Nick Saban boasts an .880 winning percentage in his 14 seasons as head coach at Alabama. He’s claimed five national college football titles with the Crimson Tide. How does Saban stack up with the best coaches at Alabama, specifically the legendary Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant?
Nick Saban’s college coaching career
Some say Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all-time. Some say he’s not even the greatest University of Alabama coach in the school’s history. It’s a fun debate that will continue to be argued forever.
Saban came to Alabama in 2007 and has been with the school the last 14 seasons. He got his first head coaching job at Toledo in 1990 and guided the Rockets to a 9-2 mark in his first season. After taking an assistant coaching job with the Cleveland Browns and then a head coaching gig at Michigan State, Saban became the head coach at LSU for the 2000 season. He won his first national title as a head coach in 2003.
Saban headed back to the NFL in 2005 as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. He lasted two years as a head coach in the NFL. Saban returned to the college ranks, hooking on with Alabama and has been there since. He’s won five national titles with the Crimson Tide and has compiled a 169-23 record there.
Paul ‘Bear Bryant’ was a coaching legend
Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant played his college football at Alabama and then became an assistant football coach at the school beginning in 1936. Bryant eventually left the school only to return as the head coach in 1958. He remained the head coach until 1982.
Bryant coached 38 years in college football, compiling a record of 323-85-17. He was at Alabama for 25 seasons and went 232-46-9. He won six national titles. Bryant won consecutive championships in the 1964 and 1965 seasons.
Bryant retired after the 1982 season. He was a 12-time SEC Coach of the Year. In January of 1983, he died of a heart attack. Bryant was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
Comparing Saban to Bryant is a tough task
Both Nick Saban and Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant have their similarities as head coach of Alabama. The two coaches won a national title within the first three years of becoming the head coach at Alabama. Both have also claimed back-to-back championships.
Bryant was there for 25 years and Saban 14. Bryant created the legacy in Tuscaloosa and Saban is keeping it going strong. The debate can be likened to the NBA’s GOAT argument. Is Michael Jordan better than LeBron James? It’s two stars performing at a high level during different eras.
Saban still has a way to go to catch Bryant in wins and he’ll turn 70 in the middle of the 2021 season. Heading into Monday night’s title game against Ohio State, Saban has one less national championship than Bryant (at Alabama) in 11 fewer seasons. It’s an interesting debate as to which coach is better, but the one thing that’s clear is Alabama has had a pair of legendary coaches.
All statistics courtesy of Sports Reference.