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Is Steve Spurrier Right? Has Nick Saban Really Underachieved at Alabama?

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Is Steve Spurrier Right? Has Nick Saban Really Underachieved at Alabama?
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South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier is a gem. 

No, he's more than that. He's a national treasure. 

Well, at least if you're a fan of offseason soundbites that create conversation during the slowest time of the college football year.

When discussing his "work-smart" approach, which allows Spurrier and his staff more free time than other staffs, with Josh Kendall of The State, the Head Ball Coach took a thinly veiled shot at Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

How many SECs has (Saban) won there in eight years? He’s won two. He’s won three nationals, but he’s only won two SECs in eight years. Now, if you had the No. 1 recruiting class every year and so forth, I don’t know if he has maxed out potentially as well as he could.

First and foremost, Spurrier has built two SEC programs into powers, and he's earned the right to say whatever he wants. 

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
Alabama head coach Nick Saban

But is he right?

In this instance, not really. 

Winning national titles and SEC championships takes elite talent, fantastic coaching and a lot of luck. In the case of Alabama, and every team in college football, sometimes those pieces don't add up.

Take last year for example.

Cornerback Deion Belue's nagging injury, the revolving door at the other corner spot and injuries and suspensions in the secondary prevented the entire defensive backfield from developing at a level that has become expected in Tuscaloosa. As a result, the Tide were lit up by teams that could pass like Texas A&M and Oklahoma and didn't play disciplined against Auburn—even though the Tigers didn't take advantage of all those opportunities through the air.

Alabama Head Coaches Since 1997
Coach Years Record Win % Avg. Wins Per Year SEC Titles
Mike DuBose 1997-2000 24-23 .511 6.0 1
Dennis Franchione 2001-2002 17-8 .680 8.5 0
Mike Price 2003 N/A N/A N/A 0
Mike Shula 2003-2006 26-23 .531 6.5 0
Nick Saban 2007-present 79-15 .840 11.3 2

Alabama 2013 Media Guide (vacated wins included in coaches' overall records)

Plus, think about where Alabama was when Saban took over. 

The Crimson Tide were wallowing in mediocrity, averaging just 6.5 wins per season from 2003-06, although 10 of those wins were later vacated. They hadn't won a national title since 1992 and hadn't represented the SEC West in the SEC Championship Game since 1999.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier while at Florida.

It was a program dripping with potential that had lost its way. Essentially, it was Florida when Spurrier took over in 1990.

During Spurrier's run in Florida, he won six SEC titles and one national championship in 12 seasons. Conference titles came easy to him, but national titles did not. Considering the caliber of athlete he was working with in the Sunshine State, it's a comparable resume.

Just because you win the recruiting national championship—something Alabama has done every year since 2011—doesn't mean you should win the actual national championship every year. It means you should contend for it, something Alabama has done every year since 2008, Saban's second year in T-Town.

Has Nick Saban underachieved at Alabama?

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It's all about perception, and Spurrier knows this.

He knows that Alabama is still the 900-pound gorilla in the SEC West, and any way he can generate either positive buzz for his program or negative buzz for a team within his own division, he's going to do it.

That's what makes Spurrier great. He's going to speak his mind, and even though he's wrong in this instance, he has earned the right to speak his mind.

Never change, Head Ball Coach. Never change.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


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