Alabama Football: The saga of Nick Saban and 42 SEC Head Coaches

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

In 11 seasons of Alabama football, Nick Saban has lost 14 SEC games. Being an SEC head coach has been treacherous for Nick’s coaching opponents.

When considering the impact Nick Saban has made on the SEC head coaching terrain, a question quickly comes to mind. Why does any other head coach choose to compete against a man that routinely processes his opponents? The obvious answer is the professional prestige and the money inherent in being an SEC football head coach.

Another reason would be measuring a head coaching career by competing against the best coach in the game. Being up for a challenge is commendable. Embracing likely defeat is another matter entirely.

Who is left from the 2007 SEC head coaches?

Going back to Saban’s first Alabama football season in 2007, the trail of failed or departing head coaches is extraordinary. Of the 13 other SEC head coaches in 2007, only one is still an SEC head coach. The one is Ed Orgeron, who since 2007, has spent seven seasons not being a head coach. All the others have departed the Saban-defined SEC.

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In the departing group of twelve, 2007 SEC head coaches, only two are still college football head coaches, Urban Meyer and Mark Richt. Both became head coaches with Power Five teams but as SEC purists believe, in less challenging conferences.

Three more of the 2007 group resigned under their own terms: Steve Spurrier, Rich Brooks and Bobby Johnson. Gary Pinkel retired due to a serious health condition. Tommy Tuberville’s situation in Auburn became untenable and he resigned. The remaining five were either fired or moved on to avoid being fired.

Of the five, three, Phil Fulmer, Sylvester Croom and Les Miles were not able to find other head coaching jobs. Houston Nutt had a four-year reprieve at Ole Miss after leaving Arkansas. After his Ole Miss stint, he too has not found head coaching employment.

Dennis Franchione left Texas A&M with a tarnished reputation. Alabama football fans believe his reputation was originally tarnished by his exit antics from Tuscaloosa. ‘The Weasel’ as he is known by Alabama football fans subsequently coached the final years of his career at Texas State.

How many did Nick process?

It is not fair to claim Nick Saban processed all these coaches. But he set a standard that the other 13 head coaches could not attain. As reported by Alex Scarborough of ESPN, Tommy Tuberville has been the most honest in admitting Saban’s impact on the SEC.

"Tuberville won the Iron Bowl in Saban’s first season in 2007. But a 9-4 record turned into a 5-7 record in 2008, and he committed the cardinal sin of losing to Alabama 36-0.With that, all momentum was lost and Tuberville resigned following the loss. He wasn’t bitter. Saban and Alabama was the perfect marriage, and the perfect storm for the rest of the SEC.“You could tell immediately that when Nick came in everything solidified, there was one guy running the show, it was Nick Saban.”"

Going back to 2007, through the new head coach hires for 2018, there have been 43 (excluding interims) SEC head coaches. What has been the impact of Saban on the other 42? For new coaches Chad Morris, Jeremy Pruitt and Joe Moorhead that remains to be seen.

The other 39 SEC head coaches have beaten Nick Saban 14 times in 11 Alabama football seasons. Nine of those 14 losses came against guys who are no longer head coaches: Gene Chizik; Tommy Tuberville; Hugh Freeze; Les Miles; Sylvester Croom and Steve Spurrier. Three of the losses came against coaches who left the SEC, Urban Meyer, Mark Richt and Kevin Sumlin.

How many of the 2018 SEC head coaches will survive Saban?

That only leaves Gus Malzahn standing as an SEC coach who has beaten Nick Saban. Gus’ record against Nick is 2-3. Without a win in Auburn last November, the Gus and Auburn marriage would have ended.

What do we conclude from the recounting of the Saban-Alabama- SEC saga? Someday the terrain will shift. Another head coach will gain some traction against Nick and maybe eventually surpass him. Will that happen anytime soon? We doubt it.

Next: Nick Saban, Best Big-Game Coach in CFB

Which coach has the best chance to hand Saban a 15th SEC Alabama loss? There are more viable candidates in 2018 than in recent seasons: Gus; Pruitt; Jimbo; Chad Morris; Joe Moorhead. Plus Kirby, Mullen and Muschamp if they get a chance. We don’t recommend betting on any of them.