Alabama coach Nick Saban may be turning 70 on Halloween Sunday, but his annual hauntings of the rest of the SEC and beyond are expected to continue for at least a few more years.
Tennessee just lost its 15th out of 15 to Saban as Alabama’s coach. LSU, which has lost nine of the last 10, is next a week from Saturday at the Bryant-Denny Stadium chamber of horrors after winning there on its last trip in 2019. That may only make it that much more scary this time for the Tigers. Arkansas will visit Terror Town – aka Tuscaloosa – on Nov. 20, having not won there since 2003.
Of Saban’s college football record seven national championships, five came in his 60s – 2011, ’12, ’15, ’17 and last season. Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) is No. 3 in the nation now and within range of another national title. Yes, he has a loss, but Saban has won five national titles with a regular season loss – 2003 at LSU and 2011, ’12, ’15 and ’17 at Alabama.
So why stop any time soon? Why not until 2031?
Saban was reminded on Wednesday’s SEC teleconference that his second cousin Lou Saban – the former coach of the Buffalo Bills from 1972-76 – took a head coaching job in 2001 at Chowan College in North Carolina at the age of 80.
As Saban laughed hard in the background, he was told, “You’re getting kind of close.” And he laughed more.
“I got 10 more years, man,” he said in between laughs.
Saban sounded like he was kidding, so hold off on the headline, “Saban To Coach Alabama Until He Is 80.”
When Saban was asked about Lou Saban getting that job in October of 2001 at a press conference at LSU at the time, he was 49 and did not seem raring to match his cousin.
“If I’m doing this when I’m 80,” Saban said, smiled incredulously, but didn’t finish the sentence. “I’m amazed that he’s coaching at 80 years old.”
Lou Saban actually coached until he was 81 at Chowan before finally retiring after his 22nd coaching job in 52 years. He passed away in 2009 at age 87.
Nick’s middle name is Lou, and he said his parents named him after Lou Saban, who was a nephew of Saban’s grandfather on Saban’s dad’s side.
Nick and Lou have something critical in common that may have led to their coaching longevity. Nick doesn’t and Lou didn’t hold anger inside very often. Almost every game for both was and is basically a cathartic exercise of anger dump repeated often.
“Once more, you GOTTA get it done,” Lou Saban tells his team with everything he has in a classic NFL Films highlight.
“There’s quite a resemblance in the face,” Lou said in a 2001 interview. “And his hair stands up on his head like mine. He’s quite active on the sidelines like me.”
Saban had watched Saban and LSU lose, 44-14, to No. 2 Florida and coach Steve Spurrier on CBS on Oct. 6, 2001.
“He was pretty upset,” Lou said. “I know what he’s going through. I’m just proud of him. Coaching is a more difficult business than ever before. Nick’s a solid guy and coach. He’s got a tough job down there and knows it.”
Saban got off to 4-3 starts in his first two seasons at LSU in 2000 and ’01 – the latter one coming with a 35-24 home loss to quarterback Eli Manning and Ole Miss.
“But you can depend on him,” Lou Saban said. “He knows the name of the game is building.”
Saban’s Tigers recovered from 4-3 in 2001 to win the SEC at 9-3 and 5-3, and two years later he won his first national championship. The “building” has continued, and Saban does not know when it will end.
“No, I just kind of keep on keeping on and don’t have a timetable for anything,” Saban said Wednesday. “The only thing that I’ve ever said is that if I felt like I was riding the program down or I wasn’t able to make a positive contribution to the program, then that would probably be the time to let somebody else carry the torch.”
Saban’s latest contract was approved by the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees last August and will pay him an average of $10.6 million a year through 2028 when he will be 77. He is currently the highest paid college football coach in the nation at nearly $10 million a year – $9,753,221.
Asked if he feels better at almost 70 than he thought he would when he was 50, he said, “You know, I never really thought about it, to be honest with you. But I can tell you that I’m thankful for every day, and feel blessed that I have the opportunity to continue to be healthy and able to do this job without a lot of issues or problems.”
Or many losses – one this year, none last year and just six since 2015.
“I’m not really thinking a lot about what’s going to happen 10 years from now either,” he said. “Because I try to focus on what’s happening now and try to take advantage of whatever opportunities we have and do the the best job that I can to be a good husband, granddad, father, coach, whatever.”
Saban will have some birthday carrot cake with his family this weekend at the lake house with the Tide off. Presents?
“Nothing for me, I’m getting along fine,” he said. “I can’t think of anything right now that I really want. Just hope for good blessings for a lot of other folks who are dear to us and our family.”
As for the rest of the SEC, we know what they want. A retirement mandate for Saban now.
Missouri, 15.5-point favorite, at Vanderbilt, 2 p.m., SEC Network; Florida vs. No. 1 Georgia, 14.5 favorite, Jacksonville, Florida, 2:30 p.m., CBS; No. 10 Ole Miss at No. 18 Auburn, 2.5 favorite, 6 p.m., ESPN; No. 12 Kentucky, 1.5 favorite, at Mississippi State, 6 p.m., SEC Network.
1.Georgia (7-0, 5-0). 2. Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2). 3. Alabama (7-1, 4-1). 4. Kentucky (6-1, 4-1). 5. Ole Miss (6-1, 3-1). 6. Auburn (5-2, 2-1). 7. Arkansas (5-3, 1-3). 8. LSU (4-4, 2-3). 9. Florida (4-3, 2-3). 10. Mississippi State (4-3, 2-2). 11. Tennessee (4-4, 2-3). 12. Missouri (3-4, 0-3). 13. South Carolina (4-4, 1-4). 14. Vanderbilt (2-6, 0-4).
STAT OF THE WEEK
Ole Miss at 6-1 is off to its best start since going 7-0 in 2014, but the Rebels are the most penalized team in the nation – 130th out of 130 FBS schools with an average of 10.4 penalties a game and 73 on the season.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Being upset is a decision.”
-Mississippi State coach Mike Leach on his team overcoming adversity. Not eating candy corn is also a decision that Leach has made. Asked if he would ever give the “treat” a second chance, he said, “No. That has been carefully researched since I was a child.”