Crimson Tide respond when Nick says ‘Next’
HOOVER, Ala. — Nick Saban is a complicated person.
He and his wife have a foundation, Nick’s Kids. Maybe it is a tax write-off, but it also helps kids. He once reached out to an Alabama student from Arkansas who was ill, and she had nothing to do with football.
Yet, Google his name and 11 pictures will pop up; he’s definitely not smiling in nine of them.
Wednesday morning — with a mob of fans in the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel, home (for now) of SEC football media days — Saban took the podium and talked about the great challenge facing Alabama football as it replaces seven defensive players who were drafted.
The venue was standing-room
only for Sir Nick, and it is highly doubtful anyone felt sorry for him because when you have the No. 1 recruiting class every year, a coach literally says “Next” when a player leaves.
A little more than a decade ago, Saban declared emphatically that he was not leaving the Miami Dolphins to coach Alabama. Since then, he’s 114-19 as the director of almost all things Crimson Tide. He’s 66-12 in SEC play, but because of NCAA violations that occurred before he arrived, Alabama had to vacate five total wins from his first season in 2007. Of those five, three are SEC games, so technically he’s won more than 89 percent of all games and 88 percent of SEC games.
Maybe it’s because he wins so much and so often, but Saban never has seemed very warm and fuzzy. He comes across as a guy whose underwear is too tight as he climbs to uncomfortable places.
His success at Alabama has brought him riches that NFL coaches are envious of, and there seems to be no ceiling for the generosity of the Crimson Tide Foundation, which paid him more than $3 million for his home on the condition he still live there for free.
Dating back to his days at LSU — a school he swore he was never going to leave, not even for the Dolphins — Saban is riding a 12-game winning streak against the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
The last time the Razorbacks beat Saban was the day after Thanksgiving in 2002 in War Memorial Stadium, and it took a 50-yard pass from Matt Jones to Richard Smith to set up a 31-yard touchdown pass to DeCori Birmingham to cap an 81-yard drive in just 25 seconds to send the Hogs to the SEC Championship Game
Arkansas got the Golden Boot and the headline in this paper the next day, “Jones to Birmingham to Atlanta,” won numerous awards.
A sweet but distant memory for Hogs fans, and their last of beating Saban. In the 12 meetings since, the past 10 against Alabama, Saban-coached teams have outscored the Razorbacks by an average of 39.9 to 15.6.
Which was probably why when Bret Bielema came to Arkansas he said he wanted to beat Alabama. To be the best you have to beat the best, and Saban is the best.
He’s won four national championships at Alabama and one at LSU, his five titles one shy of the record set by Bear Bryant at Alabama.
Only Saban knows whether he can yell “Next” enough times this season to tie the record. The Tide open the season in Atlanta against Florida State, and there’s a good chance they could end the season in the same Mercedes-Benz Stadium against the Seminoles in the national championship game.
Crimson Tide defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said the team was approaching this season with a chip on its shoulder after losing the championship to Clemson in January.
That seems natural because the head coach approaches his job with a chip on his shoulder every day of his life.