alma mater, Kent State. The result was predictable, 48-7.
Twice Saban has had a team play for a national championship in the back yard of someplace he had previously coaches and won both, against LSU in New Orleans and Notre Dame in Miami.