Saban’s retirement changes college football

by Gary Shelton on January 11, 2024

in general

Saban was an icon with Alabama./TIM WIRT

Bear Bryant was carved out of stone. He had eyes that did not blink, he had skin of leather, and he had a voice that sounded like a cement mixer.

He was an imposing man, a man who made you want to back up when he entered the room. His shadow was 100 feet long, and his bearing was that was the toughest guy in the room. He towered over his program, his state, his sport.

That said, Nick Saban was better.

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Saban, the reports say, is retiring. Odd. I figured he would coach forever. And why wouldn’t he? His Alabama program was always among the best recruiters in the nation. It won. It usually made the college football playoffs. He was rich enough to print his own money.

Who walks away from that?

Well, evidently Saban, a man pushed by the calendar and the changing face of college sports.

In his time, no one navigated the water like Saban. College football got tougher. Recruiting got harder. Kids transferred willy nilly. More and more top programs became Alabama’s conference rivals. Scholarships became limited. Suddenly, there was the NIL to deal with. Georgia was reborn. Being a college football coach was harder than ever.

We may never know if the college game, or his age (72) chased Saban away from the game. Probably, they both played a part.

Let it be remembered that Alabama wasn’t the king of anything when Saban took over from Mike Shula. The team was 6-6 the year before he arrived (the six wins were vacated).

Saban came in with a no-nonsense, not-always-popular style of leadership. But he won. Seven times (counting a title at LSU), his team won the national title. Eight times, he made the college playoffs.

And now he is gone, and the rest of the nation’s programs will fight for the scraps. His recruits will be re-recruited. His current players will nose around the transfer portals. For the rest of the SEC, this is Christmas.

Alabama, meanwhile, will start its search. As always, it will expect the top names in the sport to walk over glass for the job. Already, you can find prospective replacements with such names as Oregon’s Dan Landing, Clemson’s Dabo Sweeney, Texas’ Steve Sarkisian, FSU’s Mike Norvell and so on.

Regardless, the odds are it will be a lesser coach than Saban.

Most of them usually are.

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