Former Alabama coach Nick Saban has made college football better with his presence in the sport. However, he hasn’t done Tennessee or other SEC teams many favors.
Saban’s sudden announcement to retire on Wednesday should be met with an incredibly warm reception by Tennessee’s fan base. Some of Saban’s biggest wins came against the Vols. No one can forget the 2001 SEC Championship Game in which he practically willed the Tigers to a victory over Tennessee.
Upon moving to Alabama in 2007, Saban beat the Vols annually, going 16-0 against Tennessee, before the Vols stunning upset of the Crimson Tide in 2022 in which fans charged the field after the Vols finally beat Saban on a last-second field goal.
For some, even Tennessee fans, there has been an appreciation for a coach that proved to be one of the most dominant coaches in any sport. Well, those esteemed football analysts didn’t help Tennessee win any games and neither did the incredible run that Saban went on since being named Alabama’s head coach before the 2007 season.
Saban was a perfect fit for Alabama when he was hired from the Miami Dolphins after weeks of denying that he’d make the move. He had already won a national championship at LSU. That’s a pretty strong pedigree.
Alabama won’t likely have such a coach when it takes the field in 2024. There aren’t many proven national championship head coaches. However, we’ll know soon what the coaching community thinks about the Alabama job and, more importantly, following Nick Saban.
For those that aren’t as long in the tooth as Generation X, it’s not hard to remember when Alabama was bad – and embarrassing. There were coaches involved with alleged prostitutes at booster functions, a receptionist who could have used a more woke world and a coach that landed the Alabama job, in part, because his father was an NFL legend and owned a steak restaurant.
Rumors have circled that Bama wants Florida State’s Mike Norvell to replace Saban. Well, Norvell just finished the regular season undefeated at a program re-dedicated to winning. He could easily pass. The same could be said for Washington head coach Jalen DeBoer, who got the Huskies to a national championship game.
Surely, Alabama would love Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian, but things seem to be going pretty well in the Long Horn State. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has strong Alabama ties but doesn’t have the same shine on his resume that he had just a few years ago. Former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel could use a job after surprisingly being fired this week, but’s he not championship worthy. In some ways, Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin or Colorado coach Deion Sanders makes as much sense as the other names on this list, despite the fact that either hire would be bereft of off-field potholes that could undermine either coach.
In other words, it could get bad Alabama, really bad, if Saban’s replacement isn’t highly above average and there are a lot of coaches what will be scared away by the big elephant in the room. Forget legendary like Saban. Alabama needs a coach that will keep them relevant. If they get more, consider it a bonus.