Retirement for coaches like Nick Saban are always shocking, especially when Alabama hadn’t really lost a step. Maybe a half-step, but certainly nowhere near Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno levels, and that’s going to lead to a ton of speculation about why he’s doing this now, as reports say the coach is calling it a career.
Upon getting that explanation — if we get it — the choice will make sense in hindsight, but it won’t ease the sudden finality for Alabama fans.
Saban, 72, won seven national titles, six in Tuscaloosa, and one at LSU. His best teams are as good as any and the amount of ungodly talent he recruited and developed is up there with prime Miami. People will remember the receivers and four Heisman winners, but should also talk about the defensive personnel that arrived in the NFL as prepared and polished as it could get.
His departure throws the SEC into a little bit of turmoil because coaching transitions are never seamless, and that’s before mentioning conference realignment. Under Saban and the College Football Playoff expansion set for next, fans could’ve written “Alabama” in ink on their 12-team bracket, and now, at best, you can pencil them in.
Despite how you feel about Saban, this is a seismic loss for college football and one that’ll prompt multiple toasts — farewell and good riddance. The sport’s token villain, the SEC’s patron saint is gone. Paul Finebaum’s best friend and mentor, and Pat McAfee’s second most popular guest is retiring.
The landscape of college football changed dramatically with the inception of NIL money and transfer portal, making retaining a roster as important as recruiting one. The stress of corralling college kids with visions of NFL stardom in their brains has to be taxing on college football coaches, which is what the millions of dollars is for, but even at the highest pay rate in the country, Saban’s patience was already running thin.
Who knows if that played a part, or if Nick Saban would ever admit it. What we do know is if he has indeed coached his last college football game, he leaves the sport as the greatest coach of this century, with an argument for the GOAT.