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Nick Saban

Oct 8, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban prior to a game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Saban was introduced as the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide on Jan. 4, 2007, and college football was forever changed. Saban is widely considered to be the sport’s GOAT for his accomplishments at Alabama and LSU. Under Saban, Alabama became the program that everyone wanted to be and wanted to beat.

Saban’s tenure at Alabama is highlighted by national championships won in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2020. He also guided LSU to a national title in 2003. Saban is a 10-time SEC champion, winning 2 conference titles at LSU and 8 at Alabama. His official record as a college football head coach is 280-69-1.

Saban is a 5-time SEC Coach of the Year (2003, 2008, 2009, 2016, 2020). He has also picked up numerous national Coach of the Year awards as a college football head coach.

Saban’s first Alabama team went 7-6 on the field, with 5 wins later vacated. Saban’s Tide got the attention of the college football world in 2008 with a 12-0 regular season and a trip to the SEC Championship Game.

Alabama’s hardware haul under Saban began in 2009. The Crimson Tide went 14-0, winning an SEC Championship and BCS national championship.

Alabama’s BCS victory over Texas for the 2009 title made Saban the first coach to win a national championship at 2 schools. Saban and Bear Bryant are the only coaches to win SEC titles at 2 schools.

Saban’s 2009 Alabama squad was led by RB Mark Ingram II, the first Heisman Trophy winner in Tide program history. Three more Alabama standouts have won the Heisman Trophy playing for Saban: Derrick Henry (2015), DeVonta Smith (2020) and Bryce Young (2021). Saban is tied with Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy for coaching the most Heisman Trophy winners in college football history. Saban is the only coach to have ever coached Heisman Trophy winners at 3 different positions.

The 2009 title was just the beginning of Saban’s history-making Alabama tenure. Saban would guide the Tide to national titles in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2020. Alabama went undefeated in 2009 and 2020. With 7 national titles, Saban has more national championships than any other college football coach in the poll era.

Saban’s coaching tree has grown to great lengths during his Alabama tenure. Numerous Saban assistants on both sides of the ball have gone on to land head coaching jobs after coaching under Saban during his multi-decade career. A former defensive assistant, Saban is considered a defensive guru. As a head coach, he has been widely praised for adapting his team’s offense to more aggressive, spread-oriented schemes in recent years.

Active head coaches Kirby Smart, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian, Brian Daboll, Mel Tucker, Mario Cristobal, Dan Lanning, Mike Locksley, Butch Jones, Billy Napier and Jim McElwain were all on staff for national championship seasons in Tuscaloosa. Jimbo Fisher, who was on Saban’s LSU staff, became the first former assistant to get a head-to-head win over Saban when Texas A&M upset Alabama in 2021. Other former Saban assistants to receive head coaching opportunities include Will Muschamp, Jeremy Pruitt, Mark Dantonio, Derek Dooley, Jason Garrett, Josh McDaniels, Dan Quinn and Joe Judge.

Upon his hiring, Saban famously told Alabama AD Mal Moore that he had hired a “horsesh-t football coach” but he would never be out-recruited. 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 7-year stretch from 2011-17. Alabama’s 2021 class is the highest-rated class of the Composite era.

Prior to arriving in Alabama, Saban spent 2 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 6 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 Jan. 3, 2007.

Saban’s first stint in the SEC came at LSU, where he spent 5 seasons as the Tigers’ head coach. During those 5 years, Saban led the Tigers to a 48-16 record, 2 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.

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 3 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.

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 Coaching Experience

Nick Saban’s Head Coaching Record

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.

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