No college football coach has dominated the modern era like Nick Saban, who has been head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide since 2007.
During his decade-plus run with the program, Saban has led Alabama to five national championship titles.
With the Crimson Tide’s victory in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship, Saban became joined former Alabama legend Paul “Bear” Bryant as the only coaches in the poll era to win five national championships. He is one of just three coaches to win three national championships in a four-year span and is only the second coach to win four titles in seven years, joining Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy.
As of the conclusion of the 2018 season Saban has compiled a 141-21 record as the head coach of the Crimson Tide, and his .87 winning percentage is one of the best among active coaches at their current school. He holds a career record of 232-62-1 and became the third-fastest coach to reach 200 wins in major college football history after a victory over No. 13 LSU in 2016.
After a 7-6 record in his first season with the program, Saban has won at least 10 games in each season since.
Prior to Saban’s arrival, Alabama had not fared well against its main rivals. Since 2007, however, Alabama has been dominant against Auburn and especially LSU and Tennessee.
Saban has multiple AP National Coach of the Year Awards and SEC Coach of the Year Awards during his coaching career.
As great as Saban has been at the aspects of on-field coaching and game preparation, he’s arguably better on the recruiting trail.
Since Saban’s first full recruiting cycle, the Crimson Tide have finished with the No. 1 recruiting class in the 247Sports Composite Team Rankings many times, including every year during a seven-year stretch from 2011-17.
Among the notable players that Saban recruited and coached are Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Dont’a Hightower, Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, A.J. McCarron, Landon Collins, Amari Cooper, Derrick Henry, Cam Robinson, Jonathan Allen and many more.
Running backs Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry became the first two players in Alabama history to win the Heisman Trophy under Saban’s tutelage.
Nick Saban in the NFL
Prior to arriving in Alabama, Saban spent two seasons in the NFL as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and compiled a 15-17 record.
In Saban’s first season, the Dolphins struggled to a 3-7 record out of the gate. Miami would rally, however, winning its final six games of the season to narrowly miss the playoffs.
Entering his second season, there was excitement over the momentum surrounding the franchise. The team would fail to meet expectations. Instead of signing free agent quarterback Drew Brees, who many feared would not recover from a major shoulder injury, the Dolphins added Daunte Culpepper.
After another slow start, in which the Dolphins limped to a 1-6 record, Culpepper was benched and the team would never recover. Miami finished with a 6-10 record, Saban’s first losing record in his head coaching career.
The 2006 season would be Saban’s last with the Dolphins. After many public denials that he was linked to the opening at Alabama, Saban eventually accepted a job with the Crimson Tide on January 3, 2007.
Nick Saban at LSU
Saban’s first stint in the SEC came at LSU, where he spent five seasons as the Tigers’ head coach.
During those five years, Saban led the Tigers to a 48-16 record, two SEC championships and a win over the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2003 BCS Championship Game.
LSU’s championship season was accomplished in trademark Saban fashion. The Tigers had an impenetrable defense that led the nation with 11 points per game allowed and 252 yards per game allowed. The defense held 13 of LSU’s 14 opponents to under 20 points in 2003 and scored a school-record seven touchdowns.
Offensively, the 2003 Tigers were also one of the best the school has ever seen. LSU scored a school-record 475 points that season and averaged nearly 34 points per game behind quarterback Matt Mauck, running back Justin Vincent and wide receivers Michael Clayton and Devery Henderson.
Saban’s 48 wins were the most ever by an LSU coach in his first five years with the program. After the 2004 season, Saban left LSU for the NFL. He accepted a job with the Dolphins on December 25, 2004.
Nick Saban at Michigan State
Prior to Saban’s arrival at Michigan State in 1995, the Spartans had not enjoyed a winning season since 1990 and were sanctioned by the NCAA for recruiting violations under coach George Perles. He left the program after five seasons with a 34-24-1 record.
Saban’s first three years with the program were nothing remarkable. The Spartans compiled a 6-5-1 record in his first year and followed that up with 6-6 and 7-5 seasons. The 1998 season looked extremely promising after an upset against No. 1 Ohio State and a rout against a highly-ranked Notre Dame team, but the Spartans floundered down the stretch to another 6-6 record.
His last season in East Lansing was also Saban’s most successful. Michigan State finished with a 10-2 record, its best finish since 1965, which included wins against Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. Prior to the team’s bowl game, however, Saban announced he was leaving the program for a job at LSU.
Nick Saban at Toledo
Saban’s first chance at a head coaching job came at the University of Toledo. He accepted a job on December 22, 1989 after spending two seasons as a defensive backs coach with the Houston Oilers.
Inheriting a team coming off of back-to-back 6-5 seasons, Saban led the Rockets to a 9-2 campaign and a share of the Mid-American Conference title. Following the 1990 season, Saban left Toledo to become the defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns under Bill Belichick.
Nick Saban’s Head Coaching Record
As of the end of the 2016 college football season, Saban holds a career record of 205-61-1. His .770 career winning percentage is the best among all active Division I head football coaches.
- 1990 Toledo: 9-2 (7-1)
- 1995-99 Michigan State: 34-24-1 (23-16-1)
- 2000-04 LSU: 48-16 (28-12)
- 2005-06 Miami Dolphins: 15-17
- 2007-2017 Alabama: 141-21 (80-13) ***as of the conclusion of the 2018 season
Nick Saban’s Coaching Tree
As a member of the Cleveland Browns defensive staff under Bill Belichick, Saban is a notable part of the Belichick coaching tree. Over the years, however, Saban has built an impressive coaching tree of his own that included many prominent NFL and college head coaches and assistants.
- Mark Dantonio (Michigan State head coach)
- Derek Dooley (Former Tennessee head coach)
- Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M head coach)
- Jason Garrett (Dallas Cowboys head coach)
- Mike Haywood (Former Miami (OH) head coach)
- Lane Kiffin (FAU head coach)
- Scott Linehan (Former St. Louis Rams HC, current Dallas Cowboys OC)
- Josh McDaniels (New England Patriots offensive coordinator)
- Jim McElwain (Former Florida head coach)
- Mike Mularkey (Tennessee Titans head coach)
- Will Muschamp (South Carolina head coach)
- Billy Napier (Louisiana head coach)
- Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee head coach)
- Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons head coach)
- Pat Shurmur (Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator)
- Kirby Smart (Georgia head coach)
- Bobby Williams (Former Michigan State head coach)
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