Triple Crown: Nick Saban’s Quest For ImmortalityColumns, Football, J. Tinsley, Sports — By J. Tinsley on August 2, 2013 at 7:56 am
A three-peat in college football last occurred between 1944-1946 — the same stretch of time that saw the end of World War II and Dean Martin and B.B. King begin their musical careers. The always-stoic Nick Saban and Alabama have a chance to rewrite history in 2013.
Success is America’s finest medicine. LeBron James completed the sort of celebrity photosynthesis that’s seen him matriculate from the league’s most despised player to the league’s most popular following two championships, two more regular-season MVPs, two Finals MVPs and another gold medal. For all we know, the process is still-ongoing, too, as he possibly weighs a presidential run in his near future. And more Finals MVPs. And more regular-season MVPs.
T.I. is now considered one of America’s most lovable TV dads and the modern-day Heathcliff Huxtable, only a handful of years removed from back-to-back prison stints for weapons possessions and probation violations.
And excluding LSU fans and Miami Dolphins fans, Nick Saban is no longer viewed under a microscope of a guy running from the challenges in the NFL. Instead, he’s the single most dominant non-player in the college game’s landscape. Love Saban or hate what he embodies, he is the standard for coaching in the collegiate ranks.
Steve Spurrier claimed in 2011 that for Saban to be considered the best coach of all time, he’d have to win away from Alabama. It’s a double-sided coin. Where one can claim ‘Bama had a history of winning and that Saban took a “safe job,” the numbers speak for themselves. In the previous six seasons before Saban’s arrival, Alabama’s record was 43-32. The six seasons since Saban has roamed the sidelines? 68-12, a record “tainted” by his first season where the team went 7-6 — but includes national titles in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Traveling back even further, Saban’s history as a resurrection artist speaks for itself (ironic because he’s often referred to as “the devil”).
- In his lone season as Toledo head coach in 1990, Saban went 9-2 and would’ve achieved an undefeated season had it not been for a one-point loss to Central Michigan and four-point loss to Navy. A young Urban Meyer submitted an application to be apart of Saban’s coaching unit but was told turned down. So why exactly did Saban leave after one year? Because he took a job as defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, who just so happened to be coached by Bill Belichick.
- In 1999, the Saban-led Michigan State Spartans went 10-2, the team’s best record since 1966 and a squad highlighted by names like T.J. Duckett and Plaxico Burress. Fun fact? Josh McDaniels was a graduate assistant for the team. The web of coaches Saban has ties to is damn near diabolical.
- Saban took the job at LSU in 2000, following back-to-back losing seasons and no SEC championship since 1988. By 2003, LSU was the national champion. When the Tigers won again in 2007, Saban was no longer the coach but recruited several of the team’s most important contributors.
It’s not as if Saban overstocks on talent making journeys to national championships mere walks in the park either. Like John Calipari in college basketball, he, along with the iconic stature of his university, is a top-flight recruiter. But unlike John Calipari, Saban’s track record of grooming talent is well-respected in the NFL (which isn’t totally fair to Cal given the fact he gets one season with his players to Saban’s two, three or four). If a weak component to Saban’s game both on and off the field exists, it hasn’t been exploited yet.