Can you hear it coming? Before long, November will be here and, in typical fashion, the rumors of Nick Saban leaving Alabama will once again surface. Coach Saban had only been at Alabama one season before the rumors of his departure started. First, it was that he was interested in leaving Alabama for Notre Dame.
From there, it progressed. Rumors have linked coach Saban to the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings and the Tennessee Titans. I remember driving down the road, just outside of Nashville, listening to a local radio host. The host declared he had inside information that Nick Saban had secretly accepted the position of head coach with the Titans weeks earlier.
That rumor, like all of the others since he arrived in Tuscaloosa, did not come to fruition. The reality is that coach Saban has shown no interest in the NFL, and as far as I can tell, the NFL has shown no interest in coach Saban. There is coming a time that Nick Saban will leave the University of Alabama. However, it is unlikely to be for another college or the NFL. He is more likely to retire from the Tide, even if only temporally, than to leave the Tide for another job.
With that said, could this be the season that Coach Saban walks away from Tuscaloosa for the prospect of more fishing and family time? It seems far fetched, but keep reading. After a number one recruiting class, it is clear that Coach Saban has not slowed down and his work ethic is as vibrant as always. However, during the 2010 season, there were times he looked disgruntled and near burnout.
Which season will be Coach Saban's last with the Tide?
Watching him after the LSU and Auburn losses was like looking at a man who was wearing down. Was it losing three regular season games after two great seasons? Was it the frustration that comes with nine new starters on defense? Perhaps it was because he is genetically constructed to build programs up and not maintain them over a long periods of time. In my opinion, it was because he is a perfectionist and hates to lose.
Regardless, the 2010 season is over, and most publications have Alabama ranked in the top three nationally for the 2011 season. With a strong running game and perhaps the top defense in the nation, hopes are high in T-Town. This season could be another special one for the Tide. However, the prospects for 2012 look much different.
A closer look at the roster after this season shows a team that could lose 21 players and 16 starters from the 2011 season. Some to graduation and some to early entrance into the NFL draft. The Alabama team, much like Auburn's team this season, will have a serious transition season in 2012.
Will Coach Saban be willing to endure that type of season? Yes, Alabama will have plenty of talent on campus, but they will have very little experience. As a result, it is likely that Alabama will not be back in serious national championship contention until 2014. It is not impossible that Alabama will be a contender for the BCS championship in 2013, but it is not probable.
The answer could be altered by this season. If Alabama were to win the national championship, it would make it easier for him to walk away. Three national championship at two different schools would leave quite the legacy, possibly enough to convince him he could walk away from the game.
I would be foolish to state I know the answer. However, I see two possible scenarios. One, Alabama wins a national championship and Saban retires. His retirement would not last long, as he would realize that he still has too much fire in his belly for the game. This would leave him to come back on the scene to revive another down and out school like Penn State or Notre Dame.
The other, and more likely scenario, is that Alabama does not win the national championship this season, and he remains until 2014. However, asking more out of Saban than eight seasons might be asking too much. Either way, he will go down as one of the top coaches in NCAA history.