Alabama Football: Nick Saban in Paul Bryant’s shadow no more

Alabama Football: Nick Saban has done it. He is indisputably the greatest championship coach in the history of college football.

The only shadow Nick Saban has ever lived in was the shadow of ‘ Big Nick’. In the small town of Monongah, WV, ‘Big Nick’ was an uncompromising man everyone looked up to. Alabama football coach, Nick Saban Jr. had a taskmaster father who masked love with an allegiance to work. Hard work, to be done well, with no excuses. What Nick Sr. demanded most of his son, though clear, was impossible to achieve. He demanded perfection. Nick Saban Jr. has been driven by that unattainable quest all his adult life and most of his youth.

On a balmy night in South Florida, Nick Saban continued his pursuit of the unattainable goal. Though short of perfection, Saban did accomplish what no one has done before.  Only Saban can define what a seventh National Championship means to him. He will celebrate with his players, assistant coaches, staff and his family. He will be reluctant to talk about his place in college football history. The rest of us know, even if he will not say it. Nick Saban is the greatest championship coach in the history of college football.

It could be said to reach the pinnacle, Saban had to step out of Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant’s shadow. That would be incorrect. Nick Saban was never in Bryant’s shadow. Even when he came to Tuscaloosa as a football coach with one LSU National Championship. Six National Championships later, Alabama Football has two shadows, both large, both defined not by stature but by heart and a fierce aversion to losing.

The word ‘Greatest’ is thrown out so frequently and so often misapplied, it has lost value. When Nick Saban is called the ‘Greatest of All-Time’ (GOAT) as he has been and will be more often going forward, the description will fail for lack of precision. Saban will never acknowledge it. In comparison to Bryant or other legendary college football coaches, he will explain measurements across eras do not apply.

Better to be too modest than too boastful. A lesson many young coaches would do well to learn. The fact remains. The ultimate success of a college football season is a National Championship. It is fitting head coaches are honored for each National Championship’s team’s achievement. The fact is Nick Saban’s seven not only surpasses Paul Bryant but every other college football head coach going back to the 1800s.

The Michigan Wolverines have long claimed six National Championships under Fielding Yost from 1901 through 1923. The NCAA only acknowledges four. So, ‘Hurry Up’ Yost was two short of Bryant and Saban going into Monday night. Now he is three behind. Nick Saban had only one coach to surpass and having done it, it will be asked what’s next.

Only Nick Saban can provide that answer. Before Alabama football fans and others guess about Nick Saban’s future, we should take a pause. If a Nick Saban team never wins another game, he will remain the greatest college football coach of all-time. Never is a massively big word – but – the record of winning seven college football National Championships will never be broken. Unless Nick Saban does it.

The Paul Bryant record of 159 SEC wins has long been considered unbreakable. Nick Saban has 132 wins over SEC teams, counting SEC and National Championship games. Saban also has a contract through 2025 so …