College Football

The Saban Era- Who Will Follow in the Legendary Nick Saban’s Footsteps?

After 17 impeccable seasons at the University of Alabama, the acclaimed Crimson Tide head coach, Nick Saban, bids farewell to his coaching career by announcing his retirement on Wednesday, January 10. This announcement shocked the college football world as many were expecting Saban to coach the Crimson Tide for years to come. As the former Alabama head coach’s career comes to an end, college football fans are bidding farewell to one of the greatest head coaches that college football has ever seen. 

A Glimpse Into Saban’s Impressive Career as a head coach:

On December 22, 1989, Nick Saban began his career as a college football head coach when he accepted the head coaching position at the University of Toledo. Coming off two back-to-back seasons where the Toledo Rockets went 6-5, Saban turned the team around in his first season as head coach. Under Saban’s guidance, the team went 9-2 and was tied with Central Michigan as the champion of the Mid-American Conference. This was just the beginning of what would be an impressive and lengthy career as a head coach. 

Following his first season as head coach at Toledo, Saban accepted the defensive coordinator position with the Cleveland Browns, where he would remain for four seasons before taking the head coaching position at Michigan State in 1995. Saban once again turned a college football team around and left a mark on Michigan State before heading toward LSU in 1999 to become their new head coach. 

The West Virginia native led LSU to clinch the SEC title in 2001 and 2003. In 2003, the head coach also clinched his first National Championship title after he led LSU to win the BCS National Championship Game, which was their first national title since 1958. 

Following his impressive career with LSU, Saban would accept the head coaching position with the Miami Dolphins for two seasons before becoming Alabama’s 27th head coach in 2007. Saban’s longest coaching tenure came when he joined Alabama as he would stay with the team for the following 17 years, and the Crimson Tide would endure the Saban Era. 

In just his third season with Alabama in 2009, the West Virginia native led his team to the National Championship Game, and the team went on to secure the prestigious title. The 2009 title was the first time Alabama took home the illustrious trophy since 1992. They would do so again in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, and 2020 under the Saban Era. 

Throughout the 72-year-old’s coaching career, 49 of the players he coached were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Before arriving at Alabama, the university had not seen a first-round draft pick since 2000. After Saban accepted the head coaching position, the institution saw 44 of its players become first-round draft picks, seemingly ending the school’s drought. 

Throughout his collegiate coaching career at Toledo, Michigan State, LSU, and Alabama, the former head coach went 297-71-1. When Saban was head coach, his teams never endured a losing season, and in 25 out of his 28 head coaching seasons, his teams made it to the bowl games or the Bowl Championship Series title games. 

The 72-year-old ended his collegiate coaching career following a 12-2 season with Alabama. This was the 12th time in Saban’s career with the Crimson Tide that the team had won at least 12 games in the season. 

While the Crimson Tide lost to Michigan 20-27 in the Rose Bowl game and missed their chance to secure another championship title, Saban left a lasting legacy at the University of Alabama. He will go down as one of the greatest collegiate football coaches of all time, and finding an adequate replacement for the acclaimed coach will be incredibly difficult. 

What’s Next Following the End of the Saban Era:

The University of Alabama’s Athletic Director, Greg Bryne, was not surprised by Saban’s retirement as he had been in close contact with the former Alabama head coach throughout the season. Once Saban announced his retirement, the Alabama AD told the team they would have their new head coach in 72 hours. It only took Bryne 49 hours to complete that task. 

Yesterday, Bryne introduced former Washington Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer as Nick Saban’s successor. DeBoer joined the University of Washington in 2021 after the program went 4-8. In his two short seasons with the team, the 49-year-old became the first Washington coach to win 11 games in two back-to-back seasons. As a result of his accomplishments as the Huskies head coach, he was awarded the Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors twice. 

Throughout his two seasons at Washington, the team had a combined record of 25-3. DeBoer led the Huskies to win the Pac-12 conference title and a spot in the NCAA National Championship Game in his second season with the team. While Washington fell to Michigan 13-34, it does not draw away from the 49-year-old’s accomplishments as a head coach and his achievements in two short seasons. 

DeBoer currently has a record of 104-12, and before accepting his new coaching position, he had yet to coach in the SEC. The new Alabama head coach has some big shoes to fill and has only been a head coach of a Power 5 school for two years. This move from the Pac-12 to the SEC might be a challenging transition for DeBoer, but Bryne believes that the 49-year-old is the best fit for the Crimson Tide program. 

Alabama AD Greg Bryne utilized Saban’s guidance in the head coach’s decision-making process and has placed great faith in DeBoer to take over one of the most outstanding college football programs in the United States. As the Saban Era comes to an end, it will be interesting to see how the Crimson Tide perform next season and adjust to the new head coaching change. 

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