Nick Saban: The Second Coming of Gene Stallings?
As many are getting beginning to exalt Nick Saban as the second coming of the Bear, let's take a look back at Alabama's last national championship head coach, Gene Stallings.
Gene Stallings, while having previous college football head coaching experience at Texas A&M, came to Alabama from the NFL Arizona Cardinals where he had compiled a less-than-stellar record. Nick Saban, having been at Toledo, Michigan State, and LSU, came to Alabama from the NFL Miami Dolphins where he had a losing record. Both also had previous NFL assistant experience.
In 1990, Stallings's first season at Alabama, he went 7-5. In 2007, Saban went 7-6. While Stallings's had one fewer loss than Saban, teams played one fewer game back then. We'll see more of this.
In 1991, Stallings improved Alabama's record to 11-1, while in 2008, Saban managed 12-2. Again, we have one more win and one more loss due to one more regular season game having been added in the meantime, and the SEC championship game having been added.
In 1992, in Stallings's third season, the SEC Championship game is initiated and Alabama wins the SEC championship and the national championship with a 13-0 record. In 2009, Saban's third season, he wins the SEC Championship and the national championship with a record of 14-0. This time it's Saban with the extra win from the extra regular season game, but you can't blame Stallings for not winning a game he couldn't play.
So far, we have two coaches with similar backgrounds and nearly identical 1-3 season records and championships. To be sure, there are differences such as Stallings having been an assistant at Alabama for a few years in the mid '60s, and Saban having had a previous national championship at LSU, but I think the similarities while at Alabama exceed the dissimilarities.
This brings us to both coaches' fourth seasons. Here is where many Alabama fans hope their records diverge. Maybe not so much in on-field results, where Stallings's fourth-seventh seasons were pretty darn good (well, a little better, maybe, we're hoping for more national championships this time, right?) but in off-field results.
Here is where Stallings played Langham after he'd signed with an agent (maybe not seriously, maybe on a napkin, but so be it) and supposedly Stallings and AD Hootie Ingram knew and Alabama had to forfeit games, scholarships, post-season eligibility, and tv time which seriously impacted the program.
Yes, they continued to win, it's harder to win championships when you're not eligible and are being handicapped with sanctions. I think this time will be different, though, as Saban seems better at keeping players out of trouble, and this time Saban and Moore know the NCAA is serious about playing ineligible players.
But Bama fans, when you're hoping Saban will be the next Bryant, don't forget his similarities to a more recent national championship coach.
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