Alabama Football: The guy after the guy that follows Nick Saban

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

There will come a time when Alabama Football is not coached by Nick Saban. There is little reason to believe that time is soon, but knowing it will one day happen hangs in the back of Crimson Tide minds.

What season will the Alabama Crimson Tide need a new head coach? Two people will make that decision – Nick and Terry Saban. A hunch is Miss Terry will figure it out before Nick does.

Saban’s current Alabama contract runs through the 2028 season. The eight-season deal, completed before the start of the 2021 season was for $84.8M, an average of $10.6M per season. Based on numbers provided by, Saban has already received over $100M in compensation for coaching the Crimson Tide.

By most any standard, that is a massive amount of money. It has also been the best investment the University of Alabama has ever made.

On Halloween in the 2028 season, Saban will turn 77. He has changed since coming to Tuscaloosa in January of 2007. His hard edge has mellowed some. If possible, he appears to enjoy coaching players and being part of a team more than ever. He certainly shows no signs of slowing down.

A fair guess is Nick will retire after the 2028 season. He might surprise, and go even longer. At the least, count on Nick Saban coaching Alabama Football in the 2026 season. On Sept. 5, 2026, the Crimson Tide will play in Morgantown, WV. About 20 miles down  Interstate 79 from Morgantown is Nick Saban’s home town. Saban will not have many hours available for any ‘old home week’ celebration, but there will be one. Barring unforseen calamity, he and Terry will never miss that experience.

Because the subject is so often considered, let’s think about who would follow Saban, if he decides the 2026 season is enough.

A beginning presumption is the guy that follows Nick Saban is destined to fail. He will have a perilous situation to match the Crimson Tide’s always incredibly high expectations. He will probably be given three seasons to prove himelf; maybe four. It will likely be the ‘guy after the guy’ that succeeds.

Who should the first guy be? He will be who Nick Saban recommends. It will be a shock if Nick does not pick one of his own. Often rumored possibilities are Mario Cristobal, Bill O’Brien, Mel Tucker, Billy Napier and Lane Kiffin. The lone, not-Saban guy, but not an Alabama football outsider often mentioned is Dabo Swinney.

O’Brien and Dabo will turn 57 in 2026. Cristobal will be 56 and Mel Tucker, 55. Lane Kiffin will be 51 and the ‘youngster’ among the group, Billy Napier will be 46. Other names could be added now and more will be added and discarded during the next few seasons.

Next. Loving the Alabama Crimson Tide. dark

Based on the history of what happened in Tuscaloosa after Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant’s retirement, maybe, and I’ll call it a small maybe – maybe the first guy after Nick Saban will succeed.