Alabama Football: How Nick Saban Stays a Step Ahead of Everybody

Sanjay KirpalaniNational Recruiting AnalystMarch 7, 2013

Saban has kept Alabama ahead of the curve with the addition of a football-centric support staff serving the university in an administrative capacity.
Saban has kept Alabama ahead of the curve with the addition of a football-centric support staff serving the university in an administrative capacity.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Nick Saban is a genius.

That’s not exactly groundbreaking news. But it’s time to recognize him as a football mind that has changed the college game much in the same vein as legendary coaches such as Bill Walsh transformed the pro game. 

Forget the three national titles in the last four years, and the three consecutive top-rated recruiting classes for a second. Because just like his famed process, Saban has mastered the art of putting his program in the best position to win big long before the games on the field begin each season.

The latest example of his status as a visionary mind in college football is his creation and addition of a specialized support staff.

But this mini army of off-field assistants is not filled with paper-pushing university big wigs that are cashing paychecks for sitting behind a desk. 

In fact, newly hired receivers coach Billy Napier served in an administrative role back in 2011 before returning to coaching, and former Tide defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was hired this offseason as the director of player development.

So while most coaching staffs have 10 members on its staff, Alabama is putting football-minded people in positions to expand the program’s sphere of influence on the field, in recruiting and in player development.

Saban is revolutionizing the way big-time athletic departments are operating, and it hasn’t taken long for one of his peers—Texas head coach Mack Brown—to recognize the changes and begin the chase of catching up to the Crimson Tide, according to Chris Vannini of

We're looking at that very hard right now with (athletic director DeLoss Dodds). I think we're in line with the Big 12 schools pretty much throughout. Alabama is ahead of all of us with the number of personnel they've hired, and that's something everybody's looking very closely at. We are posting a position today for a director of player personnel that would oversee our recruiting.

Coincidentally, Brown filled that position with the hiring of Patrick Suddes, the former associate director of football operations at Alabama for the last six seasons, per the official website of the Longhorns football program. 

The entire nation has already been Saban-ized on the field, and with Alabama’s athletic department fully committed to giving its football program everything it could possibly need and more, Tuscaloosa is now the epicenter of change when it comes to college football (h/t, Andy Staples, Sports Illustrated).

It’s part of the reason why the Crimson Tide have been able to lose assistants year after year, yet reload with coaches like it does with players on the field. 

The fact that Saban was able to reel in new offensive line coach Mario Cristobal—who just a year ago at this time seemed destined to land a head-coaching gig at a big time BCS school—is another example of why some of the nation’s top minds would jump at the chance to come to Alabama in order to learn from the best in Tuscaloosa.

So if you are keeping track, Alabama has the best coach, the best players, the best administration, the best assistants, the most passionate fan base, etc.   

While the latter traits on that list make Alabama a special place, Saban is the main reason that the Tide has put the sport of college football in a choke hold. 

With the latest moves he has made to bolster his program on and off the field, Alabama is prepared to lengthen the distance between its football program and its closest competitors.