Nick Saban's been a fixture in college football for the last two decades.
He's won 280 games as head coach, 19 bowl games, 10 SEC titles, and seven National Championships. For many, he is college football. But, Saban's reign of dominance (and terror) may be coming to an end.
"I think Nick Saban is closer to retirement than anyone in the media is willing to acknowledge."@ColinCowherd breaks down 7 reasons why his time at Alabama could be nearing an end ⬇️pic.twitter.com/GPvNFXuCP5— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 12, 2019
When Will Nick Saban Retire?
As a 71-year-old head coach of a major college football program, Saban's been pretty open about his approaching retirement. Sure, he could pull a Jim Boeheim and coach until he's 113 years old, but Saban's been pretty clear about when he'll hang 'em up: when he's no longer able to keep Alabama the powerhouse they've become. And that time may already be here.
"I'm also very aware that I don't want to ever ride the program down," Saban told Stephen A Smith. "In other words, there's going to come a time when my age and my circumstance, everybody's going to be able to tell somebody where he's not gonna be there. I mean, 'How long is he going to coach? Til he's 90? And that will start to affect the program maybe in an adverse way. I don't want to get there.”
Alabama Football Is Slipping
Okay, let’s get this out of the way early Tide fans. Yes, there are 60+ programs that would change situations with Bama in a heartbeat. They’re still gonna compete for the SEC and have a shot at the playoff. But, this Alabama program under Saban has higher ambitions.
Last year, Alabama had as much talent as any other program in the country. They had two of the top three picks in the NFL Draft in QB Bryce Young and LB Will Anderson. All that combined to a 'lowly' 11-2 season and loss in the SEC Championship game.
It's not a massive drop-off, but it's the subtle slipping that may signal the end of Saban's reign. Just look at Alabama’s preseason odds to make the College Football Playoff over the last few seasons. It’s an almost unnoticeable trend (at least before this year) but bookmaker’s trust in Saban and Alabama has slid in the wrong direction over the last few years:
|Year||Odds To Make Playoff||Implied Probability|
|2020||No Odds, COVID|
Kirby Smart Is The New Top Dog
It’s not that Saban’s Tide have fallen off. But, other SEC schools have caught up. Tennessee under Josh Heupel won 11 games last year and Brian Kelly’s LSU can play spoiler for any squad. But, chiefly responsible for Saban’s displacement is Kirby Smart, his own flesh and blood (kinda).
It’s the classic Sith apprentice overtaking his dark lord master. Smart is from Alabama, coached under Saban at LSU, followed him to Alabama, and became his defensive coordinator in 2008. He’s the same defensive savant with great recruiting chops. Everything Saban is (or was?) at Alabama, Smart’s brought over to Georgia to make the Bulldogs college football’s new powerhouse.
Kirby Smart says SEC football is what it is today because of Nick Saban.— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) May 15, 2023
(via @finebaum) pic.twitter.com/wTl6INuHln
Saban spent a decade of college football dominance entering every season as the National Championship odds favorite. And now, his own protege has taken that role:
|2020||No Odds, COVID|